Growing up as a Filipino American in Milpitas, Calif., Capt. Raiza Deyto RN, BSN, wanted to walk a different path than her predecessors who gravitated to the nursing field.
“My whole life, I was drawn to healer/soldier archetype in role-playing games,” Deyto says. “I wanted to be someone who can protect and heal, but I did not want to perpetuate the stereotype of Filipino women becoming nurses. For the longest time, I thought I was going to be a doctor and go to med school instead.”
As most of us have learned, life often takes surprising detours.
After entering Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Pennsylvania in 2010, serving in the US Army, earning a bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Denver in 2014, and completing an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at Regis University, Deyto was certified as a nurse in 2018. In retrospect, Deyto says she couldn’t be more satisfied with how her dual career paths merged.
“I should’ve listened to my elders,” she says. “Nursing opens a lot of doors. I felt a lot of satisfaction with working with veteran patients. At the same time, I got a lot of experiences in the military such as jumping out of airplanes and playing in the dirt that some might consider very ‘un-nurse-like,’ but that contributed to making me who I am today.”
Combining her interests in both healthcare and serving veterans, Deyto is currently working on a master’s degree at the Veteran and Military Health Care Program at the University of Colorado College of Nursing while working as a nurse at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System. Continuing her military career, Deyto also serves the Colorado Air National Guard as a captain.
Becoming a COMBAT Scholar
Recently, Deyto took on yet another challenge in fusing her military service with healthcare by becoming the first CU College of Nursing student accepted into the Center for COMBAT Research Scholar Program. Established in 2019, the program is designed to promote and foster collaborative and military-relevant research on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
The opportunity materialized when Deyto met Deputy Director of the COMBAT Research Program, Brig. Gen. Kathleen Flarity, DNP, PhD, CEN, CFRN, FAEN, at a CU Nursing’s Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference in April during a songwriting workshop. (See related sidebar)
“I was immediately impressed with Raiza’s background, work ethic and passion and thought it would be a great fit for the CU Anschutz Center for COMBAT Research,” Flarity says. “Not only is she professional and intelligent but she brings a passion for our military service members and veterans. I told her a little about the COMBAT Scholar Program and encouraged her to apply.”
The CU Anschutz Center for COMBAT Research partners with military, industry and academia on research to benefit warriors or warrior medics. With over 100 researchers in four years, the program has received over 38 awards from the U.S. Department of Defense so far.
Flarity notes that while the scholar program is unpaid, scholars are provided the opportunity to collaborate with world-renown clinician researchers focused on caring for military populations. This work ultimately brings back these advancements in medicine to Colorado and our communities. The COMBAT Scholars participate in innovative and potentially life-saving work, they also obtain experience in publishing studies and present at healthcare conferences. Practice interests include emergency medicine, anesthesiology and surgery.
As one of the few COMBAT scholars who isn’t a medical student, Deyto’s work in the COMBAT program will likely focus on suicide prevention – an issue that’s close to her heart and a growing problem in the military. In 2019, the VA released a report that found that the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate of non-veteran adults.
Finding Community in the Military, Campus and Work
Captains Raiza Deyto & Michael Colbridge
Over the last 12 years, Deyto says she has found a deep sense of family and community in the military. Indeed, she met her significant other, Capt. Michael Colbridge, while enrolled in Valley Forge Military Academy. Colbridge serves on the Colorado Army National Guard.
“I work with a lot of younger people in the military too and I think about how someday they might also end up in a VA hospital too,” she says. “They’re my friends and I want to make sure they get everything they need when they walk out of the VA.”
That commitment to serving her fellow soldiers also drew her to CU Nursing’s Veteran and Military Health Care master’s degree program.
“It’s a premier program -- something that’s not offered anywhere else in the country,” Deyto says. “Even though I’m in the military, I don’t really know a lot about the VA system and how to really be the best advocate for my veteran patients, so I felt that going through this program I could be a better advocate. I just want to help veterans out by being a scholar in their field.”
CU College of Nursing believes in helping those who care for our military and veterans. We offer a graduate certificate, master's specialty and post-graduate certificate and DNP Leadership with a veteran and military healthcare specialization. Students can also pursue a combination master's and PhD with VMHC option or a PhD with a VMHC option. Those who earn their master's degree with VMHC emphasis can also continue on and earn their doctorate of nursing practice through the BS-DNP program. Learn more about our Veteran and Military Health Care program.
Workshop Produces Songs, Builds Relationships
Women veterans found common ground, professional opportunities in CU Nursing conference
Whether in a concert venue or elsewhere, the power of music bonds people together.
Capt. Raiza Deyto, RN, BSN, and Brig. Gen. Kathleen Flarity.DNP, PhD, witnessed that power firsthand during CU College of Nursing’s Partnerships for Veteran & Military Health Conference in April.
Flarity began her career as an Army combat medic in 1980 and was deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. She was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom -- performing an aeromedical evacuation mission in 2003. In 2011, Flarity was deployed as Commander, 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
Deyto currently serves in the Colorado Air National Guard while working as a nurse at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System and earning a master’s degree from CU Nursing’s Veteran and Military Health Care Program.
Healing Through Music
The two military service members met at a songwriting workshop titled “Healing Through Music,” presented by Richard Casper, co-founder of CreatiVets, a nonprofit with a mission to “empower wounded veterans to heal through the arts and music.” The session also featured Nashville songwriters Tommy Karlas and Megan Patrick.
Among others, Flarity and Deyto were joined in the session by Specialty Director of CU Nursing’s Veteran and Military Health Care, Professor Mona Pearl Treyball, PhD (a retired Air Force Colonel with 22 years of service) and Associate Professor Lori Trego, PhD (a retired Army Colonel with 25 years of service).
Together, the group collaborated on two country songs reflecting female veterans’ points of view. Prior to the session, the participants were songwriting novices.
One of the songs to emerge from the session, “Love You Today,” alludes to a veteran’s struggles from an empathetic spouse: I know I can never understand / But I can give you a helping hand / So tell me what I can do / I want to be here for you
Bringing CreatiVets to Colorado
Drs. Treyball and Trego brought CreatiVets to Colorado as part of the Partnership in VMHC conference, they coordinated and was sponsored by the CU College of Nursing. During the workshop, Flarity connected with Deyto and encouraged her to apply for the COMBAT Research Scholar program, where she was later accepted.
The CreatiVets songwriting program allows veterans to share their stories sometimes for the very first time. Because of Flarity’s research on resiliency, she understands the importance of sharing stories.
“It’s amazing that so many good things could emerge from a group of veterans sitting in a room talking and song writing,” Flarity says. “It was a very meaningful exercise for me. I’m at a point in my life that I now share vulnerabilities. I’m human and at this rank, I shared, cried and did some healing.”
Learn more about CreatiVets’ work.