Lakeshia Cousin, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC

Lakeshia Cousin, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC, is an assistant professor in the department of family, community and health systems science in the College of Nursing. Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, she celebrated her first year as an assistant professor on July 1. Dr. Cousin is clinically trained as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner. She received her Ph.D. in nursing science from the University of South Florida College of Nursing and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

At the Cancer Center, she is a member of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences program and partners with the UF Health Cancer Center community-partnered Cancer Disparities Research Collaborative. She is also a member of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team.

Her teaching responsibilities focus on the BSN and DNP programs and mentoring undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Her teaching and mentoring philosophy are inspired by her dedication to health equity and diversity and to preparing future nurses to become leaders in social change.

Dr. Cousin is a nurse scientist who bridges health equity, behavioral medicine and psychosocial support to research improvements in breast cancer survivorship for underserved populations. Her significant contributions to nursing science include providing preliminary evidence on gratitude’s mental and physical benefits for Black community members at risk for cardiovascular disease. Dr. Cousin is a 2022-2024 awardee of the Older Americans Independence Center/National Institute on Aging Pepper Scholar and UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Scholar grant awards. Future culturally tailored nursing interventions will examine psychosocial support to improve lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity to reduce cardiometabolic risk among Black breast cancer survivors.

She holds memberships in national and international organizations such as the American Nurses Association/Florida Nurses Association, Southern Nurses Research Society, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, Oncology Nurses Society, and Society of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Cousin also serves as an editorial board member of Seminars in Oncology Nursing, an international oncology nursing research journal.

What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?

My research interests focus on developing culturally tailored psychosocial interventions to improve self-care and physical activity among older Black breast cancer survivors. Recently, I received two grant awards to support my research as a UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Scholar and a UF Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center Scholar with the National Institute on Aging. This fall, my pilot feasibility study, titled “Grateful Strides toward Physical Activity and Well-Being for Black Breast Cancer Survivors Study,” will assess the feasibility of a gratitude intervention to promote physical activity and well-being and positively impact health biomarkers among older Black breast cancer survivors. The intervention will also include a goal-setting component to promote exercise readiness and examine the cultural phenomena of the Superwoman schema among Black women. I am fortunate to receive support and mentorship from the UF Health Cancer Center to help achieve my research goals.

How did you end up going into medicine and/or why did you decide on your specialty?

My nursing journey was a unique experience. I also hold a business degree with over a decade of experience in financial analysis until I experienced a life-changing event that drew me into nursing. My grandmother, who raised me, was a breast cancer survivor who also lived with Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. During her last bout with breast cancer, I became intrigued with committing the rest of my career to serving others in need. I realized during my time off to raise my small children and volunteering at a local hospital that nursing was a perfect fit for me. After witnessing my grandmother’s loss with her battle with breast cancer and other members of my family and community struggling living with multiple chronic diseases, it was my calling to become a nurse scientist and make an impact in my community. I was grateful that my family and friends supported my major career-changing decision, and I received a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship to pay for my graduate nursing degrees. A bonus is that I frequently use my financial analysis and business skills as a researcher!

“After witnessing my grandmother’s loss with her battle with breast cancer and other members of my family and community struggling living with multiple chronic diseases, it was my calling to become a nurse scientist and make an impact in my community.”

Lakeshia Cousin, Ph.D., APRN, AGPCNP-BC

Who or what has inspired you to pursue this career?

My community inspires me, specifically Black patients I served whose lives are impacted by health disparities. There are specific differences among the Black population dealing with multimorbidity, especially biologically, behaviorally and clinically. This was one of the main reasons that I wanted to become a health disparities researcher to understand and identify contextual factors (e.g., gratefulness, spiritual well-being, social determinants of health, cultural frameworks) that may impact cancer and cardiovascular risk in this population and to think about nursing interventions and a psychosocial model that I can effectively implement and develop as a nurse scientist.

What do you want to achieve with your work and/or in your career?

I want to develop a larger, effective multimodal intervention to assist older Black cancer survivors’ psychosocial needs, promote mobility and independence and pay homage to my grandmother’s legacy.

What excites you about your work? What is exciting to you about your field right now?

I am excited to develop an intervention that has not been tested in Black women. Most of the research regarding gratitude has been in universal terms and how it benefits health and happiness, but most of the evidence comes from studying White American college students. As the first investigator to establish the psychometric properties of a measure of dispositional gratitude (Gratitude Questionnaire-6) among Blacks, I hope to develop a unique model that improves our understanding of the pathways by which psychological variables such as gratitude can influence biobehavioral health outcomes such as inflammatory biomarkers and physical activity patterns among Black cancer survivors.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and participating in my favorite self-care moments, including kickboxing, running and relaxing at the beach or anywhere by water, as a true Floridian should.