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New Hillman Scholars Program Offers Accelerated Path to PhD

UNC Hillman Scholars enter a rigorous curriculum that is designed to take five years from entry into the nursing program to completion of a Ph.D. in nursing.

The School of Nursing has been awarded $3 million over five years from the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation to design and implement the Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation. The program is designed to produce the next generation of nurse innovators who have the knowledge and research skills to solve complex health problems and improve patient care.

Undergraduate nursing students selected as UNC Hillman Scholars will enter a rigorous curriculum of inquiry and research that places them on an accelerated path to earning a doctorate in nursing. The curriculum is designed to take five years from entry into the nursing program to completion of the doctoral degree.

“The Hillman Foundation grant launches a new era for Ph.D. education in nursing,” said Kristen M. Swanson, Ph.D, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor. “By completing a Ph.D. earlier in their career, the Hillman Scholars will have a longer time to impact patient care through leadership, innovation and research in academic and clinical settings.”

The Hillman Scholars Program grant supports the Innovate@Carolina Campaign, a $125 million drive to help make Carolina a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.

Dr. Carol Durham and Dr. Merle Mishel

Merle Mishel, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor of Nursing, and Carol Durham, Ed.D., clinical professor, will lead the program with a unique combination of scientific inquiry, research and clinical expertise. “Nurses are key to improving health care,” Durham said. “This program provides an opportunity to mentor six nursing students per year to examine the issues around patient care through a different lens and to design and implement nursing research that can address those issues to improve the care of the patient.”

The program will incorporate innovative educational approaches and clinical experiences to launch Hillman Scholars into nursing science. “Hillman Scholars will be matched with mentors from within the School of Nursing and throughout UNC who will guide the scholars from their undergraduate honors research project through their dissertation,” Mishel said.

UNC joins the universities of Pennsylvania and Michigan as one of only three schools of nursing nationally that have been awarded a Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation grant.

The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation is a New York based philanthropy dedicated to improving the lives of patients and their families through nurse-led innovation.

Read more about the program here.