Dr. Patricia Carter, associate professor of nursing at The University of Texas at Austin, was named one of 10 inspiring professors on campus by The Alcalde magazine.
Associate Professor, Nursing
Years at UT: 19
Dream student: “My favorite kind of student is one who thinks at the beginning of the class I’ve got nothing to teach them.”
Patricia Carter was only 10 years old when she took her first “job” in health care, as assistant activities director at the nursing home where her mother worked. Outfitted in a badge and tiny smock, Carter would write letters for the residents, read them stories, paint their nails, and take them back-and-forth to the music room. “I fell in love … and just never looked back from there,” she says of the (unpaid) gig.
Carter spent years as a practicing nurse, caring for patients that had advanced-stage cancer, but was drawn to the classroom and research because she wanted to keep learning. “I get bored really easily,” she laughs. Her students, she says, help her with that: “You’ve got to stay engaged, you’ve got to sell it, you’ve got to be on.” Her research in behavioral sleep medicine keeps her inquisitive, too. “[In] sleep science, everytime we answer one question, we create 1,500 more,” Carter says.
And while her research — helping those with insomnia sleep better — may seem worlds apart from her work as an educator, she feels it all falls under the same umbrella. She helps people reach their full potential, whether that’s an elderly patient with insomnia and a CPAP machine, or a first-generation student from the Rio Grande Valley navigating the sheer size of UT. Carter feels especially poised to take that role on, as she was the first person in her family to go to any sort of college, let alone graduate.
“I feel like it’s a gift to work every day with the quality of the students that come here,” Carter says. “In a way I sort of hold their lives in my hands, and that is at once both an awesome responsibility and an amazing gift that I never could have seen for myself.”
Article originally published on The Alcalde magazine.
Article By: Sofia Sokolove
Photograph By: Matt Wright-Steel