September 22, 2020

2020 WOA Science, Technology, & Environment Award Honoree

Debbie Brinker

2020 Women of Achievement Honoree

~ Science, Technology, & Environment Award ~

Congratulations Debbie!

Thank You For Living Out YWCA Spokane’s Mission

Debbie Brinker is dedicated to advancing healthcare equity and access in Washington State. As a faculty member at Washington State University School of Nursing since 2002, Debbie lives out her passion of training future generations of highly qualified nurses. Debbie is also committed to diversifying the nursing workforce in Washington by ensuring that all nurses have the necessary foundations to be leaders in the healthcare system and optimizing the healthcare experiences for a wide range of patients, families, and communities. Her years of work as a passionate educator, culturally competent mentor, and outstanding nurse leader align with YWCA Spokane’s mission, vision, and values.

Debbie began her career as a pediatric critical care nurse, caring generously for children and their families. Her direct care work included service in various U.S. locations, the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, and medical missions in Ethiopia, but she eventually returned to her home state of Washington and settled in Spokane. After her return, she served in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Deaconess Medical Center for thirteen years. Moving away from direct care, and pursuing her passion for shaping future leaders and facilitating impact upstream in the healthcare system, Debbie joined the faculty at Washington State University in 2002 where she serves as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Clinical Affairs. In this position she nurtures the growth and leadership capacity of future generations of nurses through teaching, student mentoring, organization of unique professional development opportunities for students, and academic research. Debbie also incorporates her passions for health policy advocacy, global learning opportunities, and international health programs into her work, both with students and academia.

Debbie is aware of the inequities that exist within our world, their effects on individual and community wellbeing, and she is committed to taking action to move toward a more equitable society. Ensuring individuals and communities have meaningful access to opportunity is a passion of Debbie’s. She is conscious of the fact that the nursing workforce, historically and presently, lacks diversity and does not appropriately reflect the wide range of populations that it serves. To combat this, Debbie regularly works with nursing organizations across the state of Washington to recruit, retain, and train nurses from diverse backgrounds. Debbie has also worked with K-12 students in efforts to promote nursing as an appealing and realistic career option for students from diverse backgrounds. Many students, particularly young women, do not recognize the opportunities the nursing field offers. Debbie facilitates and supports pathway programs to improve STEM learning within these populations, preparing them to enter Washington State University and excel in their prerequisite work.

Outside of her work at Washington State University, Debbie has held leadership positions in nursing organizations at the local, state, and national levels. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Washington Center for Nursing, and in 2018, she served as the Board President. The Washington Center for Nursing’s primary focus is growing a diverse nursing workforce that is prepared to appropriately address the health disparities and health inequities within our society. Debbie’s presence has been felt on this board since 2015, as she has engaged in work on initiatives such as the Diversity Committee, the Transition to Practice Task Force, the Leadership Action Coalition, and the Advanced Practice (ARNP) Advisory Committee. As part of the steering committee for Action Now – The Initiative to Solve State Nursing Education Challenges, she helped create clinical experiences for faculty and students working with diverse and underserved populations. Debbie has been on the Board of Directors at Clinical Placements Northwest since 2016. Additionally, Debbie has been an active member of the American Nurses’ Association since 1991, the Washington State Nurses’ Association since 1991, and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) since 1985. She was national president of AACN in 2005-2006 and continues in an active role as faculty in the Clinical Scene Investigator Academy, a program designed to leverage staff nurses’ expertise to influence positive change and improve outcomes for patients, families, and organizations.

Debbie’s passion, drive, empathy, commitment to her profession, and quest for equity have been recognized by others as well. She has received numerous awards and honors across the span of her career. For instance, in 2015, she received the Flame Award for Outstanding Leadership and Patient Advocacy from the Inland Northwest Chapter of the AACN. In 2017, she was the first College of Nursing faculty member at Washington State University to ever receive the WSU President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Instructors and Clinical Faculty. In 2018, she was inducted into the Washington State Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame, which honors nurses throughout Washington who have significantly changed the nature of nursing practice, research, educational opportunities, and governing policies within the state. These are mere highlights in her list of accolades accumulated over the years.

Debbie has made an incredible impact on the health care system, the university experience for nursing students, and on lives in Spokane and throughout the state of Washington. Garnering respect and admiration from students, peers, and administrations, she has touched many lives. For decades to come, her work will have a ripple effect of positive change and will aid in the creation of a more equitable state. It is YWCA Spokane’s honor to recognize and celebrate Debbie Brinker as the 2020 Woman of Achievement in the category of Science, Technology, and Environment.


A two month celebration of those who live out YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

This campaign will honor our 2020 Women of Achievement award winners and invite the community to take YWCA’s Learn & Give challenge focused on inspiring change during Domestic Violence Action Month.

September 1st through October 31st, 2020, YWCA’s ONE MISSION campaign will serve to celebrate women leaders in our community, raise awareness about the compounded experiences of domestic violence survivors, and look to raise $275,000. Proceeds raised support YWCA Spokane’s services for domestic violence victims and their children, including emergency shelter, counseling, legal services, job readiness, child care, and Pre-K programs for low income children and their families.

Please join us as we celebrate Debbie and the other 2020 award honorees through this new campaign. 

Learn More

Donate in Honor of Our Women of Achievement Award Honorees

Consider making a donation in honor of the outstanding women we acknowledge at this inspiring celebration. As our biggest, most critical fundraiser of the year, the Women of Achievement Awards benefit our programs and services directly, allowing our reach to grow further and our mission to be realized. Simply put, we cannot do this work without you!


About YWCA Spokane

For 117 years, YWCA Spokane has been helping women and children overcome social, economic, and personal barriers in order to accomplish their goals and achieve healthier and more fulfilling lives. Today, areas of focus include supporting victims of intimate partner domestic violence, promoting early childhood education, and confronting racial and social justice issues that negatively impact our clients and our community.

In 2019, YWCA served over 17,000 women, children, and families. Services include a continuum of wrap-around support: 24-hour Helpline and Safe Shelter, Counseling Center, Mental Health Services, Child Advocacy, Civil Legal Assistance, Legal Advocacy, and Economic Empowerment Advocacy. YWCA’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) provides 3- and 4-year-old children with the social and learning skills necessary for successful entry into kindergarten.

By working at the intersections of inequality, poverty, and domestic violence, YWCA Spokane is able to disrupt longstanding societal patterns of trauma. To learn more, take a look at our 2019 annual impact report.


This awards celebration would not be possible without the incredible support of our 2020 sponsors. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at or call 509-742-0111.




2020 Mission Partner


Innovation SPONSOR






Corporate Sponsors

Columbia Bank

Global Credit Union

The Spokesman-Review

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at or call 509-742-0111.

By: Erica Schreiber

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