Growth Factor

The Columbia Nursing faculty has grown notably over the past year. Here’s insight into the expertise newly represented in the school’s leadership and faculty ranks.

May 29, 2024

Mary Hickey, EdD, looks for synergy

“My approach to nursing, as an educator and a clinician,” says Mary Hickey, EdD, “is to ask, ‘What do you need from me and how can I help?’” A nursing leader and scholar with expertise in curriculum design and innovation, as well as program development, accreditation, and implementation, Hickey is a dedicated doer—and listener.

The new vice dean of education at Columbia University School of Nursing and a professor of nursing at CUMC looks forward to hearing faculty members’ and students’ interests and supporting them in a way that best serves the community. “I believe in taking a synergistic approach to community health,” Hickey says. “I don’t believe you can tell people what they need or what to do—you have to ask what is important to them and find ways to help them get there.”

A 1988 graduate of Georgetown University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Hickey went on to complete a master’s in nursing administration at Adelphi University and a doctorate in education at Dowling College in Brookhaven, New York. She holds dual certifications and actively practices as a women’s health and a family nurse practitioner.

Her primary clinical scholarship interests include risk-taking behaviors and patients’ access to, and utilization of, reproductive health care. “The adolescent population is of particular interest to me,” she says. Her early focus on improving health awareness and mitigating the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies gradually expanded to encompass population-wide health perceptions, risk behaviors, and access to care, particularly in underserved communities.

In her current role, she aims to work with colleagues, students, and patients to learn about the most critical issues facing the Washington Heights neighborhood. “My hope is to find ways to partner our academic and clinical initiatives and programs with the needs of the community,” she says.

An active volunteer, Hickey serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, the curricular leadership committee of the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties, and the National Task Force on Quality Nurse Practitioner Education, and she is also an active provider for Physicians for Human Rights.

She believes in bringing clinical practice into the classroom and role-modeling for emerging nurses. “I practice clinically, conduct research, volunteer, and teach,” she says. “Students need to see such faculty engagement, which is a strength of Columbia Nursing. I’m fortunate to be here.”

Susan Doyle-Lindrud, DNP ’08, specializes in DNP curricula

Susan Doyle-Lindrud, DNP ’08, the director of Columbia Nursing’s DNP program, explains that her charge is “assuring that Columbia Nursing’s DNP curricula align with national standards.” Recently promoted to professor of nursing, she joined the school in 2011 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2019. She has overseen the DNP advanced practice programs since 2013 and also serves as assistant dean of academic affairs.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the national voice for nurse education, is moving graduate nursing education toward a competency-based approach, with its “Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing” initiative, to increase practice readiness. “Columbia Nursing has had a competency-based program for many years,” Doyle-Lindrud says, “but will now pivot to these new competencies. In my role as the designated AACN Essentials champion,” she adds, “I represent the nursing school as the point of contact and communication liaison to this national organization. I must continuously assess the effectiveness and outcomes of the courses and of the overall DNP degree program.”

Doyle-Lindrud has also collaborated with Judy Honig, DNP ’05, EdD ’95—who recently retired as the Dorothy M. Rogers Professor of Nursing, vice dean of academics, and dean of students—on several projects to implement the role of advanced practice nurses (APNs) in Latin American countries. “Judy and I have been building a prototype APN curriculum for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization to use as a model for implementation in member states,” she says.

Additionally, Doyle-Lindrud has spent a significant portion of her career working at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (RCINJ) as an advanced practice nurse in the ambulatory care setting. Her responsibilities have included managing oncology patients through their treatments and monitoring them after they complete their therapy.

She also has worked as associate director of clinical research for the Gallo Prostate Cancer Center at RCINJ—developing, coordinating, and evaluating clinical research activities. “I coordinated the activation of pharmaceutical and cooperative group studies and developed investigator-initiated studies,” she says. In addition, she has had a faculty appointment at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which has allowed her to provide a nursing perspective for medical students and to highlight an interdisciplinary approach to cancer care.

