Egan School of Nursing Update 2023

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Message from the Dean

It is hard to believe I am entering my tenth year as the dean of the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. In one sense, I question where the years have gone. In another, I reflect upon the amazing growth of our school in the past decade. The 2022-23 year saw the largest Egan School enrollment in our history, with more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students. In the University’s inaugural year on the U.S. News & World Report Best National Universities list, Fairfield’s Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies placed in the top 100 nationwide. We were ranked in the top 11 percent nationally at #76 (tied) out of almost 700 schools. We were also ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 Best Graduate Schools, among the best nursing schools that offer master’s degrees (tied at #73) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees (tied at #74). Niche ranked the Egan School in the Top 5 percent of Best Colleges for Nursing in the nation, out of 762 schools.

In July 2022, the Egan School was designated as one of 16 nursing programs selected nationwide as a National League for Nursing (NLN) Center of Excellence, for the pedagogical expertise of our faculty. This designation, which is designed for schools of nursing and healthcare organizations that have achieved a level of excellence in a specific area, recognizes the outstanding teachers we have at Egan. Chief among our 2022-23 accomplishments were the launch of our Accelerated Second Degree Nursing program in Austin, Texas, and our new Master of Public Health programs. We also underwent successful accreditations and launched new study abroad programs. This update reports on the many activities and accomplishments that substantiate the Egan School’s success.

As always, I credit our amazing faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, advisory board, clinical partners, and the many others who work tirelessly to achieve the Egan School’s distinctiveness. Please enjoy this wonderful update on our many accomplishments and stay tuned for more. We have big plans for the next academic year, including bringing more educational programs to our new campus in Austin, and building an Egan infrastructure that supports continued growth and success across our campuses. I am honored to lead the Egan School and remain deeply in gratitude for all who continue to contribute to the education of nurses and health professionals of the future.

Sincerely yours,


Cutting-edge simulation labs provide nursing students exposure to realistic experiences through the use of technology and professional actors.


Meredith Kazer, PhD, APRN, FAAN Dean and Professor of Nursing

Audrey Beauvais, DNP, MBA, RN Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor

Sally Gerard, DNP, RN, CNL, CDE Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professor

Karen Corcoran, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs and Professor of Practice

Katherine Saracino, MSN, RN, WOCN Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Instructor of the Practice

Sara Colabella ’08, MA’11 Senior Integrated Marketing Manager

Nancy (Gelston) Dobos ’91 Designer

Send Inquiries to: Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies

Fairfield University 1073 North Benson Road Fairfield, CT 06824-5195 203-254-4000

M eredith W allace K azer , P h d , a P r N, Faa N Dean & Professor, Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies
“As always, I credit our amazing faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, advisory board, clinical partners, and the many others who work tirelessly to achieve the Egan School’s distinctiveness.”
Photo by Fairfield University Media Center

3 Fairfield University Celebrates Grand Opening of New Austin, Texas Campus

4 Dr. Tanika Eaves Awarded Fulbright Scholarship for Research Abroad

5 Necessity Leads to Invention: A Cross-Campus Collaboration

6 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Real-World Practicums

7 Maeve Devlin ’23 Sets Sail on New Position With U.S. Navy

8 A World of Opportunities


12 Making a Difference

14 Fairfield Nursing Grad is Crowned Miss Connecticut





TOP 5% Best Colleges for Nursing in the Nation

Niche’s 2023 Best Colleges

Society for Simulation in Healthcare Accredited

National League for Nursing Center of Excellence

#1 Best College for Nursing in CT

Niche’s 2023 Best Colleges

#2 Nursing Program in CT College Factual

TOP 100 Best Master’s and DNP Programs in Nation

U.S. News & World Report

100% Employment rate six months post-graduation



Agrand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of Fairfield University’s new Austin, Texas campus was held at the new facility located at 7951 Shoal Creek Blvd. The event introduced the new campus to the local community, including Texasbased Fairfield University alumni, and community partners, who toured the 21-bed simulation center, and simulated rooms for ICU, obstetrics, pediatrics, and med-surg, an operating room, home care suites and skill labs.

