I've come to nursing research and education after first pursuing education and work in the performing arts and media, studying to be an actor (with a concentration in Shakespearean and classical performance) and working on-air in college and commercial radio markets. In the mid 1990s after graduating from a humanities program, I became interested in human services, working as a CNA and then as a recreational therapist with people with intellectual, psychiatric and physical disabilities transitioning from institutional to community residential settings . This work led me toward the nursing field, where early on I gravitated toward psychiatric and community nursing and public health.
I earned my PhD in nursing because of my deep belief in the power and profound responsibility of knowledge production. Three overarching principles tie my research, teaching and theoretical interests together: a drive to deeply examine the ideas, assumptions and values we take for granted; a focus on social justice for those people who are systematically marginalized within dominant US cultures; and a profound respect and joy in the iterative process of teaching and learning.
My program of research is centered on identifying and addressing mental health needs and health disparities among people in underserved groups who experience serious chronic illness. In the past five years, I led a team in field research to examine elements that are essential to designing and implementing sustianable end of life care in a prison, incuding the role of inmate hospice volunteers in delivering care to fellow prisoners. Currently I am studying the effects of stress, including minority-related stress, on mental health and chronic illness outcomes among older adults who identify as LGBT or as African American. This work is supported by a Claire M. Fagin Faculty Fellowship, awarded by the National Hartford Center for Gerontological Nursing Excellence.
In 2014 I was selected to become a Claire M. Fagin Fellow by the National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. This postdoctoral fellowship, awarded on a competitive basis, provides advanced research training and mentorship for PhD prepared nurses who are focused on becoming academic leaders in gerontological nursing (learn more about the remarkable Claire Mintzer Fagin here and here.) Being a Claire M. Fagin Fellow has afforded me the opportunity to continue my professional development, post-tenure, in the direction of geropsychiatric nursing and mental health among underserved older adults, including those who are incarcerated and those of minority social status. With excellent mentorship from Dr. Ginnette Pepper and Dr. Theresa Harvath, I have added a graduate certificate in Gerontology to my professional training, launched a new arm of my program of research, and am developing curricular materials to support the integration of diversity and inclusivity-related teaching and learning materials into gerontological and geropsychiatric nursing education.