PhD in nursing student Lourdes Carhuapoma was one of just six students chosen from among 75 applicants from around the U.S. to be a Nurse Faculty Scholar by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for 2019 - an honor, her family believes, that was preordained.
Family lore has it that Carhuapoma's grandmother saw the spirit of her late husband - a nurse in his native Cuba, and, before Lourdes, the only nurse in the family - standing over then-infant Lourdes' crib. That, the family says, provided the early inspiration to become a nurse, and compelled her success as a clinician forward.
And while Carhuapoma - a first-generation college student and the daughter of Cuban immigrants - knows well the mettle and determination it takes to pursue a healthcare career, she allows room for a little divine inspiration.
"I've heard many stories, and the myth that my grandmother carried," laughs Carhuapoma, who grew up in southern California, "and while I don't believe in ghosts, I certainly believe in the spiritual nature that guides us."
The Nurse Faculty Scholar program - which offers DNP and PhD in nursing students $18,000 in funding over two years - aims to increase diversity in nursing academia. Carhuapoma is one of just 60 such scholars since the program's inception and plans to become a nurse researcher, professor, and mentor to a new generation of future nurses.
After 10 years as a nurse practitioner in high acuity environments, Carhuapoma grew increasingly interested in end-of-life care, a passion that stemmed from observations made in her own practice.
While “critical care is designed to save lives, many people die in these environments, and there are very few resources for patients and families around end-of-life care. It’s clear to me that we can do better” for patients and families who are facing death, she says.
Carhuapoma’s research aims to provide support to surrogate decision-makers of patients with neurological illness or injuries, a group that's at high risk for decisional regret and poor mental health outcomes. She’s also energized by her future role as a mentor scholar.
“It became clear to me that I absolutely needed to be in the academic role,” says Carhuapoma, “mentoring students and honing my research interests, all of which fuels my desire to become a nurse researcher and leader.”
And while Carhuapoma feels “incredibly honored” to be part of the 2019 AACN Nurse Faculty Scholars cohort, it’s also invigorated her determination to blaze a path for individuals from underrepresented groups who might not otherwise see themselves in the field, pursuing advanced degrees, or apply to UVA.
“Being a first-generation college student really means something,” she says. “It’s something I’ve always carried with me, and always will.”
Carhuapoma earned a BA in biology from Chapman University, and a BSN and MS from Georgetown University. Prior to her arrival at UVA, she worked with critically ill neurological and neurosurgical patients and their families at George Washington University Hospital and Johns Hopkins Hospital, and taught acute care nurse practitioner students at Georgetown University.