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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:

  • Lauren Johnson

    Lauren Johnson

    Lauren began her studies at Penn Nursing when she transferred after two years of pursuing the premed track and is now fully embedded in the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation .

    In May 2014, Lauren graduated magna cum laude with her BSN and was awarded the Claire M. Fagin Leadership Award, Sigma Theta Tau Undergraduate Award, and Class of 1939 Fellowship. Lauren served as the President of Student Nurses at Penn (SNAP) in her senior year and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Doctoral Student Organization (DSO). Her undergraduate work included an historical analysis of Catholic medical missions in Ghana and their contribution to improving maternal care. For her future work, she intends to complete her dissertation research in Botswana studying cervical cancer prevention under the guidance of Dr. Doreen Ramogola-Masire, Dr. Alison Buttenheim, and Dr. Anne Teitelman. Lauren recently completed the HUP/Hillman Clinical Nursing Fellowship as an RN on a women’s health unit and continues to care for gynecologic oncology patients.

  • Marta Bruce

    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.


  • Clare Whitney

    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.

  • 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. 

  • Madelyne Z. Greene

    Madelyne Z. Greene

    Madelyne was the first student to pilot the HUP/Hillman Clinical Nursing Fellowship in 2014, which includes 7 months of full-time work as an RN and is now a mainstay of the Hillman Program in Nursing Innovation. Madelyne’s research interests include LGBT health, with specific focus on reproductive health and the impact of pregnancy and childbearing on minority women.

    Madelyn works with Dr. Barbara Medoff-Cooper on her trial of a transitional telehealth home care intervention for parents of infants with congenital heart disease.​

    She entered the Hillman Program in June 2012 and successfully graduated with her BSN in December 2013, continuing on to the doctoral program.

  • Eileen Regan

    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.

  • 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.

  • Cindy del Rosario

    Cindy del Rosario

    My research interests revolve around understanding why people die where they die and how place and displacement impact the quality of the dying process. Through the Hillman Scholars program and with the help of my mentors, Mary Ersek and Julie Sochalski, I plan to examine a specific case of this issue through my dissertation: what is the impact of rurality on place of death and quality of care at the end of life for Veterans dying in inpatient VA facilities?

    This study will be based on data from the Performance Reporting and Outcomes Measurement to Improve the Standard of care at End-of-Life (PROMISE) Center at the VA. To this end, I am interested in learning and applying different statistical methods, including observational study design, spatial analysis, and statistical learning, and examining how quality and performance is measured in end-of-life care.

  • Kara Pavone

    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.


  • Matthew Lee

    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.”

  • Lauren Starr

    Lauren Starr

    Lauren Starr is pursuing a PhD in Nursing in the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation , focusing on palliative and end-of-life care. She is researching the measurement of pain in persons with advanced dementia, and the connection between caregiver empathy and pain management in the same population.

    Prior to graduating from Penn’s accelerated BSN program in 2015 and becoming a Registered Nurse, Lauren cared for her husband’s 103-year-old grandfather, who lived and died at home with them. She is in Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and a 2016-2018 Jonas Nurse Scholar.

    Lauren graduated cum laude from Princeton University in 2004 with a degree in English literature, a certificate in American Studies, and a focus in Bioethics. After graduation, she worked for the Bioethics Advisory Committee of Singapore and the Genome Institute of Singapore on the genome project of Asia and legislation protecting human subjects in research. She is a 2004-2005 Henry Luce Scholar. Upon returning to the U.S., Lauren worked for the Advisory Board Company in Washington DC as a research analyst in hospital consulting. She then spent three years working at Google in New York City as a healthcare analyst in research and marketing across sales and product development. After working in the start-up world, Lauren worked for Scripps Networks Interactive in New York as a Digital Research and Analytics Manager finding stories in big data and making data meaningful and actionable for sales and programming teams.

    Lauren’s mentors are Mary Ersek , PhD, RN, FAAN and Christine Bradway , PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN.


  • 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.

  • Jason Brown

    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.

  • Andrew Dierkes

    Andrew Dierkes

    Andrew entered Penn Nursing in 2011 and applied for the Hillman Scholar Program at the end of his sophomore year and is now a pre‐doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing. His research focuses on the association between hospital nursing characteristics and patient outcomes. Specifically, his dissertation examined the impact nurse staffing, education, and the work environment on postsurgical sepsis. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and a minor in Nursing and Health Services Management from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a registered nurse licensed in Pennsylvania and provides medical‐surgical nursing care to patients at Pennsylvania Hospital, located in Center City, Philadelphia.

  • Elizabeth Broden

    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.