Inside USD

Veteran Leadership: Nine Nursing Students Named Jonas Scholars

Thursday, February 20, 2014

As the daughter of a retired marine, USD graduate nursing student Valerie Willis wants to do all she can to help today’s veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

She’ll be able to do just that after receiving a $10,000 scholarship from the Jonas Center for Nurses and Veterans Healthcare.

Including Willis, USD’s School of Nursing and Health Science had the largest cohort, nine students, chosen as Jonas Scholars for the 2014-2016 class. The New York-based foundation is committed to supporting veterans by funding scholarships for nurses at the doctoral level in veteran-specific health care needs and to supporting the development of nursing faculty to alleviate the nursing shortage.

“It is a tremendous honor to be awarded a scholarship from the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program,” Willis said. A pediatric nurse practitioner and parent-child clinical nurse specialist, Willis plans to focus her doctoral and research work on areas such as military family transition to parenthood and post-deployment parental attachment to a new baby. “Doctoral study at USD, generously supported by the Jonas program, will further equip me to serve as an effective patient advocate and nurse scientist.”

USD’s nursing school, in association with the San Diego Veterans Administration, is focusing on mental health, chemical dependency and homelessness among San Diego veterans, said Joseph Burkard, associate professor of nursing and a retired Navy commander. “These scholars will contribute to improving our healthcare system by focusing on preventive health services within the military and veteran population. As a veteran, I have an ongoing interest in educating and supporting those who have served and are currently serving country. Our Jonas Scholars will apply evidence-based interventions and research to improve veterans outcomes. The nursing school is thrilled to be a part of the esteemed Jonas Scholarship program and we are excited about the service these nine Jonas Scholars will provide to the community.”

Four PhD students, Monique Bouvier, Mark Malebranche, Ray Whitehead, and Valerie Willis, along with two DNP students, Sarah Wedel and Elen Yip, were chosen as Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholars. Two PhD students, Catherine Ferris and Jacqueline Saucier, along with DNP student Erin Lind, were chosen as Jonas Nurse Leader Scholars. In 2010, USD had five scholars, followed by three in 2012.

USD suggested a focus on returning veterans and their families and was the pilot site for the veterans scholars program, explained Sally Brosz Hardin, dean of USD’s nursing school. “We want to thank the Jonas Foundation for its generous support that will help us improve the quality of life for veterans and their families. It is wonderful to know that our scholars will be joining an elite group of nearly 600 Jonas Nurse Leaders and Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholars across the country.”  Both USD’s nursing school and the Jonas Center are aligned with President Obama’s executive order to improve mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.

With the latest group of scholars, the Jonas Center has passed the halfway mark to its goal of underwriting 1,000 doctoral scholars by 2020. Along with supporting veterans, the center is directly addressing the lowest enrollment increase in professional registered nursing programs in the past five years – due primarily to a shortage in qualified faculty. These scholarships support nurses pursuing PhDs and DNPs, the terminal degrees in the field. “The call for more nurses – and thus the faculty to prepare them – is massive,” said Donald Jonas, co-founder of the center. Health care in America has never been more complex, yet tens of thousands of would-be nurses are turned away from the profession each year. We’ve stepped up the pace and expanded our programs to meet this need.”

In the course of a 30-year career, one nurse faculty member could teach approximately 7,500 nurses, who in turn, would touch the lives of a potential 3.6 million patients in their care, according to a 2010 impact assessment by the Jonas Center and the New York University College of Nursing.

– Liz Harman

From left to right, first row are USD Professor of Nursing Patricia Roth, Associate Professor of Nursing Shelley Hawkins; second row, Catherine Ferris, Jacqueline Saucier, Monique Bovier, Valerie Willis, Sarah Wedel, Elen Yip; and back row, Ray Whitehead, Mark Malebranche, Erin Lind and Associate Professor of Nursing Joseph Burkard.

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