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Our Students

Exceptional, diverse, supportive, driven. Penn Nursing students are some of the best in the country, and we are proud that they’ve decided to pursue their goals with us.

Let us introduce you to some of them:

  • Amy Elizabeth Barrera-Cancedda

    Amy Elizabeth (E-beth) Barrera-Cancedda received her Bachelor of Science and Master in Public Health from Emory University, where she focused her studies on Anthropology and Global Health, particularly infectious diseases. Following her graduate studies, she worked for Harvard School of Public Health as a Research Coordinator in Rwanda, where she facilitated the development of a family-centered intervention for HIV/AIDS affected families.

    Prior to starting at Penn Nursing as a Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation , Elizabeth worked for Partners In Health (PIH) as a Tuberculosis Analyst for TB CARE II, a collaborative project between USAID and PIH.  While in this position, her chief role was to work closely with Ministries of Health in high burden TB countries to implement novel infection control interventions to reduce nosocomial transmission among healthcare workers in various healthcare environments. After completing this project, Elizabeth became the Director of Monitoring and Evaluation for PIH, in Sierra Leone, during the Ebola epidemic, where she was responsible for collecting clinical data on patient outcomes. Given her interests in nursing and global health, her research interests are focused on mechanisms related to improving professional development opportunities for nurses in countries that have been burned with hemorrhagic fever epidemics, as a means of investing and strengthening the healthcare systems within these contexts. Elizabeth is passionate about global health, specifically nursing preparedness for epidemics in resource‐restricted settings.

    Elizabeth looks forward to continuing her work in Western Africa after graduation, but for now, she is excited to live in Philadelphia with her amazing husband, Corrado, and their wonder pug, named Chorizo. 

  • Eileen Regan

    A Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation , Eileen’s research interests are adolescent and women’s sport’s injuries. As a result, her advisers are Dr. Catherine McDonald and Dr. Terry Richmond .

    Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Eileen graduated from Yale University in 2010. Her degree is in History of Medicine with a focus on women’s health.

    Eileen wrote her senior thesis on the history of a clinic that was started in New Haven in the 1960’s, and offered obstetrical care for teen mothers called the Young Mother’s Program. This clinic was worthy of a senior thesis because it was the first to offer what would today be considered “bundled care” to a high-risk group with successful outcomes. In this new generation of medicine that is trying to improve quality while decreasing cost, perhaps we should look back in time for some new ideas.

    Two weeks after graduating from Yale, Eileen moved to China and taught medical English at Xiangya Medical School in Changsha, Hunan province for two years.

  • Joshua Jayasinghe

    Josh is an international student from England and a Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation . He is looking forward to a career conducting research in the nursing field and his interests lie within global women’s health, international health ethics, and health disparities. 

    He was recently awarded two grants from Questbridge, a non-profit that connects low income and diversity students with top academic institutions within the United States. Through Questbridge, Josh was also fortunate to be awarded an international grant from Penn for four years of undergraduate study. The research that he plans on completing is a study looking at increasing quality antenatal care and maternal care access and education using technology based interventions in Nepal.

    Josh is currently a residential adviser in Riepe college house. After he graduates he hopes to find a position as a professor at a nursing school and continue to pursue research in global women’s health.​

  • Lauren Starr

    Lauren Starr is pursuing a PhD in Nursing in the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation , She is a third year PhD student and Masters in Bioethics candidate. Her dissertation explores associations among palliative care consultations for end-of-life discussions, acute care costs, healthcare utilization, and race among persons with serious illness; and risk factors associated with the timing of end-of-life discussions before death. She is an Associate Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute is Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, a Jonas Scholar, a Luce Scholar, a member of Sigma Theta Tau, and a predoctoral fellow in the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health under the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award training program in Individualized Care for At Risk Older Adults, National Institute of Nursing Research (T32NR009356).

    Lauren’s mentors are Dr. Salimah Meghani and Dr. Connie Ulrich. She is expected to graduate in May 2019. 

  • Matthew Lee

    A Multidisciplinary Approach to a Nursing PhD

    With a background in both video game design and nursing, Matthew Lee has forged his own decidedly nontraditional path to a nursing PhD.

    He has even coined a term to describe his work.

    “‘Nurse designer’ is a title I like to use because it showcases how I am a bridge between these professions, and how I can be part of both at once. It’s not an either/or choice.”

    As a Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation at Penn, Lee has combined his talents as an award-winning video game designer with his passion for nursing, which he calls “the most holistic of the health disciplines.”

    Technology for Health

    Along the way, he also spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Australia, studying how people’s motivations for participating in online communities shape the relationships they form and the emotional and knowledge benefits they gain from the experience.

