Preparing the Next Generation
Long before a star researcher’s discovery turns the scientific community on its head, that researcher is a student. Training the next generation of nurses, doctors, and researchers is an essential part of the pursuit of new knowledge. Supporting students with scholarships and fellowships is an invaluable gift to promising young minds.
UVA School of Nursing’s Certified Nurse Leader (CNL) program is graduating a new type of nurse—individuals who are prepared to dramatically improve how nursing care is delivered.
The CNL program is the first of its kind in Virginia, and is ranked third in the nation. After they graduate, many of these nurses often rise quickly into leadership and management positions.
Many CNL students are also career switchers who bring a wide variety of experiences to the field. However, because most CNL students come to nursing later in life, they are presented with the challenge of balancing the responsibilities of full-time education and supporting a family.
Fortunately, Washington, D.C.-based philanthropists Joanne and Bill Conway have donated generously to UVA School of Nursing in order to support promising CNL candidates who demonstrate financial need. Their generosity is bringing even more diverse individuals to nursing, furthering ties to the communities they serve.
Paterson Ilunga and Lucie Ndaya, a married couple originally from Congo, are students in UVA’s CNL program, thanks to Conway Scholarships.
“With this scholarship, I feel more empowered to reach my long-term objectives and vision to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology,” says Ndaya.
“I’m a parent, husband, and an adult learner, which presents my family with some financial constraints and pressures,” says Ilunga. “The Conway Scholarship soothes these pressures, allowing me to totally concentrate on my education.”
MENTORING IN THE LAB
For generations, doctors and researchers thought that the nervous and immune systems rarely communicated, but a discovery made in the lab of UVA neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis has changed that.
Thanks to work from UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG), we now know that these two systems work together harmoniously—the immune system in near-constant observation of our brain’s health and activity. We also know that this link shows great promise for treating a host of prominent diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, autism, and schizophrenia.
The chance to study under pioneering researchers like Kipnis attracted Cat Lammert to UVA.
“I have grown so much in my time at UVA, and it’s all due to the people I’m surrounded by at the BIG Center,” says Lammert, a PhD candidate who studies autism and brain development. “The ideas, critiques, and suggestions that I receive have only made my work better and pushed me in a direction that I never could have imagined on my own.”
What’s more, Lammert says that the way the BIG Center is organized sets it apart from other institutions.
“You can find great neuroimmunology research at many universities, but it usually isn’t connected to other disciplines,” says Lammert. “But at UVA it’s multidisciplinary. Our doors are open, our labs are all in the same building, and all of the disciplines are wrapped around neuroimmunology.”
THE REALIZATION OF A DREAM
For Jomar Aryee, a fourth-year student in the UVA School of Medicine, it’s all about his family.
“They’re really proud of me,” says Aryee, who moved to the United States from Jamaica when he was 16. “During my family’s Thanksgiving gathering a few months ago, my aunt proudly said, ‘Jomar, you will be the first doctor in the family.’ It was at that moment I realized that I’m doing something so many of my family members didn’t have the chance to do.”
Since arriving in Charlottesville, Aryee has tackled the intense academic rigor a medical education presents while finding time to mentor minority students through the Student National Medical Association’s (SNMA) Discover Medicine program.
“I’m grateful that the School of Medicine and Office of Diversity provide support for our organization, SNMA, which allows students like me to give back to the community,” says Aryee, who will pursue a career in orthopedic surgery.
“The culture at UVA is such that it really allows you to cultivate your passions,” says Aryee. “My classmates are spectacular, my professors are excellent, and the coursework is extremely interesting.”
And fortunately for Aryee, his medical school journey was made possible by the generosity of others who came before him—a scholarship from the School of Medicine Class of 1940.
“What UVA does when it gives students scholarships is to make a dream real,” says Aryee. “You can’t quantify that.”