Whether they’re serving overseas, teaching at the Loma Linda University School of Nursing (LLUSN), or treating patients at the SAC Health System (SACHS) in San Bernardino, Ken and Dee Hart have made a life out of doing good to benefit others.
They met at a banquet at LLUSN during Dee’s senior year. Ken, who was a freshman at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and Dee came to the event with other dates. Somehow, however, they managed to catch each other’s eyes and . . .
The couple married in the spring of 1967 at Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda. By then, Dee had graduated from LLUSN and was working there as an instructor. She was also pursuing an MS degree in nursing education. Ken, on the other hand, was a sophomore medical student.
The next year, Dee received her MS degree and continued working at the school. In 1969, Ken graduated with his MD degree and took a one-year internship in surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Dee gave birth that year to their first child, a son they christened Todd.
In 1970, when Dee was eight months pregnant with their second child, the couple arrived at Mwami Hospital about 20 miles from the city of Chipata, Zambia.
Ken went to work as a staff physician at the hospital while Dee set about the challenges of setting up their home, taking care of Todd, building a nursery for their new baby’s imminent arrival, and learning where to buy food in the neighborhood.
When Baby Patrice arrived the very next month, Ken, Dee, and Todd were becoming attuned to the rhythms and routines of African life. While Ken treated patients at the hospital, Dee took care of two babies and served as hostess to a steady stream of visiting friends, fellow missionaries, church officials, and government representatives who came to the hospital. The final year of their three-year tenure at Mwami, she also served as a “sister tutor” at the Mwami Adventist Nursing School.
In 1973, Ken was asked to serve as the only physician at Yuka Adventist Hospital in the country’s western province. When his term ended in 1974, the family returned to the United States where he got his MPH degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In 1975, the family returned to Africa where Dee served on the faculty of Tanzania Adventist Seminary and College—currently known as the University of Arusha—where she taught maternal and child health education. She was also the elementary school teacher for her two children. Ken served as medical director of Tanzania Adventist Rural Health Services, supervising approximately 30 medical clinics all over the country. He also developed and implemented a training course for maternal/child health care workers and a health correspondence course called Maisha Bora, or Better Living.
The couple returned to Loma Linda in 1982 so Ken could complete a residency in preventive medicine. For her part, Dee stayed busy raising the children and maintaining the home.
In 1984, the family returned to Africa yet again: this time to Kenya where Dee served as a nurse at Nairobi Seventh-day Adventist Health Services while Ken worked as medical director for East African Rural Health Services, serving both Kenya and Uganda. He also implemented a similar village-level maternal/child health program as he had in Tanzania. Todd and Patrice attended local schools.
“My favorite memories are the great times we had with other missionaries,” Dee recalls. “Camping together in the game parks, eating together in our homes or at picnic sites within the nearby game park, and just spending fun time together.”
The family remained in Nairobi for almost four years, leaving Africa for good in 1987. Dee almost immediately joined LLUSN as the clinical coordinator for pediatric nursing and worked as a clinical nurse on the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. In 1994, she earned her DrPH degree in health education. That meant, of course, that there were now two Drs. Hart in the family.
When the SACHS Norton Clinic opened in October 1995, Ken became the medical director. LLUSN released Dee for a full year to provide assistance in getting the clinic organized. In 1997, she rejoined LLUSN as assistant professor and continued as coordinator for an eight-unit junior-level course in pediatric nursing. In 1999, she took on additional responsibilities as coordinator for a four-unit course in health promotion across the life span, and the new six-unit course in child health nursing. That same year, she was appointed associate professor at the school. Ken, meanwhile, continued to enjoy his work at SACHS.
Concurrently, Dee went back to school, this time earning a certificate as a pediatric nurse practitioner from UCLA in 2001. She also accepted a position as a pediatric nurse practitioner at SACHS in 2002, continuing with the organization until 2006.
She also continued teaching at LLUSN. In 2004, she served as coordinator for a graduate course in pediatric primary health care for pediatric nurse practitioner students. The job involved classroom teaching, student evaluation, and clinical supervision.
In 2006, she was named associate dean for undergraduate nursing. After requesting retirement in 2015, she became interim associate dean until her replacement could be found. Finally, in January 2016, Dee retired from the school after more than three decades of service.
For his part, Ken isn’t ready to hang up the stethoscope yet. Earlier this year, SACHS moved to the Loma Linda University — San Bernardino location bringing new patients and new opportunities for serving the residents of the inner city. In his free time, he teaches four Bible study classes per week, prepares study guides for an online Bible study class, and sends CDs of his lessons to a variety of locations around the globe.
“His off-duty time is very busy preparing lessons for the classes as well as preparing the lessons for distribution on the website and on the CDs,” Dee notes.
Dee stays busy keeping their gracious home running smoothly. Lately, she’s been doing a bit of thinking about the school she loves so much. She reached out to the office of planned giving and worked with Nikki Gaitan, senior development officer, to establish a planned gift to benefit the School of Nursing.
After evaluating her options, Dee chose to make a beneficiary gift to the Class of ’66 Scholarship Endowment Fund. Anna Ceballos, development associate in the office, says beneficiary gifts are simple and convenient.
As Dee reflects on her own experiences as a student, instructor, associate professor, and associate dean at LLUSN, she likes the fact that many years after she and Ken have gone, her gift will go on helping talented students afford the same quality of nursing education she received so many years ago.
Gaitan sees a bit of poetry in the arrangement. “For someone who dedicated so much of her time and passion in working for the institution for so many years, it is inspiring to see her continued dedication and support.”
Ceballos agrees. “Dee is a champion for philanthropy,” she concludes.