Skip to content

Chiamaka Okorie Receives the Amanda V. Houston Fellowship to Fund Her Research in Ghana

July 15, 2015

By CSON KILN and Chiamaka Okorie

Malaria Prevention Volunteers

Malaria Prevention Volunteers

KILN scholar Sonia Chiamaka Okorie (CSON ’17) was awarded the competitive Amanda V. Houston Traveling Fellowship from Boston College for the summer of 2015. Amanda V. Houston was the director of the African and African Diaspora Studies Program at Boston College from 1981-1993. As an educator, community leader, and mentor, she wanted to provide an outstanding candidate of African descent with an opportunity to develop leadership skills through international travel and research.

Chiamaka traveled to Africa in June to volunteer with the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI), a non-governmental organization based in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District of Ghana. Her project, “Perceived Susceptibility to Malaria: An Evaluation of Bed Net Usage of Ghanaian Mothers and Children under Five,” will be completed with data she and other community health workers compiled during her visit; more details can be found on the GHEI blog. Chiamaka describes her experience as follows:

“No classroom could have conveyed the heart and strength of GHEI. GHEI is a grassroots organization that runs several health and education initiatives in Humjibre, Kojina, and Soroano. I volunteered specifically with GHEI’s Malaria Prevention program, which partners volunteers with local community health workers to conduct comprehensive surveys. Each ‘household’, ‘woman’, and ‘child’ survey helped GHEI to collect health indicators, gauge the success of their past interventions, and identify where they could create new interventions.


Chiamaka with one of the nurses at the Bibiani Government Hospital

I found that the most special part of GHEI was the partnership both within the organization and between the organization and community. The survey itself was a great example of this. It was translated from English to Twi by community health coordinators, and then administered by trained community health workers (a mix of students, teachers, and local supporters) who visited households and expertly navigated in English, Twi, and the dialect Sefwi. We, volunteers, were responsible for coordinating the supplies and compiling the information to form the database. In four days we completed our goal of surveying half of the Humjimbre community and the entire Kojina and Soroano communities!

Within the volunteer group I took on the role of Field Coordinator, keeping track of how many surveys were submitted, completed, or needed to be revisited. We were posted at a central site in each community, surrounded by curious children and chickens, and dashing back and forth between correcting surveys, weighing frightened babies and measuring moms. I smiled with each “meda ase!” (thank you!) and felt welcomed as strangers asked “ete sen?” (how are you?).

I was able to connect much of my volunteer work with my independent research project. The survey asked detailed questions about malaria, family planning, pre-natal and post-natal care. We had the opportunity to tour the Bibiani Government Hospital and meet the wonderful doctors and nurses. Our trip also coincided with a hospital outreach baby weighing session, where I talked to nurses in more detail about the post-natal programs offered and vaccines provided. The GHEI health coordinators helped me answer my remaining curious or health-related questions. The complexities of public health became even clearer to me. As I have learned in nursing, each intervention must be carefully and individually woven. I intended to only focus on mothers, babies, and malaria, but watched the way other factors such as location, financial situation, and gender shaped each person. It was a humbling opportunity to assess data quantitatively and see, in front of me, the qualitative picture.

Market day in Bekwai

Market day in Bekwai

When we weren’t surveying, we learned Twi, had drumming and cooking lessons, and made visits to our local markets andcocoa farms. I conversed over my favorite meal of red red (beans and sweet fried plantain), learned the names of the kids that ventured to our doorstep, and got to know my fellow volunteers and the GHEI coordinators. During our last two days, we visited the massive Keteja market, Kakum National Park (where I bravely conquered the 100 ft high canopy walk), and Cape Coast (where slaves were held before they were sent abroad). As a Nigerian immigrant, I felt at home in Ghana and was continually amazed by its beauty.

When I found GHEI, I was searching for an opportunity to truly contribute to the community and I served, and return with renewed understanding and appreciation. With every day I spent in Ghana, I gained just that.  I am sincerely grateful to GHEI, KILN, and the Amanda V. Houston Fellowship for my incredible experience!”

