This winter, two distinguished researchers with a combined 66 years of teaching experience joined the Connell School faculty as associate professors: alumna Elizabeth Howard, who takes a data-driven and strengths-based approach to studying the aging population, and Corrine Jurgens, an expert on biobehavioral factors of cardiovascular health.
Elizabeth Howard, M.S. ’79, Ph.D. ’86, RN, ACNP, ANP-BC, FAAN, returns to her alma mater after spending the last 30 years four miles away, as an associate professor at Northeastern University’s Bouv. College of Health Sciences. A fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the InterRAI Network in Integrated Care and Aging, and a distinguished scholar and fellow of the National Academies of Practice, Howard uses data science to develop comprehensive assessments of “vulnerable, underserved older adults in the US and abroad.”
She found a calling in older adult care after witnessing the divergent experiences of her grandmother and great-aunt, identical twins. “They had immigrated to the US as teenagers from Poland,” says Howard. “One lived to be 95, the other 96. But my great-aunt never lost her cognitive abilities, and my grandmother did. They lived very different lives, and they showed that it isn’t just genetics but what you’re exposed to that can influence how you age.”
Howard has developed a “healthy aging” intervention that “encourages the geriatric population to set personal goals. ‘What do you value in this phase of your life?’ Typically, when we see older adults in practice, we find out what’s wrong with them. This intervention follows with some regular coaching to see how they’re fulfilling these opportunities [and] strategizing with them on how they may help better meet their goals.”
“It isn’t just genetics but what you’re exposed to that can influence how you age.”
Since 1995, Howard has worked as an acute care nurse practitioner in Harvard Vanguard Medical Group’s urgent care department in Wellesley. She’s also an adjunct scientist at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Marcus Institute for Aging Research and a research consultant for Israel’s Ministry of Health. During the spring semester, she cotaught Primary Care of Adults and Older Adults Theory II with Associate Professor Jane Flanagan.
Corrine Jurgens, Ph.D., RN, ANP-BC, FAHA, FHSFA, FAAN, arrives at the Connell School after 25 years at New York’s Stony Brook University, where she was most recently an associate professor and director of cardiovascular nursing research.
The Cape Cod native has served as a nurse in critical, intensive, and emergency departments. But it was during her stint in the 1980s as a coronary care nurse at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital on Long Island that she developed an interest in what would become her research focus: biobehavioral factors underpinning symptom perception among patients with heart failure. “I was fascinated,” she says, “that although patients would be acutely short of breath, when I asked how they were doing, between gasps they would say, ‘Fine.’”
In studies published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, Research in Nursing & Health, and elsewhere, Jurgens has found that “many patients have trouble monitoring their symptoms” for several reasons. Those with heart failure “progressively slow down, and tend not to exert themselves enough to realize they’re short of breath,” she explained. Also, “if you don’t have anxiety about your symptoms, if you don’t have the emotional component, you’re less apt to register them.”
With funding from the American Heart Association, Jurgens developed and psychometrically tested an instrument that measures signs and symptoms of heart failure. It has been used in several investigations and has been translated into Spanish, Italian, and Chinese.
Jurgens earned an M.S. from Stony Brook and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and did her postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania. At Stony Brook, she also supervised more than 30 doctoral dissertations, and was “devoted to coaching a diverse range of economically disadvantaged undergraduates, to successfully bring them into the nursing profession on equal footing.” She plans to do the same at Boston College. During the spring semester, Jurgens taught Secondary Data Analysis to Ph.D. students.
Biobehavioral factors underpinning symptom perception among patients with heart failure