Gannon University Graduates First Nursing Doctorates

Posted: December 19, 2014

At Gannon University's Winter Commencement on Dec. 14, Levi Black, Peggy Boyd and Cindi Dahlkemper were first in line to receive their diplomas.

It was a nice piece of symmetry for the three who were also the first graduates of Gannon University's new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

The program began in 2013 as a response to the changing role of nurses in the dynamic healthcare sector of the economy. Open to advanced-practice registered nurses who hold a Master of Science degree in nursing (MSN) and are certified in their specialty, the DNP program is an important step in helping nurses more effectively influence patient safety and develop best practices for hospitals and other clinical settings.

It's also fitting that the three new DNP graduates came to the program from widely disparate corners of the expanding nursing profession.

Black came to Erie from Arizona to enter the MSN program specializing in nurse anesthesia. Black pointed out that such programs are rare, especially in the Far West. Now actively engaged in educating future nurse anesthetists as assistant director of the UPMC Hamot School of Anesthesia, Black said the DNP degree "is something that will be required [for his position] in the not too distant future, and I always wanted to complete my education with a terminal degree."

Boyd's specialty is far different. She is a nurse midwife whose most recent practice was on the immense Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Nebraska and South Dakota. An Erie native and graduate of Villa Maria College, Boyd also received her MSN at Gannon. "I always wanted to get a terminal degree as a personal and professional goal," she said. "I can use data about best outcomes for mother and baby, and the evidence-based practice we explored in the DNP program was the best way to do that."

Dahlkemper is a family nurse practitioner in the emergency medicine department at Erie's Saint Vincent Hospital. A Gannon graduate for both her Bachelor of Science in nursing and MSN degrees, the latter with a specialization in nurse practitioner, she also cited personal growth as a motivation to enter the DNP program. "The key is to be a leader and a mentor in a clinical arena, and to show that [nurses] can make changes and don't need to rely on our physician colleagues to do this for us."