May 16, 1997

School of Nursing graduates its first Ph.D. in nursing science

School of Nursing graduates its first Ph.D. in nursing science

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Nursing School graduate Angie Long got a little gown help from classmate Betsy Edmonson prior to last week's commencement ceremony.

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Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Nursing, addressed the '97 class.

Kuei-Ru Chou did more than expand her global outlook while living in Nashville the past four years. She also earned the Vanderbilt School of Nursing's first Ph.D. in nursing science.

Chou, who received her doctorate at last week's commencement, will recommend the Vanderbilt program to others when she returns to her native Taiwan. Joining her will be her husband, Hsin Chu, who received his doctorate last week in pharmacology.

"I would encourage other graduate students in my country to come to Nashville, elsewhere in the United States, or another country to learn something more," she said. "They will be more global and will have an international way of looking at things instead of just focusing on your own culture."

The Ph.D. in nursing science program was approved in February 1993 to advance research efforts in nursing.

Chou said initially it was difficult dealing with her fellow students and faculty members, but after learning to communicate in "an American way," she adjusted well.

"It wasn't because I didn't understand, but in that first year I had to think about something in the Chinese language, then translate it back to English. That was extremely difficult," she said.

Chou said completing the Ph.D. program was made easier by the tremendous support of the nursing faculty, especially her advisor, Lynda LaMontagne, associate professor of Nursing.

"She has been a wonderful teacher and I'm so lucky to have her as my advisor," she said.

Chou will return to Taiwan's National Defense Medical Center, which helped design her program. She will be in charge of the psychiatric nursing program and will also teach a master's program related to nursing research. She will continue her dissertation work, "testing a theoretical model of caregiver burden in a Chinese population."

The research focuses on caregivers of relatives with dementia, a group who often feels burdened, helpless and in need of support, Chou said.

Also waiting for her in Taiwan will be her four-year-old son, Yu-Hsuan Chu, and her parents, Po-Tang Chou and Hsiang-Lan Chou Wu, who have cared for her son in Taiwan most of the past four years.

Chou was joined by fellow classmates at last Friday's commencement. After the university-wide ceremony on Alumni Lawn, a separate ceremony was held at the Stadium Club where the graduates received their M.S.N. diplomas and academic hoods from Colleen Conway Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing. Many of the 176 graduates attended pinning ceremonies last August.

Of this group, 77 have chosen the family nurse practitioner tract; 27, women's health nurse practitioner; 25, adult acute care nurse practitioner; 18, gerontological nurse practitioner; 9, psychiatric-mental health nursing; 7, parent, child and adolescent nursing; 5, neonatal nursing; 8, nurse-midwifery; and 3, nursing administration.

Receiving the Founder's Medal for superior academic achievement was Sharon Louise Heinrich, of Gastonia, N.C.

Angie Long was one of the first group of students to graduate from the School of Nursing's nurse-midwifery program.

Long, 35, of Smyrna, will be establishing a nurse-midwifery practice in Dickson in June. She has worked for the past six years as a staff nurse in labor and delivery at Vanderbilt University Hospital and is the mother of two children, a 19-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter.

"Being a nurse in labor and delivery really prepared me well for this. I think it would have been much more difficult if I had not been a nurse before. It certainly would have been attainable, but it would have been harder for me."

Barbara Peterson, associate professor of the practice of Nursing and the director of the Nurse Midwifery Program, said the program is a "really strenuous, wonderful four semesters.

"I think it's a tremendous achievement accomplished through the joint cooperation between the Ob/Gyn community at the medical center and nursing," Peterson said.

Another graduate of the nurse-midwifery program was Cynthia Early, of Jackson, Tenn.

Early said the time commitment was difficult and required leaving her husband and her 17-year-old and three-year-old daughters in Jackson while she spent most of the week in Nashville.

The last 10 weeks of the program was spent in a clinical rotation at Ft. Campbell Army Base in Kentucky. She drove home on weekends.

Early, who is now working with Jackson Ob/Gyn Associates in Jackson, will soon be delivering babies at Jackson/Madison County General Hospital – a reward that will begin to make up for the time spent away from her family.

"If it weren't for my husband and daughters being as supportive as they were, I don't know if I could have made it," she said.

"I missed most of my daughter's senior year in high school. I can never go back, but she hung in there with her Mom."