Four of the most recently named Reynolds Predoctoral Scholarship recipients in the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing at the University of Oklahoma are conducting research into the health care needs of older adults, which often vary quite significantly from that targeting a younger populace.
Each is tackling a very different area of study:
vaccine effectiveness in the immune system of adults 65 and older with diabetes;
oral care management in cognitively impaired older adults residing in nursing homes;
strategies to ensure successful, productive patient care transitions from one care setting to another; and
health literacy and barriers to culturally informed care among older Hispanic and Latinx-Americans.
The Reynolds Scholarship award is designed to support three years of full-time doctoral work for nurses committed to careers in academic or clinical geriatric nursing. The program awards a total of $150,000 (up to $50,000 per annum) to each selected Reynolds Scholar candidate enrolled full-time in the Ph.D. in nursing program at the College of Nursing.
Dr. Lazelle Benefield, director of the Donald W. Reynolds Center of Geriatric Nursing, said, “These Reynolds Scholars demonstrate serious commitment to care of older adult persons and to reframe aging by crafting solutions focused on the aging process and aging strong. They have the opportunity to bridge science, research and training to address health inequities and improve the quality of life for older adults.”
Erica Perryman, Oklahoma City, a 2020-2023 Scholar, is conducting research on strategies to ensure successful, productive patient care transitions from one care setting to another, focusing primarily on medication management, medical care follow-up, symptom awareness and management.
A certified Advantage Case Managers and Care Transition Intervention Coach, Perryman’s professional experience includes working as a senior consultant for IBM Global Business Services and as a research coordinator for the OU College of Nursing. As a registered nurse, she worked at the Main Surgery Unit at Integris Baptist Medical Center, a nurse care manager for the Department of Population Health Management at OU Health Physicians and a program manager for the College of Nursing Care Management.
She earned a bachelor of business administration degree in international business and marketing in 2004 and a bachelor of science degree in nursing in 2015, both from OU.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a 2020-2023 Reynolds Scholar as it affords both academic and financial support,” Perryman said. “Doctoral program mentorship from renowned experts in the field of geriatric nursing opens doors to research and practice opportunities that will extend far beyond the program. The subjects covered during monthly scholar meetings align well with my course assignments while providing an age-friendly perspective. Meanwhile, the monthly stipend has allowed me to reduce my work commitments while in the program, making it easier to maintain a work-study-life balance.”
Brenda Olmos, Austin, Texas, and a 2020 Scholar, earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. With clinical experience in various inpatient settings, including orthopedic surgical, medical surgical, intermediate care and emergency departments, she proceeded to earn a master of science degree in nursing as a family nurse practitioner from Texas State University in 2017.
Olmos’ RN and APRN experience in caring for diverse older adults has informed her research interests pertaining to health literacy and barriers to culturally informed care among older Hispanic and Latinx-Americans, particularly those living with Type 2 diabetes. Her additional areas of research interest include immigrant health, care of non-English speaking populations and nurse-led health promotion interventions among diverse older adults.
Olmos has been a nurse educator both at the undergraduate and graduate levels at UT Austin and Texas State University. She is a member of the Austin Advanced Practice Nurses Organization and serves on the education committee. Olmos regularly mentors and precepts APRN students from several universities.
“Being a Reynolds Scholar means that I have the freedom to focus 100% on my doctoral education because I am supported financially, with mentors, with amazing faculty, and with regular communication to make sure I am on track,” Olmos said. “I look forward to producing qualitative research, becoming an expert in the issues Hispanic older adults face, and being prepared to be a nurse leader and professor.”
Leena Almasri, a native of Jordan now living in Norman, is a 2019-2022 Scholar studying vaccine effectiveness and immunity of older adults with diabetes. Earlier this year, her poster presentation, “Vaccine Effectiveness in Adults 65 or Older With Diabetes: A Systematic Review,” won the third-place award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society.
Almasri joined the OU nursing Ph.D. program at OU in 2018 and became a Reynolds Scholar in fall 2019. She earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Al al-Bayt University, Jordan, in 2009. In 2017, she passed the National Council Licensure Examination exam and became a registered nurse. Almasri is a member of the Midwest Nursing Research Society and the Gerontology Society of America.
Susie Keepper, Oklahoma City, a 2019-2022 Scholar, has held leadership roles in a long-term nursing home facility, as a psych-mental health nurse and as a Registered Dental Hygienist. She draws on both her nursing and dental hygiene knowledge and skills to conduct research into and make a difference in oral care/systemic health in older adults with cognitive impairment residing in nursing homes.
Keepper volunteers at a free medical and dental clinic for disadvantaged people and participates in medical missionary trips to developing countries.
Keepper earned an associate of science degree in dental hygiene from Missouri Southern State University-Joplin, Missouri; associate degree in nursing from Crowder College-Neosho, Missouri; bachelor of science degree in nursing from Central Methodist University-Fayette, Missouri; and master of nursing-clinical nurse specialist degree from the OU College of Nursing; and.
She serves as a member of the Gerontological Society of America Oral Health Research Interest Group and the Advisory Council for Next Science in Oral Care and Nursing.
By Jerri Culpepper