HBCU Summer Research Program Team and Student Participants: Back row: Jung-Ah Lee, Professor, Adey Nyamathi, Distinguished Professor, E. Alison Holman, Professor and Program Lead, Mahkameh Rasouli, Nursing PhD Student, Afsaneh Saghafi, Nursing PhD Student, Nakia Best, Assistant Professor, Jung In Park, Assistant Professor Front row: Shelley Ann Burke, Assistant Clinical Professor; Ketsia Kasongo, Winston-Salem State University; Nastacia Taylor, North Carolina Central University; Alexis Ross, North Carolina Central University; Briana Hutchinson, North Carolina A&T State University; Meghan Anthony Winston-Salem State University; Yuqing Guo, Associate Professor.

To improve diversity in the nursing profession, especially at the PhD level, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing at UC Irvine launched its first HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Summer Research Program. Five students came from nursing programs at three HBCUs: North Carolina Central University, Winston Salem State University, and North Carolina A&T State University.

During the eight-week summer session, the students worked on research projects with nursing faculty mentors, attended professional development seminars, and received support for preparing graduate school applications.

Alexis Ross, a senior at North Carolina Central University, was one of the five students. She was drawn to the program because she believed it was an amazing opportunity not just to attend UCI but to work with nursing faculty who have seen more and were more experienced.She also was unaware that there was such a thing as BSN to PhD and doesn’t think she is alone among nursing students. “It’s like a best kept secret.”

Ross’ enthusiasm for the program was clear as she discussed her experience. It was great just to be there and learn something different every week. Each researcher came from a different background and that is what informed their experiencewhether it be what they saw growing up or in their clinical practice – they were motivated by the change that they wanted to see. So, if you see something you want to change, you can.  That also holds true for Alexis “my background can definitely inform what my potential research could be.

Briana Hutchinson, a senior at North Carolina A&T University was another participant. She applied to the program on the recommendation of her advisor. “I believedthe program would offer a unique opportunity for me to gain insights into the PhD process. As for my academic aspirations, I had been contemplating either pursuing a Nurse Practitioner (NP) specialization or working towards a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in women’s health. This program seemed like an ideal way to further my understanding of these paths and the research involved.

To develop their research skills, the five participants were paired with a faculty member.

Hutchinson worked with Dr. Yuqing Guo. One of the highlights of this collaboration was the opportunity to attend weekly birthing classes, which provided me with a unique perspective on that aspect of healthcare. Additionally, I had the chance to explore and familiarize myself with cutting-edge technologies like the Oura ring and Growing Professional.

In collaboration with Dr. Guo, my research project centered around investigating the influence of sleep on the health and well-being of pregnant mothers. Additionally, my involvement in a second project at UCI delved into the impact of prenatal classes on expectant mothers. Our findings demonstrated that these classes not only enhanced mothers’ knowledge but also empowered them to advocate for themselves throughout their pregnancy journey.

Ross got the opportunity to see firsthand the research being done by Dr. Jung-Ah Lee in supporting family caregivers of patients with dementia. She read nearly 90 call logs of telephone support interventions and conversations to understand how providing resources and support to family caregivers could really make a difference.

Why does Ross think nursing research so important? I did not know that nursing research was available to us, and we can help people on a larger scale and larger capacity. Everything we do in a hospital setting is based on evidence-based practice – you can really look at everything on a macro scale and make bigger changes.

Hutchinson agrees. Research plays a fundamental role in shaping our choices and actions, a concept particularly evident in the field of nursing where evidence-based practice is paramount. By conducting research, we create a pathway for substantial advancement, ensuring our approaches are well-informed and our remedies efficacious.

Our hope is our HBCU Summer Research Program will move the needle forward to tackle inadequate representation of Black nursing professionals in leadershiproles throughout academia. We also hope to forge new relationships between UCI and other HBCUs across the country to strengthen pipelines promoting the advancement of Black nursing scholars.” said E. Alison Holman, Professor and Program Lead.

The program does not end after eight weeks. Faculty and students will continue to be connected as the students progress through their final year of nursing school. The students will receive professional mentorship as theydecide whether to pursue an advanced degree now or later.

Ross thinks every nurse could have something to gain from an experience like this. “If you see yourself wanting to solve problems on a bigger scale and want to get to the root of a peoplecentered problem, you should apply and come because you will get to see how this works firsthand.”

Holman said the program will be offered again next yearand they hope to have eight students enroll. “We are also growing our relationships with other HBCU nursing programs.

Ross hopes to pursue a PhD in the near future. “I did notknow this was an avenue available to me until I took partin this camp and realized this is what I’ve been looking for this whole time – helping people and getting to the root of peoplecentered problems and actually coming up with a solution.  And now I’m seeing what the longterm vision of my education is.”