With a College of Nursing career spanning more than 30 years, Kathy Magilvy, PhD, RN, FAAN, has longevity few here can share. And memories to go with it—like the time she and three fellow doctoral students were entering data on keypunched cards into an archaic card reader as part of a statistics course. Their professor cautioned them: “Whatever you do, make sure the cards stay in order.” The card reader had been patched up through the years, and while they watched aghast, it rattled and clunked and spewed cards all over the room. Four hours later the cards were back in sequence.
Magilvy, who was among the first graduates of the college’s PhD program in 1982, has since been recognized time and again for her research and mentoring. She’s retiring from the college at the end of May. What she’ll miss most, she says, is the students.
“Students energize me,” she says. “They have such different career paths and such different ideas. I really learn from them and enjoy watching them excel in their careers.”
Magilvy has served on dozens of dissertation and other student committees, but it’s the mentoring that means the most to her, and for which she’s received awards. Magilvy has mentored (aka chaired) about 26 PhD students, several MS thesis students, and several ND and DNP capstone students. “They’re all out there in the world—in research, in academe, and in some cases, leading practice.” Magilvy also has enjoyed teaching students in all four programs, sharing her knowledge of public health nursing, gerontology and research.
At professional meetings Magilvy encounters former students who are now mentoring their own students—“grand-students,” she calls them. “I know that even though I did only this tiny piece to help launch them, such as sharing my love of qualitative research, I know those students touched other students. It means something to me to be just a small part of that. I can see them grow and develop, and go further in their careers than I could ever think of going in my own. And Colorado is where many of them got their start. It’s really important that alumni be able to say this [college] was a meaningful part of their life.”
Magilvy’s research has focused on health care in aging populations, particularly in rural areas. With a background in public health nursing, she developed an interest in gerontology and geriatrics, and where the two fields come together in the delivery and outcomes of community-based services for older people.
In 2008 Magilvy received the Elizabeth H. Boeker Faculty Excellence in Research Award; it enabled her to return to Japan, where her work in gerontology and public health is well regarded. In fact, she has been to Japan nine times since 1999, when a professor visiting from Japan asked her to mentor a student in post-doc work because their areas of expertise were matched. “I couldn’t believe she found me, but it turns out that some of my work had been translated into Japanese. It was the start of a wonderful continuing relationship with Japanese colleagues and friends.”
Is the College of Nursing better now than it was then? Magilvy demurs, “I don’t’ think you can say one time of life is better than another, but certainly the move [to the Anschutz Medical Campus] was the most amazing and awesome thing this college could have done. We made a transition from a fairly parochial health sciences campus to a world-class medical center.”
Magilvy’s passion for learning about other cultures won’t fade as she begins a new life chapter. She’s looking forward to traveling, reading, taking classes and learning to speak Japanese. (She’s on the board of the Japan America Society of Colorado). “Depending on where I go, I might like to lecture and would like to be involved in research in some way,” she says. “Learning will always be part of my life.”