Featured speakers at the ribbon cutting were Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD; Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies Dean Meredith Kazer, PhD, APRN, FAAN; Alumni Chaplain and Special Assistant to the President Rev. Gerald Blaszczak, S.J.; Austin Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Economic Development Charisse Bodisch; and Ascension Texas Chief Nursing Officer and Regional Hospital President Steven Brockman-Weber, DNP, RN, MS (HSA), FACHE, NEA-BC, CENP.

Inspired by a mission to carry forward the work of the Society of Jesus, Fairfield was animated “to come to a region where there is not a Jesuit Catholic work of higher education,”

said President Nemec. “Fairfield is bringing to this community a first-class clinical education. One that brings health professionals to the highest standards of inquiry and knowledge—but it also brings with it a Jesuit way of proceeding.”

Dean Kazer expressed gratitude for the collaboration among clinical partners, the board of nursing, real estate professionals, architects, builders, program directors, faculty, staff, and students. “Because of you,” she said, “Texas is our new home.”

Charisse Bodisch of the Austin Chamber of Commerce welcomed Fairfield to Austin, and highlighted the critical need for nurses in the Austin metro region.

“We anticipate the annual growth in healthcare will continue. [Growth] projections over the next five years are 2.8 percent for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations and 3.3 percent for healthcare support occupations—faster than the 2.5 percent growth in jobs overall.”

The expansion of Fairfield University and the Egan School to Texas establishes an additional nursing pathway through Fairfield University, and addresses the needs of the national healthcare system. The initial offering at the Austin campus is Fairfield Egan’s full-time, 15-month Accelerated Second Degree Nursing (SDNU) program, which provides a unique opportunity for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing degree in an accelerated format.

The nursing curriculum at the Austin, Texas-based facility builds on the University’s successful Fairfield, Connecticut baccalaureate offerings. The first cohort of students was admitted in May 2023, with a second cohort to begin in January 2024.

In addition to Ascension Seton, Fairfield Egan’s clinical partnerships include Baylor Scott & White Health, and Central Texas Veterans Health Care Systems.

Learn more at

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ABOVE: Pictured (l to r) Director of Simulation Sara Murcray-Mosca, DNP, RN, CHC; Dean Meredith Wallace Kazer, PhD, APRN, FAAN; and Director of Second Degree Nursing program Lucina Kimpel, PhD, RN. FROM LEFT: Members from the Austin community attending the ribbon cutting; Nursing student Gabby Kearney in the Simulation Lab; The event introduced the new campus to the community.

Dr. Tanika Eaves Awarded Fulbright Scholarship for Research Abroad

Tanika Eaves ’96, PhD, LCSW, assistant professor of social work, has been honored as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar for 2023-24. Her research will take her to Australia for six months in spring 2024, where she will continue her exploration of health-based inequities in marginalized groups.

“I chose to go to Australia because they are among the nations with the best birth outcomes in the Western world,” said Dr. Eaves, who has focused much of her past scholarship on racial inequities in maternal-infant health and mental health outcomes. “I wanted to understand what they do to achieve those outcomes.”

Dr. Eaves will be working with an associate professor of midwifery in New Castle, near Sydney. The area has a large indigenous population, and recently has had an influx of migrants. “They often don’t have access to the same quality of care and are sometimes dealing with trauma,” she said. “The healthcare system there is beginning to see inequities in terms of health and birth complications.”

Her Fulbright research will compare midwifery outcomes to those of medical deliveries. In the midwifery model, a midwife cares for the patient from the beginning of her pregnancy through to delivery, Dr. Eaves explained, whereas in a typical obstetrical practice, the delivery is likely to be conducted by whichever physician is on call. She will also be assessing bonding and attachment in mothers and infants, and will follow patients three to six months after birth. She is slated to host several guest lectures on the state of birthing and infant healthcare in the U.S.

