By Eliza Joy
Sage Williams graduated from BYU in 2017 with a bachelor’s in nursing. She played violin growing up and even participated in the university orchestra. Although Sage doesn’t play as often now, she still enjoys casual playing. One of Sage’s favorite things to do is travel and live in new places. She grew up in a military family and moved every two years, “I love experiencing new cultures,” she says. “I love meeting people from different countries, or just different parts of the US with different backgrounds and life experiences from mine. There are so many good ways to live life.”
The traveling Sage has done has given her perspective when it comes to compassion. When asked how she has been impacted by it, she said, “Until you make something personal and understand someone from a specific socio-economic status or ethnic background as a friend, you can’t really understand an experience or challenge that someone is having, or that a community is facing.” The BYU College of Nursing’s motto is “Learning the Healer’s Art.” Being able to understand people on a personal level is, to Sage, the best way to exemplify the Healer Himself. “I think that Jesus Christ is perfectly compassionate and merciful, because He is perfectly knowledgeable—He understands the complexity of our lives: our challenges, our joys, the lens through which we see the world,” she says.
Because of how much traveling she did growing up, Sage was looking forward to the prospect of living around other Latter-day Saints. “I wanted to be around peers who had a similar background to me, just because that’s not something I had experienced previously,” she recalls. Why Sage decided to go into nursing demonstrates her curiosity and love of learning. “I took an anatomy class in high school, and I thought the body was really amazing. So I wanted to do something medical. And I knew that BYU had a good nursing program.” As a result, BYU was the only school Sage applied to.
As she began her schooling, Sage sought out information on the different research being conducted in the College of Nursing. She reached out to Dr. Julie Valentine and joined Julie’s research team focusing on the criminal justice system’s response to survivors of sexual abuse. The mentorship she received from Dr. Valentine, Dr. Leslie Miles, and Dr. Linda Mabey was invaluable. She spent three years learning the research process from these women and seeing that research applied in real-time to policy, impacting individual lives. During her time researching with these faculty members, Sage was able to work as a volunteer victim’s advocate on the Sexual Assault Response Team for Utah County.
Because of her research experience, as well as her work with SART, Sage had the opportunity to work as a sexual assault nurse examiner with Wasatch Forensic Nurses immediately after graduating. She also began the psychiatric/mental health DNP program at the University of Utah. “I wanted to work on helping the survivors I had cared for heal from sexual abuse afterward,” she recalled. Her first clinical rotation in the program was in the juvenile justice system with teenage perpetrators of sexual assault. This expanded her understanding of systemic issues that perpetuate sexual assault and the challenges surrounding it. Sage simultaneously worked for a foundation that helped victims of wartime rape through a holistic approach, intentionally supporting spiritual and social healing in addition to physical and mental healing. This approach resonated deeply with Sage because of her foundation in nursing and led to a realization about one weakness in the way we approach healthcare, “I saw the huge need for the increasingly secular medical field to leave its silo and collaborate with other disciplines, especially faith and social leaders. I also realized that I wanted to be more involved in building these interdisciplinary partnerships and advising policy.” After a general conference talk by President Nelson, Sage’s experiences culminated in the inspired decision to take a leave of absence from her DNP program and apply to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Sage completed a Master’s of Science in International Health Policy from LSE. Her research focused on interdisciplinary collaboration with faith leaders in the creation and implementation of health policy. Something Sage learned throughout her experiences and education was the tremendous role the religious communities play in health. It is also a sad reality that many religious communities ostracize victims of sexual abuse. To help these victims, they need not only health care, but spiritual care and social support from their faith communities. Sage says about the role of religious leaders that “religious leaders have more influence than they realize.” They have a unique power to “promote healing.”
Sage is currently working with the New York Board of Rabbis to bring the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) to the United States. The GNRC already exists in 56 countries and is dedicated to promoting the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of children and to protecting children’s rights as outlined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sage’s idea of what being a nurse is supposed to look like has evolved. “I so admire nurses who work in the hospital and traditional healthcare settings,” she says. “They do really amazing and important work. I also think the role of nurses can and will continue to expand. I think more nurses need to be at the decision-making table creating and advising policy.” She also advocates for more nurses to connect across disciplines and build bridges with all leaders who impact health and wellbeing, including faith leaders, educators, politicians, and human rights advocates. “Nurses are good connectors,” she remarks.
For Sage, the most important part of her education at BYU was not the clinicals or even the classes; it was the mentorship that she received. BYU encourages all of its students to find meaningful mentorship relationships. “The mentorship I received from BYU has profoundly impacted my life and my career.”