PhD in Nursing Science Program

Spotlight on Our Students

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.


Jeffrey Boon, MSN, RN, AGACNP-BC

Nashville, TN
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Cathy Maxwell

Jeffrey Boon

My name is Jeffrey Boon. I graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in 2013 with a MSN in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. I have practiced in critical care and currently work as a nurse practitioner in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Early in my nursing practice, I knew I was interested in pursuing research as a significant part of my career. In my experience of caring for patients with dementia and delirium, I wondered why we so poorly recognize and treat pain in these patients. During my PhD work, I plan to study the assessment of pain in adult patients with cognitive impairment such as dementia. I am interested in both the neurobiology of pain in these patients as well as applications of that knowledge to bedside assessment. I am excited to work with Dr. Monroe to seek answers to these questions and bring the science of pain to nursing care. I was drawn to the Vanderbilt PhD program because of the close relationships formed between students and faculty as well as the diverse research interests and methods used here. The people and work of Vanderbilt are inspiring and excite me to pursue my research questions in this community of scholars.


Amanda Davis, MSN, ARNP, FNP-C

St. Petersburg, FL
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Jana Lauderdale and Dr. Sheila Ridner 

Amanda Davis

My name is Amanda Davis and I am an AANP board certified Family Nurse Practitioner from St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently, I am employed as full-time nursing faculty at the University of South Florida and have the privilege of teaching in the undergraduate and graduate programs. As a nurse, I worked in a variety of settings, to include geriatrics, oncology, renal, emergency and hematology. After securing my Master’s degree from Duke University, I worked as a practitioner in Internal & Family practices in Atlanta and Orlando. As a first-generation American citizen on my father’s side, I have a passion for culturally competent care and have chosen to pursue my PhD at Vanderbilt University to study healthcare disparities among the Latino oncological community


Kelly Davis, MSN CPNP-PC/AC

Brentwood, TN
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Adviser: Dr. Terrah Akard 

Kelly Davis

I am a North Carolina native, but have called Nashville home for the past several years. After my undergraduate education at Clemson University (Go Tigers!), I began my nursing career in pediatric oncology before transitioning into critical care. In the meantime, I obtained a Master's degree from Vanderbilt and a post-Master's certificate from Rush University. I currently work as a Nurse Practitioner in Pediatric Critical Care at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, but have been fortunate to work abroad on numerous occasions to provide nursing and physician education about congenital heart disease and postoperative management. Both in the United States and in developing nations, I have been able to witness patients and their families during both the miraculous and the heartbreaking moments in a child's life. To that end, I am passionate about alleviating the suffering of children, even when there may not be a cure for their underlying condition. While I have many research interests, I am currently focusing on childhood coping and palliative care needs in those who have required extracorporeal support during their hospitalization. There is much to be learned about pediatric palliative care as a whole, but there is a particular gap in knowledge concerning children outside of the oncology population. I am thrilled to return to Vanderbilt to continue my doctoral education and, I hope, to better serve my patients and those who love them.


Erica Frechman, MSN, AGPCNP-BC, ACHPN

Charlotte, NC
Track: Health Services Research
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Cathy Maxwell 

Erica Frechman

Hello, my name is Erica Frechman and I am an Adult and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner who is board-certified as an advance practice hospice and palliative care nurse. My path to nursing started with obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Public Health and Aging from the University of California-Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing from Columbia University in New York. My current clinical practice entails working as part of a large interdisciplinary inpatient palliative care service providing care to patients with life-limiting illnesses through assessment of goals of care, pain and symptom management, and coordination of care. My phenomena of interest focuses on the specialties of geriatrics and palliative care and I am committed to improving care to older adults with serious illness through advanced practice and research. My professional interests include advocacy for older adults with inclusion of frail and vulnerable populations, APRN led healthcare teams, clinician resiliency, innovative models in care for older adults, leadership development, and successful aging. Based on my experience as a Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leader Fellow in 2016, I became interested in pursuing a PhD degree in order to generate new nursing knowledge and evolve as a transformational nursing leader. Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s dedication to the development of the next generation of nurse scientists and researchers, commitment to students’ growth as nursing leaders, and world class caliber faculty and staff led me to pursue my PhD studies here at VUSN.


