A student in Shepherd University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program has received a $15,000 award from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Health Sciences Service Program. Cara Burker, who is also clinical faculty in the nursing education department, is the first Shepherd student to receive one of the awards, which are given on a competitive basis to fourth-year students studying in medical-related fields.
The Health Sciences Service Program, which gives about 15 awards each academic year, is a recruitment incentive program for health profession students interested in practicing in West Virginia’s underserved communities. Medical and dental students receive $30,000 awards and students training to become nurse educators, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, clinical psychologists, and clinical social workers receive $15,000. All recipients agree to work for at least two years in a primary care facility that serves underserved patients or to teach in a nursing program in the state.
“Cara is a stellar student,” said Dr. Sharon Mailey, acting dean for and chair of Department of Nursing Education. “We’re thrilled that Cara plans to continue to work in West Virginia; she will be a great asset in rural health as she plans to graduate and seek employment in an underserved area. Cara exudes a passion for teaching and her plans are to continue teaching part time with Shepherd’s Department of Nursing. Her experiences in interprofessional education will be a wonderful asset to our students. Cara is very deserving of the Health Sciences Service award, and I’m so proud of her accomplishment.”
Burker is on track to graduate in May 2018 and hopes to work as a nurse practitioner at Shenandoah Community Health Center in Martinsburg. Burker is already familiar with Shenandoah. Since 2016 she has coordinated Shepherd’s CHOICES program, which involves students from several Shepherd departments and West Virginia University’s School of Medicine working with diabetes patients at the health center. Burker has also been an adjunct professor in Shepherd’s nursing education department since 2013. Her longterm goal is to go into primary care.
“I enjoy primary care because I like connecting with and taking care of people of all ages, from children to adults, who are most in need,” Burker said. “Because they need it the most, I feel like I’m giving back in the best way I can. I’ve been helped by people, I’ve been mentored, and I feel like it’s a way I’m helping to give back some of what’s helped me.”
Burker, who lives in Sharpsburg, Maryland, is earning her second degree from Shepherd. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1992 and holds a master’s degree in nursing with a concentration in education from Towson University. Since 1992, Burker has worked in critical care, home health care, and in community health settings.