Dr. Eaves’ current research focuses on community-based perinatal providers in Connecticut; that is, midwives, doulas, home visitors, and mental health providers.

“These community providers are in agreement that the hierarchy in medicine, with the medical doctor at the top, means that they often feel silenced,” she said. “And if the provider doesn’t feel empowered, how can the patient feel empowered?”

An added problem in the pregnancy and birthing care of people of color is that medical school education can be racist and antiquated. As an example, Dr. Eaves cited a 2016 study that indicated that white medical students and residents believed Black patients had a higher tolerance for pain than white patients. “The erroneous perception,” she said, “is that people of color can tolerate pain more. And if a Black person seeks pain medication, there’s a greater assumption that that person is drug-seeking.”

Fulbright Scholar awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Dr. Eaves is joined this year by fellow Fairfield faculty member Brian Walker, PhD, professor of biology, who was awarded a Fulbright grant to study microplastics in the environment. l E



Enrollment in Fairfield Egan’s Nurse

Anesthesia program has never been stronger, but that happy fact presented a problem for assistant professor of the practice and simulation coordinator Christine Aloi ’12, DNP’19: with only one task model on which to practice airway skills, it was difficult for students to get the hands-on time they needed.

“One of the essential procedures a nurse anesthetist must master is a cricothyrotomy, which is an emergency surgical airway intervention used when the patient’s anatomy or medical condition makes it impossible to insert a breathing tube through the mouth,” explained Dr. Aloi. “We hold airway workshops during the course of the program, so having enough models on hand is important. We began to look for innovative ways around the problem.”

Enter the School of Engineering and Computing: might the biomedical students be able to create an anatomically correct trachea model that could be used by nurse anesthesia students to practice their skills? And by the way, could they get it done in just a couple of months, in time for the airway workshop scheduled for this summer?

Susan Freudzon, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, knew her students were up for the challenge. She tapped Emma Crowley ’24 and Julia Kilroy ’24, co-presidents of the biomedical student club, to lead the project. Together with biology major Sydney Rogers ’24, they met with Dr. Aloi to examine the task model Fairfield Egan had on hand, witness a demonstration of how it works, and take precise measurements from every angle.

A human trachea is made of cartilage, which gives it some flexibility. The students first 3D-printed a model using the standard hard plastic called PLA, which is the easiest and least expensive material to use. “It was anatomically correct,

but didn’t have the flexibility the nurses would need,” noted Crowley.

They switched to a more flexible, silicone-like material called TPU [thermoplastic polyurethane], and began adjusting the printer’s settings. “We had to determine how much infill, or thickness, was needed, the speed of the printing, and what kind of support to provide as the material came out of the machine,” Crowley said, clearly having relished the challenge.

The team ended up making four durable model tracheas, which will each be fitted with standard commercial tubing and a bag to mimic a functioning trachea and lung.

“It was great to cross disciplines in this way,” said Crowley, “and to use our engineering skills to make something tangible.”

This will not be the last collaboration between the two schools. “We have a couple of ideas,” Dr. Freudzon said. “Our students don’t often get to see the immediate impact of something they’ve created, so I’m especially excited for them to see these models in use.” l E

LEFT: Nurse anesthesia students used the tracheas designed and built by the engineering students to practice cricothyrotomy.

ABOVE: Susan Freudzon, PhD (center) and biomedical students Emma Crowley and Sydney Rogers review design plans for the 3D-printed trachea.

Photos by Fairfield University Media Center
“It was great to cross disciplines in this way and to use our engineering skills to make something tangible.”
Emma Crowley ’24 Bioengineering Major


As she describes it, a “winding road” led Maggie Sullivan DNP’23 to Fairfield’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program.

“I studied neuroscience and worked for several years in cancer research, and came to realize that nursing was the heart and soul of the healthcare field,” she said. That realization led to her BSN, and the conviction that she wanted to focus on the mental health of children and young adults.

