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Current PhD Student Profiles

Delilah Bruskas, PhC, MN, RN

Improving Foster Care Health Outcomes

PhD Student Profile Photo: Delilah BruskasPhD Student Profile Photo: Delilah Bruskas

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

My nursing background was predominantly in acute care settings. I worked in several ambulatory clinics and in several emergency departments. This clinical nursing background involved environments where outcomes mattered. I was used to explaining to my patients and their families exactly what I was doing and why as well as explaining what our medical outcome goals were and whether or not we were meeting them.

During a health policy class I was taking at the UW-T while working on my master of nursing, I became so interested in the health outcomes of those from foster care and especially with policy and practice. Although, I was part of the foster care system as a child, I knew very little about it, especially about how the child welfare system measures performance outcomes related to children in their care. After doing a review of the literature and learning that young adults from foster care are disproportionately disadvantaged mentally, educationally, and socially at a statistical level compared to their counterparts from the general population, I decided to change my area of study. I soon developed a passion and desire to learn more about why this vulnerable population was disproportionately at risk for poor developmental health outcomes.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

My growing interest and passion to advocate for those in and from foster care made me realize that my nursing background would be a great advocacy platform and that a PhD in nursing would be an even better advocacy platform. I realized that trying to improve the health outcomes of children from a government institution was not going to be easy and soon realized that there were many complex factors involved. I found myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed and decided that going back to school with a specific focus on improving the health outcomes of those in and from foster care would help me develop the health advocacy skills I desired and would need to truly make a difference.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

Over the years, I have really come to appreciate my nursing background and thought it would be a great platform to advocate for health disparities, especially those related to children and young adults from the foster care system. I have to admit that I was somewhat intimidated to apply to the nursing science PhD program at the UW as it is a very prominent and respected program as well as the number one nursing school in our country for quite a few years. I knew that this PhD program would be challenging, but I also really wanted to learn and develop the skills I felt I needed to address the complex issues associated with the foster care system and developmental health outcomes. I made a decision that improving the health outcomes of children and young adults from foster care would be worth any personal, academic, and financial sacrifices on my part towards obtaining a PhD in the School of Nursing.

What excites you most about your program?

There are many things that excite me about my program. I am excited and count it a great privilege to be associated with such a reputable PhD program. I also count it a privilege to learn and collaborate with the caliber of instructors at UW SoN. I have been exposed to great research material and articles; many have been referred to me by faculty and my committee members who have shown not only an interest in my area of study, but have also been very supportive towards my educational goals.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at the UW?

One of the most important things I have learned about myself as a student at the UW is how much I really value education. I believe that education is a great equalizer, especially for those like me from nontraditional backgrounds and how important it is for me to finish my PhD program.

What pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

Before starting this PhD program, I assumed that I would be responsible for all the associated financial costs. Today, I am so excited to learn that many young adults from foster care are being provided scholarships to help them successfully obtain a higher education. As an older alumna of foster care, I don’t meet the eligibility requirements and expected to solely fund my education as I have always done in the past. I was pleasantly surprised from the onset to learn that the SoN offered various scholarships. I was even more surprised beyond my wildest dreams when I learned that I was chosen as a recipient of the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Fellowship. Receiving the GAANN Fellowship has been such a financial encouragement, but more than that, it has also provided me with a sense of support from the SoN at a personal and academic level.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

As expected, I am developing and learning the nursing skills I need to address the complex issues associated with the social setting of foster care and developmental health outcomes of children from this social setting. I have been able to not only identify some of the risk factors associated with foster care affecting optimal developmental health, but I also have a greater confidence towards addressing some of these risk factors from a health promotion perspective as a nurse!

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

I am delighted to share that my educational experience working towards my PhD has been exceptional! I am grateful for a great dissertation committee that has always made me feel that they value my area of study as much as I do. I have always felt that my research project was “mine” and feel a great sense of “ownership” and pride in what I am doing today. I did not expect to receive so much support. I have also been provided with amazing teaching opportunities through the GAANN Fellowship and was appointed a wonderful Teacher/Mentor, Betty Bekemeier!


