College of Nursing Student Named Jonas Scholar Award Winner

Award is second winner in a row for a College of Nursing graduate student.

Two-time Kent State University alumna and current Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Nicole K. Lewis, MSN ‘20, APRN, PMHNP-BC, was selected by Jonas Philanthropies, a leading national philanthropic funder of graduate nursing education, as a 2020-2022 Jonas Scholar Award Recipient.

The award, a $15,000 grant from Jonas Philanthropies, is matched with $15,000 from the College of Nursing, to fund Lewis’ two-year scholarship.

Lewis is the second College of Nursing graduate student to receive this honor; Kay Gianantonio, MSN, RN, APRN-CNP, AGPCNP-BC, was named a 2018-2020 Jonas scholar.

Lewis was first made aware of the scholarship opportunity by Lisa Onesko, DNP, APRN-BC, professor and director of the DNP program who suggested she apply.

“Each spring, Jonas Philanthropies announces the topics they are interested in funding for that cycle, which usually center around a pressing need in healthcare,” explained Onesko. “We review currently enrolled Ph.D. and DNP students, along with students who will be enrolled in the coming semester, to see if any DNP scholarly projects or Ph.D. dissertations match the topics laid out by Jonas Philanthropies. We then have until fall to get the applications submitted.”  

Lewis, whose specialty is psychiatric and behavioral health, began her career working in geriatric behavioral health before moving to forensic and correctional health care. She currently works as an acute care inpatient psychiatric provider.

“I have always been drawn to working with high-risk and specialized populations,” shared Lewis. “Psychiatric and behavioral health are significant areas of provider disparity. Additionally, they are challenging, but rewarding at the same time.”

The scholarship was appealing to Lewis due to its focus on key areas identified as healthcare disparity and the need in healthcare to learn and adapt from a nursing perspective.

“It is an honor to be nominated and receive this scholarship because it means the work is valuable and identified as an area of need for our patients,” Lewis said, ”Receiving this award provides an opportunity to have my work and study recognized at a national level and affirms what I do is relevant and important.”

Lewis’ project will identify incarcerated individuals who have mental illness and would benefit from a referral to services to improve their chances of success once released from incarceration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 25 people in the United States lives with a mental health diagnosis. Furthermore, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 33% of the inmate population has a psychiatric diagnosis with some approximations citing as many as 60% of prisoners having a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.

“The expected outcome is that the referral would indicate a positive correlation between recidivism and access to mental health treatment, with a primary focus on correctional facilities being more fully utilized as access points to psychiatric and behavioral health services for a population base that is difficult to access. Looking at the statistics alone, there is an opportunity to access patients who need services,” explained Lewis, “We must remember that psychiatric illness is debilitating for some individuals, as they are unable to meet their highest level of functioning without intervention and treatment. The goal is to help the patient meet their highest level of functioning and keep them out of the jails and hospitals so they can contribute to their communities and families.”

As a Jonas Scholar Award recipient, Lewis also participated in the 2022 Jonas Scholar Leadership Conference held in Washington D.C., in October. While she has had the opportunity to attend several leadership conferences in her career already, this will be the first time she has attended a leadership conference with her peers in education and research. Lewis said she enjoyed the opportunity to meet with other Jonas Scholarship recipients and learn about their projects and perspectives. 

“Jonas Scholar Award Recipients such as Nicole Lewis, are who we are going to look to in the future to provide improvements in healthcare, whether those changes be a cost-benefit or patient outcome,” Onesko said, “These student scholars are the people we want as leaders because they know the healthcare needs and dynamics of the system. They have been prepared through their experience as advanced practice nurses and through their doctoral studies.”

Lewis anticipates graduating with her DPN in May 2023. She plans to continue working in the behavioral health field where she would like to conduct further research and eventually teach.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 2, 2022 11:46 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 07:06 PM
Mariah Gibbons