Professor Katie Campbell, PhD, and nursing majors Meghan Landry '21 (left) and Meghan Katers '21 (right) are in year three of a collaborative undergraduate research project, which has engaged Mayo Clinic and received high accolades from the University.
In the face of great tragedy, having the courage to publicly share our personal experiences of loss and healing can have an impact far greater than we could ever imagine. Not only does sharing provide a means to soothe others who are suffering through related experiences, but our stories have the power to inspire individuals and unite communities in pursuit of a solution to our pain.
It's a heartfelt truth that nursing student Meghan Landry '21 can confirm. As she was growing up, Landry's family kept a copy of the book Waiting With Gabriel: A Story of Cherishing a Baby's Brief Life (2003) close at hand. The book was authored by Amy Kuebelbeck, a close family friend, who wrote about her son's diagnosis in utero with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect.
Fatal without surgical intervention, care decisions for parents of children waiting with this condition include perinatal hospice or multiple open-heart surgeries performed during the first few years of life. Surgical survival rates are often unclear and the children face lifelong medical implications with increased need for cardiac transplantation in their future.
While recent surgical advances of cherishing continue to bring hope to some families a baby's brief life with HLHS diagnoses, Kuebelbeck's family chose perinatal hospice and palliative care for their child. Her book describes the family's experience with his impending birth, subsequent passing, and their cherished time with him.
Meghan Landry '21
Called to Scholarship
Landry read the book when she was 10 years old, and the story stayed with her. In the spring of 2018, her first year at St. Kate's, she was attending an interprofessional education forum with fellow nursing student Erica Olson '21. During a presentation by Katie Campbell, PhD, assistant professor of interprofessional education and director of the Women's Health Integrative Research (WHIR) Center, Landry heard that Campbell's doctoral research had focused on HLHS at Mayo Clinic.
With this common interest established, Landry and Olson approached Campbell after the event to ask about applying together for Summer Scholars, a 10-week, collaborative undergraduate research program. Faculty and students jointly prepare and submit an application. Their proposal must demonstrate that the project will provide meaningful, rich experiences for students, and allow them to make a significant contribution to scholarship. Approved projects receive funding through the Collaborative Undergraduate Research program.
Campbell and the students promptly applied for the Summer Scholars 2018 program with a focus on conducting a quality improvement study around the parental experience with HLHS. “It felt like it was meant to be," Landry says. “I felt such an immediate connection to this project. It was perfect, and I wanted to help."
Campbell had previously studied the biomedical side of HLHS at Mayo Clinic, and — as a new mother herself — was motivated to learn more about the maternal experience with HLHS and hopefully improve support for families.
"I was extremely excited because I really wanted to dive deeper into how new mothers experience the interprofessional care team," Campbell says. “This really gave me an opportunity to have time and student support in broadening that line of scholarship at St. Kate's. It also connected back to my work at Mayo Clinic but with a different approach to the same issue of HLHS."
That cross-disciplinary and collaborative origin story brought the project to prominence for Cynthia Norton, PhD, professor of biology and women's studies, and director of Collaborative Undergraduate Research and the Summer Scholars Program. “The fact that the students were involved from the very beginning is special here. They brought a passion for the topic. Dr. Campbell brought her expertise and connection to Mayo Clinic. It all came together very collaboratively."
Their application was accepted into Summer Scholars for 10 weeks of funded research and professional development. The project also was awarded supplemental funding through an Academic Excellence Grant from the Minneapolis-based GHR Foundation, founded in 1965 by Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst 49.
Uncovering a Critical Gap in Healthcare
Campbell's previous work in HLHS at Mayo Clinic provided the team with connections and resources to jump start the project, including the addition of her former mentor, Timothy J. Nelson, MD, PhD, director of the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for HLHS.