School of Nursing's Two Nurse Faculty Scholars

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has recognized Drs. Katapodi and Talsma as the "next generation of national leaders in academic nursing."

Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) exists as the United States’ largest philanthropic organization whose sole mission is to improve health and healthcare. From playing a role in the creation of the nation’s first emergency response system, 9-1-1, to co-facilitating a paradigm shift towards recognizing end-of-life care as its own area of focus, the RWJF has been instrumental in the ongoing evolution and improvement of American healthcare.
Given the organization’s formidable legacy, it is with pride that the University of Michigan School of Nursing boasts two faculty members who have been named Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars: Dr. Maria Katapodi and Dr. AkkeNeel Talsma. Currently selecting only twelve awardees per year, the foundation’s Nurse Faculty Scholars program recognizes and supports standout junior faculty who have demonstrated their promise and their commitment to becoming the “next generation of national leaders in academic nursing.” In addition to the prestige and honor of such a designation, Drs. Katapodi and Talsma each receive grant funding for mentorship, leadership training, and research support over their three year award period.
Undoubtedly the Nurse Faculty Scholar award is first and foremost evidence of Dr. Katapodi’s and Dr. Talsma’s current and future contributions to the field of nursing; it is also, however, a recognition of the University of Michigan School of Nursing’s deep-rooted belief in the fundamental value of nursing scholarship. Through the provision of ample resources and the fostering of mentoring relationships, the School supports the work of nursing researchers and scholars at all levels like Drs. Katapodi and Talsma who make a real and tangible difference in the way patients receive health and healthcare services in all communities – state, nation, and world. The School of Nursing congratulates Dr. Katapodi and Dr. Talsma on their accomplishments and looks forward to continuing its support of their future endeavors.

Dr. Maria Katapodi

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar (September 2010-August 2013)

Dr. Maria Katapodi - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Facutly  Scholar

Genetics is a central interest of Dr. Maria Katapodi (Assistant Professor, Division of Acute, Critical and Long-Term Care Programs) and, accordingly, her research focuses on developing communication interventions for women with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and their families. Regarding her decision to become a nurse, Dr. Katapodi says, “For a lot of nursing students, at some point in their lives, they have been the care giver of someone and they saw what nurses can or cannot do for them…You remember a nursewho has been very kind to you or to your family member and you say, ‘I want to do that’.”
And doing that she is. With the start of her award in September 2010, Dr. Katapodi is building on her previous research as well as the expertise of her mentors Dr. Laurel Northouse (Professor, Division of Acute, Critical and Long-Term Care Programs) and Dr. Sofia Merajver (UMHS, Department of Internal Medicine). As she explains, her focus is women who have a specific gene mutation that carries with it a strong pre-disposition to early onset and very aggressive breast and ovarian cancer. Currently there is no standard of how these women can talk to their family members who may also carry the gene. “I’m trying to solve the communication problem,” she says explaining that only an estimated 40-50% of those who are known to carry the gene actually seek preventative treatment. It can be hard news, certainly, but “I believe the benefits can outweigh the psychological cost,” resulting in individuals empowered to make informed decisions.
Just entering her award period, Dr. Katapodi knows that she has a lot to look forward to. In addition to bolstering her intervention through the development of specific modules that facilitate family communication about hereditary cancer, she will also have the opportunity to run focus groups, refining her intervention before taking it into a final pilot testing stage. Then, there will also be the experiential learning that comes with national and international exposure; one of the biggest benefits of being named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar, she thinks, is that she “will be exposed to nurses who have demonstrated academic leadership in bringing about changes in the profession. It’s not that you can take a course on leadership. It’s that you need to be involved and see how others are doing it.”
Understanding how to become an effective leader will be instrumental in Dr. Katapodi’s continuing career as she has a vision for the future of nursing. Genetics may be a newer field especially in nursing practice, but Dr. Katapodi is confident that “it is here to stay” and so, she sees the need for genetics care to become a standard practice. This, she recognizes, will take time but she looks forward to leading a charge to improve curriculum so that nurses are “heavily involved in genetics and genetics care” starting from their undergraduate training and continuing on.


Dr. AkkeNeel Talsma

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar (September 2008-August 2011)
For Dr. AkkeNeel Talsma (Assistant Professor, Division of Nursing Business and Health Systems Programs), the unique benefits of being a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar began even before her selection, during the application and candidate review period. “Going through the process helps you with your research career,” Dr. Talsma explains pointing to the momentum a young researcher can build in preparing the comprehensive research plan required for all candidates. Thinking through the details of an investigation method, fostering mentor relationships, getting firm commitments from collaborators – “and then I had fifteen minutes and five slides to present it all, to convince them.”
Obviously an intensive process, Dr. Talsma acknowledges the critical role that the School’s support played in her success; just getting to the point of submitting an application “sends a strong message that U-M and the School are behind you.” One person in particular who was key in Dr. Talsma’s initial and continued excellence as a Scholar is her mentor, Dr. Joanne Pohl (Professor, Division of Health Promotion and Risk-Reduction Programs). An experienced researcher and academic, Dr. Pohl helped Dr. Talsma prepare for the new, national arena which she was on the precipice of entering with her bid for the award. “She provided the context for a national level of thinking… asking ‘what about this? and this?’” It was this pertinent feedback and Dr. Pohl’s ability to connect her with new colleagues all over the country that Dr. Talsma credits for facilitating the next steps in expanding her research and in preparing her for national recognition. Another big supporter was Dr. Beatrice Kalisch (Professor and Chair, Division of Nursing Business and Health Systems Programs); “Dr. Kalisch was supportive from day one,” making herself available during the application process and coordinating schedules so as to free up personnel integral to Dr. Talsma’s research.
Since the period of her scholarship began in September 2008, Dr. Talsma has been busy actively pursuing the opportunities afforded her by the award. Her research focuses on improving peri-operative systems of care and outcomes or, as she puts it, she seeks “a better way of doing it.” Though this area has been a focal point throughout her career, the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar award has allowed her the time to conduct an investigation and the funds to hire personnel, culminating in her ability to critically analyze important factors within her program of research. For Dr. Talsma, an ideal outcome would be the development of easy-to-implement methods and strategies that facilitate more efficient use of both personnel and time in the peri-operative stage of surgical procedures. It’s the seemingly small issues like count discrepancies and punctuality with scheduled start times where we can make a big impact, Dr. Talsma explains, but we need to identify these areas and understand them first.
In the scheme of things, Dr. Talsma sees herself as only one player in a much larger picture. While the Nurse Faculty Scholar recognition has helped her create the foundational research for a collaborative initiative with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and has developed her personal status and connections on a national level, she understands the benefits to the U-M School of Nursing as a whole as even greater. The same type of momentum she gathered in preparing her application she thinks the School of Nursing can harness from having two junior faculty promoted to such a high level of national prominence. Describing the award as an opportunity for the entire School of Nursing, Dr. Talsma looks forward to helping the School further develop its ability to support young investigators, fostering their engagement with the broader community of nursing researchers.