Pitts is first Dual DNP-PhD Pathway student

Photo of Leslie Pitts

By Laura Gasque

Leslie Pitts, MSN, CRNP, CPNP-AC, CDCES, AP-PEN (BSN 2006, MSN 2009), is the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing’s first Dual DNP-PhD Pathway student. After more than 16 years as a Registered Nurse and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Children’s of Alabama, Pitts decided to commit to full-time study to balance both the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Pathways.

“I did not take my decision to step away from clinical practice lightly,” Pitts said. “However, I knew that the Dual DNP-PhD Pathway at UAB would provide me with the competencies necessary to discover new knowledge and improve quality outcomes for children with adrenal disease.”

Pitts’ clinical and research focus is on Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, a genetic disorder in which the adrenal glands don’t function properly, impacting the growth and development of affected individuals. As a nurse practitioner in pediatric endocrinology, she worked closely with this patient population. The clinical impacts of this rare pediatric disorder pushed her to pursue research to improve care outcomes.

“I remember conversations with families asking, ‘What research is being done? How can we change things?’ and I put myself, as a mother and a care provider, in their position. Eventually, I realized that I had the ability to do something that could change outcomes—to be not only an advocate for my patients, but an advocate for all children and families affected by this disorder,” Pitts said. “In my work, I hope to improve the quality of life for individuals with this condition and offer hope for parents who face this diagnosis for their child.”

Pitts’ DNP project will focus on the implementation of a comprehensive adolescent health care transition program for youth with CAH at Children’s of Alabama. She hopes to use the project to inform her dissertation research, which will evaluate the health care transition experiences of young adults with CAH, their parents, and their care providers.

Pitts earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing with Honors and her Master of Science in Nursing, Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner from the UAB School of Nursing. The Dual DNP-PhD Pathway prepares nurse leaders to reach the highest level of clinical practice and research scholarship, and Pitts knew UAB was the place to pursue her next steps.

“I always planned to complete my doctoral education at UAB. I feel so fortunate to have such an incredible educational institution in my community,” Pitts said. “The addition of the Dual DNP-PhD pathway is an asset to the UAB School of Nursing, and I hope to see this program grow and thrive in the years to come.”

Pitts wants to use her clinical experience and educational resources to one day attain a faculty position in Nursing Education, while continuing to provide clinical care and pursue her program of research.

“I aspire to use the knowledge and skills that I gain in this program to provide hope to families affected by CAH. No family should face the fear of a rare disorder, feeling alone or cast aside,” Pitts said. “These families have fought for their voices to be heard, and I want to help answer their questions and improve the lives of their children. Along my journey, I hope to inspire future generations of nurses to advocate for their patients and know that their ideas hold the power to change the world.”

Upcoming Events