Now, armed with her DNP, Dr. Sullivan has had a chance to reflect back on her experience in the program, including her 600 hours of practicum experience.

“The work we do is very interdisciplinary. You’re not just working with the patient, but with the whole family, plus teachers and other healthcare providers,” she explained. “Working in this role is an opportunity to touch people’s lives in some of their darkest moments.”

That challenge is the reason that Fairfield’s multi-pronged practicum experience is so vital.

“The PMHNP program is one of the oldest in the state, and it’s very holistic,” said program director Karen Corcoran DNP’14. “We want students prepared to conceptualize cases in terms of family, attachment theory, allostatic load [i.e., stressors], and societal and behavioral determinants of health. They learn to use self-reflection to evaluate and inform patient care.” Students might work through a case that involves past

trauma, race-based issues, high-risk behaviors, or violence, for example. Their clinical sites include outpatient clinics, shelters, prisons, and in-patient settings.

After mastering foundational courses in the first two years of the program, students put that knowledge to work in simulation practice with a person trained to act as a patient in a given scenario. In these scenarios, students practice therapeutic techniques, motivational interviewing, and de-escalation techniques. They design an individual treatment plan for the patient. Their work is observed and feedback is provided by fellow students and professors.

“As a student, it’s daunting to be observed by your peers and professors, but their feedback helped me understand how to navigate difficult conversations, handle agitated clients and respond to tricky situations like being asked for more medications,” said Dr. Sullivan. “And being able to come together as a

team after and really discuss the best treatment plan for a client was very helpful.”

Students also have a full day of collaborative simulation experience with those in the Family Nurse Practitioner program. “They do multiple simulations, during which they notice a medical issue,” said Dr. Corcoran. “They learn the principles of integrated care delivery, practice telehealth skills, create a treatment plan, and practice a formal handoff.” l E

Foundational skills plus a well-rounded practicum experience ready Fairfield Egan’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners for career success.

Maeve Devlin ’23 Sets Sail on New Position With U.S. Navy R

ecent graduate Maeve Devlin ‘23 was captain of her high school basketball team and vice president of her senior class, made the dean’s list every semester at Fairfield, was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society, and volunteered as a New Student Leader.

But Devlin’s most exciting accomplishment just may be the one she mastered in June 2022: being accepted into the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps. It was a year-long process that involved three interviews, five letters of recommendation, a sheaf of paperwork, and a list of 10 people to be contacted for references.

Among the many things the Navy looks for are leadership skills, and it’s clear that Devlin – who is the type to raise her hand and volunteer to get things done – has what it takes. The Corps accepts fewer than 50 nurse candidates annually for these coveted positions.

After passing her NCLEX exam this summer, Devlin spent five weeks in Officer Development School. At its conclusion, she was officially named an officer and Navy nurse with both military and nursing duties, and authority over a group of enlisted personnel. For the next two years, she’ll be posted in Virginia; after that, she’s hoping to be stationed in a hospital abroad where she’ll be treating Navy personnel, their families, and others in need. All in all, she has committed to the Navy for four years of active duty, plus four years in the Naval Reserves.

The travel bug bit Devlin years ago, but the desire to go abroad was reinforced with her trip to Ireland during her junior year. “Getting to see a hospital in a different part of the world was so interesting,” she said. “There, everything was on paper. The meds were set up differently. And the nursing school had classes for six weeks, then clinicals for six weeks...and they were paid positions!”

A native of Medfield, Mass., Devlin followed her brother Travers (Class of ’21) to Fairfield. At the time, “I was thinking about nursing but wasn’t sure,” she said. “When I visited, I discovered it was an amazing community.” Another plus for Fairfield was the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland: “A lot of nursing programs don’t allow for study abroad, and I knew I wanted to go overseas.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, Devlin received a sign-on bonus and earns a monthly stipend, part of which she’s putting toward her school loans. In Virginia, she gets a housing allowance and lives off-base. Her patient ratio is lower than it would be in a community hospital, and she’ll have the opportunity to be a charge nurse sooner than she would in civilian life. At this point, she’s considering a focus on either maternity or critical care nursing.

