Student Spotlight: D. Anthony Tolentino

Dec 5, 2017

D. Anthony Tolentino

Second-year PhD student; from California

Why did you decide to pursue a nursing degree?

I envy nurses that knew from the start that they wanted to be a nurse through some life experiences, a calling or an epiphany. My story is a bit odd as I was going to school to be a clinical lab scientist, but during the last semester of my first year I suddenly decided to switch to nursing. Ultimately, pursuing a career in nursing has been one of the best accidental decisions in my life. After being a nurse for 11 years, I have grown to fully appreciate what we do, the contributions we make, the love, dedication, and passion we bring daily despite the challenges, and the difference we make to our patients, families, communities and to each other. 

What drew you to the UA College of Nursing?

Drs. Sheila Gephart and Jane Carrington's area of research drew me to the college and the school's substantive area in Informatics. When I started searching for PhD schools, I wanted a curriculum that not only offered me the opportunity to learn about nursing science, but also had a substantive focus in informatics. After reviewing the biographies of both Drs. Gephart and Carrington, I knew I had to learn from them. In addition, the very accomplished faculty members with diverse expertise in research and practice, a highly-ranked nursing program, and research opportunities sealed the deal. Plus, the flexibility and rigor of the program drew me to apply at UA.

Tell us what it is about nursing informatics that you find so appealing?

Nursing informatics gives me the opportunity to make a difference in our patients' lives indirectly by implementing, supporting, and optimizing multifaceted health technology activities related to patient care.  The utilization of nursing science, computer science and information science to manage data and transform it to knowledge and to support nurses and other clinicians makes this specialty very appealing to me. The fact that informatics has a multiplier effect, that is, whatever I do as an informaticist can touch not just one patient, but many patients is very powerful. I can advocate for patients in a different level and contribute to the growing profession of healthcare informatics.  

What features of your program are you especially passionate about?

I appreciate the dedication of the faculty and administration knowing that they are genuine in seeing us succeed as future nurse scientists. When the program director, Dr. Anne Rosenfeld, knows each PhD student by name, that signals that she and the rest of UA staff are here for good reasons and are dedicated to nurturing the students to be the best nurse scientists. I am also very excited to learn from the best informaticians. As a working nurse informaticist who is not formally trained, I'm able to bring what I'm learning to my organization. In fact, I'm in the inaugural Nursing Research Fellowship at Dignity Health, and a big part of being selected is due to being a PhD student at the UA CON. 

Share your favorite memory from your time at the CON.

It's only been a year, but I already have many great memories at the CON -- ranging from forming strong and lasting bonds with my cohort and being a research assistant for Dr. Gephart, to going to conferences to present, network or connect. My favorite memory so far is volunteering at American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) conference in Chicago last November, and winning the AMIA #Why Informatics video contest where I had the opportunity to showcase why Informatics can be boundless and can redefine the possible and the impossible.  The prize? I get to attend the conference in Washington, DC this November - for free! 

How do you intend to Build Better Futures?

Dr. Rosenfeld once asked us how we see ourselves in the future as nurse scientists. She asked us to think big and be boundless. This made me think why I pursued a PhD. I see my journey as a future nurse scientist as an opportunity to be a caregiver and a researcher to improve health outcomes. We are all in healthcare and nursing for a reason. Although my research focus is in technology, I still believe in the power of human touch. As nurses, we have the opportunity to be with our patients in their most vulnerable times. Technology may be gradually taking over our lives, and it may seem that the more we get connected the more we lose the human connection. To build a better future, I would like to find the appropriate balance of the use of technology with patient care. My vision is a future where we can provide high tech care with a human touch. The ultimate goal is to make it easy for our nurses to do the right thing for our patients. 

Are you funded by a scholarship?

I'm a recipient of the Nursing Scholarship Endowment for this year from the College of Nursing. I also work as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Gephart's NEC-Zero Project.