Minority Scholars Poised to Prevent and Treat Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders in a Diverse Society

DURHAM, NC -- February 11, 2011 -- It’s a long way from Sisseton, South Dakota, to Durham, but Barbara Dahlen, PhD, RN, was willing to make the trek in order to participate in the 2011 Intensive Winter Institute of the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) in Durham this weekend. Dahlen is part of a cadre of scholars from across the nation attending this year’s Institute.

Dr. Dahlen, who earned her doctorate from Florida Atlantic University in 2010, is one of more than 250 minority scholars who have been aided in their pursuit of a doctoral degree through the support of the MFP since its inception in 1973.

Dr. Dahlen is an enrolled member of the Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians and one of the first fifteen American Indians to hold a PhD in nursing. Dr. Dahlen heads the Department of Nursing at Sisseton Wahpeton College. At the Institute, she shared the findings of her research in a presentation entitled “Giving Voice to Historical Trauma through Storytelling: The Impact of the Boarding School Experience.”

The 2011 MFP Intensive Winter Institute is being hosted by Duke University School of Nursing in conjunction with the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. Catherine Gilliss, DNSc, RN, FAAN, dean of the Duke University School of Nursing and vice chancellor for nursing affairs at Duke University, provided opening remarks for the event. The MFP is sponsored by the American Nurses Association and by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Division of Health and Human Services.

According to Faye Gary, EdD, RN, FAAN, who serves as executive consultant and director for the fellowship program, the goal of the MFP is to facilitate the entry of ethnic minority students into mental health and substance abuse training and increase the pool of minority professionals who can become leaders in the field and address health issues facing underserved populations in an increasingly diverse society.

Currently, thirteen scholars are funded fellows in the MFP. The roster of scholars includes doctoral candidates studying at universities across the nation—including Case Western Reserve University, New Mexico State University, University of Arizona, and the University of Michigan.

MFP scholars and alumni gathered in Durham for three days of symposia by faculty representing Duke University School of Nursing, Duke University School of Medicine, and Duke University. Symposia at this year’s Institute centered on the theme “The Human Genome and Personalized Medicine: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders Prevention and Treatment in a Diverse Society.”

Presenters included Alex Han Cho, MD, MBA; Jennifer Dungan, PhD, RN; Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, MD, PhD; Joseph L. Graves, Jr., PhD; and Allison A Vorderstrasse, DNSc, MSN, APRN.

In addition to symposia, the Institute also honored the scholars who have earned their doctorates and completed the Minority Fellowship Program in the past year.

For many of the scholars completing the MFP in 2010, doctoral study in nursing was not part of their original career plan. Robert Pope, PhD, RN, worked for nearly a decade as an orderly at a San Francisco long-term care facility. Then a mentor at the care facility encouraged him to enter a two-year nursing program, which he successfully completed. He subsequently earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing, and went on to complete his doctoral studies at the University of California at San Francisco.

Dorothy Powell, EdD, RN, FAAN, associate dean for global and community health initiatives at Duke University School of Nursing, presented the keynote address at the ceremony honoring the recent graduates.

Dr. Powell, who is herself an MFP alumna, urged the MFP graduates to use their doctoral nursing education to make substantive contributions to solving health-care issues for underserved populations facing mental health difficulties and substance abuse. “You can make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “You are uniquely prepared to take on leadership roles around the boardroom table, in higher education, in the research arena, and in shaping public policy. You have the knowledge and the ability to influence practice and research on critical health-care issues.”

About DUSONDuke University School of Nursing (DUSON), a diverse community of scholars and clinicians, educates the next generation of transformational leaders in nursing, advances nursing science in issues of global import, and fosters the scholarly practice of nursing. In 2007 US News and World Report ranked Duke among the top 15 graduate schools of nursing in the nation. The School offers masters, PhD, and doctor of nursing practice degrees, as well as an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degree for students who have previously completed an undergraduate degree. More than 700 individuals enrolled for Spring 2011 classes, the largest number of students in the School’s 80-year history.

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