Faculty

Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Dr. Rachel Allen is an assistant research professor of nursing, family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar, and Fellow at the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on psychiatric nursing, nursing history, mental health policy, and the broad social history of deinstitutionalization. Dr. Allen's research contains both a chronic illness and community focus, centering on individuals living with serious and persistent mental illness.

Ph.D., The Ohio State University
MPH, Emory University
B.S., East Tennessee State University

Dr. Cara Exten is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist, focusing on health disparities affecting sexual and gender minority populations, with an emphasis on sexual health (specifically HIV and other sexually transmitted infections) and substance use. She has extensive experience in survey data collection, data analysis, and working with high-risk populations, and she is passionate about the examination of diseases in their entirety, including biological, sociological, and epidemiological factors.

Ph.D., Nursing Science/Geriatrics, University of California-San Francisco
MSN, Gerontological Nursing, University of Cincinnati
BSN, Nursing Science, Berea College

Dr. Donna M. Fick is the director of the Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State. She is an instructor for a variety of graduate nursing courses. Dr. Fick's research interests include inappropriate medication use in older adults, recognition and management of delirium superimposed on dementia, and implementation of ultra-brief delirium screening in hospital settings.

DNP, Wilkes University
M.S., Penn State
BSN, Johns Hopkins University
B.S., Franklin & Marshall College

Dr. Sandra Halbruner is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She has more than 21 years of experience in the field of medicine. Her research interests include active learning techniques in the multi-site or online classroom.

D.Ed., Adult Education, Penn State
Post-Master's Certification, Family Practice Nurse Practitioner, Widener University
MSN, Nursing Case Management, Villanova University
BSN, Nursing, Thomas Jefferson University

Dr. Sharilee Hrabovsky is an assistant research professor for the College of Nursing and a tobacco treatment specialist for College of Medicine. A practicing nurse for the more than three decades, many of them as a nurse practitioner, she has presented on tobacco use, treatment, and regulation research for the last several years. As a Nationally Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, she has worked with hundreds of tobacco users through clinical trials or direct patient care in their quest to reduce or quit tobacco use. Her research interest includes tobacco use, treatment, and regulation; behavior change; and qualitative and mixed methods research.

DNP, Penn State
MSN, Penn State
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Susan J. Loeb is a professor for the College of Nursing and the College of Medicine. She is a faculty affiliate at the Center for Health Care Policy and Research and Center for Healthy Aging. Her program of research focuses on the health needs and issues of older inmates with chronic health conditions, including those with advanced chronic illnesses who are approaching the end of life. Her research has been funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research. Over the past two decades, Dr. Loeb has taught a wide array of courses across the nursing curriculum, from undergraduate through doctoral education. Most recently, her teaching has been in writing-focused courses, helping students develop their scholarly papers or dissertations. She also regularly teaches NURS 501: Issues in Nursing and Health Care.

Ph.D., Penn State
MSN, University of Pennsylvania
BSN, Messiah College

Dr. Paul Logan is an assistant research professor for the College of Nursing. His research interests include outcomes, quality, and value in health care, particularly the quality of care provided by nurse practitioners. His clinical interests include acute care, critical care, and cardiovascular disease.

Ph.D., Leadership and Administration, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
MSN, Wilmington University
MBA, University of St. Francis
BSN, Wilkes University

Dr. Sheri Matter is the director of online MSN programs and is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She has more than 30 years of nursing leadership experience, including serving as chief nursing executive of a multiple-hospital system. Her dissertation focused on the nurse characteristics of a highly reliable organization. Her research interests include leadership, nurse characteristics and their effects on quality, and qualitative methods.

DNP, University of Iowa
MSN, University of Iowa
BSN, University of Iowa

Dr. Nicole Peterson is an assistant teaching professor for the Penn State College of Nursing and an Emeritus associate professor of instruction at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. She is a Respecting Choices® first steps and advanced steps facilitator. She has experience teaching in undergraduate and graduate nursing, including master's and doctorate level, as well as serving as geriatric nurse practitioner preceptor to numerous students, including family medicine residents. Her teaching experience includes lecture, online, clinical/practicum, and simulation with emphasis on utilizing active learning strategies in the classroom. As an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin and a first-generation college student, she strives to be a supportive resource for underrepresented students in higher education. Her clinical research interest includes advance care planning. Her DNP project involved advance care planning conversations and completion of an Iowa Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (IPOST) when applicable with nursing home residents in a mid-size town when the medical orders were first available statewide in Iowa.

DNP, Penn State
MSN, Penn State
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Andrea Sillner is an assistant professor for the College of Nursing and a board-certified gerontological clinical nurse specialist. Her 2017 Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Early-Career Investigator Award in Patient and Family Engagement supports her work to develop a new subscale of the Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory, to be known as the P-TAC. This new subscale is being designed to strengthen technology-assisted communication among older adults receiving community-based home health services and their formal and informal caregivers, and will also address current gaps in support needed to improve transitions in care for older adults with multiple chronic conditions. Her research interests include person-centered, preference-based interventions focused on improving communication among health care providers, patients, and family members; technology-based communication strategies; and communication and care transitions for persons with delirium and delirium superimposed on dementia.

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Bowling Green State University
M.A., Clinical Psychology, Bowling Green State University
B.A., Psychology, Calvin College

Dr. Kimberly Van Haitsma's research interests include developing observational methodologies to assess behavior and emotion in dementia, developing evidence-based education programs to enhance the skills of formal caregivers, advancing the understanding of person-centered care — "knowing preferences for everyday living" — and developing measurement tools for research, clinical practice, and evidence-based interventions for formal caregivers.

DNP, University of Alabama at Birmingham
M.S., Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College
MSN, Vanderbilt University
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Kelly Wolgast teaches both nurse administrator/management courses and nurse educator courses in Penn State's MSN and DNP Programs. Her research interests includes nurse leadership, health care delivery models, distance learning, and military/veterans' health.

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