uci school of nursing assistant professor dawn bounds

Though Assistant Professor Dawn Bounds, PhD, has worked with patients of all ages, she has the most fun working with teenagers and recent high school graduates in community settings.

During nursing school, Dawn Bounds, PhD, was not sure where she would end up in her career. Everything clicked as soon as she started her psychiatric rotation.

“It’s what came natural to me, working with the whole person. I pretty much knew immediately that that’s where I belonged.”

In that rotation, she worked with adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She found her calling.

Upon graduation, she was advised to spend a year in medical-surgical.

“I didn’t listen to that,” she laughs. “I went straight into an interview to work on a psych unit at Rush University.”

Moving to California

Bounds joined the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing this summer as an assistant professor. At Rush, she had a joint appointment at the College of Nursing and the Medical College’s Department of Psychiatry.

While there, she worked in the Department of Psychiatry’s community behavioral health team, bringing mental health services to underserved populations, such as homeless youth and adults.

The lifelong Chicagoan-turned-California transplant will do similar work at the nursing school, joining several research projects involving homeless outreach in Los Angeles and Orange County. She will also teach courses related to various mental health topics.

Bounds will also play a major role in realizing a dream of the School of Nursing within the next several years: to design and deliver a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, as part of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.

While she has worked with patients of all ages, she has the most fun working with teenagers and recent high school graduates in community settings.

‘There’s so much hope in that age group’

“There’s this fork in the road. Adolescence is a risk-taking time, and that’s natural. Some of that is important to development,” Bounds says. “But that’s also where they can fall.”

That risk-taking can lead to homelessness, drug abuse and sex trafficking. In her work at juvenile detention centers, Bounds saw the potential trajectory of some of the most at-risk kids. It motivated her to work that much harder to turn things around for them.

“We can impact the decisions they’re making. There’s so much hope in that age group.”

Establishing a support system

The youth she works with lack stable housing situations, though they are not necessarily living on the streets. Bounds’ research focuses on establishing systems of support so they don’t fall through the cracks.

“While I cannot be their sole support system, I can facilitate a better, stronger connection to school, the faith community or some other network they can connect to.”

Sometimes that’s a parent or another family member, sometimes it’s not family at all. But Bounds focuses first on giving parents a real chance because often they are just as disadvantaged as their children. They may be struggling with their own issues of homelessness, unemployment or mental illness.

Strengthening relationships

“Sometimes we focus too little on strengthening the relationship. I feel really strongly about giving parents a chance,” she says.

“We have to consider that if we want to support young people. A lot of times, it means supporting the entire family.”

Bounds is ultimately interested in the interconnection between systems: child welfare, mental health, homelessness, juvenile hall.

“They all overlap and kids are impacted by all of these systems,” she says.

“My work is putting them in one system that supports them so they don’t need all the others.”

uci school of nursing assistant professor dawn bounds, husband and son

Dawn Bounds, PhD, with her husband and son.

A family in the health field

Bounds’s husband also works in the health field as a personal trainer and integrative health coach. “We both have entrepreneurial spirits,” Bounds says.

They have an 18-year-old son who just started college. He’s following in mom’s footsteps and majoring in psychology.

When he leaves the nest, she’ll have her love of travel, psychological thrillers and sci-fi books and movies to entertain her outside of work.

She’ll have her miniature pinscher Jethro to keep her company.

Bounds says that since the family adopted him 11 years ago, “He’s my little shadow. He follows me everywhere.”