Nalo Hamilton, Ph.D., MSN, APRN-BC, is an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing. She started out as a biochemist and later decided she could make a greater impact in the healthcare field as a nurse. She obtained her MSN in 2005 from Vanderbilt University and today she focuses her research on health disparities in minority communities.
“Nursing is a second career for me,” Hamilton says. “I chose nursing because it deals with the complete individual – mind, body and spirit.”
Even before becoming a nurse, Hamilton’s focus was on understanding the breast cancer disparity in African American women. Her doctoral studies focused on the transcriptional regulation of genes that lead to the development of breast cancer among African American women.
“After completing my Ph.D., I decided that a nursing education would help me get a better handle on the clinical relevance of the questions I was addressing in the lab,” she says. “It is one thing to manipulate conditions in a petri dish, but when you’re dealing with human beings there are many other factors involved – their diet, their stress level, how they respond to medication. For me, the way to ensure my research translated well to patients was to become a clinician, so I could see the outcomes of the research through my patient encounters.”
In Hamilton’s current role as an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing, she teaches advanced practice nursing students, provides clinical services at the area Indian Health Clinics and researches breast cancer development in minority women.
Hamilton feels that her career has provided plenty of growth opportunities and the chance to make an impact.
“As a non-traditional, minority nurse I have had the opportunity to educate others regarding the viability and diversity of the nursing profession,” she says. “These opportunities have allowed me to personify the depth and breathe of nursing’s contribution to research, clinical practice and education.”
She is striving to eliminate racial health disparities and encourages other minority nurses to consider their impact.
“Ethnic health disparities cost this nation more than $6 billion per year, a staggering amount in light of the fact that many are preventable,” Hamilton says. “As minority nurses we need to take a leadership role in the educational, clinical and research arenas to eliminate disparities in healthcare.”
Hamilton hopes that in the next five years her research findings are improving the treatment options of minority breast cancer patients.
“Nursing allows me to give back to the community, to pursue my passion as a health care provider and researcher as well as have an enjoyable quality of life.”
Denene Brox is a Kansas City based freelance writer who covers health, career and business topics.