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Future Nurse Scientist

Future Nurse Scientist

Kristin Filler works in the research lab with her advisor and mentor, Dr. Debra Lyon.

Virginia Commonwealth University Ph.D. candidate Kristin Filler, (B.S. ’09), RN, is proving that a commitment to nursing excellence reaps big rewards. Within three consecutive months, she has won three prestigious nursing awards that will help realize her career goal of becoming a nurse scientist.

Filler won awards from the American Cancer Society (ACS), the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence.   With a research focus in symptom management and fatigue in women with advanced breast cancer, she has earned national recognition for her leadership skills and potential to make a difference in nursing education.

“Kristin Filler is a prototype for a successful BS to PhD student in nursing. Her personal qualities of maturity, conscientiousness and a strong work ethic have propelled her towards a promising future as a nursing scientist,” said Debra Lyon, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FNAP, FAAN, the Judith B. Collins and Joseph M. Teefey Distinguished Professor and chair of the Family and Community Health Nursing Department, who serves as Filler’s advisor and mentor. 

Filler started at the VCU School of Nursing in the fall of 2005 as a bachelor’s degree candidate. After realizing she had a strong interest in both nursing education and research, she worked as a teaching assistant for Dean Nancy Langston, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, during her junior and senior years and also worked in the Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research as a senior. Filler said Dean Langston encouraged her to obtain a Ph.D. degree in nursing, so she applied after she graduated with her B.S. and was accepted into VCU’s Ph.D. program. 

While pursing her doctorate, Filler works 20 hours per week on cancer research with Lyon’s grant team and works as an oncology RN at the VCU Health System. ACS awarded her a Doctoral Degree Scholarship that will aid in her cancer nursing research. This scholarship is awarded to graduate students pursuing doctoral study in the field of cancer nursing research, and preparing for careers as nurse scientists.  Filler was also accepted into the highly competitive National Institute of Nursing Research’s Graduate Partnerships Program, a doctoral fellowship training program that coordinates training and funding for doctoral students attending a school of nursing.

“Being accepted was a mix of emotions; it’s exciting but also kind of nerve racking because NINR is among the ‘big wigs’ of nursing,” Filler said. “I’m honored and very humbled at the same time. I know it will be an outstanding once in a life time research opportunity for me.”

Filler has also won another very competitive honor – she is one of 142 nursing doctoral candidates nationwide selected for the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar program of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence. The program provides financial assistance, leadership development and mentoring support to expand the pipeline of future nurse faculty into research-focused and practice-focused doctoral nursing programs.

“We are excited and proud to have Kristin represent VCU Nursing in this prestigious leadership development program,” Lyon said. “This opportunity is consistent with our efforts to remain one of the nation’s best schools for educating nursing leaders. “
In addition to her busy research and classroom schedule, Filler is very involved in other School of Nursing activities. She is the president of Sigma Theta Tau, the honor society of nursing, and serves as the secretary of the local chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society, an organization that works on educating nurses on cancer and symptom management. A student representative on the school’s Doctoral Program Committee, where she advocates for her fellow classmates and students, Filler is also involved in fundraising campaigns for the school.

“The School of Nursing has done so much for me over the past seven years that I just feel like anything I can do to help them in return, I try to do through service,” she said. “The faculty have been very supportive and have inspired me to focus on nursing research and education.”

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