    That research is now the subject of his doctoral dissertation in Hillman’s accelerated nursing PhD program. Lee is working closely with George Demiris, PhD, who became his Hillman mentor after arriving at Penn in January 2018. Demiris, a nationally renowned expert in medical informatics, has conducted numerous federally funded studies and his work has been funded consistently over the years both by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Lee and his mentor share a passion for integrating technology solutions into people’s lives.

    “My work deals more with online communities than wearable devices, but the same principles apply, since we’re both interested in meeting people where they are,” Lee says.

    Meeting Patients Where They Are–Online 

    Lee believes video games and online communities can help patients play a more active role in their own care.

    In his role as nurse designer, Lee worked with an interdisciplinary team to design a mental health app — “AppHappy: Journey to the West” — to address a need identified by research showing that Chinese international students were more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and culture shock. With funding by the American Nurses’ Foundation, Lee then went on to develop a digital toolkit for nurses to aid in the diagnosis and management of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He also has conducted more traditional research, working on a study tracking the physiological markers of mental illness, and another on the markers of stress.

    Advocating for Prevention

    “In the long-term, I really think that health care should not focus on the hospital,” says Lee. “We should be trying to keep people from getting to the hospital in the first place, keeping them healthy whether it’s mentally or physically. For that, I think it’s important to meet people where they are. And these days, online is a good place for that.”

  • Stephen Bonett

    Stephen hails from Iowa, the land of corn and soy, where he studied math and statistics at the University of Iowa. As an undergraduate, his research focused using computational statistics and spatial models to analyze environmental and epidemiological data.

    He fled the cold weather to live in Austin, Texas, where he worked variously as an after-school teacher, a cook at a homeless shelter, a “compost pedaller”, and a nurses’ aide at the children’s hospital. His experiences in Austin led him to pursue a career studying health inequity and community-based health research, particularly in pediatric and adolescent populations, and he is now enrolled at Penn Nursing as a Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation .  His research focuses on structural and network factors in HIV transmission.

  • Marta Bruce

    Marta Bruce studied postcolonial theory at Antioch College, and completed her undergraduate studies at the Evergreen State College in Political Economy with an emphasis on the Middle East. She interned with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression in Cairo, Egypt, while studying Arabic and researching public health issues affecting the Zabbaleen people following the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic. After graduating, she served her rural New Mexican community as a firefighter.

    As a Hillman Scholar , Marta studies PTSD and psychological recovery following serious trauma injury, and trauma-informed care.  She received an NIH supplement to Dr. Richmond’s study - Psychological Effects of Injuries in Urban Black Men: A Disparate Health Issue.  Her most recent work utilizes Geographic Information Systems to examine how geography and the social environment impact trauma care needs and recovery after injury. She also works as a registered nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s step-down neuroscience unit.

  • Jason Brown

    Jason Brown, originally from San Diego, CA obtained a BS in Biology with a minor in chemistry at San Diego State University. After graduating from SDSU, he worked for 7 years as a Senior Molecular Research Assistant for the U.S. Navy at the Naval Health Research Center Operational Infectious Disease Laboratory. His research interests seek to better understand the patient, social, and environmental factors related to the decision to seek non-urgent care at emergency departments and how behavioral economic biases may influence that decision.

  • Kara Pavone

    Kara Pavone is a Hillman Scholar  in Nursing Innovation, an integrated BSN-to-Ph.D. program committed to educating young nurse scientists and leaders to go on and develop original solutions in healthcare. Kara completed her BSN in 2016 and is currently a full time Ph.D. student. The primary focus of Kara’s research is to understand the relationship between pain and the development of delirium following surgery.

  • Ian McCurry

    Ian McCurry

    Ian McCurry, Nu’17, combines his many academic passions with an aim to become the most holistic clinician possible.

    Through his work with the Center for Health Equities research, he is currently the Principal Investigator on two grant-funded studies that focuses on young adults with developmental disabilities who are pursuing post-secondary education and the delivery of healthcare services to homeless individuals in Philadelphia.

    In addition, Ian manages a local homeless shelter, has worked as a Clinical Chaplain on the Heart and Vascular Intensive Care Unit at HUP, and is an Adjunct Chaplain at the hospital, working with families through critical illness and counseling them through death and dying.  He is a member of the Penn Glee Club, with which he has traveled to Tanzania, Qatar, and Western Europe, and has performed for senators, Supreme Court justices, and President and Mrs. Obama.

  • Elizabeth Broden

    After growing up in a small town in central Massachusetts, Elizabeth started at Penn Nursing in the Hillman Scholars program in 2012.

