Nurse educators bring new passions, expertise
by debra bradley ruder, photographs by caitlin cunningham
The Connell School this fall welcomed five talented professionals as new faculty or into new faculty positions. They come with decades of experience in teaching, patient care, and research, and expertise that ranges from prevention strategies to decrease human papillomavirus infection, to health promotion among vulnerable populations including underserved ethnic groups, to integrative therapies and bedside teaching.
Holly Fontenot, Ph.D. ’12, RN, WHNP-BC, is a women’s health nurse practitioner whose clinical and research interests include reducing the rate of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, sexual health and safety, and forensic nursing. She joined the Connell School faculty in 2004 and became a clinical assistant professor in 2007. Since 2009, she has practiced at the Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center, a downtown Boston clinic that specializes in care for homeless and vulnerable young adults. “I’ve always worked with underserved groups; I find it the most rewarding part of being a nurse practitioner,” says Fontenot, who has published widely, most recently in the Journal of Forensic Nursing, Nursing for Women’s Health, and the Journal for Nurse Practitioners.
In 2013, she received the Connell School’s Ann Wolbert Burgess Dissertation Award and was inducted into the National Academies of Practice as a distinguished practitioner and fellow. In her new faculty role as a tenure-track assistant professor, Fontenot continues to teach and coordinate the women’s health nurse practitioner graduate program, even as she accelerates her research on sexual health awareness, including ways nurses can promote vaccine use to prevent HPV infection and its associated cancers. “I can help alleviate some of the suffering related to this virus,” she said.
As an acute care nurse in the early- and mid-2000s, Carina Katigbak, Ph.D., RN, wondered how she could help her cardiovascular patients avoid surgery in the first place. She went back to school to become an adult primary care nurse practitioner, earning a master’s degree from New York University College of Nursing in 2007 and a doctorate in 2013. Katigbak’s academic interests include immigrant and minority health, health disparities, and cardiovascular
care. As a new assistant professor, she plans to build on her dissertation research (which captured a Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award from NYU) on the role community health workers play in helping ethnic minorities, especially Asians, connect with health services and adopt healthier behaviors. Though she studied these lay workers’ impact on addressing hypertension, “I now see they can be used for any disease progression,” Katigbak said. She joins the Connell School with several years of teaching and research experience at NYU, where she most recently was an adjunct instructor and junior research scientist. Katigbak, who is coteaching an undergraduate class on health development across the life span this fall, applauds Boston College for supporting new faculty as they transition to new positions.
Assistant Professor Tam Nguyen, Ph.D., M.S.N./M.P.H, RN, was a toddler when her family boarded a small fishing boat to escape Vietnam, hiding women and children under ice. They were among the refugees known as “boat people” who fled their country in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the fall of Saigon. A U.S. oil tanker rescued them at sea and took them to Malaysia, where Nguyen, her parents, and her brother stayed in a refugee camp until they could immigrate to the United States, where they eventually settled in California. “So many people helped us along the way, and that has given me motivation to give back to the community,” Nguyen said. “I think being a nurse is what I’m meant to do in my life. I feel like it is my calling.”
Nguyen pursued nursing at the University of Maryland, then earned her master’s and doctorate degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2006 and 2012, respectively, sharpening her scholarly focus on health promotion, psychometrics, and strategies for engaging hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations in health sciences research. Her dissertation explored whether health literacy affected the ability of Vietnamese Americans to manage chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. She joins the faculty with several years of clinical, teaching, and research experience at Johns Hopkins, most recently as a faculty research associate, and said the Connell School beckoned because of its liberal arts and social justice traditions, opportunities for multidisciplinary research, and affiliations with teaching hospitals and community organizations. Nguyen is teaching a master’s-level course on evidence-based practice. “I’m excited about the opportunity to grow and contribute to the University and School of Nursing,” she said.
Jacqueline Sly ’88, M.S.N, RN, FNP, comes to Boston College as a clinical instructor with specialties in medical/surgical care, pediatrics, rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, and ventilated patients, but said her passion is “Teaching students. Teaching patients. Teaching students how to teach patients.” An adjunct faculty member at Regis College in Weston, Mass., since 2008 (and before that at Quincy College), Sly has been a part-time clinical faculty member at Boston College since 2011. In her new role, she is teaching a pharmacology course and supervising students at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Sly delivered acute care for years until she realized she wanted to help patients earlier in their diseases. “That’s when I decided to become a nurse practitioner,” she recalled. She earned her master’s degree from Regis in 2011, and currently sees patients as an urgent care nurse practitioner at Charles River Medical Associates in Framingham, Mass., and is a staff nurse at Newton-Wellesley. Noting the national need for more nurse educators, Sly hopes eventually to pursue research on problem-based learning, a teaching style that connects theory to practice.
Laura White ’85, Ph.D. ’10, RN, CPNP, a pediatric nurse practitioner who is interested in integrative health care, youth development, and mental health, is a new clinical assistant professor. White earned a master’s degree in pediatric primary care from Columbia University in 1990 and then provided primary care, HIV-related nursing, and other services as a pediatric nurse practitioner in three New York City and Boston-area hospitals during the 1990s. In recent years, she has worked as a per-diem school nurse in her hometown of Ashland, Mass., and taught part-time at the Connell School and Simmons College. Since 2011, White has cared for adolescents receiving treatment for mental health disorders, most recently at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, Mass. An advocate of safe and evidence-based integrative therapies, she plans to augment her published dissertation research on mindful yoga’s ability to reduce stress in school-age girls. “Nurses have a responsibility to investigate any type of health care that can make a difference in facilitating well-being,” she said. “I want to help nurse practitioners see health care as a way to increase human flourishing.”