(Sept. 30, 2010) – Ten pacesetting doctoral students are on their way to earning their Ph.D. in Nursing in an innovative three-year pilot program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Nursing. Each of the 10 students has agreed to provide at least three years of service as faculty members at a nursing school in the Texas Gulf Coast region after graduation.
Philanthropic support is providing each student with stipends that should enable them to get their degrees much sooner in a new accelerated PhD program than the eight years of part-time study it traditionally takes to complete the rigorous doctoral curriculum of 66 post-master’s credits.
“We turn away more than 9,000 qualified prospective nursing students annually in Texas, because there are not enough nursing faculty members to teach these students,” said Patricia L. Starck, D.S.N., R.N., UTHealth School of Nursing’s dean. “The bottleneck to balancing supply and demand for nurses is a shortage of nursing faculty – and we hope we’re creating a national model for addressing this problem.”
Spurred by a $500,000 challenge grant from The George Foundation of Fort Bend County, a successful $2-million fundraising effort was directed by the school’s development office with leadership by members of the School of Nursing Advisory Council, chaired by George R. Farris. The initiative was conceived as a tribute to Starck’s 25 years of service as dean of the nursing school and has been named in her honor: “The Patricia L. Starck Accelerated Ph.D. Scholars Program.”
“Dean Starck has done such a wonderful job recruiting the best nursing faculty that it was natural for the Advisory Council to want to support her efforts and also honor her 25 years as dean by taking a leadership role in this exciting project,” said Farris.
Support mostly came from local healthcare organizations and foundations, as well as the nursing school’s volunteer Advisory Council (which not only championed this cause in the middle of a recession, but also achieved 88 percent gift participation by its membership and collectively contributed $186,000).
Each doctoral scholar carries the title of an organization that made a gift to the AccPhD initiative of at least $60,000 per year for the three years.
These named scholars are: the Cullen Trust for Health Care Scholar: Christina Nunez, MSN, RN; The George Foundation Scholars (two): Stacy Crandall, MSN, MPH, RN and Angela Joy Nash, MSN, RN; the Hamill Foundation Scholar: Sandra Branson, MSN, RN; the Kissito Healthcare Scholar: Lisa Boss, MSN, RN; the Memorial Hermann Hospital System Scholar: Luba Yammine, MSN, RN; the School of Nursing Advisory Council Scholar: Susanne K. Lim, MSN, RN; the Texas Children’s Hospital Scholar: Anitra Frederick, MSN, RN; The UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Scholar: Faith Strunk, MSN, RN; and, the Vivian L. Smith Foundation Scholar: Licia Clowtis, MSN, RN.
The average age of the AccPhD scholars is 40 (the youngest is 29, the oldest is 53). Four of the 10 were born in the Houston area – plus one in Moscow, and others in Michigan, Alabama, Ohio and Connecticut. Half of the group earned MSNs at UTHealth, seven earned MSNs within the University of Texas System and three went to out-of-state schools for their master’s degree.
In addition to the AccPhD scholars, another 80 doctoral-level students are enrolled in the traditional curriculum. The nursing school’s total enrollment for fall 2010 is 891 students at all levels – an increase of more than 16 percent over fall 2009. The fall 2010 semester began Aug. 30.
“We are committed to addressing the statewide and national nursing shortage through innovative new educational programs,” said Starck. “The fact that the Accelerated PhD program will be funded by philanthropy is a remarkable achievement during two of the most difficult economic years in memory.”
– David R. Bates, Communications Director