PhD in Nursing Student Awarded Predoctoral Fellowship from NIH National Institute of Nursing Research

Oct 21, 2014

Heather Coats, MS, APRN-BC, a nurse practitioner pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing through the University of Arizona College of Nursing, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research.

This fellowship (F31) enables promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting their dissertation research.

By investigating psychological-social-spiritual healing for African American elders with serious illness, Coats is addressing the critical gaps in knowledge about culturally sensitive palliative care. African American elders experience disparities in receipt of palliative care, dissatisfaction with that care and care inconsistent with their wishes.

“Suffering is much more encompassing than just experiencing physical pain,” said Coats, who has been a nurse for 20 years and a nurse practitioner since 2006. “Incorporating the patient’s cultural, spiritual and social beliefs and values into our practice helps us advocate for our patients, provide better care and improve their quality of life by decreasing suffering.”

Coats’ sponsor is her mentor and dissertation advisor Anne G. Rosenfeld, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, professor and associate dean for research at the UA College of Nursing. Her co-sponsor is Esther M. Sternberg, MD, professor of medicine and research director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

“This fellowship not only recognizes Heather’s science as top quality – the application process is extremely competitive, peer-reviewed and rigorous – but also that Heather is poised to become a talented nurse-scientist with great potential to contribute significantly to palliative care science,” said Dr. Rosenfeld.

Coats, who plans to finish her degree in August 2015, says she is grateful for her experience at the University of Arizona. “The support and mechanisms the UA College of Nursing has in place to invest in their PhD students is outstanding. It’s a wonderful research and learning environment. Dr. Rosenfeld is my mentor extraordinaire and has been there every step of the way.”

Faculty at the University of Arizona College of Nursing envision, engage and innovate in education, research and practice to help people of all ages optimize health in the context of major life transitions, illnesses, injuries, symptoms and disabilities. Established in 1957, the college ranks among the top nursing programs in the United States. For more information about the college, please visit its website,