West Virginia University’s Theeke Named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’

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August 31, 2010                                                                           202/371-1999
West Virginia University’s Theeke Named a
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’
Geriatrics Researcher is Selected for Prestigious
Program to Advance Careers of Nation’s Most Promising Junior Nurse Faculty
Morgantown, WV—Laurie Theeke, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor at the Department of Health Restoration at the West Virginia University School of Nursing, has won a competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to research ways to diminish loneliness in rural chronically ill older adults. Theeke 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 cannot begin to explain how honored I am to have received this award,” Theeke said. “Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, I will have the opportunity, as a new faculty member, to continue to develop as a leading researcher and to help develop other excellent teachers and scholars. It is extremely exciting to be able to bring this award to my alma mater, and to continue research with older adults in Appalachia with whom I have been practicing for 20 years.”
Theeke is a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology in the West Virginia University Clark K. Sleeth Family Medicine Center.
Theeke’s research will focus on implementing an intervention to reduce rural older adults’ feelings of loneliness. Older adults who are lonely experience more chronic illness, have poorer health habits, visit clinics more frequently and tend to have longer hospital or nursing home stays, all of which diminish their quality of life and increase their dependence on the health care system.
“Loneliness creates emotional pain that affects the physical being,” added Theeke. “Diminishing the stress responses to loneliness may actually improve health behaviors, and therefore, chronic illness.”
Using a culturally-sensitive model based on the tradition of Appalachian story-telling, Theeke’s intervention will provide a venue for lonely older adults suffering from chronic illness to tell their story to self and peers. Study participants will be encouraged to share stories of loneliness and chronic illnesses, discuss how they view themselves in relationships and learn to find meaning in their life experiences. The study includes measuring participants’ physical manifestations of stress, including chronic illness.
Georgia Narsavage, Ph.D., A.P.R.N., F.A.A.N., dean of the West Virginia University School of Nursing and Ruth T Goins, Ph.D., associate professor and director of research at the Center on Aging/Community Medicine at West Virginia University, will serve as Theeke’s mentors.
“Dr. Theeke’s work to design and test interventions that address older adults living in Appalachia is critically important,” said Narsavage. “We are delighted that she was selected for this prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award. Her research will benefit not only the patient population she’s addressing, but also the students who work with her.” 
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 www.rwjfnursefacultyscholars.org.
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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.