Born to Care
From a young age, Julie Buss Varner (BS ’17) wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be a nurse. Varner consumed her mother’s medical stories growing up, and the two of them often watched medical shows on television together. Varner’s aspirations of caregiving unexpectedly became a reality when her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“I was 12 years old when my mom was diagnosed with MS…. As I got older [the MS] became more progressive and I would help her with daily things,” Varner recalls. “She would teach me along the way. If I had to help do certain care procedures she would talk to me about it and the importance of doing it correctly. I had the opportunity to see what nursing was like.”
Varner helped her mother throughout high school and it only solidified her determination to become a nurse. After graduating from high school in Oregon, Varner moved to Rexburg, Idaho to attend BYU-Idaho. She began working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and prepared to apply to the nursing program. However, the nursing program altered its curriculum, which would extend Varner’s graduation timeline longer than she originally anticipated.
After contemplating her options, Varner decided to move to Provo and transfer to BYU. She still applied to BYU-Idaho’s nursing program after the director of nursing told Varner she would be welcomed back if she were accepted. The BYU-Idaho nursing program sent Varner an acceptance letter within months of moving to Provo. Torn between staying and returning to Rexburg, Varner chose to stay in Provo and focused on applying to the BYU nursing program.
“[BYU nursing faculty members] reviewed my transcript, grades, and experience, and they told me I had a good chance to get in,” says Varner. “I got denied once and I started rethinking it. I tried to figure out why everything didn’t work out…”
Varner became involved with the Red Cross when she arrived in Provo. She volunteered teaching CPR, emergency preparedness, and natural disaster preparation to the community. She loved the engagement she had with the public and her husband pointed out that public health could be the career that she would enjoy the most. Varner resisted at first, but eventually switched majors. She loved her classes and the focus on helping others prepare for, and prevent, potential health issues.
However, Varner still faced the dilemma of paying for her education. She lost her academic scholarship from BYU-Idaho when she transferred and began to look elsewhere to make up the difference. She started to work as a CNA and found financial assistance from a BYU Alumni replenishment grant.
“My husband and I were praying for things to work out for us to be able to afford my tuition and avoid taking out any more student loans. Then there were at least two or three different scholarships in a row and it was a miracle. The replenishment grant helped pay a big chunk of my tuition and was a part of multiple things that came together to answer our prayers.”
Varner graduated from BYU with her bachelor’s degree in public health in April 2017. She immediately began working at Intermountain Healthcare in Provo as the South Region Community Health Coordinator. The recent graduate is already looking forward to the opportunity to paying back the replenishment grant funds. She hopes to someday be a professor within the same public health program she graduated from.