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Junior Receives 2015 Newman Civic Fellows Award

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Junior Receives 2015 Newman Civic Fellows Award

UM News

Civic Scholar 2015 - 1

UM President Donna E. Shalala presents the 2015 Newman Civic Fellows Award to Natasha Koermer, with, at left, Andrew Wiemer, director of the Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development, and, at right, Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 7, 2015)—Natasha Koermer, a biomedical engineering student who is minoring in public health and Spanish, has received the 2015 Newman Civic Fellows Award for her extraordinary leadership, civic engagement, and commitment to creating sustainable solutions to global engineering and health issues.

Koermer received the award, which the national organization Campus Compact bestows on the next generation of public problem solvers and civic leaders, from UM President Donna E. Shalala, who lauded Koermer for implementing numerous projects in the community, including a local urban sustainable gardening initiative, an outreach program to inspire high school students to pursue service-based careers in STEM disciplines, and the U’s first 5K Run/Walk for Water to raise awareness about the importance of clean water for all communities.

As if those accomplishments weren’t enough, Koermer is also president of the University’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, for which she led the fundraising for and the implementation of a $25,000 sewage system in Las Mercedes, Ecuador, and a research assistant at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, where she works closely with faculty to collect data for a study on intimate partner violence across Miami-Dade County. Her group’s research was selected for multiple conferences, including the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International 2015 and Futures Without Violence.

“She is an incredibly bright, civically engaged student and will no doubt continue to bridge the gap between cutting-edge research and its practical application in solving real-world issues,” said Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement.

Offering her congratulations to Koermer in a ceremony in her office on April 28, Shalala was not surprised to learn the junior would not be resting over the break. She is headed to another service project for the summer, this time in South Africa’s Limpopo Province to assist in the Water, Society, and Health Research Experience for Undergraduates funded by the National Science Foundation.

Presented annually by Campus Compact, the Newman Civic Fellows Award honors inspiring student leaders who invest their time and energies in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.

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Nursing School Creates Virtual Leadership Course


Nursing School Creates Virtual Leadership Course

Special to UM News


SONHS faculty members Mary Hooshmand, third from left, and Johis Ortega, center, developed the online course with D.N.P. students, from left, AnnaLisa Chery, Lainey Kieffer, Lorraine Keith, Shavone Johnson, Claudia Warren, Nichole Crenshaw, Joanne Christopher-Hines, and Salma Hernandez.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 2, 2015)­­—Faculty and students from the School of Nursing and Health Studies have created the first nursing leadership course on the PAHO Virtual Campus of Public Health, which provides distance learning tools to strengthen health care policy and practice in Latin America and the Caribbean. Offered in Spanish and English, the free course, “Empowering Nurse Leaders,” attracted 263 applicants from 34 countries, which exceeded its capacity and underscored how critical the course is to a region facing severe shortages of faculty and educational tools, particularly in the area of leadership development.

Aspiring nurse leaders, including Ministry of Health directors from a diverse array of Latin American and Caribbean nations, will pursue leadership learning activities from their own computer stations, in their home countries, and at their own pace. The course’s eight modules cover topics such as ethics, the nurse as advocate, and evidence-based research.

“Not every school or health care institution has the resources to send its students and personnel outside their own country for leadership training,” says Mary Hooshmand, assistant professor of clinical, who helped lead the SONHS team that created the course. “But almost every organization today has Internet connectivity. This course provides an overview of leadership and management principles in a no-cost e-format to the future nurse leaders of the Americas.”

The state-of-the-art course is the most recent global project of the school’s World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Nursing Human Resources Development and Patient Safety—one of only 10 such centers in the United States and 43 in the world. The center’s team worked with international partners at the University of the West Indies and the Colombian Association of Schools and Colleges of Nursing to ensure course content is tailored to the needs of the geographical regions it is intended to serve.

“Collaborating for the betterment of international health care education and knowledge dissemination is a two-way street,” explains UM’s Johis Ortega, deputy director of the Collaborating Centre and co-leader of the course design team. “You can’t just drop in on developing world nations and tell them how you are going to help them, and you can’t generate a global collaboration plan in isolation. If you really want your efforts to have an impact you must first take the pulse of the regions you are trying to serve and hear their needs and concerns.”

In an effort to disseminate health care knowledge and leadership tools to difficult-to-reach segments of the health care workforce, the SONHS’ WHO Collaborating Centre facilitates an ever-expanding list of web-based courses in English, Spanish, and Portuguese at no charge to nurses, students, and faculty across the globe, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior courses include Preventing Medical Errors, Domestic Violence, HIV Prevention and Care, and Nursing and Patient Safety—the latter with more than 3,000 enrolled participants since its inception.

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Florida Blue Grant to Help Increase Diversity of Nurse Scientists

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 3, 2014) – A three-year grant from the Florida Blue Foundation will enable the School of Nursing and Health Studies to promote diversity in the nurse-scientist workforce and increase minority student enrollment in nursing Ph.D. programs.

The key component of the project is a ten-week summer research experience that will provide minority nursing students with intensive training in health disparities research as well as a stipend to help support their participation in the program. Participating undergraduate nursing students from the South Florida community will learn the role that Ph.D.-prepared nurses play in advancing nursing as a discipline and in addressing health disparities. It is hoped that this newly acquired knowledge will steer them toward a scientific career.

