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ATLANTA -- Emory University’s nursing school is approaching a historic milestone as this year’s commencement ceremony nears. The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing will graduate its first doctoral student on Monday, May 12.
After four years of study, Carolyn Constantin successfully defended her dissertation on March 26. Since entering the PhD program in 1999, Constantin has researched immune responses in pregnancy. Using mice as a model, she recorded their response to a specific virus using biochemical assays and flow cytometry.
In her current experiments, she found no substantial differences in the immunologic response of pregnant and non-pregnant mice. Although Constantin points out that caution is warranted when attempting to transfer discoveries in animals to clinical situations in humans, her research findings could affect issues of immunization, infertility and prenatal counseling. They could also lead to improvements in transplantation technology and cancer therapies in pregnant women.
Constantin’s interest in women’s health issues is no surprise. She is a women’s health nurse practitioner, has 14 years of clinical experience as a labor and delivery nurse, and was an instructor for a course on maternal and child health at Boston College for seven years before entering Emory’s doctoral program.
Sandra Dunbar, RN, DSN, FAAN, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Nursing, coordinates Emory’s PhD in Nursing Program. "During her dissertation, Carolyn presented the scientific and clinical implications in a way that was understood by people with many diverse backgrounds," she said. "Carolyn is an extremely bright student who knew what she wanted to study and persisted in finding the resources to do it. She succeeded in bridging clinical and basic science with her research and approach."
Constantin was one of the first three students enrolled in Emory’s nursing doctoral program. During her first two years, Constantin completed required courses in addition to clinical and research residencies in her area of study. In her third year, she began her dissertation and also participated in the Teaching Assistantship and Teaching Training Opportunities (TATTO) program.
But one of the main reasons Constantin chose to attend Emory, she says, was for its wide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Her interdisciplinary team included her advisor Dr. Ora Strickland and Dr. Laura Kimble, both Emory nursing faculty, as well as faculty from the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Gynecology and Obstetrics in the School of Medicine.
"Many people supported me on this adventure," Constantin said during her defense. "I also want to thank the mice who, through no will of their own, contributed a lot to my research."
Although Constantin is undecided about her next step after graduating, she has considered post-doctoral work, returning to the lab to conduct more experiments, or working in the public health arena. Regardless of her immediate plans, Constantin hopes a joint teaching and clinical appointment are in the future.
The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing first introduced its nursing doctoral program in the fall of 1999 in conjunction with Emory’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The four-year program is designed to integrate the traditional science of nursing with clinical outcomes, ethics and health policy to create a new science in health care delivery. The program attracts nurses who want to revolutionize health care and improve health outcomes through a career devoted to research and leadership. There are currently 15 students enrolled in the program and five additional students are expected to join this fall.