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MSU Nursing Professor, Student to be Recognized at Regional Nursing Conference

MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez
Samantha Old Elk, a nursing student in the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing at Montana State University, has received the Ann M. Voda Conference Award from the Western Institute of Nursing.

By Anne Cantrell / MSU News Service

BOZEMAN — A student and a faculty member from Montana State University’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing are being recognized this week at a regional nursing conference.

Student Samantha Old Elk has received the Western Institute of Nursing’s Ann M. Voda Conference Award, while nursing professor Laura Larsson has received the Anna M. Shannon Mentorship Award. Larsson and Old Elk will both be recognized at the Western Institute of Nursing’s annual conference, which is being held April 6-9 in Portland, Oregon. The Western Institute of Nursing connects nurse scientists, leaders and educators from across 10 Western states around research, practice and education.

The Ann M. Voda Conference Award is given annually to an Indigenous scholar to support their travel to and participation in the Western Institute of Nursing’s annual conference. The award aims to promote nursing student/clinician engagement with the Western Institute of Nursing’s community of scholars and to increase diversity and improve networking related to health disparity research, practice and education.

MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez
Laura Larsson, associate professor of nursing at Montana State University, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Bozeman, Montana.

To be considered for the award, Old Elk, a sophomore pre-nursing major from Crow Agency, submitted an essay that described her budding interest in nursing scholarship and her goal of improving access to health care for Montana’s tribal communities. Preference for the award is given to students who are also presenting research at the conference. Old Elk is presenting at the conference on her research into oral health education in tribal communities.

“I’m extremely excited,” said Old Elk, who added that this will be the first professional conference she has attended. “I know that this conference is really going to be in my memory forever. I’m excited to learn about all the research other nurses have been doing. I feel like my career and what I see myself doing will become more real when I see all of the people who have been doing all of their research.”

Old Elk’s research focuses on health care promotion on Indian reservations across Montana. Specifically, she studied the effectiveness of efforts to promote silver diamine fluoride as an alternative dental treatment for caries – or tooth decay – in children.

Silver diamine fluoride is a brush-on liquid that goes over a tooth to arrest caries. Old Elk said the treatment can be more comfortable for children than a dental filling, may be easier to administer and can reduce people’s fear of dentists.

Old Elk researched the effectiveness of an educational video about silver diamine fluoride that Larsson and her fellow researchers created to show in health care providers’ waiting rooms on Montana Indian reservations. Old Elk tracked how many people saw the video, their reactions and if they (or their children) have used silver diamine fluoride.

“My research showed that the majority of people who saw the video had never heard of silver diamine fluoride before, and it also showed that they found the information really useful,” Old Elk said.

Old Elk is also a Montana INBRE scholar who has “shown tremendous creativity and courage to bring her ideas to the forum,” said Larsson, Old Elk’s professor who was also involved in her research. “I am very excited for Sammi to experience the welcome of the scholars and clinicians at WIN who will undoubtedly be as eager to hear from her as our own team here at MSU.”

The Anna M. Shannon Mentorship Award recognizes exemplary and sustained mentorship of nurses in the West.

The award is given annually to an individual who serves as a role model for leadership and professionalism; actively supports the professional development of nurses and/or nursing students; emphasizes advancement of the nursing profession rather than self-advancement; and communicates a vision of nursing that inspires others.

Larsson, who came to MSU as a professor in 2008, is highly regarded as a caring and knowledgeable mentor. She has mentored dozens of undergraduate students and has also collaborated on research with them. This year, Larsson reported that 21 undergraduate students are attending the Western Institute of Nursing conference as part of the rural primary care track grant she directs. The track is designed for students who come from rural communities, want to work with individuals and families to promote their health and prevent chronic disease, and/or want to work with high-priority populations to improve health equity and the distribution of health resources beyond population centers.

Sarah Shannon, dean of the MSU College of Nursing, said Larsson’s mentorship of Old Elk to present research at the Western Institute of Nursing conference epitomizes the spirit and hopes for both awards.

“Sammi Old Elk is an exceptional student, and Laura Larsson is an inspirational mentor,” Shannon said. “The Ann M. Voda Conference Award was created by a nursing legend in the West – Ann Voda – whose vision was to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native students had the opportunities to experience the joy of being part of a community of scholars early in their careers. Similarly, the Anna M. Shannon Mentorship Award was created to recognize another Western nursing legend – Dr. Anna Shannon – who was well known as a vibrant leader. Dr. Laura Larsson is a shining example of mentorship. Laura has touched the lives of many undergraduate students, many of whom were Indigenous, as a guide to both nursing and scholarship in the profession.”

Larsson’s research focuses on advancing preventative care to improve health and quality of life. She is known for her community-engaged public health research and has worked extensively with Montana’s Native communities, including the Blackfeet, Northern Cheyenne and Crow nations. Since 2018, Larsson has been director of the college’s Caring for Our Own Program, or CO-OP, which encourages, supports and helps retain American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing nursing degrees at MSU.

Established in 1992, the Western Institute of Nursing’s Anna M. Shannon Mentorship Award is given in honor of Anna M. Shannon, who was then dean and professor emerita of the MSU College of Nursing, for her unselfish efforts to support and promote the professional growth of other nurses in the West. Larsson is MSU’s second recipient of the award; in 2003, Clarann Weinert received the award.

In all, 14 faculty members from the MSU Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing will be presenting the results of their research at the Western Institute of Nursing’s conference. In addition, 31 MSU nursing students will attend the conference, and three of them will be involved in research presentations with a faculty member.

Founded in 1937, Montana State University’s Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing offers bachelor’s, accelerated bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral-level nursing education to produce nurses, nurse leaders, nurse educators and nurse practitioners for Montana. Great Falls was the first location where upper division, clinical nursing education was offered, followed by the establishment of the Billings nursing campus in 1939, Missoula campus in 1976, and Kalispell campus in 2002. While nursing majors have taken pre-requisite courses in Bozeman at MSU since 1937, upper division or clinical nursing education was first offered at the Bozeman campus location in 2004. Montana State is the largest producer of registered nurses in Montana and is the sole provider of doctoral nurse practitioner education in the state. More information is available at montana.edu/nursing/.

Published by Four Points Press

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