Article originally published by Mason's Alumni Association.
For Deborah Bundy-Carpenter, BSN ’79, there was no doubt about going to George Mason University as soon as she decided she wanted to go into nursing. The program offered her the opportunity to pair hands-on clinical experience with the theoretical knowledge she would learn in the classroom, which would prepare her well for a career in nursing and public health. She also loved Mason’s diverse campus community, and it prepared her for caring for people from a variety of different backgrounds.
“All of the clinical experience we received at Mason taught us to get our hands dirty,” said Bundy-Carpenter, “and with that came lessons in humility that were really important.”
As a nursing student, she had clinical rotation placements at Fairfax Hospital (now a part of the Inova hospital system), the Arlington Health Department, DeWitt Army Hospital at Fort Belvoir, and in Manassas for public health rotations, where she was able to learn practical skills, like starting an IV and working in the delivery room. After graduating from Mason, Bundy-Carpenter worked in a pediatric unit in Charlottesville for a year before she began working at the University of Virginia’s medical center, where she largely worked in the operating room and emergency room.
“In the operating room, it was like all of the anatomy and physiology that I learned in school had come alive,” Bundy-Carpenter said. “It was such an education, especially at a trauma center like UVA, and being able to actually put eyes to what you had read about was one of my favorite things.”
After ten years at UVA, Bundy-Carpenter transitioned from the operating room to public health. As a nurse manager for the Virginia Department of Health, she was responsible for seven health departments across five counties in the Central Shenandoah Health District. In this role, she was responsible for engaging the various communities in the health district. Bundy-Carpenter traveled to communities to educate groups on public health initiatives, managed nursing and nutrition programs, wrote and managed the grants needed to fund local health programs, performed community needs assessments, and strategized with local coalitions to decide which health focuses needed to be prioritized in their communities. And while a lot of her work was administrative, Bundy-Carpenter also trained new public health nurses as part of their year-long orientation and continued with hands-on nursing herself, like administering flu shots. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Bundy-Carpenter, as a public health nurse senior manager, was tasked with leading the health district’s coronavirus response team. Her team has managed strategic planning for pandemic response, testing, contact tracing, community outreach, and now vaccination efforts.
“To this day, I still remember the nursing school’s mantra about self-care and people being their best selves,” said Bundy-Carpenter. “I still talk that talk with patients about self-care and reaching your optimal level of health.”
For all of her public health efforts, Bundy-Carpenter, received the highest honor for a state employee in Virginia: the 2020 Governor's Honor Award in the category of Personal and Professional Excellence. She was recognized for her dedication and excellence in her profession, public health, and collaborative spirit with other healthcare entities and agencies.
Bundy-Carpenter recently retired after more than thirty years of service with the Virginia Department of Health, but she is keeping busy by serving on the boards of local nonprofits organizations. She is currently studying to be a mentored counselor for hurting women.
Written By: Kristen Greiner, MFA '20