“One of the big reasons I joined the Navy is that its core values are similar to those of nursing and of Fairfield – that is, the idea of service. Fairfield has instilled this idea throughout college, and I’m really proud to be the Navy’s Stag representative!” l E

A World of Opportunities


Egan students can choose from specially tailored programs designed to expand their horizons in nursing, social work, or public health education.

During junior year, nursing students can select courses and participate in clinicals at Fairfield’s partner institutions at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia (fall semester) or National University of Ireland Galway (spring semester).

Beginning in spring 2024, nursing students also have a new option to spend the spring semester of their sophomore year at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy.

Offered as a semester study abroad opportunity, James Cook University in Townsville, Australia is designed to further develop aptitude in the nursing discipline, offer an international perspective on the subject matter, and provide an immersive 80-hour clinical placement experience.

Nursing student Autumn Arel ’24 described Townsville as “the perfect place to be as a college student,” with a beautiful waterfront and great places to shop and dine. Plus, it’s only a short flight from other popular Australian destinations such as Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.

During her time in Townsville, Arel completed her clinical rotation in a rheumatology, endocrinology, and general

international setting.

medicine unit. One of her favorite parts about the clinical experience was the relationships she formed with the nurses and healthcare professionals she worked alongside. “All the nurses I was partnered with were so committed to helping me grow as a student nurse,” she said. “They pushed me out of my comfort zone in the process.”

Another student, Kaitlyn Nolan ‘24, was paired with a nurse who treated patients on the acute floor during her clinical rotation at Townsville Hospital and Health Service, including those who have suffered strokes and neurological issues. Nolan also volunteered at Brighter Lives, the hospital’s official charity partner, and worked in the pediatric unit until January.

“This program and clinical rotation have been extremely eye-opening experiences,” she said, “and I’ve realized how much a nurse really impacts patients’ lives, and their families’ lives.”

Short-term options such as faculty-led intersession and summer programs are ideal for students who are unable to study abroad for an entire semester. Short-term options include London, England; Barcelona, Spain; Florence, Italy; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

One such experience is the faculty-led course in palliative care communication, taught in Florence, Italy. This

summer, undergraduate and graduate nursing and communication students spent a weeklong immersion at the Florence University of the Arts to learn about palliative care communication.

Led by faculty members Michael Pagano, PhD, PA-C, professor of communication, and Eileen O’Shea, DNP, APRN, PCNS-BC, CHPPN, professor of nursing and director of the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care, the interdisciplinary, intercultural course allowed students to develop an understanding of palliative care and the critical role communication plays in achieving the interdependent goals of providers, patients, and families, in the United States and in Italy. While in Italy, students attended lectures at Florence University of the Arts and visited local hospitals. Of her experience, Amelia Brennock ’25 said, “It sounds cliché, but it was absolutely life-changing for me. From Italy’s beautiful sights to our course’s powerful work, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.” l E

RIGHT: Fairfield students traveled overseas and observed a more patient-centric model of care during the summer immersion trip focused on palliative care education. Contributed photo
Fairfield offers Fairfield Egan undergraduate students an exceptional approach to study abroad, with opportunities for healthcare studies never before offered in the


Fairfield Egan’s Associate Professor of Nursing

Jessica Alicea Planas, PhD, RN, MS/MPH, CHES is on a mission to address the lack of diversity in the healthcare field. According to recent data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the registered nurse (RN) population is comprised of 80.8 percent White/Caucasian, 6.2 percent African American, 7.5 percent Asian, 5.3 percent Hispanic, 0.4 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.5 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, which is not reflective of our nation’s diversity. Men are also under-represented in nursing — they make up only nine percent of the RN population. Made possible with a partnership between the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (CTNAHN) and funding provided by the Network of the National Library of Medicine (region 7) DIVE-IN (Developing Inclusive Voices and Experiences in Nursing) is an outreach program that engages nurses with middle school students in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Taught by Dr. Planas and Maria D Krol, DNP, RNC-NIC, former president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, in this community-engaged learning experience, fifth and sixth grade students at a multicultural magnet school learn about some of the different kinds of jobs nurses can do, including various nursing specialties.

