Montana State University’s Larsson Named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’

NEWS            RELEASE                                                            Contact: Gretchen Wright or Johanna Diaz
 August 31, 2010                                                                           202/371-1999
Montana State University’s Larsson Named a
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’
Health Disparities Researcher is Selected for Prestigious
Program to Advance Careers of Nation’s Most Promising Junior Nurse Faculty
Bozeman, Mont.—Laura Larsson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., an assistant professor at the College of Nursing at Montana State University, has won a competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to study how to reduce radon exposure among low-income people, which could help prevent lung cancer and narrow health disparities. Larsson is one of just 12 nurse educators from around the country to receive the three-year $350,000 Nurse Faculty Scholar award this year. It is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. The grant period begins next month.
“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious and meaningful award,” Larsson said.
“The support I receive will give me the time and mentoring that I need to find ways to protect people from exposure to harmful levels of radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer.”
Radon, a decay product of uranium, has been found in dangerously high concentrations in the West and other mountainous regions of the country. Testing for harmful levels of the colorless, odorless gas often occurs during real-estate transactions. Because low-income people are more likely to rent instead of purchase their homes, they are less likely to test for the presence of radon, Larsson plans to test strategies that she hopes will encourage low-income tenants to purchase subsidized radon home test kits and test for dangerously high levels of the noxious gas.
For her project, Larsson will place flat screen monitors in the waiting rooms of two county offices of government programs that provide food subsidies for women, infants and children. One of the flat-screen panels will post information about radon and the availability of reduced-price radon test kits. The other will provide general messages about health and safety. The goal is to determine whether messages on strategically placed “digital bulletin boards” lead to an increase in the purchase of home test kits and completed testing.
“Radon is a silent enemy that does not get a lot of attention among health care providers or in the news media,” Larsson said. “I hope to educate more people about the harmful effects of radon so we can reduce the rate of lung cancer and narrow health disparities. My long-term goal is to see radon testing incorporated into housing regulations regarding rental properties.”
Helen Melland, Ph.D., R.N., professor and dean of the College of Nursing at Montana State University, and Allen Harmsen, Ph.D., professor and research associate in the Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology/Molecular Biosciences Program at Montana State University, will serve as Larsson’s mentors.
“Unlike other health hazards such as smoking and drunk driving, harmful levels of radon are not found in every part of the country,” Melland said. “That makes it difficult to attract attention to the problem and set national goals to reduce exposure levels. That is one reason why Dr. Larsson’s research is so valuable; her findings can be used to find out how to call attention to the problem and educate vulnerable populations about how to prevent exposure.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by developing the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing. Supporting junior nurse faculty will help curb a shortage of nurse educators that could undermine the health and health care of all Americans. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will vastly increase the number of people who can access health care in the United States. As the number of patients increases, there will be greater demand for skilled nurses and faculty to educate them. Right now, many schools of nursing are turning away qualified applicants because they lack the faculty to teach them.
The Nurse Faculty Scholars program is helping to curb the shortage by helping more junior faculty succeed in, and commit to, academic careers. The program provides talented junior faculty with salary and research support as well as the chance to participate in institutional and national mentoring activities, leadership training, and networking events with colleagues in nursing and other fields, while continuing to teach and provide institutional, professional and community service in their universities.
The program will also enhance the stature of the scholars’ academic institutions, which will benefit fellow nurse educators seeking professional development opportunities.
To receive the award, scholars must be registered nurses who have completed a research doctorate in nursing or a related discipline and who have held a tenure-eligible faculty position at an accredited nursing school for at least two and no more than five years.
Several Nurse Faculty Scholars have been recognized for outstanding work since they were accepted into the program. In 2009, Scholar Kynna Wright-Volel, Ph.D., M.S.N., M.P.H., an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing, won the Minority Health Community Trailblazer Award in 2009. It is given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in recognition of work to eliminate health disparities.
Earlier this year, Nurse Faculty Scholar Joachim Voss, Ph.D., R.N., A.C.R.N., an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Washington, received the 2010 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Voss was among only five faculty to receive this year’s award and the first professor from the School of Nursing ever to receive the honor. The Award is open to all faculty members at the University of Washington, which has 3,600 instructional faculty.
Three Nurse Faculty Scholars—Angela Amar, R.N., Ph.D. of the William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College; Cynthia Anderson, Ph.D., W.H.N.P., an assistant professor at the College of Nursing at the University of North Dakota; and Nancy Hanrahan, R.N., Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing—will be inducted into the American Academy of Nursing this fall. Amar is using her RWJF grant to research the factors that encourage college women to report interpersonal violence, Anderson is looking at vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women from the rural, northern plains, and Hanrahan is studying outcomes from patients who are admitted to hospitals to receive psychiatric services. 
The Nurse Faculty Scholars program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered through the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. It is directed by Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., who is the Anna D. Wolf chair and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
To learn more about the program, visit
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we’ve brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime.