Outstanding Graduate Gears Her Career Toward Helping Seniors

05/30/02    ASHLAND, Ore.

On June 15, Grants Pass native Casey Mayo will be one of 39 students to earn a bachelor of science degree from the OHSU School of Nursing, Ashland Campus at Southern Oregon University. But she will stand alone in two respects: as the first Hartford Scholar to graduate from the Ashland campus and as the recipient of the Faculty Award for Outstanding Undergraduate.

Mayo is one of three inaugural enrollees in the "B.S. to M.S./Ph.D. Fast Track Program," a new scholarship program designed to boost the ranks of highly trained geriatric nurses. It's one facet of the John A. Hartford Foundation Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence (CGNE) at OHSU, which is committed to increasing the region's capacity to provide effective, affordable nursing care to its burgeoning elderly population.

The Faculty Award honors an outstanding student who, among other qualities, has demonstrated academic excellence, clinical expertise, community involvement and potential for future achievement in nursing.

Mayo, 30, was inspired to enter geriatric nursing after her work as a certified nursing assistant during high school confirmed a vocational interest in elder care. Although she spent seven years as a Korean linguist in the U.S. Air Force, she always knew nursing was her passion. During her junior year in nursing school, her clinical instructor -- a geriatric nurse practitioner -- sparked her interest in gerontology. "I have explored the many different avenues of nursing," she said, "and I have found that this is my true love."

Mayo says the Hartford Scholarship has opened up bountiful opportunities and reinforced her career path. As a scholar, Mayo received money for tuition, focused clinical rotations on older adults, assisted associate professor Juliana Cartwright, R.N., Ph.D., in conducting end-of-life care research, attended the 54th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Chicago last November, and received assistance in applying to OHSU's M.S./Ph.D. gerontological nursing program.

That's where Mayo is headed this summer. She hopes to earn her master's degree in two years, and then spend another two completing her Ph.D. coursework. At that point, with 10 years' of postsecondary education under her belt, she will have gained scholarly tools important to propagating her belief in "real life after age 60."

"I believe this program will give me the knowledge required to help share my passion with other nursing professionals," said Mayo, "and to guide their passions as well."

During the last year, Mayo said Cartwright has provided invaluable guidance as her mentor. "Having her encouragement and support has made all the difference," she said. Cartwright commends Mayo as "just the type of person we need in gerontological nursing," citing her inquiring mind, critical-thinking and communication skills, poise, assertiveness and sincerity. "You put all those together," Cartwright said, "and you've got someone with great potential as a nurse-scientist."

Mayo's long-term goal is to become just that: a nurse scientist specializing in gerontology. She also wants to teach, which is currently one of the specialty's biggest needs and a goal of the scholarship program, said Lois Miller, R.N., Ph.D., associate professor of nursing, and a CGNE program administrator and member of OHSU's geriatric nursing faculty. "We're hoping the people in this program will train the next generation of students entering the field." A generation that hopefully will include more students like Casey Mayo.

Graduation information for OHSU School of Nursing, Ashland Campus:
Number of graduates: 39; pinning and convocation: 5 p.m., June 14 at Windmill Inn, Ashland; commencement: 9 a.m., June 15 at Lithia Park, Ashland.

For more information about commencement contact Chris Fiuren, 541 552-6229 or fiurenc@ohsu.edu.

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