“Among the obstacles that minority nursing students face in pursuing their doctoral education are limited access to suitable mentors, economic barriers, and lack of exposure to undergraduate research experiences,” said the study’s principal investigator, assistant professor Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, Ph.D. ’08. “We hypothesize that the summer research program will increase students’ interest in pursuing their doctorate degrees in health as well as their chances of getting into Ph.D. programs.”

Every student selected for the special research training initiative will be mentored by a nurse faculty researcher who will set goals with the student, supervise his or her activities, including participation in research studies, and provide guidance on professional aims. At the end of the program, each student will prepare a scientific poster to be shared with the South Florida community and presented at a local conference.

“The support from the Florida Blue Foundation helps us reach out to a greater number of future nurse scientists at the undergraduate level,” said study co-investigator Mary Hooshmand, Ph.D. ’10, assistant professor of clinical. “By encouraging gifted students from minority backgrounds to pursue a doctoral education, we hope to advance the goal of having a nursing research workforce that mirrors the increasingly diverse demographics of South Florida and of the nation.”

The funded project helps address the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 The Future of Nursing report, which called for doubling the number of doctorate-prepared nurses by 2020. The project also comprises part of the rollout efforts of South Florida’s Education Act Team of the Florida Action Coalition—the driving force for implementing the IOM report’s recommendations and transforming health care through nursing in the state.


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Researcher Awarded $3.3 Million Grant to Reduce Teen Pregnancy through Gaming

Special to UM News

NORRIS_2014CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 2, 2014)—The National Institute of Nursing Research has awarded a five-year (2014-2019), $3.3 million grant to an investigator at the School of Nursing and Health Studies to support an innovative program aimed at reducing teen pregnancy and the risk of sexually transmitted infections among Latina adolescents. Professor Anne Norris will utilize “Mighty Girls,” a novel intervention that uses cutting-edge technology to create a highly interactive video game which provides live, realistic simulation of peer pressure. Players talk directly with avatars as they would with their peers, and in this way practice building evidence-based communication skills for resisting peer pressure.

“U.S. teen pregnancy rates among the overall population have been declining for years but are still high among Latinas,” explains Norris, “and the costs are considerable. Besides the profound and unmeasurable effect of unwanted pregnancy on the physical and emotional health of the teenager and her family, there are quantifiable associated socioeconomic costs. For example, lost tax revenue resulting from decreased maternal educational attainment and productivity has been estimated at $3.2 billion. However, in addition to preventing unwanted pregnancy and reducing socioeconomic costs, Mighty Girls empowers young girls to ‘use their voices to make wise choices.’ What is most exciting about this funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research is the opportunity it provides to make a positive difference in the lives of young Latinas and to use rigorous research methods to demonstrate the value of this difference.”

Norris and her colleagues tested Mighty Girls in a previous R15 feasibility trial and found the results encouraging. The current study, funded under the NINR’s R01 mechanism, will be conducted with seventh-grade Latinas enrolled in 20 middle schools in Miami-Dade County. The study is a collaborative effort involving Guillermo Prado of the Miller School of Medicine, Eileen Smith of the Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and nationally and internationally renowned investigators in the fields of communication science, public health, and economics.

Norris and her interdisciplinary team will follow the girls into ninth grade, a period in which risky behaviors typically increase. Half of the schools will be randomly assigned to receive the experimental intervention in addition to standard in-school sex education, while the other half will receive the standard in-school sex education. Mighty Girls’ inclusion of peer-pressure resistance strategies that do not jeopardize friendships makes the program highly acceptable to girls of this age group.

“It is exciting that with NINR funding we are bringing a promising intervention to one of our community’s most vulnerable populations,” said School of Nursing and Health Studies Dean Nilda (Nena) Peragallo Montano. “The model incorporates Latino values in its techniques. We have found that you have to approach a population you want to help from the framework of its own values, and Mighty Girls does this.”


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UM Receives $1 Million to Train Healthcare Scientists

CORAL GABLES, Fla.  (October 1, 2014)The National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded the School of Nursing and Health Studies more than $1 million over five years to educate a new generation of health disparities scientists.

The grant will support a training program to identify promising minority undergraduate students in nursing, public health, and health sciences and provide them with eight-week global research training experiences at global partner institutions in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Australia. Each participating student will be paired with a faculty mentor drawn from one of five institutions of higher healthcare education in the four participating countries. The foreign mentors represent an exceptional group of educators and scientists from medicine, nursing, public health, and psychology.

Funded under the NIMHD’s Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training (MHIRT) mechanism, the initiative’s ultimate goal is to help create a culturally competent healthcare workforce. This is crucial because of the current dearth of Hispanic, black, and Native American researchers in health professions.

“The Global Health Disparities Research Experience will give undergraduates from underrepresented populations exciting opportunities to assist internationally renowned researchers with their grant projects,” said Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda, the study’s principal investigator. “It will enable these students to see the concepts they are learning in class come alive, and expose them to how science is conducted in different cultures and with populations other than their own. Most importantly, it will allow them to see themselves as tomorrow’s health disparities scientists.”

Dean Nilda (Nena) Peragallo said the School of Nursing and Health Studies is proud that NIH/NIMHD’s support allows the school to engage future researchers at the undergraduate level. “It is central to the mission of our school to help talented students from diverse backgrounds advance within the education and research pipeline,” she said. “We are developing the scientists whose work will decrease and ultimately eliminate health disparities.”


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