Aluem Tark, PhD ’19, fulfills her dream of paying it forward

Joining the Columbia Nursing faculty as an associate professor feels like coming home for Aluem Tark, PhD ’19, the new director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

“Even during my time away, practicing as an FNP and a postdoctoral research fellow, Columbia remained a beacon of inspiration,” says Tark, who first came to Columbia Nursing as a graduate student in 2013, receiving her master’s and PhD in 2015 and 2019. She earned her BS at Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in 2009.

Tark also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Iowa focused on pain and symptom management for individuals with serious and advanced illnesses.

“I always had a dream of returning to Columbia Nursing and paying forward the support and guidance I received,” she adds. “Now, finding myself back in a leadership capacity feels like a natural progression, with a newfound sense of responsibility and purpose.”

Tark began her nursing journey as a pediatric oncology/hematology nurse. With seven years of experience as a full-time registered nurse, she transitioned into an FNP role, managing the care of individuals across the life span and in diverse settings, including walk-in/urgent care centers, academic-affiliated health care institutions, and the realm of virtual care.

Her research interests include palliative care and advanced directives, and she has served as a palliative care consulting NP, an outpatient hematology-oncology NP, and a lead family NP. She was honored as one of five Nurse Educators of the Year by the National League for Nursing in 2022 and received the Distinguished Educator Award from the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence in 2023.

Walking through the Columbia Nursing neighborhood reminds Tark of her time as a student. “Each step echoed with memories of challenges overcome and small victories celebrated each time. Columbia Nursing taught me resilience, growth, and purpose in life,” she says.

“As I embrace my role of program director of the very same program I graduated from, I am filled with excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the school of nursing. I am honored to take a role in creating the force that can change the next generation of advanced practice nurses and future nursing leaders.”

Latisha Hanson, DNP ’15, sees patients through a trauma-informed lens

Of the many approaches to patient care that Latisha Hanson, DNP ’15, emphasizes as a clinician and an educator, trauma-informed care is paramount. “Patients who most need access to quality health care services and resources are those experiencing the impacts of trauma,” says Hanson, who is the new director of Columbia Nursing’s Psychiatric Mental Health Doctor of Nursing Program.

As a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner who now teaches and mentors Columbia Nursing doctoral students and practices in the Bronx, where she once taught middle school, Hanson sees the impact that trauma can have on mental health. She attributes much of this to ongoing stress related to the pandemic; to racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination; and to migration. “I see trauma in first generation children of migrants who feel they’re not succeeding, want to be perfect for their family who struggled to come here, and are depressed,” she says. “I see it in children of divorce, children with incarcerated parents, children who have been abused or bullied, in people experiencing homelessness, in Black mothers with poor maternal outcomes, and LGBTQ individuals who are not recognized by their chosen pronouns.”

Health care systems that are not trauma informed commonly misdiagnose, overmedicate, or otherwise mistreat such patients, Hanson explains. “You could be the best provider in the world, but if you don’t provide a space for your patients to be seen and heard, they’re not going to tell you when they’re feeling sick, suicidal or haven’t taken their medication.”

Teaching students and nurses to accurately assess and treat patients impacted by trauma can improve their access to and quality of care, says Hanson, who earned her BS in nursing at Columbia in 2010, her MS in the psychiatric mental health program in 2012, and her DNP in 2015. Today, in addition to heading the school’s psychiatric mental health DNP program, she is also the director of diversity programming and an assistant professor of nursing at CUIMC.

To be trauma-informed, Hanson explains, care must recognize language barriers, as well as cultural attitudes toward treatment. “We might not understand symptoms that patients present with because they call them different names,” she says. “You have to tailor people’s treatment to their background and experiences—that’s where trauma-informed care comes from. If students and nurses understand the impact that trauma and culture have on treatment, they can be better providers and touch more lives, not by fixing people but by helping them on their wellness journey.”

