October 2021

My Life as a Gator Nurse Scientist

A day in the life as a PhD candidate and nurse scientist is challenging. As a first-generation Mexican-American and the first in my family to attend college, the process of integrating myself into an academic culture has not been easy. Many times, I feel as I am walking into situations that feel completely novel and I have a sense of loneliness navigating something so foreign to me.

Despite all the challenges and hardships, my academic life at the University of Florida College of Nursing has allowed me to do new things, break new ground and overcome challenges that once seemed impossible. During my academic journey, I have learned that I am not alone. The social support that is available through my family, friends and members of the UF academic community has been essential to my success.  

I decided to pursue my PhD at the UF College of Nursing after my exposure to research as a senior undergraduate nursing student in the college's honors program.  I realized the importance of research and the impact it could have on people’s lives. It was then that I understood I became a nurse not simply because of my desire to care for others, but my wish to pursue a profession where future leaders have the knowledge base to identify gaps in health care and transform the health care system. Today, I am filled with even more passion and motivation to address health disparities and inequities.

 -Janet Lopez, BSN, RN, sixth-year PhD candidate


PhD Student Profile

Fourth-year PhD student Marina Magalhães, BSN, RN, shared a little bit about her time as a Gator Nurse scientist.

What are your research interests?

My research interest is in maternal and newborn care, lactation and health equity, especially among high-risk pregnancies and critically ill infants. These interests further developed during my time working as a bedside nurse in the UF Health NICU.

Why did you choose the UF College of Nursing?

I had an amazing experience at UF as a BSN student and working under the right mentor was important to me. My current dissertation mentor, Leslie Parker, PhD, APRN, NNP-BC, FAAN, was also my BSN honors thesis advisor. I was ecstatic to have her support to continue in her lab as a PhD student.

A fun fact about you?

I have an identical twin sister! Our parents still speak of the wonderful nurses who cared for us in the NICU 26 years ago.


Research Roundup

Two University of Florida College of Nursing researchers, Diana Wilkie, PhD, RN, FAAN and Yingwei Yao, PhD, earned a four-year $3 million grant to support a large national study to test the effect of a web-based educational tool that aims to help young adults understand sickle cell disease — or even prevent it from being inherited.

The award from the National Human Genome Research Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, will fund a study comparing a web-based, interactive tool with an e-book to analyze its effect on genetic inheritance knowledge and reproductive behaviors for vulnerable individuals, as well as to determine which method is more effective. 

Read more


Video: Why I Chose UF Nursing for my PhD Studies

PhD student Ashley Andraski, BSN, RN, shares how her experience with Type 1 diabetes inspired her to become a nurse researcher who works to develop new advances in health care for all.

Ashley is also a double Gator — she received her BSN from the University of Florida!

Hear Ashley's story


Faculty Profile

This month's faculty profile is on Miriam Ezenwa, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, FAAN, associate professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing Science.

Ezenwa's research interests are in health disparities for pain management, particularly in patients with chronic illnesses such as sickle cell disease (SCD) or cancer, which involve frequent episodes of severe pain and the use of non-drug therapies, such as guided relaxation, to manage pain.

What drew you to sickle cell research?

After earning my PhD in nursing, I learned about a NIH/NHLBI opportunity called the Basic and Translational Research Scholars Program geared toward training scientists to become experts in sickle cell disease research. I became a sickle cell scholar and participated in the program for two years, which served as my postdoctoral training.

I was excited for the opportunity because the image of a neighborhood teenage boy and neighbor who died of sickle cell disease when I was a teenager myself is etched in my brain to this day. He was very likable and kind, but sickle cell disease robbed him of the joy of life and brought him so much suffering that was palpable to me as a child. Whenever I think about this teenage boy, it stokes my desire to learn more about a disease that currently torture over five million individuals in my home country, Nigeria, so I can give back through my research findings that can be used by my people.

What excites you about conducting research at the College of Nursing?

The opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of research experts at the college Palliative Care Center, as well as the clinicians and staff at UF Health/Shands hospital. This collaboration is instrumental to my continuous growth as a researcher and principal investigator as I implement my NIH funded grants. I also enjoy the support of the Office of Research Support staff, whose support is invaluable to submit these grants and manage the post award administrative process.  

What's a fun fact about you?

I am an avid dancer in worship of God and I pray incessantly. This practice serves two purposes for me. Dancing is a way to stay physically healthy. As an academic nurse researcher, I sit a lot for meetings, webinars and conferences. I believe that through dancing, I can prevent deep vein thrombosis and other ailments caused by physical inactivity. Second, the act of dancing releases endorphins, a natural pain reliever and feel good medicine, which helps me to manage stress in my daily life.

For me, it’s a win-win situation. As a child, I intended to become a Catholic nun. However, I maintain my spirit of service to God through worship since I could not serve him as a nun.


Gator Nurse Spotlight

Following a brief hiatus in 2020 when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of Nursing’s Research Summit and Malasanos Lectureship resumed this year for its 17th edition. During the event on April 16, faculty, students, clinicians and interdisciplinary professionals alike showcased cutting-edge research and changes to health care’s landscape.

Read more


To learn more about the University of Florida College of Nursing's PhD programs, including faculty mentors and admissions information, visit here or contact Mailing Pauzauskie at mpauzauskie@ufl.edu!


Current PhD students, if you have information for Discover Magazine, submit it to Kyle Chambers at kylechambers61@ufl.edu!


Stay tuned for the next issue of Discover Magazine in November!


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