    Elizabeth became interested in research after completing the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) program in the summer of 2014. This research experience involved conducting telephone follow-up interviews with children who had been on mechanical ventilation in the pediatric ICU. The goal was to evaluate how their quality of life was affected following the hospitalization. After conducting these interviews, Elizabeth developed an interest in family-centered follow-up care, and is now working on a project about bereavement outcomes in parents of children who did not survive the PICU. 

    Elizabeth is currently working with Dr. Martha Curley’s RESTORE data and qualitative interview data to explore the clinical presentation and perceived needs of patients and their families during end-of-life care in the PICU. Her overarching research interest is to better understand nurse-parent engagement during end-of-life care, and identify mechanisms by which to strengthen this partnership and better prepare nurses to provide care to very ill children and their families at the end of life.

  • Guy Weissinger

    Guy Weissinger

    After working as a therapist with high risk HIV+ men, Guy returned to research full time, working at the Aaron T. Beck Center for Psychopathology Research’s Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Pennsylvania as a research coordinator and psychiatric assessor working with armed forces veterans, active duty service members and patients in inpatient psychiatric units. 

    As a Hillman Scholar at Penn Nursing, he intends to integrate his experience in psychology and counseling with nursing research focused on improving health positive behaviors in marginalized and vulnerable populations.

    Guy is a native of Mississippi and earned a dual BA in Psychology and Religious studies from Rice University before pursuing a masters in counseling from the University of Pennsylvania.

    During this graduate program, Guy worked as a school counselor and on research examining the relationship between heart failure, mental health and medication adherence with Dr. Barbara Riegel of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. 

  • Clare Whitney

    Clare Whitney is a senior in the School of Nursing from Schroon Lake, New York. She is also pursuing her PhD as a Hillman Scholar in Nursing Innovation . Her passion for women’s health and mental health has been informed and nurtured by her nursing coursework as well as extracurricular experiences.

    Clare is a work study student in the School of Nursing’s Office of Student Services and Academic Affairs and has also worked in West Philadelphia public schools through Community School Student Partnerships and Academically Based Community Service courses. Since her freshman year, Clare has served on numerous boards such as Student Nurses at Penn and the Foundation of International Medical Relief of Children, and has enjoyed participating in a theater arts group and an undergraduate mental health outreach organization. Her international experiences studying for a semester in Oxford, England and working clinically in Nicaragua for two months have provided her with perspective and skills that will undoubtedly influence her career in nursing research and practice.

  • Sydney Axson

    Sydney Axson

    Building on her Penn MPH capstone research focusing on the evolution of the informed consent document, Sydney, a Hillman Scholar ,  works with her mentors on the issues surrounding decision-making among families and caregivers.  She is assisted in all things by her constant companion, “Henley,” the Labrador retriever.

    Sydney comes from a distinguished military family.  Parts of her childhood were spent variously in Alaska, Hawaii, DC, and Florida.  She completed her undergraduate degree in 2010 at Syracuse University, where she was recruited by the women’s rowing team with a full scholarship. There she majored in Political Science and Biology. She also interned at the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University.  Her research entailed post-trial access and fair benefits for low resource communities and an investigation of decisional capacity in people with schizophrenia. Sydney was drawn to Philadelphia both to continue rowing at an elite level and to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania.  

    As a denizen of Boathouse Row, Sydney won a number of notable races including the Head of the Charles, Head of the Schuylkill, Canadian Henley Regatta, United States Rowing Nationals, and the Independence Day Regatta. She was also a runner-up at the Women’s Henley Regatta and a quarter-finalist at the Royal Henley Regatta, both in Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom.

    Her current research focuses on opioid prescribing in adolescents and her greater research interests span public health and ethics.

  • Marcus Henderson

    Marcus Henderson

    Marcus Henderson, Nu’17, plans to sub-matriculate into the dual degree MSN Health Leadership and MPH program.

    Prior to attending Penn, Marcus went to Franklin Learning Center High School in his home town of Philadelphia where he majored in Health Related Technology. It was in that program that Marcus developed his passion for nursing and mentorship, and began his leadership journey. Marcus is a member of the Student Nurses at Penn (SNAP) and the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA).

    As a freshman, he successfully ran for Central Philadelphia Regional Coordinator on the SNAP State Board of Directors. He continues to be an active member in SNAP and has since assumed the role of State Vice President and now State President. In addition, Marcus was elected to the NSNA Board of Directors as Ex-Officio Director and Chair of the Council of State Presidents. Marcus is the Nursing Chair for Class Board 2017 and has been in this role since fall 2013.

    Aside from his organizational leadership, he is interested in the study of nursing history, diversity in the nursing workforce, public health, health policy, and how all of these areas intersect. Marcus is a research assistant for the School-Wide Health Equity Research Collaborative and the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity at Penn Nursing. Eventually, he would like to obtain a PhD in Nursing.