A cardiovascular nurse researcher and the leader of the School of Nursing’s clinical enterprise will be inducted this fall as fellows of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN). Both are faculty members at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) and are members of the 2022 class of 250 fellows — the AAN’s largest cohort ever.
Kyungeh An, PhD, RN, is a professor, nursing researcher and director of the School of Nursing’s PhD program. Cindy Sickora, DNP, RN, is a clinical professor and vice dean of practice and community engagement.
In addition, Norma Martinez Rogers, PhD, RN, FAAN, will be inducted as one of six AAN Living Legends during the AAN’s 2022 Health Policy Conference Oct. 27-29 in Washington, D.C.
“Becoming a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing is one of the highest achievements a nurse can attain. Membership as a fellow is acknowledgment of outstanding nursing leadership and is a commitment to continue this leadership at the highest levels to improve healthcare, education, research and healthcare policy,” said School of Nursing Dean Sonya Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN.
Regarding Martinez’s accomplishment as a Living Legend, Hardin added, “Becoming a Living Legend is recognition of sustained nursing leadership at the topmost level.”
Reducing cardiovascular disease and stroke due to stress
A fellow of the American Heart Association, An’s passion for defeating cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke among underserved groups is the driving force of her 35-year nursing career.
While in Korea, An studied how delays in diagnosing and treating heart attacks and strokes caused irreversible heart and brain damage. “Our team discovered the root causes of such delays,” she said, as “bystanders failed to relate patients’ symptoms.” The delays hindered initial assistance, transportation to hospitals and effective treatment. Her work resulted in a public awareness campaign that transformed bystander reaction and resulted in changes to hospital accreditation criteria and practice.
In the U.S., she has studied stress associated with increased cardiovascular deaths among various groups including hurricane survivors, emergency responders, immigrants and underserved cancer patients. She developed and offered acupuncture treatment programs for pain and stress relief following traumatic events.
Her work established acupuncture research frameworks, research designs and measurements that were published in in high-impact research journals. “Because of our discoveries of the foundational mechanisms of acupuncture, I became the leading member of the World Health Organization’s task force on acupuncture research guidelines, transforming acupuncture practice and research in many Southeast Asian Countries and the U.S.,” An said.
“Dr. An is also known for her leadership in the Southern Nursing Research Society,” said Jacqueline McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN, vice dean of faculty excellence in the School of Nursing. “She presented a pre-conference workshop, ‘Make lemonade out of lemons,’ that guided investigators to transform their negative data to advance their research program, and then, eventually to impact practice. She also used innovative ideas to remake the society’s Biobehavioral Research Interest Group into the largest and most productive within the SNRS.”
An joined UT Health San Antonio as a professor in 2020 after serving as a tenured associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, an associate professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of East-West Medicine Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea.
Providing clinical care in underserved areas
Sickora joined the UT Health San Antonio faculty in January 2017, seven months before Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast. She secured funding to purchase a mobile health unit and her team made 30 trips to Rockport, Texas, over six months to provide care to a rural population with limited access to resources. The event also provided a rare type of clinical education experience for nursing students.
Sickora joined UT Health San Antonio from Rutgers University School of Nursing, where she organized and secured permanent funding for nurse-managed clinics in four Newark, N.J., public housing developments. She pioneered working with community health workers to access patients who needed care the most, and fostered trust to learn what care was most important to members of the community.
Since joining UT Health San Antonio, Sickora turned around the School of Nursing clinical practice, which was 66% grant funded in 2017, into a fully sustainable nurse-led enterprise of $6 million. The Wellness 360 practice provides primary, pediatric and behavioral health care to the public and serves as an employee and student health clinic for UT Health San Antonio, The University of Texas at San Antonio and the Alamo Colleges District. Nearly one-third of the UT Health San Antonio nursing faculty is involved in the practice.
After designation as a Foster Care Center of Excellence in 2019, Wellness 360’s pediatric practice received $4 million in July to expand services to foster care youth and families in 28 rural counties.
During the pandemic, Sickora established the first COVID-19 testing site in San Antonio and provided more than 100,000 tests for the university community. This enabled the UT Health Physicians medical specialty practices to continue. When the university was designated a COVID-19 vaccination HUB, more than 154,000 vaccinations were administered, including 28,000 in underserved communities.
Former School of Nursing Dean Eileen T. Breslin, PhD, RN, FAAN, said, “Dr. Sickora is an out-of-the-box thinker who is passionate about value-based nursing care. Her work has become a model for the nation as evidenced by its inclusion in the National Academy of Science, Medicine and Engineering report on The Future of Nursing 2020-30.
In addition to the six faculty members mentioned above, 12 additional UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing faculty members are AAN fellows. They include Maria Danet Bluhm, PhD, RN, MSCI, FAAN; Carrie Braden, PhD, RN, FAAN; Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN, FAAN; Lisa Cleveland, PhD, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC, FAAN; Sara Gill, PhD, RN, IBCLC, FAAN; Janna Lesser, PhD, RN FAAN; Kenneth Miller, PhD., MJ, RN, CFNP, FAAN, FAANP; Lixen Song, PhD, RN, FAAN; Azizeh Sowan, PhD, RN, MSN, MSDA, MBA, FAAN; Kathleen Stevens, EdD, FAAN, RN, ANEF; Nelson Tuazon, DNP, DBA, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, CPPS, CPHP, FANP, FACHE, FAAN; and Carole White, PhD, RN, FAAN.