Jane Chung, MSN, RN

PhD Student Profile Photo: Jane ChungPhD Student Profile Photo: Jane Chung

Mobility in Elderly & Telehealth

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

After I received my BSN degree at the Yonsei University, I practiced as a critical care nurse in Korea. I decided to pursue master’s degree in nursing in a hope that I would contribute to improve nursing care quality especially for community-dwelling older adults. The focus of my thesis was developing nursing service quality indicators for older adults in nursing homes. Prior to doctoral studies, I had the privilege to work with vulnerable older adults in various settings including home care, hospice care, and nursing homes. I started my PhD program at the UW in 2009 and CIPCT program in 2011.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

My ultimate career goal is to serve in academia as an educator and a researcher. As a teaching assistant in Korea, I helped student nurses to build on their knowledge bases in nursing science, to promote their critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills, and to develop their leadership abilities. These were exciting experiences. I would like to present myself as a role model for student nurses. To do so, I will have to be prepared to expand educational opportunities for my future students. In addition, I had an interest in research, but I needed to think on more advanced level and to learn complex research methodologies. To become an independent and excellent researcher, I needed to pursue doctoral degree.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

My research interest is on promoting aging in place through using smart home technologies. UW has excellent faculty members on the area of gerontology as well as health informatics. That is why I chose to enroll in both CIPCT and PhD programs concurrently. UW SON also has been ranked No.1 in the United States for a long time. There was no reason to hesitate to select UW when I was considering studying abroad.

What excites you most about your program?

UW SON provides a strong foundation of coursework and knowledge needed to be doctorally-prepared scholar. It is amazing to see that faculty members are interested in what their students have learned and achieved. In addition, one of the most exciting things is that UW SON community is committed to eliminating health disparities.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

I strongly feel that UW SON has continuously challenged students to become a leader to make a difference in people’s lives. To do so, I need to expand my experiences and knowledge as well as take an active role in making collaborations with scholars from various settings. I am very excited about this opportunity and happy to work with a great group of people at UW.

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

There have been many opportunities to meet students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The UW SON environment is supportive to nurture a variety of perspectives and cultural awareness. The School’s commitment to making diverse climate has helped me address the importance of respecting differences in other cultures and values.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

UW education is extremely useful for me to set a research trajectory. I have benefited from research participation and several projects as part of my course work. Faculty members encouraged me to take part in research process including forming research questions, implementing actual research process, and submitting, presenting, and publishing manuscripts. Their motivation and support have helped me be prepared both academically and professionally.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

My mentors, Drs Nancy Woods and George Demiris, are great in both teaching and research. Despite their hectic schedules, my mentors set their first priority on advising students. When I felt frustrated and was uncertain as to where to go, they helped navigate the career path and set up a plan. They are devoted to nurturing the next generation of nursing faculty members. I am lucky to have such great mentors.


Christopher Imes, PhC, BSN, RN

Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

PhD Student Profile Photo: Chris ImesPhD Student Profile Photo: Chris Imes

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

I graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a BSN in 2000. I was in the Army ROTC program as an undergraduate and started my military service shortly after I graduated. In the Army, I worked in a variety of clinical settings, including the intensive care unit (ICU), and serviced as the Nurse Manager of the an adult and pediatric ICU.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to work on a research study. I started out making copies and stuffing envelopes. But as the project moved forward, I received more responsibility and outstanding mentoring from experienced researchers. When the research study was completed, I knew I wanted to get my PhD and be a researcher. As my military commitment came to an end, I knew it was the perfect time to take the next step towards my ultimate goal of getting a PhD.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

The reputation of the UW School of Nursing speaks for itself. It is one the leading schools in nursing research and its faculty have been on the cutting edge helping to shape the future of the nursing profession and nursing practice. I had the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the “rock stars” of nursing research. It was an opportunity that I could not resist.

What excites you most about your program?

Well, as I mentioned before, the PhD program allows you to learn from and work with some of the most experienced and established researcher in nursing and other disciplines. Overall, the faculty has a wide range of research expertise that can support almost any research interest. Plus, the School of Nursing and the University of Washington, in general, has so many resources to help you with your academic pursuits and research.

My specific research interest is how genetic and family medical history information can influence perceived disease risk and behavior change in young adults. No one in the School of Nursing is exactly studying this question. But I have been able to build a committee with expertise in clinical study design, nursing interventions, CVD, public health genetics, and ethics to help me with my research goals.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

The process of getting a PhD is challenging. It is a long experience, filled with positives and negative, ups and downs. During this process, I have learned to celebrate the small victories and successes. I have also learned not to let the little defeats and setbacks get you down. Everyone, even the most successful researchers, have had grants not funded or a manuscript rejected.

