IMG_3863[1][3]Winona State University Graduate Programs in Nursing has been selected as a recipient of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention/American Association of Colleges of Nursing Innovations in Graduate Population Health Curriculum Award. This award recognizes the outstanding work of AACN member schools in graduate curriculum innovation in population health.

“Faculty members in the WSU-R DNP program are committed to population-based health care, and they are dedicated to encouraging active student engagement in the Rochester community as an essential element of courses within the graduate curricula,” said Martha Scheckel, Ph.D., professor and chairperson of nursing. “The selection process for this award was very competitive, so all our graduate nursing faculty are to be commended for their hard work.”

The award highlights the WSU Graduate Nursing Programs’ active engagement in population health care within the Rochester, Winona, and surrounding communities.

One example of WSU’s innovative approach to curriculum development is the course Nursing 703, “Epidemiological Approaches to Population Health.” The course is co-taught by Brant Deppa, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and statistics, and Kim Dowat, Ph.D., an advanced practice nurse faculty member.

Students in the class use statistical data from real life populations to identify risk factors and develop recommendations to improve healthcare outcomes. For example, using the North Carolina Birth Data set, students were able to develop a tool that weighted risk factors for pre-term birth. This tool would allow a provider to make appropriate recommendations to modify and reduce the risk of pre-term birth.

The course has been in the curriculum since 2013, and Scheckel said she recognized the innovation when students recounted their experiences in the course during a student program evaluation session.

“The inter-disciplinary collaborative course development and delivery are highly innovative,” she said. “The course has sticking power. Students kept bringing it up as a significant experience.”

WSU Graduate Nursing Programs also partner with agencies throughout the community.

“Faculty members use service learning approaches to structure activities within the required health promotion coursework as well,” said Sonja Meiers, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate nursing. “Service learning in this context means that students complete practice hours through serving the needs of the community.”

WSU’s community health promotion partners include organizations like Hawthorne Learning Center, Alternate Learning Center of Rochester Public School System, Wellness Corner of Rochester Public Library, Rochester Health Community Partnership, Migrant Health Services, Head Start of Child Care Resource & Referral in Olmsted County, Project Community Connect, Boys and Girls Club Rochester, Cambodian Community of the Buddhist Support Society, Hosanna Lutheran Church Food Response Program, Dorothy Day Hospitality House, and Juntos Club, Alliance for Chicanos, Hispanics, and Latin Americans, Rochester, MN.

The award will be presented at the AACN Fall Semiannual Meeting Oct. 29 in Washington, D.C. WSU will also receive a $500 monetary award and be recognized at the AACN Doctoral Education Conference in January 2017.

For more information, contact Meiers at

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Samantha Stetzer

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