Kendra Osborn Delaney, PMHNP-BC, RN

Nashville, TN
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mariann Piano

Kendra Osborn Delaney

My name is Kendra Delaney and I am a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in Nashville, TN. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to Nashville seven years ago to attend Vanderbilt University for undergrad where I received my Bachelor’s in Psychology. During my time as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant in a psychology lab at Peabody College where I first discovered my love for research. Upon matriculation into Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s pre-specialty program, I became involved with numerous research projects on campus including work as a study coordinator at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Susie Adams, solidifying my desire to pursue doctoral research. My specific research interest is the mediating factors of depression, anxiety and addiction in adolescents, with a particular focus on affluent adolescents. My previous experiences at Vanderbilt largely drove my decision to continue my education here, and every day my interactions with the faculty, staff and colleagues reaffirm that there is no place better for me to be pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse scientist. 


Jennifer Rivas, FNP-C

New York, NY
Track: Health Services Research
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sheila Ridner

Jennifer Rivas

My name is Jennifer Rivas. I am from NY, NY but consider myself a NY nomad. I started my nursing career as a PICU nurse at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY moving back to Manhattan where I continued my PICU career at Columbia Presbyterian.  I received my master’s education at SUNY Upstate Medical University becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. In February 2015, I was recruited to WCM to assist in the development of a world-class neurology-oncology clinical and scientific program exclusively devoted to providing a better future for patients suffering with brain tumors. I currently provide care to over 800 patients worldwide and co-investigator for 25 neuro-oncology and neuro-surgery biomedical clinical trials. From my experience in delivering innovative care, I realize that treating patients without actively exploring ways to innovate care has minimal benefit to patients and to health care change. Our roles as advance practice healthcare providers need to play a stronger part in quality and patient safety initiatives, research, advocacy, mentorship, and leadership. A PhD in Nursing Science at Vanderbilt University offers me the opportunity to be a nurse scientist who can collaborate in multidisciplinary relationships with academic research partners to contribute to scientific knowledge regionally, nationally, and internationally.  I would like to focus on how health services are delivered specifically by way of Advance Practice Nurse Scope of Practice. I look forward to refining my knowledge of study design, successful grant writing, and outcome measurement for health services from the amazing faculty at Vanderbilt University.


Robyn Schafer, CNM, MSN, EdM, RN, IBCLC

Teaneck, NJ
Track: Clinical Research
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julia Phillippi 

Robyn Schafer

My name is Robyn Schafer, and I’m very excited to be joining Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing PhD program. I have the honor of caring for women and their families as a Certified Nurse Midwife in a full-scope, private midwifery practice in Rockland County, New York. In addition, I practice breastfeeding medicine in a federally qualified health center in my role as an international board certified lactation consultant. I hold a Master of Science in Nursing from Yale University and a Master of Education in Policy, Planning, and Administration from Boston University. To date, my topics of publication include physiologic breastfeeding, umbilical cord avulsion in water birth, and GBS bacteriuria in early pregnancy. My current research interests focus on providing compassionate and evidence-based midwifery care to grand multiparous women. This unique patient population has distinct health risks and needs that have widely been ignored in the existing research, leading to negative effects on patient satisfaction, patient–provider relationships, and ultimately, health outcomes. I feel very fortunate to be at VUSN, with an outstanding faculty, longstanding commitment to excellence in research, and innovative distance-learning approach that makes it the ideal place for my doctoral studies. The foundation I will gain through VUSN’s PhD program will strongly position me in my career as a nursing researcher with the skills I need to improve the quality of maternity care on a broader scale.