Debra S. Penney, PhD, MS, MPH, CNM

Research Interests

  • Public Health
  • International Health


  • Arabic
  • English
  • Spanish

Academic Information

  • Departments: Nursing - Associate Professor (Clinical), Nursing - Advanced Practice Clinician
  • Divisions: Health Systems and Community-Based Care

Board Certification

  • American Midwifery Certification Board

Academic Office Information

  • 801-581-7924
  • College of Nursing
    10 South 2000 East, Room: Room 3455
    Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Academic Bio

Dr. Debra Penney received a BS from the University of Colorado in Nursing and an MS in nurse-midwifery from the University of Colorado in 1990. She has studied Arabic while working over a decade in the Middle East. In that region she was employed by several NGOs and trained local women in maternal-child and reproductive health. After this, she returned to Loma Linda University, CA and received an MPH in International Health and returned to the Middle East to engage in several projects to upgrade the health workforce. Since 2001 she has been employed in the Birth Care Health Care faculty practice and has been teaching clinically and didactically. Currently she teaches Global Health, Global Public Health, Normal Intrapatum Management and is chair for many DNP students. In 2015 she was awarded a PhD (College of Nursing) from the University of Utah upon completion of her dissertation entitled Iraqi Muslim Women and Primary Health Care Providers Experiences and Perceptions of the Health Encounter. This qualitative study used critical ethnographic tools and a post colonial feminism framework to explore newly arrived Iraqi women's perceptions in health access and the health enounter with their primary care providers here in the Salt Lake Valley. Debra continues to use this study to engage learners and inform clinical and refugee providers about health system barriers, and cultural adjustments needed to promote individualized care.

Education History

Type School Degree
Doctoral Training University of Utah College of Nursing
Graduate Training Loma Linda University
Public Health: International Health Specialty
Other Training Special Arabic Language Program
Arabic Studies
Graduate Training University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Other Training Special Arabic Language Program
Arabic Studies
Other Training Denver Seminary
Undergraduate University of Northern Colorado

Global Impact

Education History

Type School Degree Country
Other Training Special Arabic Language Program
Arabic Studies
Other Training Special Arabic Language Program
Arabic Studies


Institution Description Country
Worldwide Services, Republican Hospital Nurse Yemen
Dutch Development Organization (SNV), Rada'a Primary Health Care Project Training Expert/Coordinator Yemen
Worldwide Services, Republican Hospital Trainer/Midwife Yemen
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Options for Family Care Senior Clinical Advisor Yemen
University of North Carolina, Community Midwife Training Project INTRAH/UNFPA Training Consultant Yemen

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Penney, DS (2016). Midwifing the Student. J Midwifery Womens Health.
  2. Bettmann, JE, Penney, DS, Clarkson Freeman, PA, Lecy, N amp Parry, K (2015). Somali refugees’ perceptions of mental illness. Social Work in Health Care. Soc Work Health Care, 54(8), 738-757.
  3. Clarkson Freeman, PA, Penney, DS, Bettmann, JE amp Lecy, N (2013). The intersection of health belieft and religion among Somali refugees: A qualitive study. J Relig Spiritual Soc Work.
  4. Debra Penney and Kathleen Miller (2007). Counseling Vegetarians During Pregnancy and Lactation. J Midwifery Womens Health.

Book Chapter

  1. Penney DS, Fuller JK (2010). Gynecological and Obstetric Surgery. In J.K. Fuller (Ed.). In Surgical Technology: Principles and Practice (5th ed., Chapter 24, pp. 555-600). St. Louis: Saunders Elsevier.

Case Report

  1. Penney DS (2008). The effect of vigorous exercise during pregnancy. J Midwifery Womens Health, 53(2), 155-9.


  1. Penney D S (Spring 2014). Iraqi Muslim Women's Experiences of the Health Encounter. Poster session presented at University of Utah Global Health Conference, Salt Lake.