“Creative introductions about nursing as a career prior to high school are clearly needed if we are to impact the projected nursing shortage needs. Working with middle school students

should be a priority, as study habits and basic academic skills are still being formed. If interest can be piqued prior to entering high school, important course selections and opportunities can happen during these critical years,” said Dr. Planas.

During one of the first sessions, Dr. Planas asked the students what they think of when they hear the word “nurse” and one child responded, “They are a little bit less than a doctor.”

Looking to shift this perspective and get students from ethnically diverse backgrounds excited about nursing, she and Dr. Krol developed the DIVE-IN program with five sessions dedicated to nursing specialties—operating rooms, pediatrics, geriatrics, and community and public health. Each session included a nurse guest speaker and hands-on activities related to each specialty area.

Using activities like measuring the head circumference on a newborn, how to put on personal protective equipment (PPE), and wearing goggles and earplugs to mimic the hearing and visual impairment of geriatric patients helped the students to experience a day in the life of a nurse.

The program culminated in a field trip to Egan School’s Simulation Center. While on campus, students listened to lung and heart sounds on a mannequin, used a doppler to take a pulse, and wrapped an ace bandage on an artificial limb. The students received their own stethoscope, personal first aid kit, set of scrubs, and anatomy book as part of the program.

Feedback has been extremely positive. Dr. Planas said, “Both the teachers and students were excited to participate in the program. We hope to continue and expand, and work with different inner-city schools in the future.” l E

“Creative introductions about nursing as a career prior to high school are clearly needed if we are to impact the projected nursing shortage needs. Working with middle school students should be a priority, as study habits and basic academic skills are still being formed.”
Jessica Alicea Planas, PhD, RN, MS/MPH, CHES Associate Professor of Nursing

Making a Difference

A capstone project sheds light on the mental health challenges faced by immigrant pediatric patients.

Nursing student and Corrigan Scholar Katherine Tenemaza-Rojas ’23 is on a mission to bring light to the mental health challenges faced by immigrant pediatric patients. For her senior capstone project, she presented a unique look into mental health challenges encountered by immigrant pediatric patients — children who, without early detection, are often at higher risk for developing long-lasting mental health and behavioral health issues. In her project, Tenemaza-Rojas discussed how comprehensive mental health screenings, cultural sensitivity, and complete health histories can help support high-quality care for immigrant patients and their families.

“Pediatric nurses should be more aware of the challenges faced by immigrant patients,” she said. “Nurses who better understand the social and legal implications of immigration allow for advocacy at the bedside.”

As an immigrant herself, Tenemaza-Rojas feels a

personal connection to this topic and has witnessed the need for support within this vulnerable population during her clinical experiences at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

“I will never forget a mother that had a son with cerebral palsy, they both migrated within a month of that encounter, and she was unaware of the resources that were available to her and her child. In addition, the language barrier made it more challenging,” she said. The challenges faced by immigrant pediatric patients are multifaceted, including pre-migration trauma, exposure to violence, acculturation difficulties, discrimination, and the stress of the immigration process itself. These challenges can have long-lasting mental health impacts on children, especially those who are unaccompanied by their parents.

To improve outcomes for immigrant pediatric patients, Tenemaza-Rojas emphasizes the critical role of mothers in accessing mental health services for their children


and suggests that pediatric nurses should partner with and empower mothers, while also listening to their perspectives. Additionally, the research highlights the importance of a trauma-informed approach and the involvement of school nurses in supporting Latinx children and their families. Professional nursing organizations should provide ongoing education to nurses about the challenges faced by immigrant patients to enable advocacy and better patient assessment.

