Nursing Alumni’s Generosity Takes Simulation Learning to the Next Level

Three SDSU healthcare heroes funded pivotal learning experiences and equipment for the On Campus Clinical Learning Environment.

The On Campus Clinical Learning Environment (OCCLE) at SDSU is an incredibly bold initiative – so it’s only fitting that the cutting-edge suites and equipment within its walls are sponsored by equally bold healthcare pioneers who got their start at SDSU.

On October 7, 2022, the university held a sponsorship ceremony to recognize three key figures in the medical field, each with their own distinct legacy, who’d go on to fund possibility and opportunity for Jackrabbit students following in their footsteps.

The OCCLE is designed to offer in-depth simulated experiences for nursing students that build familiarity with essential equipment and techniques in medical care. The space is optimized for students to develop their skills and concentrate fully on patient care, practicing procedures in a safe and controlled setting to fully prepare for the reality of their future careers. The OCCLE features various types of suites that emulate different environments for treating patients, like that of a hospital or ambulance. Within the suites are simulation manikins, providing peak technology to portray symptoms and healthcare conditions. Just on the other side of the suites’ walls lie technology control rooms, where instructors may observe students as they practice, as well as dictate the medical diagnoses and outcomes carried out by the manikins.

Such premier technology, while invaluable to current and future Jackrabbit nursing students, comes at a price. The October sponsorship ceremony recognized three individuals – Maxine Wilcox, Erica DeBoer, and Marlene Schmid – who not only made a tremendous impact in the healthcare field, but have paved the way for critical learning experiences for the next generation.

A true trailblazer in the field of healthcare, Maxine Wilcox’s unfailing selflessness and compassion changed countless lives. Following her graduation from SDSU in 1954, she took her career on the road, traveling to 27 countries across six continents for ministry work, where she’d set up hospitals, teach nursing classes, and live a life of bold ambition and tireless philanthropy. Once famously surviving a plane crash and even helping to save the lives of other survivors in the crash, Maxine’s larger-than-life legacy continues on at SDSU, where her estate funded pivotal simulation equipment that will help to train future nurses. As written in her 2021 obituary, “Maxine lived, laughed, learned, and loved throughout her life; she never stopped.” Thanks to her generosity, the OCCLE will forever help Jackrabbit students build their own life-saving legacies.

While Maxine’s time in the medical field is in the past, Erica DeBoer is pioneering progress for the future of healthcare. Erica is a 1997 graduate of SDSU’s nursing program, who went on to build an impressive and impactful career with Sanford Health. Now the Chief Nursing Officer for Sanford, Erica has more than 20 years of experience as a front-line registered nurse, including roles in critical care, clinical leadership, and education. With a wealth of knowledge when it comes to teaching and a background as a Clinical Nurse Educator, Erica’s philanthropy is aimed to advance education and bolster confidence and competence for Jackrabbit nurses. At the sponsorship ceremony, Erica DeBoer explained that her love of technology inspired her to give, as well as the impact that technology will have on staff in the healthcare field. As someone with first-hand experience in the latest technological advancements in medicine, Erica believes in the difference simulation-based learning can and will make for both nurses and their patients. Along with her husband, Shane, Erica sponsored a control room that provides “important preparation for the care of our patients in the future,” said Erica.

Much like Maxine and Erica, Marlene Schmid had a knack for helping others and built a decades-long legacy of teaching the next generation of healthcare heroes. A 1971 nursing grad, Marlene took the world by storm following her time at SDSU and spent years learning and teaching about epidemiology and infection control. Just as impressive as her lifetime of dedication to the medical field was Marlene’s career in the military, where she’d rise through the ranks and collect countless promotions for 32 years, all while helping to oversee the wellbeing of thousands of soldiers. Described as “always on a mission” by her family, the late Dr. Marlene (Wellman) Schmid’s mission to help others lives on even after her death in 2007. After attending an on-campus event and taking note of the cutting-edge technology available to the nursing program, Marlene’s husband, Paul, felt inspired to carry on her legacy and honor her unwavering service in healthcare. At the sponsorship ceremony, the Schmid family painted a picture of a woman who was a force to be reckoned with. Paul and Marlene’s daughter, Beth Zimmermann, spoke at the event. “The common theme in her career was to help others, to teach anyone she met to be stronger, to challenge them to think critically and improve their skillsets,” Beth explained. That common theme is a crucial tenet of not just Marlene’s life mission, but of the OCCLE, as well.

Thanks to the remarkable generosity and tremendous impact of Maxene Wilcox, Erica DeBoer, and Marlene Schmid, the OCCLE is prepared to train future healthcare professionals just like them: innovative, compassionate, and boldly going above and beyond to transform the field of medicine.