Millions to Help Future Problem-Solvers

Friday, April 15, 2016

A $2.9 million bequest will support Rush nursing PhD students

By Ben Feldheim

While working as an intensive care nurse, Shannon Halloway, RN, saw that elderly patients experiencing cognitive changes weren’t always getting the attention they needed. As a result, their health and ability to function worsened, creating serious challenges for caregivers.

Seeing the problem firsthand inspired Halloway to take a different health care path — one with broader impact. A doctoral student in Rush University College of Nursing, Halloway has conducted her PhD dissertation on the relationship between physical activity and cognition in elderly Latinos, a group often left out of such research.

“I want to affect the profession in a global way by changing the way we care for people on a mass scale,” Halloway says.

To support students like Halloway and their efforts to improve health, the late Dorothy Yates made a $2.9 million bequest to the College of Nursing, which will be used for tuition and living expenses of future nursing PhD students. Yates was a 1937 graduate of Rush predecessor Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing and former head nurse at Presbyterian Hospital during the 1940s and 50s.

Addressing the needs of underserved people is a common trait among the unique research performed by Rush nursing PhD students. One student has examined health care providers’ adherence to HIV clinical treatment guidelines when managing HIV infection in federal inmates compared to infected people who aren’t in penal institutions, while another is researching how parents’ immune systems react to stress they experience while their children undergo serious treatments, such as stem cell transplants.

“If the parents aren’t healthy, they can’t provide the complex care their children need. This study will help us understand how parental health is affected when a child has a life-threatening illness and how nurses can intervene to improve parents’ health and, thus, their ability to care for their children,” says Barbara Swanson, PhD, RN, professor and director of the nursing PhD program at Rush. “We train nurse scholars whose efforts can improve the health of patients and the communities around the patients.”

An evolution in nursing education

Halloway is getting her doctoral degree at a good time; the demand for PhD nurses is increasing.

In the 1990s, studies showed that hospitals employing nurses with higher levels of education had better overall patient outcomes. An evolution followed, producing postgraduate nursing researchers focused on long-term health promotion and disease prevention. While caregivers treat people who are ailing today, nursing PhDs work to prevent people from needing treatment in the future, helping them live as well as they can and for as long as possible.

Dorothy Yates, who died in 2015 at 101 years of age, was among the forward-thinking people who believed nurses can make serious breakthroughs in health care.  The bequest was one of several ways that Yates supported nursing education at Rush throughout her life. In 1998 she established the Dorothy Yates Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate nursing students. In addition to outright gifts, she also established several gift annuities to benefit Rush.

“If you have to work to support yourself while studying, you likely won’t have time to conduct research with faculty, even though such work helps you become a better scientist,” says Marquis Foreman, PhD, RN,  the John L. and Helen Kellogg Dean of Rush University College of Nursing. “Thanks to Dorothy, we can now help our students develop into even more effective researchers.”

Ahead of her time

Dorothy Yates is remembered for being open-minded, worldly and well-read and for having a great sense of humor. As a nursing supervisor, she held her staff to very high standards and didn’t accept shortcuts. Yates decided to support education to continue a tradition of quality nursing practice.

“She took great satisfaction in knowing that she helped make the educational pursuits less of a burden for scholarship recipients,” says Vicki Woodward, a former director of planned giving at Rush who developed a close personal and professional relationship with Dorothy over a 30-year period.

Starting as a consistent $100 annual donor, Yates ultimately left her entire estate to Rush and its College of Nursing. She was a shrewd investor who kept a keen eye on market changes, delighting in outperforming the professional advisors who managed part of her diversified portfolio, according to Woodward.

It was one more way that Yates planned for the future.

“Dorothy understood that nursing education would evolve over time,” Woodward says. “She was eager to enrich these programs and help nurture the students’ growth in the process, ultimately for the benefit of quality patient care.”