In addition to presenting her research at the Innovative Research Symposium, Tenemaza-Rojas’ work on mental health challenges in immigrant pediatric patients led to a national podium presentation and a poster presentation. She was also recently honored with the leadership award from the Sigma Theta Tau — Mu Chi Chapter. l E

“Pediatric nurses should be more aware of the challenges faced by immigrant patients. Nurses who better understand the social and legal implications of immigration allow for advocacy at the bedside.”
Katherine Tenemaza-Rojas ’23
RIGHT: Katherine Tenemaza-Rojas presented her research at the Innovative Research Symposium. Photo by Fairfield University Media Center

Fairfield Nursing Grad is Crowned Miss Connecticut

Karla Aponte Roque ’22 has undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry, earned another in nursing, works full-time as a med-surg telemetry nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital, and is an aspiring MBA student. Now, the graduate of Fairfield’s Accelerated Second Degree Nursing program has a new triumph to add to her list: being named Miss Connecticut 2023.

Pageants are popular in Puerto Rico, where Aponte Roque was born, and she became accustomed to the limelight at a young age. “When I was three years old, I went to etiquette school, and I was doing modeling portfolios until I was five, ”she recalled.

There was little of that type of opportunity after the family moved to Massachusetts, but Aponte Roque never stopped watching the pageants and dreaming of being on stage.

“I got the bug,” she said with a laugh.

When she was 16, Aponte Roque began competing in Latin pageants in Massachusetts and, after she relocated, in Connecticut. She decided to give it one last shot this year… the last year that the 27-year-old was eligible to compete. One of her fellow contestants was Christina Judd ’20, another Fairfield nursing student who also works at Yale.

“At the time, I was still in my nursing classes at Fairfield, but my fiancé was so encouraging to me. He knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try out,” said Aponte Roque. From September last year until the day of the pageant in April, her life was a whirlwind of classes and work, interview skills practice, shopping for that all-important gown, and familiarizing herself with as many state events as possible.

“Karla was lovely, and truly an excellent student. It was impressive to see how she managed to juggle her studies and clinicals while managing all she had to do in her personal life,” said Carole Pomarico, MSN, MA, RN, then the director of Fairfield’s adult nursing program.

The competition was the perfect time to shed light on issues that are most important to each contestant. Given her background, it’s no surprise that Aponte Roque’s passions have been focused on health advocacy for most of her life. She’s raised thousands of dollars for the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Cancer Society, and has worked with the American Heart Association. Her MBA is focused on healthcare, and she plans to go into management one day.

Now that she’s been crowned as a representative of Connecticut, Aponte Roque works with various organizations and program sponsors, often as a goodwill ambassador. Recently, for example, she made appearances at the New Haven Science Fair, several Memorial Day parades, and Make-a-Wish events. She’s also obligated to meet certain social media metrics. Her goal is to fill her calendar as much as possible. “I want to make our state proud,” she said.

Aponte Roque clearly relishes her win, but stresses that it’s not all glitz and glamor. “You dream of all the activities, and you don’t sleep, and you have swollen feet and you have to go to work the next day,” she said.

And she’s still competing, since each state winner has a shot at becoming Miss USA when the competition takes place in fall 2023. l E



Fairfield Egan has been awarded $2.45 million from the Connecticut Health Horizons Initiative, a threeyear higher education program launched by Governor Ned Lamont. The program is designed to address the shortage of nursing and behavioral health providers in the state of Connecticut.

The Egan School has been awarded $100,000 in funding from the American Association of Colleges and Nursing (AACN) to accelerate innovation in nursing education. The funding will be used to develop and implement innovative competency-based learning and assessment strategies into the curriculum. Fairfield Egan was awarded funding alongside Creighton University, Johns Hopkins University, and Texas State University, among others.

