Spotlight on New Faculty—a Q&A with Professor Maryelena Vargas

Interview by Jenny Connell; photo by Carol Black

FDU welcomes the newest associate professor of nursing, Maryelena Vargas, to University College. Reunited with her alma mater, she returns after graduating from the Rutherford Campus with her bachelors degree in nursing in 1990. Vargas shares her excitement and passion for her journey ahead as an educator at FDU, and her hope to make an international impact in healthcare in the future.

FDU: Tell us about your new position…

MV: My new position as associate professor of nursing in University College’s Henry P. Becton School of Nursing and Allied Health is very exciting. While my primary responsibility is overseeing students finishing their master’s thesis in Advanced Practice Nursing, other responsibilities include advising and mentoring doctoral students finishing their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) capstone projects and being primary investigator of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation NJNI faculty preparation program.

One goal with our program is to prepare future advanced practice nurses so they can improve the quality and safety of local, regional, national and global healthcare systems. As educators and researchers in nursing, we need to prepare these students for the future, and the impact of healthcare reform in the U.S.

FDU: What sparked your passion in this field?

MV: I remember observing and experiencing the work my mother, a midwife, provided to the wives of coffee farmers in Colombia, South America. Since many of these women didn’t have all the resources available to women in the cities and here in the U.S., my mother developed innovative ways to deal with pain and complications of childbirth.

FDU: What is something that you would like to contribute to FDU?

MV: I hope to collaborate in conducting interdisciplinary research related to shaping health care policy, patient and health care systems management, and education. It would be an honor for me to contribute a global perspective in health and social policy by assisting in some way to offer FDU nursing programs to the international community.

FDU: What do you want your students to walk away with from your class?

MV: I hope to instill an insatiable thirst for lifelong learning, while keeping a broad perspective, and a desire to become citizens of the world. My hope is that students will value research for the positive outcomes that can be achieved by the process.

One goal for my classes is for my students to be able to read and critique the available research and integrate it with clinical expertise, patient family preferences and values for delivery of optimal health care. Nurses need a perception that each patient is an individual human being with needs, fears, strengths and their own perspective.

FDU: What is something that most people wouldn’t know about you?

MV: I am bilingual (English and Spanish) and bi-cultural (love the US!) enjoy diversity (all ethnicities and races). I have been married 30 years to a committed, loving respectful man; and that I have two amazing daughters and two wonderful dogs. 

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