University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing student and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Future of Nursing scholar Jacqueline B. Vo, BSN, RN, recently attended the RWJF Summer Institute 2016: Science and Innovation to present on her research topic “Cardiovascular Disease Risk among Breast Cancer Survivors” and receive critical feedback from fellow scholars and their mentors.
The event, held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, brought together 50 of the nation’s top PhD students and their mentors, including Vo’s mentor, UAB School of Nursing Professor and Associate Dean for Research Karen Meneses, PhD, RN, FAAN.
Over four days, the scholars also participated in innovation activities and product design, heard presentations from nurse innovators on their approaches to innovation and presentations on developing professional skills, and enjoyed a team-building exercise at Garden of the Gods.
Vo called the experience of her first RWJF Summer Institute exhilarating.
“It was incredible to be around so many students,” Vo said. “To be immersed together with 49 other PhD-prepared nurses who are on the same route and going through the same processes as me was absolutely amazing.
“We met different people from all over the country. We met investigators who talked to us about what they had done with their research and the impact they have made on health care. It was inspiring to see that 10, 15, 20 years down the road, that could be me.”
A requirement of the RWJF Future of Nursing Scholars program is that the scholars complete their PhD in three years, a tight window for a course of study that can take up to seven years for some.
Vo, who just completed her first year in the School’s PhD program, was able to report that she is well on track on her three-year timetable. She was also able to share her passion for improving the survivorship and lives of breast cancer survivors and, in particular, her interest in researching cardiovascular disease risk among that group.
Cardio-oncology is a relatively new field that caught Vo’s attention after she worked with Meneses in the School’s undergraduate honors program and in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at UAB Hospital.
“When I came back to the PhD program I combined my clinical background and my undergraduate honors research background to look at cardiovascular disease risk among breast cancer survivors, which is rising,” Vo said. “Breast cancer survivors are actually living much longer now, with five-year survival rates approaching 90 percent. A lot of breast cancer survivors are not dying of breast cancer anymore, they are developing other comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease.
“Several studies show that cardiovascular disease is one of the leading cause of death among breast cancer survivors, and that sparked my interest in the field.”
Vo was particularly pleased she was able to meet and network with other investigators who have cancer survivorship and oncology backgrounds.
“There are not a lot of others out there who share an interest in my specific research because it is such a new field,” Vo said. “At this conference I met other cancer survivor researchers, which was an incredible opportunity for me. To hear their perspective of my research was invaluable to me as a PhD student.”
The goal of the RWJF Future of Nursing Scholars program is to develop a new generation of nurse leader’s to transform America’s health care system. The program’s specific focus is on increasing the number of PhD-prepared nurses, which is currently less than 1 percent of the total nursing workforce.
To accomplish this, RWJF provides its scholars tremendous opportunities and resources, Vo said.
“RWJF provides an incredible amount of resources and networking for its scholars,” Vo said. “We are provided with access to webinars. There is a lot of professional development, and they help us reach out to other mentors we might not be able to reach on our own.
“It is an absolute honor and privilege to be a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing scholar. I think it is more than what I ever imagined it could be, and I am so thankful for the opportunity."
For more information about the UAB School of Nursing's PhD program, click here.
Vo relishes "incredible" experience at RWJF Summer Institute
Gathering of nation's top PhD students provides welcomed opportunity for receiving critical feedback, networking