Research Focus:Emergency preparedness and bioterrorism
Kourtney Nieves, director of the Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA) program, makes the most of the opportunity to tackle the many challenges at the intersection of healthcare and academia. A triple UCF alumna with a BS in Health Care Administration, 1999; an MS in Health Sciences, 2002; and a PhD in Public Affairs, 2005. She got her start in healthcare marketing and still loves to leverage her expertise to help students market themselves into a role that will help change the world.
Nieves credits her family and her students as her main inspirations. As an instructor, she incorporates active learning strategies to make sure all student’s voices are heard. She provides much support outside the classroom by serving as an advisor for the Graduate Health Network and a senior mentor of the program’s voluntary mentorship program. One of her star students is now in charge of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing at Oschner Health in New Orleans; another confided to her at his graduation that he had gained so much confidence throughout the program that he no longer recognized himself.
A commitment to hands-on, empathetic mentorship allows her to fight against the field’s rising tide of apathy, which she experienced first-hand in an incident that motivated her to change her career path. Being exposed to healthcare through her family, Nieves mother and grandmothers were nurses, and her grandfather was a doctor. When Nieves was in her junior year of college, her grandfather had a stroke that landed him in the hospital. There, she witnessed how he crumbled after having his concerns dismissed by the attending physician: “Well, what did you expect? You’re old,” Nieves recalls hearing. By nurturing the next crop of passionate and caring health professionals, she hopes to help ensure no one has to endure a moment like that again.
Today, her research focuses on how hospitals can maintain high standards in the face of threats to homeland security. Reflecting on our present-day crisis, she appreciates how the pandemic has instigated flexibility—bringing her and her colleagues at UCF closer to the “roll with the punches” attitude she has always admired in those working on the ground in healthcare.
Nieves has clearly been successful in passing on positivity to her students. Many currently in the field have reached out to express how grateful they are for the unprecedented hands-on experience they’ve been getting. For those who have trouble imagining a way forward, she shares the outlook that keeps her going through it all:
“Keep current and never stop learning,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; there will be change no matter what. You have to be a lifelong learner and adapt to those changes, or you will get left behind.”
- Excellence in Women's History award recipient - 2018
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