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

I guess one of the pleasantly surprises about my experience has been seeing myself grow into a scientist and researcher. I know I have made a lot a progress during my time in the PhD program. I started the program with a vague idea about the research I wanted to do. That vague idea has slowly changed in a concrete research question and study design that is exciting not only to me, but to other, highly respected researchers. That process is really cool.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

During my time in the program, I have given podium and poster presentations at numerous conferences and have been working with my mentors on getting my work published. The interactions with your committee members and other faulty members prepare you for your future as faculty member. My work with my mentors, research experience, and Graduate Certificate in Public Health Genetics should make me a strong candidate for future post-doc positions or faculty positions.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

I have a great relationship with my mentors. I have worked closely with many faculty members to better define and further refine my research. I have worked with three of my committee members on publications to help disseminate important research finding. They have helped me prepare for “the real world” after I complete my program. I am also close to other students in my cohort and other cohorts. The other students help with advice and by sharing their experiences and are there to celebrate the good times and to commiserate with during the challenging times.


Katryna McCoy, PhD(C), MN, FNP

Gerontology: Infectious Disease in Older Adults

PhD Student Profile Photo: Katryna McCoyPhD Student Profile Photo: Katryna McCoy

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

I began my career as a registered nurse working with older individuals who had multiple health problems and complex health needs. Although I felt that my skills were invaluable in helping meeting the needs of many who were historically underserved, I also felt it was important to be in the forefront of health care, preventing illness rather than trying to combat the effects disease. Therefore, I returned to school to pursue a degree as a family nurse practitioner.

After obtaining my FNP, I worked as a primary care provider in several community health clinics in rural areas. It was there when I became concerned about the noticeable increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that were being diagnosed and treated in patients over the age of 50. Even more concerning was the fact that many of those infected, did not perceive themselves as having any risks and were therefore very surprised when they were diagnosed with an STI. This changing influenced me to find out more about the psychosocial factors that contributed to older individuals becoming infected with STIs.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

Although I felt very competent with my skills as a clinician, the fact that I continued to have more questions than answers about infectious diseases in older adults persuaded me to pursue my doctoral degree in order to have a broader impact on the health of communities rather than an individual.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

I chose the PhD program at the University of Washington based on the reputation that the University of Washington’s School of Nursing had for producing researchers and scholars of the highest caliber. These individuals were known throughout the world to be productive scholars who sought to have a positive impact on the health of individuals and communities by producing high caliber research.

What excites you most about your program?

I was excited that I could enhance my learning by incorporating courses from various departments on campus. However, I was most excited to be in a program that looks towards broadening the impact that nursing has on communities both at home and abroad.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

As I now enter the final year of my program, I realize that this program has not only taught me a lot about being a scholar and researcher, but it has helped me to realize that I have the aptitude and skills to successfully make the transition from clinician/student/scholar to faculty member.

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

The most pleasant surprise that I’ve found during my PhD program was the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and skills by pursuing a multidisciplinary graduate certificate in HIV & STIs. The program of study for this certificate provided me with a more global perspective about the factors that contribute to health and illness.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

My future goals are to educate nurse practitioner students as primary care providers while further developing my research on healthy aging, health disparities and infectious diseases. I am hopeful that my research with help influence the policies pertaining older adults with chronic illnesses.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

My dissertation committee is composed of members from many disciplines including women, gender and sexuality studies, family and child nursing, psychology and HIV research. Each member has provided me with advice about my educational plan, and they have also provided guidance and support about my research which has truly enhanced my understanding of nursing science and behavior research.

However, I have also been most fortunate that each of these committee members has also extended themselves beyond the role of committee “member” to also serve as a committee “mentor.” The main difference is that while a member does what is expected of a faculty member, my mentors have taken things further by becoming truly invested in my success. This has been evident by the fact that each of my committee “mentors” has invested their time, their talent, and their energy in the achievement of my future endeavors, and that has been the difference between success and failure.