New York University and The Leona M. & Harry

B. Helmsley Charitable Trust granted $25,450 to Anthony Santella, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, professor of public health and Master of Public Health program director at Fairfield Egan, for his research project entitled “Homeless/ Shelter Population Enhanced Primary/Specialty Care Rates.”

Erica Wuchiski, MSN, RN, visiting instructor of nursing and Accelerated Master’s Entry to Practice Nursing (MEPN) program director at Fairfield Egan, received a grant of $4,000 from CVS Health Foundation to go towards scholarships for nursing students.

LEFT: A nursing student works on patientcentered skills in Egan’s state-of-the-art simulation center.

Photo by Joe Adams


Cynthia Bautista, PhD, RN, CNRN, SCRN, CCNS, ACNS-BC, FNCS, associate professor of nursing was selected to receive the 2023 Writing Excellence Award from the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses for her article, “A Delphi Study to Establish Research Priorities for Neuroscience Nursing,” printed in the April 2022 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.

Professor of Nursing Jaclyn Conelius, PhD, FNP-BC, FHRS, CHSE, FNAP was accepted into The Technology Informatics Guiding Educational Reform (TIGER) initiative at Vanderbilt University, which aims to enable practicing nurses and nursing students to fully engage in the unfolding digital electronic era in healthcare.

Assistant Professor Kim Doughty, PhD, MPH, CHES was selected to be the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerney Chair in Health Sciences beginning on Sept. 1, 2022, and continuing for a three-year term until Aug. 31, 2025. Established in 1979, this chair position provides support for facultystudent research in the Health Sciences.

Tanika Eaves ’96, PhD, LCSW, assistant professor of social work, has been selected as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar for the 20232024 Academic year. The goal of her project is to investigate the pregnancy, birthing and early parenting experiences of women living in New South Wales, Australia. Fulbright Scholar awards are prestigious and

competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad and play a critical role in U.S. public diplomacy.

Associate Professor of Nursing Jessica Alicea Planas, PhD, RN, MS/MPH was selected to receive the Marlene Kramer Outstanding Alumni Award for Research in Nursing by the University of Connecticut. She was selected as an AL DÍA Top Nurse at an event that celebrates multicultural men and women who have been at the frontlines, making essential contributions to their diverse patients and communities.

Linda Roney, EdD, RN-BC, CPEN, CNE, associate professor of nursing, was selected to receive the 2023 Society for Trauma Nurses (STN) Leadership Award. This competitive award is presented annually at the STN annual conference to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in trauma through practice, research, publication, education, patient advocacy, injury prevention, trauma system development, or legislative involvements during their career at a local, state, or national level.

Joyce Shea, DNSc, APRN, PMHCNSBC, former associate dean for graduate studies, was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) on October 28, 2022. Induction into the academy is among the greatest honors in the nursing profession, reserved for leaders who are at the forefront of our profession. Dr. Shea

was also the recipient of the 2022 American Psychiatric Nurses Association Award for Psychiatric Nurse of the Year. This is one of the highest honors in the psychiatric-mental health nursing profession, awarded to those dedicated to excellence in this practice area. Assistant Professor of Nursing Lisa Sundean, PhD, MHA, RN, received the Janet Madigan Award from the regional Organization for Nursing Leadership (ONL) at its annual conference in June 2023, in Newport, R.I. The award is given for excellence in advancing nursing policy.

RIGHT: Students engage in a simulation.

BACK COVER: Graduate students attend a classroom lecture; Undergraduate nursing students gain hands-on experience during a simulation.

Photos by Fairfield University Media Center

Consistent with the mission of Fairfield University to develop men and women for others, the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies inspires students to become leaders in healthcare. These students are actively engaged with faculty in practice, research, scholarship, and service. As a Jesuit institution, a central focus of our care is to improve health outcomes with particular attention given to the needs of the underserved or vulnerable populations.

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Fairfield, Connecticut
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