Meet Our Ph.D. Students

Robin Tarter- Ph.D. Student

OHSU SON: What is your background? Where are you from?

Robin Tarter: I grew up in Berkeley, Ca in a family of academically and artistically minded immigrants.  My first degree was inRobin Tarter, PhD student Biology at UC Berkeley, followed by a Master’s in Bioacoustics for which I spent 4 years researching social learning and communication in birds and teaching comparative physiology.  I decided I wanted to touch people, and to explore existential questions in the context of the human health, so I changed careers and became a hospice nurse.

OHSU SON: If you would like to share, did you receive any funding or scholarships?

Robin Tarter: I am thankful to have received the Dean’s Scholarship.

OHSU SON: Why did you choose OHSU?

Robin Tarter: In searching for a graduate program, I looked for collegiality, creativity and a humanistic attitude.  Studying the work of the OHSU graduate faculty, I was impressed by the depth of questions being considered and diversity of rigorous methodology.  Everyone I have met in the OHSU school of nursing is deeply compassionate and committed to enriching the lives of patients and communities through scholarship and the application of scientific knowledge to practice.

OHSU SON: What is your research focus and what got you interested in it?

Robin Tarter: Since before I started working in health care, I have been drawn to older people and curious about how nearing the end of life changes the experience of being human.  I’m also interested in how care partnership can occur across barriers of language, cognitive capability and experience.  This interest has been shaped by my clinical and personal connection to families facing terminal illness who report a disconnection between their values and the supports offered by our healthcare system.  My research focus is on community based palliative care at end-of-life with attention to subjective symptom experience and interpersonal dynamics.

OHSU SON: Who inspires you in your research work and why?

Robin Tarter: Oliver Sacks, Albert Camus and Cicely Saunders are my greatest inspirations as a researcher and nurse.  In more proximate terms, I am inspired by the work of Prof. Betty Ferrell on end of life nursing, Dr. Eric Cassell on the nature of suffering and Dr. Thomas Kitwood on personhood and dementia.  The researchers at OHSU who have had the greatest influence on my research goals thus far are Dr. Karen Lyons, whose work in dyads with chronic illness calls into question the individualistic nature of most healthcare interventions and Dr. Martha Driessnack who has developed novel ways to communicate about fear with children.

OHSU SON: What do you hope to accomplish once you receive your PhD?

Robin Tarter: After finishing my PhD, I hope to teach, do research, see patients and do public outreach.  My central goals are collaboratively creating and disseminating knowledge about the process of dying because I believe that our culture’s denial of death and marginalization of community care partners is detrimental to the health and well-being of all members of our society.

Elle Cooper - Ph.D. Student

OHSU SON: What is your background? Where are you from?

Elle Cooper: I’m originally from Gig Harbor, Washington and moved to Portland specifically for this program. I have a Elle Cooperbackground in exercise physiology and economics as well as a master’s of science in biochemical and molecular nutrition. I just completed my master’s in nursing back in Washington and am excited to hopefully put my background studies and experiences to good use in the field of nursing research.

OHSU SON: If you would like to share, did you receive any funding or scholarships?

Elle Cooper: I am a fortunate recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship that is making it possible for me to attend this program. I am so grateful to have been afforded this opportunity to develop my skills and base of knowledge and ultimately pursue my passion to help positively shape a healthcare sector that promotes health and wellness by engaging in thoughtful scientific inquiry and working to translate it into practice.

OHSU SON: Why did you choose OHSU?

Elle Cooper: From the very beginning my interest in pursing my Ph.D. in nursing at OHSU has been met with kindness, encouragement, and excitement. That is what originally attracted me to the program. It was the stellar faculty and staff in the school of nursing as well as the larger institution, the high level of research and inquiry, and the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary projects that sealed the deal.

OHSU SON: What is your research focus and what got you interested in it?

Elle Cooper: I am currently pursing my long-held interests in physical activity, nutrition, and behavior change in both cancer populations and in community contexts. I plan to do a practicum in the winter, which will allow me to delve deeper into the topic of exercise and nutrition interventions for improved health outcomes in specific cancer populations.

OHSU SON: Who inspires you in your research work and why?