Shannon Simonovich, BSN, RN

Public Health Systems: Maternal/Child Health Promotion

PhD Student Profile Photo: Shannon SimonovichPhD Student Profile Photo: Shannon Simonovich
Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

I began volunteering at a local hospital at age 14 and when the decision came to go to college, nursing was a natural match — the perfect combination of science and social interaction. Very early in my studies at nursing school, I realized the incredible influence of a passionate faculty, who were not only clinicians but also researchers, and the value of the student-driven learning environments they created. From that moment on, I cultivated experiences, like holding leadership positions and student-teaching in our simulation lab, that would enable me to one day be a nursing leader.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

To be honest, I knew and believed that I was prepared in a way that was challenging for some faculty and other students to understand. Sometimes it felt like the world of nursing held bias against me, as a young student hoping to begin doctoral studies. My undergraduate mentor encouraged me to reach for the stars — and thankfully, UW, one of the strongest programs in the world, understands the value of creating diverse cohorts that capture passionate students at various points along the life course.

Pursuing my PhD was all about a gut feeling. It started off as a whisper and as I gained further experience working in leadership and research, the feeling grew stronger. With every experience that moves me toward my end goal, my excitement grows.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

As I said, I shot for the stars and applied for all the top programs in the country (as identified through personal searches and the recommendations of my faculty mentor). While I was well aware of the incomparable reputation of the university, it was my visit to the campus after receiving a letter of admission that sealed the deal. I anticipated that the faculty and staff would be wildly talented and brilliant (and they are!) but what I had not anticipated was the laid-back and unpretentious milieu of the School of Nursing environment. It is truly an environment where you are valued and treated as a colleague by faculty from day one.

What excites you most about your program?

When I reflect on my time thus far, the most exciting aspect of study is all the experience I have gained. The UWSON encourages PhD students to be proactive in cultivating relationships and seeking-out opportunities. By practicing this principle, I have had the opportunity to represent my cohort on program wide task forces, coordinated a mixed-methods research study under Dr. Basia Belza at one of the CDC’s prevention research centers, and attended professional meetings locally, regionally and at the national level. The fast-pace environment and never-ending list of opportunities presented to us as UWSON PhD students is very exciting and fulfilling.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

Studying here has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, a new way of observing the world around me, and a new way of engaging others. Before beginning my doctoral studies, I had a faculty member at my alma mater kiddingly warn me that doctoral study would “blow my mind.” She could not have been more correct. Everything from reading the newspaper to watching television to small talk has been transformed — I no longer look at what is in front of me and simply accept it as presented — I continually find myself asking “why?”

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

I have been surprised by the formal interdisciplinary relationships I have formed during my studies. Upon matriculation, I was surprised to learn that there are a number of interdisciplinary certifications that may be earned in addition to the formal doctoral degree. The Graduate Certificate Program in Maternal and Child Health allowed me to take a number of enriching classes within my substantive area of interest alongside health science colleagues from dentistry, medicine, social work, pharmacy and public health.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

When I think about this question, I can’t help but reflect on guest lectures when, as a cohort, we were asked to go around the table and specify our background, our research interest, and our future professional goals. Each guest speaker would ask questions clarifying individual interests and then make recommendations of appropriate articles to read, potential mentors to contact or grant opportunities to consider. This “introduction” process exemplifies a characteristic of the UW that has been of paramount importance to me. I have found faculty, staff and colleagues alike to be actively engaged in the success of others; and that has made all the difference in preparing me to meet my future goals.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study under so many highly regarded leaders in the nursing field. What I have learned about mentorship, both from being a mentee and a mentor, is that it ‘takes a village.’ I have a number of mentors at the university who provide various forms of support – a mentor who is an expert in leadership roles and policy development in higher education, a mentor who challenges me intellectually and helps me to comprehend what is possible through dedication to our profession, and a mentor who has taught me to breathe and celebrate even the smallest victories along the path of success. One of the most important aspects of doctoral study is forming a relationship with your dissertation committee chair. For me, a multivariate match was essential. I was looking for a dissertation chair who was compatible not only with regard to substantive areas of interest and research methodologies, but also with regard to personality and approach to scholarly inquiry. In Dr. Betty Bekemeier I found these qualities and so much more. Positive mentoring has everything to do with surrounding yourself with individuals whom you aspire to be like. My hope is that if I surround myself with scholars who are not only accomplished and successful but also enthusiastic and approachable, I would strive to emulate them, and surely some of their goodness would rub off...right?


