Former Sikeston resident named Tillman Scholar

Friday, June 28, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL — Two University of Minnesota School of Nursing students passionate about making positive contributions to society in healthcare have been named Tillman Scholars for the class of 2019 by the Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF). 

Army veteran Kirk Butler and military spouse Bridget Gehrz are among the 60 elite, national recipients selected this year in the 11th class of Tillman Scholars. In recognition of their service, leadership and potential, the newly selected class will collectively receive more than $1.2 million in scholarship funding from PTF to pursue higher education and continue their service in their fields of study.

Butler, from Sikeston, Mo., is applying his education and military experience to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) with the goal of addressing chronic pain issues faced by the veteran community. Butler joined the Army after the attacks of Sept. 11 and found leadership roles while stationed at Tripler Medical Hospital and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, advocating for the health of soldiers, particularly those returning from deployments.

“Veterans are a unique population who have a significantly higher probability of developing substance abuse disorders,” said Butler. “Working with scholars from varied backgrounds including health policy through the Tillman Foundation, I hope to find a way to reduce unnecessary opioid prescriptions after surgery as at least one avenue for lessening potential addition.”

Gehrz, Woodbury, Minn., is focused on Integrative Health and Healing within her Doctor of Nursing Practice studies and hopes to help survivors of trauma and loss by taking a whole-person approach to healing that balances a healthy lifestyle and professional services. Gehrz, who lost her husband — a Navy veteran who died by suicide after suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder — has found a passion in working to help others after experiencing her own loss. 

“Tillman Scholars are uniquely positioned to make an impact with effects that will ripple across communities and around the world,” said Marie Tillman, Board Chair and Co-Founder of PTF. “We are proud and excited to announce the 2019 class, and are looking forward to seeing how this incredible group of people makes their mark in the years to come.”