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Preparing the Next Generation of Biomedical Researchers: Collaborative research project will improve Latina access to health care

Posted: July 7, 2015

Dr. Tracie Harrison and Lucas Gonzales

It may be summer, but at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing it’s no time to kick back and take things easy. That’s especially true for Tracie Harrison, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN, and associate professor, who is hosting Lucas Gonzales, MSN Ed., RN, CNE, and associate professor of nursing education at Northern New Mexico College. For 10 weeks, the two will collaborate on a project to improve the health literacy needs of Latinas with severe visual impairments.

Gonzales, whose expertise includes medical-surgical, emergency, peri-operative, and school nursing, will work with Dr. Harrison on an in-depth interview project with 15 to 20 women with visual impairment. During the interview, they will ask questions about the women’s quality of life and also about their access to health care information. Data gathered from the inquiry will be submitted in a grant publication and published.

During her career, Dr. Harrison has gained advanced training in gerontology, disability, health disparities and health policy. She has extensive expertise in successfully mentoring students, both undergraduate, graduate, and peers locally and abroad.

“I am extremely proud of Gonzales and nurses like him who continue their education in an effort to help people in need,” said Dr. Harrison. “He has shown an enormous dedication to our profession and the population we serve. Not only did he write a superior application to a highly competitive multidisciplinary funder but, upon receiving the grant, he made it work by bringing his entire family to Austin to live while he works to improve his research skills. I have no doubt Gonzales’s efforts will improve access to health information for Latinas with visual impairments. It is an honor to assist him in this effort.”

“The program gives me a chance to work with an accomplished researcher and get more experience as a nurse researcher,” Gonzales said. “It’s an opportunity to gain more insight into how research should be conducted.”

The collaboration is made possible by Building Scholars, a center of excellence established at The University of Texas at El Paso with support from the National Institutes of Health, Common Fund. The center’s goal is to implement a suite of programs and activities that will positively transform the training of the next generation of biomedical researchers from U.S. Southwest groups through a multi-institution consortium in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as three extra-regional sites.

The fellowship is awarded to five faculty members so that they can take part in a research project at a participating research institution. Each fellow receives a $14,000 stipend.

The first class of faculty award recipients comes from Western New Mexico University, Texas Southern University, Northern New Mexico College and UT El Paso. They will be conducting research and receiving mentorship from an experienced researcher at their host institutions. In addition to the UT Austin School of Nursing, this year’s participating research partner institutions include the University of Arizona, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

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