PhD Student Awarded Johnson & Johnson/American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) scholarship

Nov. 15, 2018

UA College of Nursing Doctoral student Angelina Nguyen was one of six graduate students from across the country to be awarded a scholarship funded by the Johnson & Johnson/American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Campaign for Nursing’s Future program. Developed to help address the current faculty shortage while enhancing diversity among nurse educators, the program provides financial support to graduate nursing students from minority backgrounds who agree to teach in a school of nursing after graduation.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American distance student based in Henderson, NV, chose UA Nursing’s PhD program because of the ease of its online access and for the esteemed faculty who would mentor her. “I feel very fortunate to have been chosen,” she said. “It attests to the fact that the work that I do is important. This award is geared not only toward those who can have an impact on improving health in general but also toward mentoring minority nurses with the goal of a more diverse nursing faculty workforce. I definitely feel a calling to give back to the community, and to the nursing profession.”

“I feel very fortunate to have been chosen. It attests to the fact that the work I do is important." ~ Angelina Nguyen, UA Nursing Doctoral Student

The Johnson & Johnson/AACN scholarship will aid Nguyen in her final year in her PhD program. Currently in the final stages of her dissertation study, she is examining mixed methods to explore the risk perception of developing diabetes in Vietnamese Americans with prediabetes. She was inspired to pursue her topic after being diagnosed with pre-diabetes herself. “I was interested because I see that it’s a problem, but also the personal agenda of needing to learn about this for myself so I can figure out how to prevent or at least delay diabetes,” she said.

Asian-Americans, says Nguyen, are at higher risk for developing diabetes at younger ages, and at a lower BMI compared to non-Hispanic whites, which is the reference group that most studies meet. “When they think about diabetes, most people think about someone that’s really overweight or obese,” she said, pointing out that most Asian Americans don’t necessarily fall into that category. “In the last four or five years, there’s been a push for us to use a different classification scale to determine who is overweight and obese,” she said. “So you see increased risk, and then we’re an understudied population. All Asian-Americans, whether they’re Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese or Pilipino, are lumped together data-wise, so that was another push for me to carefully look at a specific ethnic group.”

Nguyen realizes that her research is just scratching the surface of the problem of diabetes in Vietnamese-Americans, but she thinks she’s off to a good start. “I believe it will raise more awareness of the problem,” she said. “Through studying their risk perceptions, I’ll be able to culturally tailor interventions that are known to be effective in the general population, but make it specific so that it’s more effective in preventing or delaying diabetes.”

When she graduates in 2019, Nguyen plans on looking for a tenure-track position at a tier-one nursing institution, and to continue her diabetes research. “I can see so many ways that the research will grow and the impact that I can make on health outcomes for Asian-Americans, and potentially different ethnic groups later on,” she said.

She has high praise for her dissertation committee, which includes Drs. Lois Loescher, Barbara Brewer and her dissertation chair, Marylyn McEwen. “She is inspirational and motivational, not just because she’s a diabetes guru but because she’s also a qualitative researcher in that expertise,” Nguyen said. “I am doing a mixed method study, so Dr. McEwen had been the qualitative expert for me, Dr. Brewer has been the quantitative expert, and Dr. Loescher has been ‘risk perception’ expert.”

“As Lina’s academic advisor in the doctoral program, I have been impressed by her intellectual curiosity and commitment to contributing to a gap in the science -- promoting the health and reducing diabetes risk for adults of Vietnamese origin,” said Dr. McEwen. “It has been a pleasure mentoring this exemplary doctoral student who has demonstrated commitment to nursing education. Upon completion of the doctoral program she will be a stronger role-model and mentor for future underrepresented minority nursing students.”

The need for more nursing faculty from ethnically diverse populations is particularly acute since only 16 percent of full-time nursing faculty are from groups under-represented in the profession.  A national faculty shortage also hinders the ability to enroll qualified nursing applicants and therefore impacts the nursing shortage. Through the AACN/Johnson & Johnson program, scholarship recipients receive financial assistance to help with the completion of their doctoral or master's degree in nursing. Scholars receive $18,000 in funding support for a maximum 2 years. Recipients must establish a mentoring relationship with a seasoned faculty member and attend a leadership development program as part of AACN's annual Faculty Development Conference. Scholars also must agree to teach in a U.S. school of nursing after graduation for at least one year for every year funding was received.