Overcoming the Odds to Lead a Blessed Life
Donna Dallis currently serves as the VP of Patient Care, one of the highest positions at Northeastern Health System. She is arguably one of the busiest people at the hospital, overseeing all clinical departments as well as the hospital’s Risk Management and Quality teams. Donna has defied the odds, learned to lean on the Lord, and worked extremely hard to get where she is today.
“Admittedly, my childhood was not ideal,” says Donna. “There were many trials along the way. I was the child of an alcoholic father, and a mom that had her own struggles, and in all reality, even though they divorced after I was married and had a 2 year old, it was long overdue. At fourteen, I was pregnant, but by the grace of God he was working in my life even then by placing a supportive husband in my life. It led me down a path that I couldn’t have imagined.”
Donna was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and moved houses and schools every year. Her family lived in Tulsa until she was ten and then moved to Northern California for one year.
“During that year we moved twice and I went to school in a small four-room class with hot lunches once a week,” remembers Donna. “Going from Tulsa to Corning, California, with a total of nine students in the fifth grade, and the fourth and fifth grades combined, was quite a culture shock.”
Her father’s drinking and frequent job hopping, unsurprisingly created a chaotic environment for Donna and her four younger siblings, though they were quite unaware of their circumstances at the time.
“When my sister and I were two and three years old, we lived in a shot-gun house. We got up while my mom was asleep and we squirted dish liquid and cheerios all the way from the kitchen to our mom’s bed and when she stood up she flew all the way from the bed to the kitchen sink!” remembers Donna with a chuckle. “I also cut my sister’s hair almost all off. This resulted in my mom cutting my hair and a really serious spanking.”
Donna’s parents supported the family through a variety of jobs.
“My parents did a little bit of everything. My mom worked as a secretary, a waitress, nurse aide and in her later years, received her LPN license,” said Donna. “My dad worked a variety of jobs through the years including delivery of various items, working for a feed company cutting hay, and at one time was a member of the steelworkers union. In my adult years my mom remarried and my step dad was a truck driver.”
Though Donna began her family at a young age, she has worked hard to defy the odds. The most comprehensive study on marriage and age that sociologists cite was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001, from 1995 data, and it found that 48 percent of those who marry before 18 are likely to divorce within 10 years, compared with 24 percent of those who marry after age 25.
“I got married when I was 14 to my husband of 41 years,” said Donna, “and I moved to his hometown of Tahlequah.”
In 1976, Donna gave birth to her first child, a girl, whom she named Christy. Four years later, she had her second child, a son, named Robby.
“I completed the ninth grade right after I was married, then my first child was born when I was 15 and the second when I was 19,” said Donna.
To make ends meet, Donna spent 10 years working in a nursing home.
“I wanted to know more and be able to do more, so the path began,” said Donna. “I completed the LPN course at Bill Willis Vo Tech at the age of 29, in 1990. I attended NSU to obtain my prerequisites and then completed the LPN to RN bridge program at Bacone College in 1994. I went on to complete my BSN at NSU in 2002 and then earned my MS in Nursing Administration at OU in 2012.”
According to teen pregnancy statistics, nearly 1 million teens have babies every year, and of these almost 7 out of 10 will drop out of school before completing high school. Less than 2 percent of teen moms go on to get a college degree. Eighty percent of women who have babies when they are teens spend at least part of their life dependent on welfare, and they have serious disadvantages in achieving financial success and independence in life, largely due to their lack of education.
“If I could give my younger self advice, it would be to go to school earlier, worry less and not take life so seriously,” said Donna.
Donna has now been working for Northeastern Health System for more than 26 years. She received the Florence Nightingale award in LPN school and a quorum award for quality, when NHS was a Quorum hospital.
Having started as an LPN, she has a unique understanding of how the hospital functions. Hard work, education and lots of prayer have earned her the much deserved title of Employee of the Year as well as Vice President of Patient Care and Risk Manager.
“I love serving our community,” said Donna. “God led me to this place. I believe everything happens for a reason.”
When she’s not working, Donna enjoys spending time with her two grandchildren, Draeuh, 11, and Asher, 4.
“I consider my grandchildren to be blessings from God,” she said.
In addition to her grandchildren, some of Donna’s greatest joys in life are family, friends, education and her relationship with Christ. She is very involved in her church, and she enjoys quilting, camping and reading.
“I still have goals and ambitions for my future,” said Donna. “Professionally, I would like to solve the nursing shortage. Personally, I plan to enjoy life, vacation more and enjoy my grandbabies.”
Donna Dallis’ young life started against all odds, but she has overcome adversity, raising two wonderful children, earning a variety of degrees, and holding one of the highest positions at Northeastern Health System, all while maintaining a happy marriage for more than 41 years.
Donna’s legacy could certainly be one of encouragement to young mothers, or teach the age-old lesson of how hard work and education pay off; but if you ask Donna what she wants her legacy to be, she simply says, “That I love Jesus and my neighbor.”