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Grant to Penn Nursing to Create New Generation of Nurse Scientists

January 17, 2012, Volume 58, No. 17

The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation, a New York-based philanthropy dedicated to improving the lives of patients and their families through nurse-led innovation, has awarded a grant to the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing to establish the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation.

The Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation sets selected nursing students on a rapid, well-supported educational trajectory, from student to researcher in seven years. The program is designed to mentor a unique cadre of nurse scholars to develop and implement healthcare innovations to improve patient care.

Penn Nursing welcomed the first cohort of Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation this academic year. The scholars are academically talented traditional and second-degree BSN students planning careers as nurse leaders and researchers, and who can commit to a streamlined BSN-to-PhD pathway.

“The program will prepare young scholars as premier researchers and integrate them into a broad community of researchers at Penn Nursing, throughout the University, and in the world,” said Dr. Therese Richmond, who directs the program at Penn Nursing. “The goal is for these students to become innovative nurse leaders who will have a significant impact on nursing, healthcare, and the health of society.”

The program’s diverse and demanding educational experience incorporates interdisciplinary education with research career development and guidance starting at the undergraduate level. Students work closely with faculty mentors and collaborate with established research teams in Penn Nursing’s research centers.

“Close mentorship and integration with active research teams is essential, particularly while our scholars are completing their undergraduate degree work,” said Dr. Richmond. “This is a cornerstone of the program. Our scholars will be immersed in relevant research, meet regularly with their mentors, and participate in research colloquia, meetings, and research activities as guided by their mentors.”

Graduates of the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation are expected to integrate nursing knowledge within broad social, economic, and political contexts to influence scientific research and healthcare policy and practice.

“I truly believe the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will help propel me into the field of nursing and enhance my clinical practice,” said first-year Hillman scholar Kaori Sakanashi. “It will allow me to learn more about nursing in general, and my fields of interest in particular. I am given the opportunity to work with and learn from leaders in the field and participate in the advancement of knowledge with the tools to make a profound impact.”

Said Hillman scholar Hayley Germack, “At Penn’s School of Nursing, I have the support of well-versed faculty in the research area that I am studying. I can start my research while I am still learning clinically—a multi-tracked learning experience that will tie together.”

The first cohort of Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation and their research interests are:

•  Kaitlin Best, critically ill children

• Whitney Eriksen, cognitive dysfunction and autism

• Hayley Germack, health of immigrant populations

• Linda Kang, health policy and the nursing workforce

• Kaori Sakanashi, vulnerable non-English-speaking immigrants.

Almanac - January 17, 2012, Volume 58, No. 17