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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Building research skills in Switzerland

connell school news


Nahoko Harada
Patricia Underwood

PhD students Nahoko Harada and Patricia Underwood have been selected to attend the international summer doctoral program at the Institute of Nursing Science at the University of Basel, Switzerland. In addition to being chosen for the program, both students were also awarded a grant which covers travel expenses, reduces the course fee, and provides support in finding accommodation and tourist activities in Switzerland.

Nahoko Harada's work is focused on PTSD caused by intimate partner violence in Asian Americans. This issue reaches across disciplines, including nursing, psychology, sociology, and law, and Harada hopes to synthesize existing research in order to positively affect outcomes for victims.

"The program in Switzerland will enable me build my skills in order to synthesize studies," says Harada, "and I look forward to expanding my intellectual horizon as well as my global point of view, as a result of the program."

Patricia Underwood is a fourth year doctoral student at the Connell School of Nursing and a future post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research focuses on identifying genomic biomarkers for the prevention and improved treatment of the co-aggregation of insulin resistance and hypertension. 

As a nurse scientist who works successfully within an interdisciplinary team of researchers, Underwood is looking forward to an environment so rich in new perspectives. “Learning from nurses representing a multitude of countries will provide insight and knowledge that is unavailable in the United States,” she says. “And the program supports international relationships, which will broaden my perspective of health care and clinical research to a global level.”

The five-day program will bring together master’s students, doctoral students, faculty, and researchers from all health care disciplines to build methodological knowledge related to systematic reviews and either meta-analysis or meta-synthesis. Systematic reviews are considered the highest level of knowledge synthesis and play an important role in evidence-based practice, clinical guideline development, and the synthesis of previous research findings for grant submissions.

Underwood and Harada will both focus on meta-analysis, a method widely used in the field of genomics, which Underwood explains as “combining multi-site findings to increase power and decrease the risk of type I errors.” She sees this opportunity to build her knowledge in meta-analysis as greatly valuable to her career as a scientist in the area of genomic health, and will also enable her to teach meta-analysis to her future students.

“I believe that both the research techniques learned and the international relationships formed will benefit my long term goal of becoming a nurse leader and educator,” states Underwood. “I am truly excited about the opportunities offered by the program.”

Harada concurs, stating that she "hopes to meet wonderful nursing researchers from all over the world and to make an alliance for everyone's health."

Harada and Underwood’s honor is only the latest event in a series of collaborations between the Connell School of Nursing and Swiss health care leaders. In February 2010, the Connell School hosted a series of meetings with visiting health care and education professionals from Switzerland. In November 2009, Director of the Institute of Nursing Science at the University of Basel Dr. Sabina de Geest visited Boston College to speak about what America can learn from Swiss health care, and in 2008, Carol Marchetti PhD ’10 also attended a week-long research training course at the University of Basel.