Nursing professor earns Auburn’s highest honor for faculty outreach as activist for children’s health

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Linda Gibson-Young has always had a passion for helping others.

It’s what drew her to seek a career in nursing in the first place. She would eventually become an educator as well, following in her parents’ footsteps, because it was another way of helping.

Gibson-Young has used these roles to address pediatric health, particularly helping families and children live with childhood asthma.

Since joining the faculty of Auburn University’s College of Nursing in 2016, she has made a name for herself in Alabama and beyond as an advocate for children’s health. Her outreach efforts and work at the state level has influenced countless lives in and out of the classroom.

For her dedication and service to others, Gibson-Young received the 2022 Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach. The award, presented by the Office of the Provost at the annual Faculty Awards Ceremony, honors the engagement of exemplary faculty members and demonstrates the tremendous impact Outreach has on our community, state, nation and beyond.

“I am honored that the College of Nursing is represented with this award,” said Gibson-Young, the East Alabama Medical Center/Dr. Bill Lazenby Endowed Professor and Outreach Coordinator for the college. “We truly have an amazing team impacting the state of Alabama and beyond with outreach. As a land-grant institution, we want to lead outreach efforts to drive health forward in the communities, and I am thrilled to have a role in such efforts.”

Practice begins

Gibson-Young was born in Reno, Nevada, but Alabama is home. Her father, a member of the U.S. Air Force, retired in Montgomery. Gibson-Young said she shadowed a few health care professionals after high school and found that she enjoyed both medicine and nursing.

When she realized a family nurse practitioner would allow her to serve both areas, she said she “jumped in head first.”

After earning nursing degrees from Auburn University at Montgomery and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, or UAB, Gibson-Young was a practicing family nurse practitioner, focusing on children and families managing asthma. She completed a doctorate at UAB with a focus on families and asthma.

Gibson-Young’s nursing career started at the bedside, where she spent seven years working with children impacted by pulmonary diagnoses.

“Since then, I have continued focusing on child asthma, the most common pulmonary condition in children,” she said.

An educator is born

Gibson-Young began her academic career at UAB while finishing her doctorate. She then worked as an assistant professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, and an associate professor at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

In 2016, Gibson-Young said her heart pulled her back to Alabama, where she found a post with Auburn Nursing.

In the College of Nursing, her teaching responsibilities include community and pediatrics for undergraduate nursing students through classroom, simulation and clinical opportunities, as well as online courses in evidence-based practice and population health for master’s and doctoral students.

Gibson-Young even leads undergraduates in the Honors College in research symposium courses as they prepare to focus on child health-related fields.

Her research is focused on pediatrics because “my clear passion is to improve the health of children and families living with child asthma. This is a chronic disease and should be controlled to have lifelong health.”

Outside the classroom

One way of addressing childhood asthma is educating young people and their caregivers at home and at school about managing and living with the disease.

“Good health starts in early life, and we must help encourage our children to take care of the one body they have,” said Gibson-Young. “If we can educate children with outreach educational programs, like TigerCHAT and Asthma Camp Eagle, we can make an impact in lives across Alabama and beyond.”

TigerCHAT and Asthma Camp Eagle are two of the outreach programs Gibson-Young has started since coming to Auburn.

TigerCHAT, or Community Health Awareness and Training, was started in 2018 as a partnership between Auburn Nursing and the Russell Medical Foundation. The collaborative health education program is designed to educate children in kindergarten through sixth grade about healthy behaviors, including nutrition, physical activity, respiratory health and mental health.

So far, the program has reached more than 10,000 children in 18 schools across three counties.

Asthma Camp Eagle was started in 2017 as a partnership between Auburn Nursing, Children’s Harbor and the Morris Family. Additional funding is provided by the Kiwanis Club of Alexander City, Jim and Pam Williams and the Meredith Williams Foundation.

The free residential summer camp at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin provides children 7 to 12 years of age with a fun environment to learn how to manage their asthma and live normal, healthy lives. Campers spend their days in the outdoors, playing in groups, swimming, doing art projects and learning about asthma and nutrition.

Fifty children will experience the camp in July.

As the outreach coordinator for the college, Gibson-Young manages 30 other outreach programs.

A permanent passion 

It seems like Gibson-Young was born with a desire to help people. Since her first day as a nursing student, that basic desire transformed into an unrelenting focus on helping children manage their health.

Her persistence has never wavered, no matter what challenge lay ahead, even one that hit close to home.

Gibson-Young and her husband Jeff Young, a fellow nurse, welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world 14 years ago. Within Greyson’s first three years, he was diagnosed with moderate persistent asthma.

Asthma is a lung disease that makes breathing difficult for millions of Americans, including about 6 million children. There is no cure, but it can be controlled with medication and education.

For the Youngs, it has influenced every aspect of their life, but Linda and Jeff have managed to make sure Greyson lives the life of an average, active teenage boy. He loves sports, especially basketball, and runs his own lawn care company.

This makes the Youngs ideal educators and advocates for families living with asthma.

“We clearly understand the impact asthma has every day on families,” said Gibson-Young.

Grayson’s health has likely strengthened his mother’s resolve to ensure all children and families learn to live their best lives, despite asthma.

“I know we can work on asthma control in children, to improve lung function of adults living with asthma,” she said. “We can make an impact with proper preventative care.”

To ensure her efforts have broad impact, Gibson-Young also serves on posts at the state level, including community positions on interdisciplinary asthma management boards among two children’s hospitals, contributing to education policies that transform how asthma is managed in clinical practice.

Additionally, she chairs the Alabama Asthma Coalition, a grassroots effort connecting state organizations on asthma management. One area of focus for this year addresses environmental changes to improve air quality.

“I hope to continue impacting change in the health of citizens in Alabama,” she said. “We have a responsibility, and I am here to help.”

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.