What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
My current research focuses on reducing type 2 diabetes and cancer health disparities and improving health outcomes in underserved populations, with a special focus in the American Indian populations. I have several studies focused on intervention development around multi-generational diabetes prevention and management interventions with American Indian communities. Recently, I extended my research to cancer and type 2 diabetes due to the strong link that exists between these two chronic diseases. We are currently developing a nurse-led intervention to help detect and manage diabetes in patients with newly diagnosed cancer while also bridging the gap between cancer and type 2 diabetes care.
Who or what has inspired you to pursue this career?
My grandmother was my inspiration for becoming a nurse and later a nurse scientist. Growing up, I would often go with my grandmother to care for people in her small, rural community. I loved watching and helping her care for others. It was through these interactions I knew I wanted to be a nurse. After working as a nurse for several years, I decided to return to school to earn my Ph.D. in nursing. Several of my family members and people within my community had chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and often times these diseases went unmanaged. I wanted to give back to my tribe (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) as well as my community through decreasing health disparities and improving health outcomes.
Why did you decide to focus on cancer?
As I worked with American Indian communities, I would often hear tribal leaders express concern about the high rates of cancer within our communities in addition to type 2 diabetes. I knew diabetes and many types of cancers were linked and that undiagnosed diabetes could have a negative impact on cancer outcomes. I decided to extend my research to include cancer and direct my work toward harmonizing treatment for these two chronic conditions.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my family doing outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. We are avid travelers. Being a relative newcomer to Florida, my family and I are enjoying exploring different areas of the state. We enjoy visiting my parents in Utah where we are always amazed by the majestic mountains that are the backdrop to Salt Lake City. We are also planning a family trip next summer to explore Northern Europe.