PhD in Nursing Science Program

2017 - 2018 Cohort

Jeffrey Boon

Research Interests: Family caregiver pain assessment in older adults with dementia  

Jeffrey Boon

Jeffrey Boon is a graduate of Rhodes College with a BA in Philosophy, and Vanderbilt University with an MSN as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. He is a member of the International Association for the Study of Pain, American Society for Pain Management Nursing, American Geriatrics Society, and the Gerontological Society of America. His research interest is pain management in people with dementia, more specifically the assessment of pain by family caregivers of community-dwelling older adults with dementia. His current research is focused on describing the elements of pain assessment used by these family caregivers for people with dementia, and the influence of patient and family caregiver characteristics on pain assessment. The long-term goal of his program of research is to develop interventions to improve pain assessment and management for community-dwelling adults with dementia. The outcome of such interventions would be the alleviation of pain and suffering, improved quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers, the increased ability of people with dementia to age in place, and the reduction of healthcare costs as a result of improved pain management. 

Faculty Advisors: Drs. Cathy Maxwell and Terrah Foster Akard


Amanda Davis

Research Interests: Health disparities and Hispanic oncology  

Amanda Davis

Amanda Davis earned her MSN cum laude from Duke University in 2014 and is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She earned baccalaureate degrees in Nursing from Mercer University (2011) and in Psychology from Saint Leo University (2003). Amanda is a member of several professional organizations, including the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, the Southern Nursing Research Society, Oncology Nursing Society, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI). She currently serves on the Governance Committee of her local chapter of STTI, having also held leadership positions in the past at the regional and chapter levels. As a previous oncology nurse and the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, Amanda has a passion for culturally competent care, with her long-term research goal aimed at improving healthcare outcomes and inequities among the Hispanic oncological community. Her phenomenon of interest focuses on barriers and facilitators to clinical trial participation among the Hispanic oncologic population. Amanda decided to pursue her PhD in Nursing Science at Vanderbilt University to learn from the renowned faculty specializing in oncology and health disparities. 

Faculty Advisors: Drs. Jana Lauderdale and Sheila Ridner


Kelly Davis

Research Interests: Congenital heart disease and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children after critical illness

Kelly Davis

Kelly Davis graduated from Clemson University in 2007 and since that time has been deeply invested in pediatric healthcare. She began her nursing career in pediatric hematology and oncology and then transitioned into critical care. After pursuing graduate education at Vanderbilt University (2010) and Rush University (2014), she has most recently been practicing as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in the Pediatric Cardiac ICU and Pediatric ICU at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. In 2018, she received the Jerita Payne Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year Award at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her experiences with vulnerable children and their families in the critical care setting have inspired her research career, and she hopes to impact clinical practice through her research endeavors. Kelly has previously been involved in research investigating nutritional outcomes among infants with inter-stage single ventricle physiology. Her current research interest lies with optimization of mental health and developmental outcomes of children with congenital heart disease. 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Terrah Foster Akard 


Kendra Osborn Delaney

Research Interests: Impact of anxiety on young adult binge drinking

Kendra Osborn Delaney

Kendra Delaney is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner in Nashville, TN. She is originally from Connecticut, but moved to Nashville where she received her BA and MSN from Vanderbilt University. Kendra is a recipient of the Centennial Fellowship Scholarship and member of Vanderbilt University’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau where she serves as the Counselor. She is also a member of the Southern Nursing Research Society and American Psychiatric Nurses Association. She has published alongside her dissertation chair, Dr. Mariann Piano, on ethanol induced oxidative stress in the vasculature, and presented several poster presentations at national conferences on the impact of affluence on depression and anxiety in adolescents. 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Mariann Piano

Erica Frechman

Research Interests: Palliative care and gerontology

Erica Frechman

Erica Frechman graduated from University of California Berkeley with her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on aging and public health. During her time at UC Berkeley, she worked at the public health department as a research assistant for a health promotion study for older adults. Upon graduating, she pursued her BSN and MSN degrees from Columbia University in New York. She worked in oncology and bone marrow transplant as a registered nurse. She is currently a board-certified adult and gerontology nurse practitioner with advanced certification in hospice and palliative care, and works as a nurse executive. She is a team leader for an interdisciplinary palliative care team providing care to patients with serious illness through assessment of goals of care, pain and symptom management, and coordination of care. Through her experience as a fellow in the Duke-Johnson & Johnson Nurse Leadership program in 2016, she became interested in nurse-led research, solidifying her commitment to improving care for older adults through research, education, and practice. Erica is the recipient of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s 2018 Board Certified Nurse Award in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. She was awarded the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse of the Year in 2019. She is an active member of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. Her research interests include advance care planning, preparing for aging, frailty, communication and decision-making. 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Cathy Maxwell 


Jennifer Rivas

Research interests: Primary care access and appointment scheduling

Jennifer Rivas

Jennifer Rivas is a 2006 graduate of the University of Florida where she completed a BS in Psychology. Her work with the Department of Children and Families ignited her passion to work with vulnerable pediatric patients. She enrolled at Farmingdale State College SUNY where she earned her ASN in 2010. After graduating, she was accepted into SUNY Upstate Medical University Family Nurse Practitioner program with a minor in Nursing education. Upon graduation in 2014, Jennifer collaborated with Dr. Howard Fine at New York–Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center to initiate a neuro-oncology clinical trial program for patients with high grade brain tumors. It was here that her passion for research blossomed, and she was accepted into Vanderbilt University’s PhD in Nursing Science program. Her research examines the organizational factors impacting appointment scheduling wait time in primary care. She is a recipient of the Centennial Scholarship and recently published an integrative review examining appointment scheduling process models in the Journal of Healthcare Management. She hopes to drive innovation and bench-marking for appointment scheduling in primary care. 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sheila Ridner


Robyn Schafer

Research interests: Decision-making; risk perception; intersection between evidence-based practice and patient-centered care

Robyn Schafer

Robyn Schafer is deeply committed to improving the health and care of women and their families through research, teaching, practice, and service. She is faculty in the Advanced Practice Nursing division at Rutgers School of Nursing and works as a certified nurse-midwife at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers Health OBGYN. Robyn holds BA and EdM degrees from Boston University and earned an MSN at Yale University. She maintains certification as an internationally board-certified lactation consultant and nurse educator. In addition to being named a Fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Robyn has received numerous awards including the March of Dimes Dr. Margaret C. Freda Graduate Nursing Scholarship, American College of Nurse-Midwives Foundation Dianne S. Moore Midwifery Research Scholarship and Best Review Article by the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. 

Faculty Advisors: Drs. Julia Phillippi and Sheila Mulvaney