The Boston College faculty and staff are proud of the work that Chiamaka has begun and we look forward to hearing more about this and other global health projects throughout her career.

KILN Scholar Participates in Pilgrimage to Lourdes

July 7, 2015

2015 CSON graduate and KILN scholar Colleen McGauley did a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France with two CSON seniors this past May. For more information on the pilgrimage and Colleen’s experience please read the following article.

KILN scholars contribute to knowledge development through research

July 7, 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Knowledge development through research is essential to the achievement of nursing’s “commitment to the promotion of health and healthy lifestyles, the advancement of quality and excellence in health care, and the critical importance of basing professional nursing practice on research” (AACN, 2006). The Connell School of Nursing strives to prepare students to evaluate, use, and generate new knowledge for nursing practice, and KILN scholars have enjoyed many successes through active participation in research.

On April 29, 2015, seven KILN scholars presented posters describing the work of their research teams at the Alpha Chi Research Day. Alpha Chi is the Boston College Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society for nursing The poster titles and teams members are listed below, with KILN scholars’ names in bold:

  • Yvonne Shih (’15), Colleen McGauley (’15), Heather Johnston, and Professor Lichuan Ye, “Early Bird or Night Owl: College Student’s Sleep Patterns.” This poster won first prize from Alpha Chi.
  • Tammy Leung (‘15), Meghan Foley, Nancy Van Devanter and Professor Carina Katigbak, “Knowledge, Beliefs, and Behaviors Related to Alternative Tobacco Use Among Nursing Students in an Urban U. S. University Setting.”
  • Lourdes Talavera (’16), Taylor Fischer (’15), and Professor Tam Nguyen, “Do Nurse Residency Programs Improve Job Satisfaction, Retention Rates and Clinical Competency for New Graduate BSN Nurses?”
  • Taylor Fischer (’15), Lourdes Talavera (’16), and Professor Tam Nguyen, “Prevalence Rates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”
  • Alexandra Paz (’15), Ellery Spencer, and Professor Viola Benavente, “A Literature Review Exploring Heart Health Interventions for Latinas.”
  • Savita Sukha (’15), Grace Kalnins, Allison Gilmer, Gulcan Bakan and Professors Callista Roy and Tam Nguyen, “Developing of Coping and Adaptation Processing Scale (CAPS).”
  • Savita Sukha (’15), Allison Gilmer, Grace Kalnins, and Professors Callista Roy and Stewart Bond, “Middle-Range Symptom Management Theory Development for Guiding Practice.”

KILN scholars also traveled to national conferences to present their research. In April, Colleen McGauley attended the Eastern Nursing Research Society Conference in Washington, DC, where her poster on the sleep habits of college students with fellow KILN scholar Yvonne Shih and research mentor Professor Lichuan Ye won third place in the student poster contest. Colleen reflected on her experience at this conference, where she heard nurse researchers “speak about the growing changes in healthcare and the significant role nurses have as researchers and role models in the healthcare field” and network with nurse leaders about career plans and ways to use research as a new graduate. Colleen described the event as “a great culmination to the hard work and dedication I have put into research over the last three years” and thanked the KILN program for the opportunities to see the many roles nurses can have in management, research, and at the bedside.

In March, Lourdes Talavera and Taylor Fischer presented posters with research mentor Dr. Tam Nguyen at the Asian American Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA) twelfth annual conference in Las Vegas, NV. This was a great opportunity for the students to network with diverse nurse leaders from all over the country and to showcase the research endeavors at Boston College.

This summer, undergraduate KILN scholar Sonia Chiamaka Okorie (’17) will complete an independent research project as part of her volunteer work with the Ghana Health and Education Initiative (GHEI), a non-governmental organization based in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai District of Ghana. Chiamaka was awarded the competitive Amanda V. Houston Travel Fellowship from Boston College to fund her project, “Perceived Susceptibility to Malaria: An Evaluation of Bed Net Usage of Ghanaian Mothers and Children under Five. We look forward to hearing about Chiamaka’s research next fall.

