Laura L. Hayman was selected by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing to be inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. She is among the four (out of 20) 2018 inductees that are alumni or faculty at Penn Nursing.

Dr. Hayman currently serves in multiple roles, including professor in the Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and adjunct professor of medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Since graduating from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Penn Nursing with her entry degrees into the nursing profession, Dr. Hayman has become an internationally recognized expert in the prevention of childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease. It’s her passion for the discipline of nursing that drove her. “I wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember,” she said. “Throughout my middle and high school years I was adamant about becoming a nurse because I wanted a career where I could help people, particularly children and families.”

Her first position after earning her BSN was with the School District of Philadelphia as a school nurse. She then pursued a range of experiences, serving as a clinical research nurse in the Clinical Research Center at Penn, as a charge nurse in a coronary care unit in the Stroke Belt, and at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It was during her work in the coronary care unit that she had an epiphany about the direction in which she wanted to move next:

“I observed middle age adults with acute coronary syndromes (myocardial infarctions). Most presented on admission with obesity and adverse patterns of behavior including smoking, sedentary lifestyles and diets enriched with sugar, fat, and salt. After a year of this acute care experience, I returned to Penn for my MSN in child health nursing.”

She also observed that obesity clustered with other risk factors including lipids and blood pressure in an NINR-funded study conducted in Philadelphia that focused on biobehavioral risk factors for cardiovascular disease in school-age twins and their parents. Her experiences and research—as well as participating in the development and implementation of evidence-based guidelines for health promotion and risk reduction in children, issued by the American Heart Association—led her to a commitment to focus on prevention beginning early in life.

Dr. Hayman said, “Clearly, over the past several decades the prevalence and trends of obesity in childhood and adolescence has emerged as a major public health challenge. Currently and going forward, we need to focus more collective efforts on primordial prevention, prevention of the development of the risk factor in the first place. By definition and design this supports the need for multi-level policies designed to create and sustain environments that enable healthy behaviors including access to healthy foods and outlets for physical activity. Nurses and nursing have opportunities to play critically important roles in advocating for the development and implementation of such policies.”

In addition to earning an MSN, she also earned her PhD at Penn and served as faculty at Penn Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, and New York University before moving on to her current positions. Her career has developed in such a way that she can conduct research as a nurse scientist while teaching and mentoring the next generation of nurses, something she feels quite strongly is her calling—and it is her mentorships that have provided her with one of the most exciting moments in her career:

“In my previous role as Associate Vice Provost for Research (UMass Boston) I had an opportunity to mentor young investigators from several disciplines. Not an expert in computer science, I was ecstatic when a novice researcher was funded by National Science Foundation on his first submission and thanked me—with flowers! Mentoring nurse scientists early in their academic careers and seeing their unique and enduring contributions to nursing and health care has been particularly rewarding.”    

Dr. Hayman is also very honored to be chosen by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing as an International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame inductee for 2018. “I am humbled to receive this very special recognition,” she said. “I remain grateful to Penn Nursing and my research mentors and collaborators for the opportunities to advance the science and practice of cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention and to engage and mentor the next generation of nurse and transdisciplinary scientists, scholars and advocates for the health of the public-locally and globally.”

Random fact: Dr. Hayman loves to dance.