PhD in Nursing Science Program

Spotlight on Our Students

Meet our Class of 2015 - 2016

The PhD in Nursing Science Program at Vanderbilt is committed to academic excellence. We prepare our students for intellectually rewarding academic and research careers. Our students engage in a variety of scholarly activities and collaborate with faculty in nursing and other disciplines. Through mentorship and collaboration, our students learn critical skills and gain the knowledge they need for a successful and productive career in nursing.


Andrea Bushaw, RN, MSN, CPNP

Austin, Texas
Track: Clinical Research  
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Melanie Lutenbacher 

andrea bushaw

My name is Andrea Bushaw and I currently live in Austin, Texas, though I am a Minnesota native.  My nursing background has been predominately in the neonatal intensive care unit and my main area of interest is infant health and health promotion.  I have also had the opportunity to gain valuable experience in other clinical pediatric specialties.  I decided to take a break from my career in order to focus on my academic studies (and my four young children).  I was drawn to the Vanderbilt program for many reasons with the most important being the number of faculty with whom I shared common interests within pediatrics.  I have a wonderful nurse mentor who also happens to be my mother.  When I decided to become a nurse, she encouraged me to take paths toward leadership; obtaining a doctoral degree will allow me opportunities to do interesting and important nursing research in the area of infant health promotion.  I am interested in the long term health outcomes of neonatal intensive care unit graduates, specifically looking at risk factors that could contribute to long term weight issues.

Michelle Dorsey Graf, RN, MSN, CFNP

Fredericksburg, Virginia
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Sharon Karp

michelle dorsey graf

I currently work as a nurse practitioner in pediatric primary care and previously worked as a NICU nurse.  As an undergraduate nursing student at the University of Virginia, I first became interested in research during an independent study focused on rural health. I designed and carried out a mixed-methods research study investigating maternal perceptions of preterm birth and prenatal care in women who had given birth to late preterm infants. My research interests have continued during my time working as a nurse practitioner in primary care; I have identified many gaps in the understanding of health behaviors, specifically in the pediatric population. My undergraduate research project, along with my experience as a NICU nurse and a pediatric nurse practitioner, allowed me to appreciate the relevance and importance of nursing research. I realize there is so much to learn and I am excited about the idea of discovering new knowledge! I am interested in studying infant feeding practices in relation to overweightness in early childhood because I recognize that health behaviors are established at the beginning of life. I became interested in Vanderbilt because of its top-notch reputation as well as the distance format. I am able to live at home, but participate in weekly discussions with my classmates, while still maintaining regular employment. The most important factor in my decision, however, was the faculty. The diversity of research expertise and reputation of the faculty members is outstanding, and I was paired with an adviser who has a research background very similar to my interests. I am confident that I will leave Vanderbilt with all the tools I need to conduct research related to early infant feeding practices. 


Amy Garee, RN, MS, PNP

Sunbury, OH
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Mary Jo Gilmer 

amy garee

My name is Amy Garee and I live in Sunbury, Ohio which is about 40 minutes north of Columbus. I work at Nationwide Children’s Hospital also in Columbus. I have been a nurse practitioner on the bone marrow transplant unit for 10 years and the previous seven years was a hematology/oncology nurse. I have most recently transitioned to a role as a sickle cell nurse practitioner. I have a passion for palliative care and would like to look at the barriers in relation to palliative care in the bone marrow transplant setting.  I have had some experience with research and it drove me to want to expand my knowledge base in order to conduct more meaningful studies. Vanderbilt was my best match in terms of faculty with similar interest and I am so looking forward to this journey.