International Conference of Eating Disorders

June 22, 2015

This year I attended my third consecutive International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED). Although many aspects of the conference are the same from year to year, the experience has changed for me over time as I have been able to gain new insights and knowledge every time I go. This year, I felt like a seasoned conference attendee… not only because the event was held in my home-base, Boston, but also because I was familiar with the process and now know many of the people who regularly attend. I think the two major draws of attending conferences are the discovery and dissemination of knowledge as well as the networking aspect.

My favorite presentation was about utilizing short-term group family treatment for patients with anorexia nervosa. This particular therapy consisted of a few weeks of intense treatment that included education, multidisciplinary therapy, meal coaching, individual counseling and continued care planning. Family therapy has been the gold standard of care for patients with eating disorders, especially in adolescent and young adults, for a number of years. However, there is less research about the use of group therapy, let alone group family therapy. From my experience working on a number of eating disorder units, patients have mixed thoughts about group treatment. For some patients, being in a group setting can be a trigger to cause them to compare themselves harshly against others. On the other hand, a number of patients cherish group therapy and end up finding support from other members. In my opinion, parents often find groups extremely helpful because they are able to relate to others going through similar experiences. From the perspective of a nurse and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, group family therapy allows many people to receive treatment simultaneously and allows the members to learn from and help each other. The researchers from the University of California Eating Disorder Center found promising results in a relatively short period of time by using this form of group family therapy. Although more research is needed, so far it seems this is an effective version of evidenced based family therapy that can be useful in the clinical setting.

Another benefit of attending this conference was being able to network with other people in my field. I caught up with my friends from Africa, Australia and all over the United States, including Florida and California. Since I graduated this year, the ICED conference was also an opportunity to meet people from facilities that I could potentially work at. During the “exhibition” portion of the conference, sponsors including a number of eating disorder centers from around the world, set up booths with information about their sites. I met with individuals from Walden Behavioral Care, Monte Nido and Newton Wellesley Eating Disorder Center. I have since been in touch with two of these facilities about potential job opportunities! I think that being face to face with these organizations gave me the upper hand in finding a job. For example, I was able to mention in my cover letters that I spoke with the owners and CEO’s of the facilities I applied to. I’m excited to see where these opportunities lead and definitely think that attending this conference is helping me in this search.

KILN Celebrates Its Successes in 2014-2015

May 29, 2015

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The KILN scholars and mentors celebrated the end of the academic year with the third annual awards and recognition celebration on April 29, 2015. Scholars and mentors got together one more time to connect with each other and recognize many accomplishments. Several scholars and mentors received special awards; read more about the award winners.

Taylor Fischer, Julie Dunne and Patience Marks, graduating KILN scholars, spoke about their leadership experiences at Boston College. Taylor has been a participant in KILN since 2011, and graduated with her BS in nursing this May. She served as an undergraduate research fellow for two years and was the co- president of Project Sunshine and a member of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Julie was a KILN scholar in 2012 and returned to the program this year.  She received her MS in May and will sit for the certification exam as a Psych-Mental health advanced practice nurse while she continues to fulfill the requirements for the PhD. Patience, who was the recipient of the KILN Key award and the prestigious Martin Luther King scholarship last spring, received her BS in May. She also served as a peer freshmen seminar leader and an undergraduate research fellow. The speakers also expressed their gratitude for the opportunities afforded them by the Price Family Foundation.

Cathy Read and Debra Pino Betancourt presented the student and mentor awards. Cathy Read concluded the event by wishing the best of luck to students as they prepared for finals and to graduates as they enter the workforce or pursue a graduate degree.

National Student Nurses’ Association 63rd Annual Convention

May 5, 2015

On April 7, 2015, Laura Mata and I arrived at the Valley of the Sun for the 63rd Annual National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) Convention. Phoenix, AZ was a great location to meet and greet nursing students and leaders from all over the country. The convention’s theme was “Bright Horizons: Rising to New Opportunities.” Within the next three days, I attended the opening ceremony and participated in delegate resolution hearings, multiple focus sessions, workshops, and the exhibition hall. All activities echoed the importance of bettering nursing’s future by empowering today’s nursing students.

During the Wednesday opening ceremony, there were many speakers from professional organizations who inspired thousands of nursing students to make a change in healthcare. Before the opening ceremony commenced, students and their faculty mentors quickly filled up a large ballroom at the Phoenix Convention Center and flooded the room with energy. Among the list of professional organizations that supported the NSNA Convention were Johnson & Johnson, UCLA Health, Nurses Service Organization, and American Nurses Association. All these organizations said a few words of encouragement to the students and reminded us that we made the best decision of our lives when we chose nursing as a career. At the end of the ceremony, the keynote speaker Gerri Lamb, PhD, RN, FAAN had the honor to say the final words of the night. As an associate professor at the Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, Dr. Lamb guided us through her career trajectory and involvement in improving patient care coordination for the past three decades. After hearing her keynote address, I felt reaffirmed in my passion for reforming the United States healthcare delivery system. Although I am still trying to figure out how to put all the pieces together, I could picture myself as a nurse who works with an interdisciplinary team to improve the healthcare system. Dr. Lamb explained to the audience that our generation has been gifted with an opportunity to contribute to the healthcare delivery system. Due to recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act by President Barack Obama, nurses are handed the opportunity to promote primary prevention measures and contribute to good patient outcomes.

During the last two days of the convention, I was on my way to achieving bright horizons. I attended the NCLEX Review to prepare for the national nursing board examination. I also went to a focus session titled “Career Fitness—Landing Your Right Job in the Current Market” and the exhibition hall in which I met up with graduate nursing school representatives from John Hopkins and University of Pennsylvania to name a few. The combination of these programs at the NSNA convention allowed me to lay down the foundation for a future career in nursing education or health care administration. My experience at the NSNA Convention proved the benefits of maintaining an active membership in a professional organization. As a national organization, NSNA was able to bring in top vendors and resources across the United States, successfully providing its student members with a well-rounded and informative experience each year.

NPACE Conference in Charleston

April 29, 2015

by James Nicholson

Recently I spent two days in Charleston at a Nurse Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE) conference on pharmacology. The conference was a great opportunity for me to network, speak with industry vendors, and review pharmacology relevant to primary care before taking my nurse practitioner (NP) boards this summer. The topics that the speakers covered included: hypertension/lipid disorders, asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), thyroid and hypogonadism, diabetes mellitus, birth control, sexually transmitted infections, menopause, vaginitis, and geriatric pharmacology. All of the speakers were engaging and leaders in their fields of specialty as evidenced by their research, publishing, experience, and extensive education.

Speaker Karen Dick, GNP-BC, who works at Hebrew Senior Life in Boston, provided a much-needed emphasis on the importance of medication reconciliation and review, especially in the older population. Her focus on safe use of selective serotonin receptor inhibitors with the elderly, along with patient anecdotes, was useful in considering the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of drugs within this population as well as the importance of screening for depression. Speaker Sally K. Miller, FNP-BC, provided some great insight into managing COPD and asthma in a primary care setting. Of particular interest to me, she reviewed the indications for treatment and diagnosis, as well as the usefulness of performing FEV1 and FVC tests in the office, which I learned is underutilized in primary care. However, as with many chronic illnesses, the treatment for these also relies on a good history and assessment of subjective symptoms from the patient.

Throughout the conference I sat next to NPs from various states in varying specialties. Many had been in the nursing industry for decades, but were also interested to hear from me about the environment for new grads in Boston. All were encouraging to me, even despite the perceived stigma of completing a direct entry program without any real nursing experience. By chance I also bumped into an old friend from Washington D.C. who is an NP and one of the many who inspired me to pursue this career.

The conference was a great way to begin my career as I finish up BC’s family NP program. I have gotten a first-hand look at the benefits of continuing education, the huge potential for networking, and above all a better understanding on where leaders in the field go to share their knowledge and research. The speakers had taken different paths but all had education and research in common. This will most certainly be the first of many more NPACE conferences to come.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.