Vanderbilt University’s Foster Named Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’

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August 31, 2010                                                                           202/371-1999
Vanderbilt University’s Foster Named
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’
Pediatric Palliative Care Researcher is Selected for Prestigious
Program to Advance Careers of Nation’s Most Promising Junior Nurse Faculty
Nashville, Tenn.—Terrah Foster, Ph.D., R.N., C.P.N.P., an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University, has won a competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to develop an intervention that would allow children with advanced cases of cancer to create a remembrance about their lives to give to loved ones. Foster 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,” Foster said.
“The support I receive will give me the time and mentoring that I need to research strategies to alleviate suffering in children with cancer who have poor prognoses for survival.”
For her project, Foster will create an intervention based on children’s self-reports that will enable pediatric oncology patients between the ages of 7 and 12 to complete a project—such as writing a song, creating an electronic memory book, or doing charity work in their communities—that will enable them to leave a legacy upon their death. The projects the patients complete will be similar, but Foster expects the intervention will reflect each patient’s individual treatment decisions and goals. She hopes that the intervention will alleviate children’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual suffering as they approach the end of their lives.
Studies have shown that such ‘legacy’ projects help adults cope with terminal disease, but research into similar interventions among children has not been done. “Health professionals often say that children with severe cases of cancer are too tired or too sick to create these kinds of projects,” Foster said. “My goal is to find out if this speculation is true or if the contrary holds: that children benefit from legacy projects in a similar way that adults do.”
Foster’s study builds on previous research into bereavement processes that she conducted for her doctorate degree. In that research, parents and siblings of children who died of cancer reported that the ill children yearned to communicate their feelings with loved ones and sought tangible ways to be remembered by their families. She hopes the study will serve as a strong foundation upon which to build a career studying pediatric palliative care.
Ann Minnick, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., the Julia Eleanor Chenault Professor of Nursing at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and Debra Friedman, M.D., M.S., an associate professor of pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University, will serve as Foster’s mentors.
“Legacy projects have been an enormous help to adults with life-limiting illnesses,” Friedman said. “Dr. Foster’s work will help us understand whether these kinds of projects also benefit children with similar illnesses, such as some forms of cancer. The benefits of this kind of intervention could extend far beyond children and help parents, siblings and loved ones cope with the death of a child with cancer.”
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.