By Sonia (Chiamaka) Okorie ’17

Chiamaka Okorie ’17 and Dr. Allyssa Harris with their research presentation

In August 2016, I had the opportunity to present at the National Black Nurses Association’s (NBNA) 45th Annual Institute and Conference in Memphis, TN. My mentor, Dr. Allyssa Harris, and I discussed her research, “Father 2 Son: African American Father-Son Sexual Communication.” We shared literature on sexual risk behavior among African American males, highlighted the importance of parent-child communication, and suggested ways to facilitate such conversations in families. I have been very interested in working with the African-American population and extending my nursing career into the public health field, so I was fascinated by the study. I was also inspired by the attendees who enjoyed hearing about the subject and followed up with thoughtful questions about sociocultural factors.

I was amazed by the breadth of topics at the conference. At the Health Policy Institute, I learned about the implications of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. In the HIV/AIDS workshop, I learned about the history of HIV and “Black Mistrust of the Healthcare System.” At the Under Forty Forum, I enjoyed meeting fellow young professionals and the heartfelt story of Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse and Deputy Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. I learned so much about African American history and nuances between populations that I had never thought of. I left each workshop wishing it was longer and that I could delve even further into each topic. My experience was even more positive because I felt very welcomed and supported by the older nurses. When they realized I was a student, many of them took the time to advise me, introduce me to someone they thought would be helpful, and extend their contact information. After I presented during the workshop, they commended me and encouraged me to keep pursing such opportunities.

Chiamaka Okorie ’17, KILN alumna Jennifer Etienne ’12, and Dr. Allyssa Harris at the NBNA conference in Memphis, TN

The NBNA Conference fueled my interest in research and my certainty about focusing on the intersection between minority populations and public health nursing. I encourage all KILN members to use conferences as a chance to be exposed to a range of topics, make professional connections, and even present! One attendee said something that remains with me—“it is our responsibility as nurses to know where our patients come from and where they return to.” I am grateful for KILN and this opportunity because the more I learn about the systems that affect my future patients, the more confident I feel about caring and advocating for them.