Scholarship Creates Pathways to Health Care for Youth

by  Robin Dutton-Cookston, Office of Development Communications

USF nursing students are changing the world through health care and increasing access to it for underprivileged children and families in the Central Valley of California. As part of a summer immersion program funded by a group of USF alumnae, the students take part in pop-up clinics that serve many in need — including some individuals who have never seen a health care provider before.

Carole Bibeau graduated in 1966 with a degree in nursing, and spent her life living out the Jesuit value of “people for others,” with dignity and respect for all individuals. “Carole was quite a leader in her years as a nurse,” said her friend, Rita Widergren ’66, who led the way in establishing the Carole Bibeau Scholarship. 

A Legacy of Compassion 

Always innovative yet compassionate, Bibeau helped establish hospice care in Wisconsin and supported Alzheimer’s research at the University of California, Davis. She also traveled and immersed herself in Eastern philosophy, which informed the spiritual care she brought to her work as an end-of-life nurse. 

“Her life was a fusion of that beautiful philosophy that made her work so valuable,” Widergren said. “She supported the dignity and beauty of each person no matter where they are on their life journey. She plowed the field and moved it forward.” Bibeau passed away in 2013, after a short battle with cancer, yet her legacy of service lives on through the generosity of her classmates.

The scholarship in Bibeau’s name supports the Central Valley program that creates temporary pop-up health clinics. The clinics provide physicals to students in grades K-12 per who may otherwise have limited or no access to medical care. 

Parents often also participate, many of whom have never seen a health care provider before. The average income for participants in the program is $40,000 for a family of four and the young patients are often the children of migrant farmworkers. 

The Central Valley nursing immersion program is transformative for the USF students who participate. Allyssa Montemayor ’20, who attended in the summer of 2018, describes it as an “enriching and humbling experience.”

“I always thought that I would have to volunteer for foreign medical missions or work for the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization to work with underserved communities,” she said. “Although we live in a first-world society/nation, it is unfortunate that there are pockets of communities, especially in the Central Valley of California, who are underserved.” 

Clinics are coordinated through school districts in the Central Valley to provide wrap-around support for children. If a concern arises during a child’s physical then USF nursing students can communicate with the student’s school for follow-up and case management. 

 The program is designed to respect the dignity of the families and provide crucial health care services, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. Montemayor explained that “most of the children were at risk of malnutrition, yet their parents work the fields of what is known as ‘America's Food Basket’ — the fertile Central Valley.” 

Nurses Supporting Nurses 

The Carole Bibeau Scholarship enables current USF nursing students to offer the same compassionate and values-based care that Bibeau demonstrated in her own career. The members of the Class of 1966 who created the scholarship get together once a year for a mini-reunion, and they are proud to honor Bibeau’s legacy by donating to USF in her name. 

“We were all very blessed with our education and we want to give back,” said Rita Windergren. “I know that Carole would love this. It’s going to have an impact because this is changing lives.”

Read more about the Central Valley immersion program on a blog created by USF nursing students:

To learn more about supporting the Bibeau Scholarship and the School of Nursing and Health Professions, contact Jayme Burke, Director of Development, School of Nursing and Health Professions at (415) 422-4049 or 

This gift was made in support of Changing the World from Here: Campaign for the University of San Francisco.