Third-year University of Arizona College of Nursing PhD and Robert Wood Johnson Future of Nursing Scholar student Jamie Besel, MN, RN, recently added another feather to her academic cap. Last month, she was accepted into the Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) COVID Scholar 2020-2021 cohort. The AHEC Scholars COVID Program is a new one-year interprofessional program with training focused on rural and/or underserved settings with an emphasis of the impact of COVID-19. The cohort is a perfect fit for Besel because she plans to focus her dissertation of the health disparities facing rural older adults during the pandemic.
“I will have the opportunity to collaborate with interdisciplinary team members from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to learn about factors affecting social determinants of health, collecting and reporting data, and make recommendations to improve individual and community health,” ~ Jamie Besel, MN, RN, PhD Student
Besel chose to pursue a career in nursing after witnessing the exceptional care her mother received from oncology nurses more than 20 years ago. “I will always remember their selfless dedication to caring for others,” she says. She was drawn to UArizona Nursing’s PhD program because of the exceptional faculty and their research interests, as well as the ability to complete the program from her home in Montana. Besel has been a nurse for two decades, with a background in academics and critical care. She works currently as a research nurse at a healthcare organization in Montana.
We caught up with her recently to learn more about her plans as part of the AHEC COVID cohort.
Why did you apply for the UArizona AHEC Scholars Program Cohort COVID-19?
Participation in this program is a unique opportunity to learn more about the impact of social determinants of health on the COVID-19 pandemic and help me build the tools to help vulnerable populations in rural areas.
What kinds of activities/projects will you take part in as part of this cohort?
I will have the opportunity to collaborate with interdisciplinary team members from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to learn about factors affecting social determinants of health, collecting and reporting data, and make recommendations to improve individual and community health. The team will work closely with community partners/agencies to develop and present educational materials designed to help vulnerable populations during this unprecedented time.
How does the COVID-19 cohort differ from other AHEC Scholars programs?
The length of the ASP program is one year, whereas the other programs last two years. Furthermore, community immersion or in-person experiences are not a component of the ASP COVID program. It is this unique feature that makes it feasible for distance students, such as myself.
Can you tell us what led you to your focus on COVID, rural older adults, health disparities?
I grew up in rural Montana and have taken care of rural older adults my entire nursing career. I have a special place in my heart for older adults who live in rural areas. Rural older adults experience higher rates of comorbidities as compared to their urban counterparts, making them more susceptible to COVID-19 related complications. There is a need to critically examine the risk facing rural Americans and discuss possible solutions regarding COVID-19.
What is the duration of this program -- and what is your expected graduation date for completing your PhD?
I am in my third, and last year, as a PhD CON student. As a RWJ future of nursing scholar I am committed to completing the program in three years. The duration of the AHEC ASP COVID program is one year, so 2020-2021, with the goal of wrapping up in April 2021.