Akard appointed to lead PhD in Nursing Science program

Headshot of Terrah Akard in bright blue dressAssociate Professor Terrah Foster Akard, PhD’08, MSN’01, FAAN, has been named director of the PhD in Nursing Science program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

Akard, a Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow and noted scholar in pediatric palliative care, had been co-director with Professor Sheila Ridner, PhD’03, MSN’00, FAAN, the Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Nursing, who stepped down to focus on research.

As director, Akard oversees the administration and mission of the program, which prepares the next generation of research and academic scholars to conduct and disseminate research that responds to regional, national and international priorities. She works closely with faculty in curricular development, program goal attainment, and student engagement and recruitment. She is also charged with ensuring the quality and innovation of the curriculum.

“More than ever, there is a great need to educate the next generation of nurse scientists and prepare them to launch collaborative and multidisciplinary programs of research,” said Mariann Piano, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA, senior associate dean of research and the Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing. “Through her own program of research, Dr. Akard has collaborated with colleagues across disciplines and has applied innovation research methods to the area of pediatric palliative care.”

Akard received a bachelor of science in biology from Jacksonville State University before earning her master of science in nursing and PhD in nursing science at Vanderbilt. She began teaching for VUSN in 2003 as clinical faculty, then lecturer. She joined VUSN full time as assistant professor in 2008.

Akard’s research discovery is aimed at decreasing suffering and improving quality of life for children with life-threatening conditions and their family members. She investigates the development and testing of psychosocial strategies or program elements that improve coping, adjustment and health outcomes among ill children, parents, siblings and caregivers. Recent projects have studied how social media and technology can be used to support children and their families. Akard has received internal and external funding, including support from the National Institute of Nursing Research, American Cancer Society, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Currently, there are 32 PhD students in Vanderbilt’s PhD in Nursing Science program with areas of research that build the scientific foundation for clinical practice, prevent disease and disability, promote recovery from illness, and preserve and maximize health and well-being. The program is committed to preparing independent nurse scientists to lead the nation in advancing the discipline and practice of nursing through research, education and health policy.

Image: Susan Urmy