Ashley Graham-Perel, MS, EdD ’21, fell in love with nursing and nursing education

As an 18-year-old nursing student, Ashley Graham-Perel, EdD ’21, discovered two loves: nursing and nursing education. Now the director of Columbia Nursing’s Office of Diversity and Cultural Affairs, she’d always known she wanted to be a nurse. She took nursing prerequisites in her junior and senior years in high school in Brooklyn, then went on to New York City College of Technology, where she earned her nursing BS. It was when she was in nursing school that she realized she also wanted to be a nursing educator. She came to this conclusion while teaching and tutoring fellow students. “My study tactic was to teach out loud. If I could explain material out loud, it meant that I understood it. It came so naturally,” she says.

Besides helping her learn, teaching underscored the importance of a supportive learning environment. “Nursing school today isn’t what it was for me—it’s gotten harder,” says Graham-Perel, who is triple board-certified in medical-surgical nursing, nursing professional development, and nursing education. Not only has nursing education broadened clinically and technologically, but also students now face greater expectations and responsibilities. “Successful nursing education entails understanding students’ lives,” she says. “Can they pay their tuition? Do they have to work? Are they caring for children or an elderly family member?”

Plus, all students need a mentor, “someone who has walked the walk” of nursing school and practice, she adds. Eager to fill that role, she completed an MS in nursing education at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and a doctorate in education at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

She wants to help students and nurses succeed and is especially interested in how diversity and inclusivity in nursing and nursing education impact the admission, retention, and success rates of diverse students. She notes that sagging recruitment and retention among students and practicing nurses often reflect high drop-out, failure, and first-year quit rates; burnout; microaggressions and biases; feelings of imposter syndrome; or lack of mentorship and support. “That first year is when nurse educators have to say, ‘Let me hold your hand and show you the way,’” she says, emphasizing the need to assure students and nurses that they have equal opportunities for success and inclusion, no matter their background. “Injustice impacts how we learn, teach, and communicate with one another, and Columbia Nursing condemns all forms of it.”

Alicia Bacchus, DNP, is an assistant professor of nursing. A board-certified family nurse practitioner (NP), she earned a BS in nursing from Dominican University of California in 2008 and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, San Francisco, in 2015 and 2023. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings, providing primary, family health, women’s health, and oncology care. Bacchus has a special interest in genitourinary conditions, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and postpartum pelvic disorders, as well as cancers. As a clinical NP at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), she collaborated with attending oncologists to provide comprehensive patient centered care to patients with a wide range of complex diagnoses, including prostate, bladder, kidney, and testicular cancers.

Natalie Benda, PhD, is an assistant professor of health informatics. She earned a BS in industrial engineering from Purdue University in 2012 and master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial and systems engineering at the University at Buffalo in 2015 and 2018. Her research interests include improving inclusivity of health technologies, with a focus on perinatal health. Benda currently has funding from the National Institutes of Health’s Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities for Maternal Outcome Monitoring and Support (MOMS), a system designed to support patients in symptom self-management. She is also collaborating on a study funded by the National Institute on Minority Health to create more patient centered artificial intelligence solutions for perinatal mental health.

Ulf Bronas, PhD, is a professor of biobehavioral science. He earned a BS in sports medicine and human biology from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota in 1999, an MS in exercise and applied physiology from the University of North Dakota in 2001, and a doctorate in exercise and applied physiology from the University of Minnesota in 2007. As director of the laboratory of cognitive and vascular health and chair of the cardiometabolic research group at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Nursing, he investigated cognitive and vascular function, brain structure, and neural network plasticity before and after exercise in patients with chronic kidney disease, mild cognitive impairment, and peripheral vascular disease. He is continuing his studies in accelerated brain aging in patients with kidney disease, and is studying the impact of daily living environment on physical activity and dietary habits; the effect of stress on racial and ethnic disparities in midlife cognitive function; and the prevention of age-related cognitive decline in older Latinos/Latinas. Bronas is a fellow of the American Heart Association and the Society for Vascular Medicine.