Steven Simpkins, BSN, RN

Adults Aging with HIV

PhD Student Profile Photo: Steven SimpkinsPhD Student Profile Photo: Steven Simpkins

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

My background leading to my current program of study is unique in that I came into the PhD program straight out of a bachelor’s program. Although my clinical background is limited, I come to the program with a lifetime of perspective on HIV living as a member of the population hardest hit by this epidemic.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

Starting a new career this late in life played a big role in my decision making. I certainly knew what my end goals were but I’m not sure that I knew I was ready until I spent time talking to my mentors, friends, and family.

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

I knew that my goal was to move straight into research and academia so the PhD program was my next logical step. Personally, I have wanted to be a Husky all my life; professionally, this is the best school in the country – if not the world – for nursing research.

What excites you most about your program?

I’m not really sure what I expected coming into the program, but I am thrilled at the prospect of conducting research through the lens of Nursing. Prior to this, I had the impression that research is very cold and detached and this is not what I have found in nursing research at all. So, I think I am most excited to be doing research that is patient centered, focused, and inclusive.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

I think the most important thing I have learned about myself here is that, if it is achievable, I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to!

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

One of the most pleasant surprises of this experience is the camaraderie and collegiality I have found on so many levels here in the school of nursing.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

After only a year in the program, I would have to ask how my UW education is not preparing to meet my professional goals. The first year has laid the foundation for my future in research and the next couple of years will hone these skills. In addition, I will have a score of opportunities to develop my teaching and leadership skills both in the classroom as well as in student activities over the next couple of years.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

I have had nothing but good experiences with mentors in this program from professors, to staff in academic services, to colleagues from my own cohort as well as previous cohorts. My academic mentor has been remarkably patient with all the tweaks and turns I have made to my program of study and research focus; he has been a wealth of information and ideas. Truly, there is not an aspect of my life that I don’t feel I could approach with at least one person in this school who wouldn’t go out of their way to help or advise me.


Lauren Thorngate, PhC, RN, CCRN, Neonatal CNS

Neonatal Neurodevelopment

PhD Student Profile Photo: Lauren ThorngatePhD Student Profile Photo: Lauren Thorngate

Briefly, tell us about your background leading to your current program of study.

I am a neonatal nurse, and I have practiced as a Clinical Nurse Specialist for many years in Level III NICU’s supporting bedside nurses in everything from socialization and professional development to the provision of excellent clinical care in partnership with families. I have always valued research and systematic approaches to determining the best possible ways to deliver care for critically ill neonates. I was given the opportunity to collaborate on some clinical research projects with Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Thomas over the years, looking at physiologic challenges (thermoregulation), and neurodevelopmental care (swaddling and hand containment during stressful procedures). I was hooked; I began to think differently about research and about the evidence supporting our care.

How did you know you were ready to take this next step toward your educational goal?

I had known for a good long while that I wanted to go back to school and was just waiting for the right time and space to jump into the PhD program. I did my master’s at UCSF, shortly after I finished my Bachelor’s degree and got comfortable with practice in the NICU. I am one of those people who just loves being in school. I love the environment, I love the stimulation of reading and hearing other opinions, and yes, I even like the part about writing papers (once I settle down to do it).

Why this program, and why specifically at UW?

Why this program—truthfully, there wasn’t even a thought about it. I guess I was lucky to have settled in a city with the preeminent research intensive nursing school. I always thought of it as the program down the street, and luckily, I already had relationships with some of the faculty. I had served as a clinical faculty and given talks for years, I just hadn’t really been in the “school mode” until it was time.

How did I know I was ready for doctoral work? As I said, I always knew I would do it; I just had some major life changes to get through to put me in just the right place. When it was time, I applied. I did take advantage of the GNM (graduate non-matriculated) program for the first year, to get my school head in gear, to find my way around campus, and to get a start on some courses. I found myself in the middle of a three part toxicology series in the health services department that could have been easier had I known to take the first course, and I felt pretty silly and really old when I participated in a seminar with some very bright “kids” in developmental psychology, they were all working in various labs and we talked more about the hippocampus than I had ever known was possible. I think that year was a good grounding for me before I was accepted into the PhD program and launched into my prescribed coursework.

What excites you most about your program?

Right now I am excited to have my own data to mess about with. It took me two plus years to settle on a topic and more time than that to nail down my research question. I then worked with a collaborator on a preliminary study that laid the groundwork in methods for my dissertation. It’s been several years and many stats courses of what I think of as virtual learning. Now that I finally have my own data, I’m much more engaged in how to clean and analyze it, and spend hours learning techniques that I hope will be more likely to stick in my little brain. My study involves time-series physiologic data and a small number of participants, so I can remember each one in detail and I’m thoroughly enjoying delving into this process.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a student at UW?

