University of Arizona Dual Degree PhD/DNP Student Receives Jonas Scholar Award

Monday, July 23, 2018

Earlier this month, Brittany Abeln became the first University of Arizona College of Nursing student to be selected as a Jonas Scholar. Established in 2006 to advance all aspects of the nursing profession, Jonas Nursing and Veterans Healthcare supports doctoral students who will conduct critical research, educate the next generation of nurse leaders and transform clinical care. The scholarship offers financial assistance, leadership development and networking support. Abeln, a fourth year dual degree PhD/DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) student, joins a cohort comprised of 200 scholars from across the U.S., focused on some of our most challenging healthcare needs. Abeln will receive a $10,000 award, matched by $10,000 from the College of Nursing, to support her studies between 2018 and 2020.


“I'm honored to have been chosen and very excited to represent the UA College of Nursing as the Jonas Scholar for the next two years." ~ Brittany Abeln


“We’re proud of Brittany’s achievement,” says UA College of Nursing Clinical Associate Professor, Rene Love, PhD, DNP, PMHNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. “She has a special interest in exploring mental health inequalities that exist in the LGBTQ population, specifically the mental health inequalities that exist for transgender youth. She is highly motivated and has already presented at two conferences and co-published a manuscript as the primary author since starting the PhD/DNP dual degree program.”

“The Jonas Scholar award is highly competitive,” says Lois Loescher, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Director of the UA College of Nursing PhD program. “Selection is based on the expertise of faculty and the strength of the doctoral programs, as well as individual student achievements. We are excited about this opportunity for the College of Nursing and for Brittany.”

Take a few minutes to learn more about Brittany and her studies at the UA College if Nursing:

What does it mean to you to be selected as a Jonas Scholar?

I’m honored to have been chosen and very excited to represent the UA College of Nursing as the Jonas Scholar for the next two years. The financial support for me, as a dual PhD/DNP student, is huge.

 Work you’ve done in the Psych Mental Health Program?

My research focus and interest is on LGBT mental health inequalities overall, but I’m specifically interested in examining anxiety and depression as well as protective factors in transgender youth. Over the past three years as a student, I’ve attended and presented posters at two Western Institute of Nursing (WIN) conferences as well as the International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) conference. I’ve also worked with Dr. Love on a manuscript that will be published in September on Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

As part of the next generation of nurse leaders, what will your contribution be?

I see my impact really being in contributing to nursing research. I plan to specifically focus on LGBT mental health, because research is lacking in that area. I want to help shine a light on the mental health inequalities that face this community to help find better interventions and lead to better outcomes for that population.

Why did you choose the UA College of Nursing?

When I graduated with my BSN in December of 2014, I had no doubt in my mind that the UA was where I would continue my graduate education in nursing. The faculty was absolutely incredible to work with as an undergrad, and now as a graduate student I’ve had so many amazing mentors help me along the way. They’ve been completely invaluable to my experience. Specifically, I’d like to thank Dr. Audrey Russell-Kibble, who was my honors thesis mentor back as an undergrad, for really pushing me to graduate school. I also want to thank Dr. Rene Love and Kate Sheppard for advising me and Dr. Lois Loescher for her help with the application for the Jonas scholarship.

What motivated you to pursue a career in nursing?

I wanted a career where I could interact with people and make a difference in their lives. I feel so lucky to have found nursing, because I consider this career to be one of the loves of my life. I’m kind of a geek for research, so I knew I wanted to work in academia.

What features of your current program mean the most to you?

With the exception of clinicals, my program is completely online, but I’ve still been able to make connections with other students and have really gotten to know my faculty and learn from them. I really enjoy the College’s emphasis on evidence-based practice, and within that there’s this great focus on research that I really love.