Isper Crissey, PhD, is an assistant professor of nursing. A registered nurse, she has worked in psychiatric and mental health nursing for over 25 years. She has extensive experience working with psychiatric inpatients as a staff nurse, nurse clinician, and patient care director, at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian, and other hospitals. Crissey began her career in nursing academia in 2016. She has worked on committees that focus on improving diversity, equality, and inclusivity in higher education. She is committed to fostering inclusive and engaging classroom environments. She completed her MS in psychiatric nursing at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and her PhD in nursing at Pace University’s Leinhard School of Nursing. Her areas of interest are psychiatric nursing, individuals with serious mental illness, and mental health literacy. Crissey is a Jonas Scholar and a member of Sigma Theta Tau International.

Nia Adimu-Ceja Josiah, DNP ’23, is an assistant professor of nursing and a clinical simulation educator. Josiah earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University in 2017 and Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 2020, and her doctorate from Columbia University School of Nursing in 2023. Her clinical experience encompasses a variety of health care settings ranging from acute care to long-term care facilities. Josiah has taught psychiatric and mental health nursing practice, behavioral health psychiatry, evidence-based practice, scholarly writing and dissemination, health promotion and disease prevention, and general simulation both nationally and internationally. Her research interests include systemic drivers of racial health inequities among marginalized patient populations and includes peer-reviewed publications in national and international nursing journals. Josiah is committed to addressing mental health needs among disadvantaged minority populations. She is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA MFP/ANA Doctoral Fellow, Jonas Scholar, Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) scholar, and Columbia Nursing Pathways to Leadership and Advancement in Nursing (PLAN) scholar. Josiah was recently selected as a Columbia University School of Nursing CAA board member and is the Jonas Scholars Alumni Advisory Council board member. She is a Sigma Theta Tau International Society Nu Beta at Large chapter governance committee member, International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee member, and Greater New York City Black Nurses Association scholarship committee member. She provides outpatient psychiatric care in a community setting in Mount Vernon, New York; operates a telehealth private practice; and volunteers at local homeless shelters.

Anna Oberndorf, MS, is an instructor in nursing at the Columbia University School of Nursing. A board-certified adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, she received a BS in 2012 and an MS in 2017 from the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City. A primary care provider for the ColumbiaDoctors Nurse Practitioner Group’s corporate health program, her clinical interests encompass health promotion and disease prevention, mental wellness, and women’s health. In her previous role as an adult primary care NP, she collaborated with a diverse population of patients providing preventative and disease management care.

Monica O'Reilly-Jacob, PhD, is an assistant professor of nursing. She earned a BS in nursing from the University of Portland in Oregon in 2001. She went on to earn master’s degrees in pastoral ministry and nursing from Boston College in 2007 and master’s and doctoral degrees in social policy from Brandeis University in 2015 and 2018. A 2023 fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, O’Reilly-Jacob is a family nurse practitioner and nationally recognized nursing health services researcher who focuses on the primary care NP workforce, value-based payment models, and re-emerging delivery system innovations, such as NP-owned practices and home-based primary care. She was also recognized in 2023 as a technical expert by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Initiative to Strengthen Primary Health Care. Currently, with funding from the American Nurses Foundation, she is leading a multidisciplinary team to examine the readiness of NP-owned practices to engage in value-based payment.

Maryam Zolnoori, PhD, is an assistant professor of health sciences research. She earned a BS in business management from Tehran University in 2004; an MS in information technology from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran in 2008; an MS in health informatics from Indiana University in 2014; and a doctorate in health sciences clinical informatics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2018. In 2016, she completed predoctoral research training in biomedical and consumer health informatics at the National Institutes of Health’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications. In 2018, she joined Mayo Clinic as a postdoctoral research scientist, focusing on using AI to improve care for patients with mental disorders. At Columbia University, her research involved building risk identification models using multiple data streams, including patient-nurse communication, to better identify and prioritize patients at risk of negative outcomes. Zolnoori’s research draws on both her interdisciplinary education and her experience in clinical informatics, focusing on the use of cutting-edge technologies to develop novel methodological frameworks and informatics solutions to mitigate the burden of delayed start-of-care and negative outcomes, while also improving the quality and safety of health care services.

Illustrations by Liébana Goñi.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Columbia Nursing Magazine.