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Since graduating from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a nursing degree in 1970, alumna Sandra (Whiting) Smeeding, of Salt Lake City, Utah, has been dedicated to improving the overall well-being of her patients.

As the founder and associate director of the federal Integrated Health Clinic, Smeeding works closely with soldiers returning from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Vietnam and World War II veterans.

Smeeding developed the first Integrated Health Clinic and Program within the federal Veterans Affairs Health Care System, offering psychological, social, spiritual and physical care using research-based complementary and alternative medicine. Her clinic became the national model for the Veterans Healthcare Administration.

“Her work in this area is equivalent to putting the mind, body and spirit back together again,” said UW Oshkosh alumnus Norbert Hill Jr., ’69 and ’71, who nominated Smeeding for the award and works as the Oneida Nation’s education and training director.  “She gives without thought of reward or recognition. She gives because the enormity of her heart is surpassed only by the enormity of her smile.”

During UW Oshkosh’s Homecoming 2011 festivities, Smeeding will be recognized for her accomplishments, alongside three other alumni, with the University’s top Distinguished Alumni Award at a reception and dinner Friday, Oct. 21.

A large portion of Smeeding’s career involved working in, managing, teaching and developing critical care units.

“I am a person who loves learning and I have a wide variety of interests within the healing and health care profession as well as in life,” Smeeding said. “I felt the critical care area was intellectually challenging and where I could also gently care for and support patients and their families during a time of crisis.”

After graduating from UW Oshkosh, Smeeding earned a master’s degree in physiology and a family nurse practitioner certificate from the University of Utah.

Smeeding then turned toward teaching, management and research. She has published more than 17 professional journals, taught cardiovascular critical care classes at the University of Utah and opened and managed two critical care units and a telemetry unit in Salt Lake City.

“Her contributions as a scholar, researcher, writer and provider are outstanding in the field of integrative health,” said Susan Trevithick, compliance officer for the George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center.

Smeeding next worked on health promotion, disease prevention and patient-centered care that included all aspects of multicultural mind, body and spirit healing. She earned a doctorate in health promotion and education from the University of Utah and learned about healing methods from around the world.

“I began to see and envision a new health care structure that incorporated attention to the whole person through mental, emotional, physical, social and environmental aspects of health,” Smeeding said.

In her own words:

I enjoy skiing at Alta, hiking in the mountains, camping in southern Utah and the Idaho hot springs, horseback riding, traveling within and outside of the U.S. with the most recent trip spent teaching at the Vienna Austria-American Institute and traveling to the eastern bloc countries and Paris. I also enjoy watercolor artistry, pottery, reading, writing and visiting friends and family.

Achievements you are most proud of:
In addition to raising my two wonderful children — professionally, I have proposed, developed, implemented and researched the outcome results of the Integrative Healthcare Clinic and brought the concept and research to national and international recognition.

What does your UW Oshkosh education mean to you?
My education at UW Oshkosh was a wonderful professional foundation and a time of personal growth. Education to me encompasses all aspects of life: the mental aspect of developing critical-thinking skills, the emotional aspect of stretching and growing during the transition time between high school and adulthood, as well as continuing to develop physical health.

What advice would you give today’s UW Oshkosh students?
Live life courageously from a place of love and creativity, not fear. Feel the zest for life, a joy for each and every action, activity and experience. Create an inner happiness no matter what happens in your life moment-to-moment. Manifest what you already are on the inside and follow your dream and passion, and it will be noticed on the outside. Practice loving kindness and compassion daily, toward self and those you encounter. Have more intimacy and compassion in all relationships, no matter how strained or distant you feel in the moment, and live your life in accordance to what really matters to you, with no regrets.

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