Yale Bulletin and Calendar

September 1, 2000Volume 29, Number 1













Yale, Howard University partner
to enhance nursing research

In a Yale School of Nursing (YSN) conference room, Erica Jones receives riotous applause after giving a 10-minute presentation on teenagers' reactions to their negative pregnancy tests.

Throughout her presentation, Jones' audience members freely expressed their surprise or shock about the data she was reporting. They shook their heads in dismay or exclaimed under their breaths as Jones described her study subjects: young girls with a mean age of 16.7, most of whom were about 13 years old when they first engaged in sexual activity. Thirty-six percent used no birth control, and most had already had three or more sexual partners. Deep sighs could be heard throughout the room as Jones reported that 40% of the young teenagers were disappointed or ambivalent about having negative pregnancy tests.

As remarkable to her audience of adult nursing professionals as Jones' findings is the fact that Jones completed her informative research in the span of a few weeks as an undergraduate. She is one of five Howard University students who took time between their junior and senior years to participate in The Yale-Howard Scholars Program.

A combination of hands-on research, seminars and shadowing of advanced practice nurses, the program is designed to spur the interest of talented students of color in nursing research. The five students participating in this year's program, selected by Howard University, are all working toward their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. Yale lined up senior nursing scientists to act as mentors to the undergraduates, and recruited YSN graduate Vanessa Jefferson, MSN '98, whose own career has merged research and practice, to coordinate the program.

"I am just awestruck," comments Margaret Grey, associate dean for research affairs, after Jones and the other four nursing students completed their presentations. "There is no way that 99% of the people in this room could have done this as undergraduates," she says of her colleagues in the audience.

Grey served as a mentor in the program and is encouraging the student she mentored, Sabrina Singleton, to return to Yale over Christmas break to continue the work begun this summer. Singleton examined depression in adolescents with type-1 diabetes. In addition to the expected depression after diagnosis, she found a pattern of recurring and more severe depression 10 years after diagnosis. This surprising finding bears further examination and suggests a need to rethink behavioral interventions for youths with the disease, notes Grey.

The idea for establishing the Yale-Howard Scholars Program came about when YSN Dean Catherine Gilliss had coffee with Dorothy Powell, an associate dean of nursing at Howard University, at an American Academy of Nursing meeting. Powell shared with Gilliss a paper she'd written about recruiting high-achieving high school students into Howard's bachelor's program and rapidly pushing them toward research careers. Gilliss, who was eager to develop strategies to recruit students of color to YSN, suggested the program as a way to meet the objectives of both institutions. YSN funded the program internally and also secured support from the Health Professions Partnership Initiative, a Robert Wood Johnson-funded grant administered by the Yale School of Medicine.

Powell notes that the program fits in with her plan to increase research activity within Howard's already highly competitive nursing program. "We're all aware of the striking health disparities by race in this country," says Powell. "We have got to prepare African-American nurse researchers who can identify and attack these problems. The students in our program are 99% people of color. If those researchers are not prepared at Howard, we will have failed.

"This is a two-way street," Powell continues. "We have the students with the energy and the intellect to be leaders in nursing and in research. Yale has senior funded researchers who can expose our students to the world of nursing science. Collaboratively, we can accomplish our missions."

The scholars' nursing experience had been largely clinical before coming to Yale. The summer program changed their perceptions of research, they say.

"People think, 'research ... that's so boring.' But a part of the research process is dealing with patients," says Gia Belton, who studied age-related differences among patients with atrial fibrillation following surgery. Her mentor was YSN associate professor Marjorie Funk.

Annette Conley, who worked on a study of cardiac risk factors among people with diabetes led by YSN assistant professor Deborah Chuyn, found her research work left her grateful to the subjects who make science possible. "A patient will give us one hour for a single test," she says. "I have a lot of respect for these people."

Each student focused on a single research question within a larger study. This gave them access to an enormous amount of data and gave them the support and guidance of a research team, but also allowed them to work independently.

"Thoughts are just starting to flow," said Howard student Nicole Laing. "The Yale-Howard Program has enhanced my interest in research. I'm actively participating in my learning. It makes me yearn to do so much more."

After Laing gave her presentation on African-American women and diabetes, she gave her faculty mentor, YSN associate professor Gail Melkus, a bunch of flowers and a hug.

"We're hoping that this is just the beginning of a long relationship between the institutions and the people," says Gilliss.


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Kemel Dawkins fills in as acting VP for finance and administration


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Artists' creations depict black life in the rural South

Art Gallery exhibit surveys 20th-century American photographic portraiture

One of the featured 108

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Beinecke Library exhibit documents the struggle . . .

Chinese artist's work on view

Renovated gallery to feature architects' creations

Lamar Center's inaugural event examines national parks

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Students spent summer aiding Elm City groups

Convocation and organ concerts open new music season

Slifka Center lectures will feature noted Judaic scholars

Bromwich and Lewis are honored for their literary work

Psychologist Robert G. Crowder dies

How they spent their summer vacation: A Photo Essay

In the News

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