Wow, I’ve learned so much about everything while in the doctoral program. I have learned the extreme value of careful systematic work to solve what might seem like overwhelming problems, be they complicated methods, publication steps, IRB headaches or grant management. If I keep my head, and take baby steps, I’ll make much more progress than if I try to tackle the whole thing at once. I’ve always had a freakish love of process, so I guess this approach suits me well. I am sometimes more interested in how to do something than the end product.

What has pleasantly surprised you about your experience?

I have been a little surprised by the depth and breadth of relationships I have built through my time in the program. I am blessed to be a part of an amazing cohort. I still have the notes from the day we started in the room together. I remember each person and what they thought they wanted to study (many small deviations and course corrections happened over time); I jotted something down about who they were and what they said. I had no idea how much I would come to depend on those people, to befriend and really to love them, and how proud I would be as they each embraced their fields of study and defended their findings. We had weddings, babies, break-ups, cross country moves, and sadly, death over the past six years since we stepped into that room together. We learned logistic regression (well some people actually learned it), we wrote manuscripts, fought battles with our chairs together, and grew in our science each in our own way. In addition to my cohort members, I have made lasting friendships and collaborative relationships with many students from cohorts before and after mine. Becoming a nurse scientist is not something done alone, and I have been pleasantly surprised at the opportunities for collaboration and the mutual support to be gained within our school.

How is your UW education preparing you to meet your professional goals?

My professional goal is to be a nurse scientist, to write and manage grants, to conduct research and to support the nurses in clinical practice with solid and useful evidence. As a student of the UW School of Nursing, I have been supported to participate in a training grant, which led me to write my own individual NRSA grant. I have recently concluded that grant and am contemplating the next steps, likely to include post-doctoral study and hopefully further success with NIH funding. I have learned so much in addition to research techniques, including some basic grant management, how to navigate the University system (at times unfathomable) for financial processes, techniques for successful collaboration, the importance of dissemination of my findings, and planning for the inevitable next study, or next project. I hope that these skills and experiences will prepare me for a successful research career, whether in an academic or clinical setting. I mentioned the time spent in analysis of my data; lately I have been utilizing the tremendous gift of consultation from the Office of Nursing Research to scratch the surface of learning about time-series and frequency domain analytical approaches for physiologic data. I would never have been able to complete my work without access to this resource. I haven’t yet commented upon the faculty or coursework; I have taken classes throughout the six years of my program, some in other disciplines, all building my base of knowledge and challenging my thinking. I have many more credits than required, but I value each as a little brick in the foundation that I’ve been building to support my future career. I have taken advantage of the opportunities to learn from faculty through independent study around a particular topic, or to engage in critique of manuscripts or ideas I was developing. Open doors, challenging questions, and freely offered support were mine for the asking from faculty in each of the departments. My program of study spanned the Family & Child and Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, it was up to me to access faculty as needed, and I found them to be gracious with time and energy regardless of the topic or time of year.

Tell us about your experience with mentors.

I was in a little different place than many incoming students; I had already done small research projects with Dr. Karen Thomas and Dr. Susan Blackburn over the years in my role as a CNS. We also co-authored shared publications as part of our local professional neonatal nursing organization. It was a great setup for me to have an ongoing relationship, Karen is now the chair of my dissertation committee and Susan is a member. I was lucky to be assigned a student mentor that I knew well, (the neonatal world is small in many ways). Georgia had practical insights that I found invaluable about courses, faculty, and funding, she gave me tips about data management and how to get through the biostats series. She was the one who convinced me to apply for the T-32 training grant, and I owe her “huge” for that. In turn, I got to be a mentor for another student, and although he didn’t need much mentoring, I loved watching his research evolve and I think I was some support as he finished his dissertation and prepared for his defense. Mentoring is something I believe in and whether formal or informal, I know that students will benefit from relationships with each other across cohorts, within programs, and at different stages. I sought out sage advice from several PhD students who were in their final stages when I was just forming my proposal ideas. One of those informal mentors has become a collaborator and close friend, we meet weekly to work on future grants, manuscripts and now analysis of the data we share. I have learned that research is a team sport and I need all the help I can get on my team.

Never ask a doctoral student about their work, unless you have time and space to live it with them.