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D.N.P. student completes rural health internship

ISSUED: 19 December 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A Shepherd University Doctor of Nursing Practice student sees her experience interning with the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) during the fall 2018 semester as a great first step toward a career in public health policy. Karis Nolen, Frederick, Maryland, is the third Shepherd student taking part in the rural health policy internship program established by Dr. Marcia Brand, a member of Shepherd’s Board of Governors and a former director of FORHP.

Nolen started her career as a clinical nurse in a hospital, but is working toward her D.N.P. with the goal of becoming a nursing leader who can advocate for large groups of people.

“I wanted to find a way to have more impact outside of just on an individual basis,” Nolen said. “Health disparities have always been a passion for me as a clinical nurse, and I am really interested in the federal perspective on health policy.”

Nolen expected her focus during the internship would be mostly on the opioid crisis, but she ended up doing a variety of other things.

“I was able to help out in different departments and teams and got a great overview of the work that they do,” Nolen said. “I drafted policy white papers, helped implement a focus group, and worked with quality improvement projects for rural hospitals, just to name a few things.”

Brand served in a number of leadership positions in the federal government throughout her career in rural health policy.

“At FORHP, I had a chance to work across the nation with a number of individuals who were committed to improving access to healthcare in rural communities,” Brand said. “We were the guys in white hats. We were the good guys. When I stepped out and was thinking about what kind of investment I could make at Shepherd, it occurred to me that I might be able to contribute to a legacy of folks who know about rural health policy and are passionate about it.”

Brand committed to funding two internships per year for 10 years that include a $3,000 stipend. Students can choose an internship at FORHP or the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Brand said FORHP offers the opportunity to learn about grantmaking, regulation, and how to use resources of the federal government to improve healthcare in rural communities. NRHA is a nonprofit that focuses on advocacy, communications, education, and research.

Brand works with faculty in the Department of Nursing Education and College of Business to identify students who might be interested in the internship and guides the process after interns are chosen, taking them to Rockville, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., to visit each place so they can decide where to intern. Brand hopes her efforts will inspire other members of the community who have stepped out of careers in government and other fields to sponsor similar types of intern opportunities.

“If you spent some time in the Department of Education in the federal government, this is something you might replicate for Shepherd students so that they might get to work at the Department of Education in D.C., for example, and get that national exposure and experience,” Brand said. “I’m hopeful this is something we can grow at the university.”

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