Ashley Salazar
Ashley Salazar

UTMB School of Nursing is known for its many distinctions as "first" – and now, doctoral student Ashley Salazar continues the legacy with a first of her own. She is the first student not only from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, but from the SON as a whole, selected to participate in UTMB's Institute for Translational Sciences (ITS) TL1 Training Program.

The ITS is UTMB's CTSA hub, which brings multidisciplinary teams together to advance translational research through team-based science.

The TL1 program engages trainees and scholars in a curriculum specifically designed to develop key interprofessional, multidisciplinary team-based translational science competencies. Only three postdoctoral and three predoctoral students are selected annually to participate in the one-year program, funded by the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA).

When I decided to go back to obtain my DNP, I saw such an opportunity to bridge clinical practice and research, and gain more research knowledge, Salazar said. I learned there is not a model in place for DNP and PhD nurses to collaborate and work together, although it is a big goal. I wanted to figure out how I can bridge this gap.

As an employee in UTMB's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Salazar has worked in many different roles – as a nurse coordinator, a nurse practitioner providing patient care, and doing investigator work with mentors like Dr. George Saade, Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine, in the Division of Perinatal Research. She has seen effective collaboration between clinicians and researchers in medicine, and her experience sparked an interest in exploring this dynamic in nursing.

Supported by DNP Program Director Dr. Linda Rounds, Salazar met with others at UTMB, including Chief Research Officer and ITS Director Dr. Randy Urban, to learn about opportunities to connect clinical practice and research in nursing.

Although nursing is not currently well represented in the ITS, Dr. Urban expressed that expanding interprofessional participation would be beneficial. Identifying the TL1 Training Program as a potential entry point to explore this work, Salazar met with TL1 Program Director Dr. Mark Hellmich to discuss the opportunity.

Selected for the one-year program, Salazar will begin her work in January. Her plan is to work on models for DNP and PhD collaboration using some of the existing paradigms the CTSA has already begun to develop for interprofessional collaboration.

The whole idea behind the CTSA is that the work is done through multidisciplinary teams to produce and translate ideas faster, Salazar said. From the clinician side, it's an opportunity to learn more about working with a team for the purpose of bridging nursing science, establishing and utilizing some of the models the CTSA is already working with.

Please join us in congratulating Ashley Salazar on this tremendous opportunity! We are proud of her commitment to advancing nursing science and excited for what she will accomplish as a TL1 trainee.