Yale-Howard Scholars Get Early Start on Careers in Nursing Research

Five Howard University students used the summer before their senior year to gain experience in nursing research at the Yale University School of Nursing.

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 program’s success is a testament to the relationship between the two institutions. Howard selected five outstanding students in its BSN program. Yale lined up senior nursing scientists to act as mentors to the undergraduates.

Each student focused on a single research question within a larger study being conducted by a faculty mentor. This gave them access to an enormous amount of data and to the support and guidance of a research team, but also allowed them the opportunity 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.”

The program was born through discussions between YSN Dean Catherine Gilliss and her Howard counterpart, Associate Dean Dorothy Powell, who shared with Gilliss a paper she’d written about recruiting high achieving high school students into Howard’s bachelor’s program and rapidly channeling them to research careers.

Gilliss, eager to develop strategies to recruit students of color to YSN, suggested the Scholars 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. Gilliss attended most seminars along with the scholars and made a point to get to know them outside the classroom through events like dinners at her home.

“The intelligence and enthusiasm of the Howard Scholars has impressed everyone here,” said Gilliss. “I’m enormously proud of this program and look forward to repeating it next year.”

Powell said that the program fit 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,” she said. “We have got to prepare African-American nurse researchers who can identify and attack these problems. The students in our program are 99 percent people of color. If those researchers are not prepared at Howard, we will have failed.”

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