Elle Cooper: The amazing faculty in the school of nursing constantly challenges and encourages me to “dig deeper” and look at problems from a variety of new and innovative perspectives. Ultimately, it is the tenacity and dedication of my fellow nurses and the prospect of improving the lives of patients that keeps me inspired daily.

OHSU SON: What do you hope to accomplish once you receive your PhD?

Elle Cooper: The lens through which I could explore lifestyle change and health improvement in the exercise and nutrition sciences was rather narrow. Nursing has provided me the “whole person” health focus that I have been searching for. In obtaining my Ph.D. I hope to engage in transformative actionable research and participate in health policy development and implementation that will aid in influencing a preventative approach to care. I would also like to help shape the nursing profession by assisting in the teaching and training of future nurse researchers.

Kalisha Bonds

By Christi Richardson-Zboralski
Kalisha Bonds, Ph.D. student and geriatric nursing advocate, hails from Trezevant –a small town (population 850) in West Kalisha BondsTennessee.Bonds was raised by her grandmother and always liked hearing about other people's life experiences. She developed a strong curiosity about the way people related to each other and their environments as they grew older.

When she got a terrible burn on her leg as an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee at Martin she was introduced to nursing as a patient. She bonded with one nurse at the Student Health center where she was treated twice a week for over a month, even attending the nurse's wedding. Those interactions and that relationship stuck with her. After receiving her Master's at Vanderbilt University as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner she worked with adolescents who had mental health issues.

Eventually she began working full-time at a nursing home, which she found to be one of the best decisions she made. "Soon after graduation, I started working with older adults in long-term care facilities providing medication management and therapy. This experience influenced my research topic."

Bonds was recently awarded the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholarship for2016-2018, In addition to being grateful for the financial support for her education,she looks forward to the leadership development and networking that will occur in this program.

Bonds hopes to focus on dementia care, to improve the quality of life for patients, and to more deeply understand the disease while expanding knowledge of clients and their care givers.

Her advice, "Never give up on your dream.There will be a way. Trust your mentors and the guidance they give you."

From the winter 2016 Connections Newsletter

Molly Campbell - Ph.D. Student

OHSU SON:  What is your background? Where are you from?

Molly CampbellMolly Campbell: I grew up in a small town in Alaska, living off salmon and homegrown vegetables. In 2009, I completed my associate degree in nursing at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon and have worked primarily in hospitals as a cardiac nurse. I completed by Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2016 at OHSU. I also teach wilderness medicine, leadership and decision-making on 30-day trips for National Outdoor Leadership School and host a country-music show on community radio.

OHSU SON:  If you would like to share, did you receive any funding or scholarships?

Molly Campbell: I am the fortunate recipient of the Dean's Scholarship which fully funds my tuition and fees.

OHSU SON: Why did you choose OHSU?

Molly Campbell: OHSU is on the cutting edge of nursing research. The science happening at the OHSU School of Nursing is diverse in scope and inspired in design. The newly-designed Ph.D. curriculum prepares nurse scientists to contribute substantially to our understanding of health and the human experience.

Students are encouraged to explore more radical theories to inform research into the experience of marginalized groups. OHSU promotes a caring and rigorous atmosphere inspiring students to put all of their brain, heart and soul into their work. Also, the amenities like a membership to the fitness center and access to the student health clinic make it easy to stay healthy while in school.

OHSU SON: What is your research focus and what got you interested in it?

Molly Campbell: I study how people with serious illness make decisions about treatment. My interest in this topic grew from my work as a hospital nurse where I watched patients and families struggle to make sense of their medical choices and their own personal priorities. I see a need to improve how the medical system and patients communicate with each other.

OHSU SON: Who inspires you in your research work and why?

Molly Campbell: My mentor, Lissi Hansen, inspires me with her passion and commitment to understanding the experiences of her study participants.

OHSU SON: What do you hope to accomplish once you receive your PhD?

Molly Campbell: One of my goals is to give back to the field of nursing by teaching at the undergraduate level. I also plan to continue scientific inquiry into palliative care and decision-making.

See more student interviews on the 2016 Ph.D. cohort page