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Deb Fischer-Clemens, C'77
Matt and Meredith Hayes

Coming from Parkston, SD and growing up on a farm, Deb wanted to be close to home and at a small college. She had attended Catholic grade school and so the influence of the sisters was still significant. She knew she wanted to be a nurse and Mount Marty College had a well demonstrated reputation with the program.

Deb did not know it then, but quickly learned, that basic anatomy and physiology was the key to all future learning in the nursing program. Sr. Maureen Diggins and Dr. Jim Rasmussen were inspiring for their enthusiasm for teaching anatomy and biology. They inspired Deb to question and learn as much as possible which carried over into her professional as well as personal life. She graduated from Mount Marty College in 1977 with a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing. She also holds a Master's Degree in Health Services Administration from the College of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

In looking back at her time at MMC, Deb's most memorable experiences are the lifelong friendships that she developed. As she states, "we studied hard, but played hard as well. Not only did we students develop strong friendships, but our parents maintained friendships with each other. We continue those relationships today, across states, through marriages, deaths, births, children's graduations and marriages. It was truly a time to establish lasting friends."

One key defining moment with Deb comes to light when she thinks about her career in policy and she asks herself why an apolitical teenager became involved in the political process. She believes it was the role of the sisters and that can-do and should-do approach to life. It was the liberal arts of which she did not understand the affect at the time, but looking back it makes sense.

Following graduation, Deb served as a nurse manager for 25 years, her liberal arts education provided her with the philosophy that if she has the ability to accomplish something, then she should do it. This was at a time when physicians ruled the health care field. Nurses typically did not speak up for themselves or for their profession, while she found herself willing to ask in order to lead and take on more responsibility time and time again. As a supervisor, Deb's goals included assuring a positive work environment, which is the type of leadership that her instructors, especially the sisters, modeled. She also adds, "My community involvement also came from witnessing the activities and focuses of the leadership at Mount Marty."

Deb also served in the South Dakota State House of Representatives for the 1995 through 2000 sessions. Since serving in the legislature, she has served on legistative committees and task forces to discuss health care issues in South Dakota. Deb has also served on several private boards, both in South Dakota and nationally, including the South Dakota Organization of Nurse Executives and the South Dakota Nurses Association, Catholic Health Association Health Policy and Reimbursement Committee and the Catholic Health Association Board of Directors. Beyond the political realm, she has served in several community focused roles, such as The Good Shepard Ministry Center Board of Directors, the Vision 20/20 National Delegation and Southeast Technical Institute (STI) Advisory Council.

Following Deb's service in the S.D. House, Avera Health began considering expanding their influence in the states in which the system provides health care. Towards that goal, a decision was made to develop the Avera Center for Public Policy. With her interest in policy and public safety issues, Deb was very interested in the director position, and applied. This has led to the last 12 years of continued networking and growing Avera's influence on policy in the states that they serve and at the national level.

Currently, and for the foreseeable future, Deb's main professional goal is to continue influencing health care policy in every way possible and to help assure affordable, accessible health care to all individuals. On a personal level, she strives to enjoy life and to maintain the friendships she has developed, through her time at Mount Marty and beyond.