Master’s Scholar Plans to Put Her Health Care Experience to Work for Others

With help from Regis University’s Military Scholars Fund, 76-year-old Diana Bress is using her life-experience to serve others.

Between caring for her husband as he battled ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease — and seeing her daughter through respiratory failure, Diana Bress amassed a couple lifetimes’ worth of health care experience. Now, with help from Regis University’s Military Scholars Fund, the 76-year-old is earning a degree in the field she knows so well.

Earning her degree in Health Care Administration online while dealing with worsening macular degeneration is a challenge, but it’s not going to stop her. “Sometimes it does interfere with reading or looking at my laptop screen,” Bress said. “But I need to keep going.”


That’s because she’s determined to work to make life better for anyone struggling with serious illness, and for their families. “I would like to change the way medical care is delivered. I think everything — X-rays, mammograms, all that — should be in one spot. Because, especially when the weather is bad, people put off going to the doctor because they don’t want to die in a car wreck,” she said.

An even greater need, Bress said, is more home care for those whose illness makes getting around challenging, as it was for her husband Ron as his disease progressed.

Ron Bress, an Air National Guard veteran and retired Teamster, first noticed symptoms at his 50th high school reunion. “He was standing there and suddenly went sideways,” Diana Bress said.

Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates that 5,000 people in the United States — most often men over age 60 — are diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative, untreatable and usually fatal condition, each year.

As Diana Bress knows all too well, arriving at that diagnosis can be difficult. “It took 10 to 12 years. They had to eliminate everything else first,” she said. And while his doctors were speculating about neuropathy and heart disease, she was researching her husband’s symptoms, convinced Ron suffered from a neurologic disorder. “I was at least in the ballpark,” she said.

Ron Bress died of ALS in 2017, at 76. Bress now lives with her daughter Heather Gilbert, who faced a long recovery after a bout of flu combined with bronchitis progressed to respiratory failure, and Heather’s husband, George Grace, who has early onset dementia.

When Bress started exploring options for earning a degree, she turned to the military resources she had counted on for help during her husband’s illness to help her choose the right program. They directed her toward Regis, and the university’s Military Scholars Fund scholarships. The scholarship, the ability to take courses online, and the fact that Regis accepted credits from her interrupted undergraduate studies, sealed the deal.

The Colorado Springs resident began her Regis studies in October 2020 and is thrilled with her classes. “I love doing this online,” she said. “It’s so much easier.” she said.

Bress expects to graduate in December 2022 or spring 2023. After that, Bress said, “I would like to work in a memory care facility or maybe in assisted living.” The woman who has provided more than her share of care for family members says she has her sights set on memory care so she can help her son-in-law when he needs it.

And she’s sure her husband would be proud of her. “He’d be my biggest booster. He always was.”