Fellow Spotlight: How a Nurse Practitioner Changes Young Girls’ Lives
Interdisciplinary Research Leaders fellows use the power of applied research to improve health and well-being and advance health equity. In celebration of National Nurses Week (May 6–12), we are pleased to share the story of Kathi Elliott, DNP, MSW, CRNP. Kathi is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, social worker, and member of our 2017 cohort who demonstrates the importance of working with communities to create systemic change. Her story is featured on the Campaign for Action’s website. Below is a summary; click here to read the full story.
Nurse Practitioner and RWJF Interdisciplinary Research Leader Fights for Equality
Kathi Elliott, DNP, MSW, CRNP, is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, social worker, and fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program. She was already serving a wide array of clients through her private practice and the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System when she found her true calling: serving as executive director of the organization founded by her late mother.
Gwen’s Girls offers an after-school and summer program for girls ages 8–18. The organization’s vision is one of the girls becoming “self-sufficient adults, equipped with the capacity to continuously evolve emotionally, physically and spiritually; building strong family units; developing a strong support system; and contributing to community life.”
The organization also offers a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiative, career exploration, and workforce readiness, with an emphasis on exposing girls to STEM-related careers, which can provide financial stability. Elliott often touts the benefits of pursuing a nursing career, which changed her own life.
“I often say that I am the ‘original Gwen’s Girl’ because I come from the same communities and single-parent household as our girls,” Elliott says. “Nursing changed my life.”
She and her IRL colleagues—Sara Goodkind, PhD, MSW, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Britney Brinkman, PhD, an associate professor at Park Point University—are studying whether the “See the Best in Me Program” initiated by Elliott can prevent violence and improve girls’ health. Elliott credits the IRL program with helping her to navigate the collaboration among community organizations, government, and community members. She plans to advocate for girls for the rest of her career.
“We need to change our culture,” Elliott says. “Women can be anything they want and … I want to fight for that equality.”