Healing body and soul
PROFESSIONAL WOMAN Debra Brewer is a registered nurse and serves as clinical manager on the north part of the third floor at Riley Hospital. She is also a licensed minister, a bereavement coordinator and counselor at the hospital. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
April 21, 2002
As a registered nurse, Debra Brewer's job is to heal the body. As a licensed minister, her interest is in healing the soul.
Brewer is clinical manager on the north part of the third floor at Riley Hospital, a unit dedicated to heart and stoke patients. She said her job as a nurse goes hand-in-hand with her desire to help people find God.
A nurse is born
At the age of 21, in 1972, Brewer started working at Riley Hospital first as a nurse's aide, then a licensed practical nurse.
Brewer earned an associate's degree in nursing from Meridian Community College five years later and then a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Southern Mississippi 1990.
Pastoring became a big part of her life early in 1978.
Around the hospital, Brewer became known as the person to call on to comfort a family when a death occurred.
Her co-workers feel she is always there for them.
"She is a real compassionate person," said Janet Terrell, a registered nurse and co-worker of Brewer's for 23 years. "She uses her ministering abilities to help anyone in need. She goes above and abound."
A minister is born
In 1986, Brewer began attending Education for Ministry at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
In 1990, she felt a calling from God one that led her to earn a master's degree from the Christian Life School of Theology at Beacon College in Atlanta.
Another proud moment came when Riley sent her to take a chaplain class at the Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson in 1997. The class was taught by Jack Follis, who would become one of her mentors.
Brewer remembers a sad moment several years ago just shortly after Riley opened its WomanCare Birth Place and just before she took the chaplain class.
An expectant mother went into labor; the baby didn't make it. Brewer was called to counsel the mother.
The "We Care Bereavement Services" was started soon after and Brewer became the coordinator.
Her duties include setting up workshops for hospital personnel to increase their awareness and assist people in their time of loss.
She would assist with stillborn births, baptizing the babies and consoling the parents. She also worked on the oncology floor, helping families deal with deaths from cancer.
But dealing with death on a daily basis does take a toll.
A woman in ministry
Brewer said she respects people who have those beliefs. Nevertheless, she said, it's through God's grace she has been able to provide ministry despite opposition.
Her community has been kind to her.
Brewer is a member of Sunlight Baptist Church in Meridian. She has pastored at several area churches, including Mt. Olive Baptist Church, St. Peter AME Zion and Fifth Street Baptist Church.
Her family also has kept her strong. She is the mother of two daughters, Stacee Brewer Naylor, 30, a nurse in Jackson, and Shanna Brewer, 23, of Meridian.
She stays busy teaching Bible study classes, which she has done for the last 10 years.
Brewer said she is at a point in her life in which she would like to work more in the ministry. But, she said, better pay and "economics puts me in nursing."
She is currently working on her doctorate degree in theology through the Christian Life School of Theology and plans to finish it within the next 2 years.
A smile spread across her face when she described a recurring dream that she has had.
In the dream she sees a big building that would assist people who needed help. The presence of God would fill the building and be taken with the person as they left. That person would pass the word of God onto others in the community.