Fairfield University's School of Nursing awards scholarship to graduate student devoted to Veterans


Image: Michael O'TooleFairfield University's School of Nursing has named graduate student Michael P. O'Toole '11, its first Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar. O'Toole's classroom and clinical education will focus on improving the care of Veterans, which has long been part of the mission of the School of Nursing. A Shelton, Conn. resident, he grew up in Westport, Conn.

The scholarship is awarded at a time when there is a great need for healthcare professionals experienced in caring for Veterans in the United States. To address this nationwide demand, the School of Nursing was chosen earlier this year to participate in the 2014-2016 Jonas Scholars Program dedicated to advancing patient care of Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a vital endeavor, especially as the number of young Veterans has grown, with many suffering from life-altering injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Scholars' research projects will be focused on priority veterans' healthcare needs (as identified by the White House and Veterans Administration).

"Michael is pursuing his Doctorate of Nursing Practice [DNP] degree at Fairfield University to help those Veterans who suffer from the barriers of mental illness, chronic illness and homelessness," said Lynn Babington, Ph.D., RN, senior vice president of academic affairs at Fairfield.

The New York City-based Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare will provide $10,000 of tuition support to O'Toole. He'll be known as the DNP Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar.

The funds from the Jonas Center provide ongoing support for the partnership between the VA Connecticut Healthcare System and the School of Nursing. That partnership has involved a key federal program called the 'Veterans Affairs Nursing Academy' that strives to educate nurses on the specific healthcare needs of Veterans.

Since earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Fairfield University in 2011,

O'Toole has worked for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System where he was a participant in the inaugural VA Nurse Residency Program. He has since advanced to work in the Medical-Surgical Step-down Unit. He is actively involved with the ethics committee strengthening a culture of integrity and competence at the Veteran's Hospital.

As a Robert Wood Johnson scholarship recipient, O'Toole worked in his local community to direct and produce public service announcements promoting awareness of the hazards of lead poisoning - including the state and federal resources available to those at risk.  He has advocated directly to his Congressional representatives in regards to increased support for National Institutes of Health research funding. O'Toole has dedicated his time and efforts as a local Interfaith-Committee Member at the University of Connecticut where he has worked alongside local members of diverse faiths to plan conferences and elective courses to foster discussion and learning in the greater community since 2006.

The Jonas Center's vision and intent is to help improve the healthcare of U.S. Veterans by supporting doctoral level (Ph.D. and DNP) education of nurses who will be involved in all levels of veterans' healthcare, from administration and policy to direct patient care.

For more information about Fairfield University's School of Nursing, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/academics/schoolscollegescenters/schoolofnursing/.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on June 11, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 322