Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation/Astellas Heart Health Through the Ages Award Program 


2015-2016 Award Winners

Pediatric Awards

Dirdack head shot.jpgHelm pic.jpg

Brittany Dirdack, BSN, RN (left) and Julie Helm, BSN, RN (right) are completing their Master’s in Nursing at Georgetown University’s online Family Nurse Practitioner program. After completing her BSN summa cum laude at California State University Fresno, Julie worked in pediatrics in both acute care and community health settings. She has volunteered at hemophilia and other youth camps as well as at an adult medical clinic at the local homeless shelter. Brittany completed her BSN cum laude at Rutgers University and works with orthopedic, spine, and trauma adult patients in an acute care hospital setting. Julie’s experience with pediatrics and Brittany’s experience with competitive dancing, as well as their interests in nutrition and exercise, have informed their strong interest in the nationwide problem of pediatric obesity. As a result, they teamed up to develop a pediatric overweight/obesity assessment and intervention tool for use in the primary care setting. “Cool & Fit: Count on Overcoming Obesity for Life, Fulfill It Today” is a motivational/educational tool to assist children aged 6-17 to make healthy decisions that will impact their body weight. Julie and Brittany are proud the NPHF/Astellas Heart Health Award will support their research to determine if “Cool & Fit” impacts anthropometric measures in overweight/obese children.


Young Adult Award

Laura Hays Astellas.jpg Laura Hays, MSN, APRN, CPNP-PC works in the General Pediatrics Clinic and with the Department of Genetics and Metabolism at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she oversees the Newborn Screening Program as a liaison with the Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).  She previously worked in the Heart Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital which led to her current research focus on the newly emerging population of adults with congenital heart disease. This award will fund her research project, "State and Correlation of Knowledge and Self-Efficacy of Adults with Congenital Heart Disease." Laura is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Nursing through the UAMS Graduate School.  She received the 2014 Nursing Research Fellowship Award through Arkansas Children’s Hospital, is an invited member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and joined the Congenital Heart Legislative Conference in 2016 as an advocate for federal research funding for the needs of the congenital heart disease population.  She has published nationally and internationally on issues specific to the transitioning population of adults with congenital heart disease and serves as a peer reviewer for several medical journals.  

Young Adult Award

Diane Ames head shot.jpg Diane Ames, DNP, APNP, FNP-BC is an Associate Nursing Professor and Co-Director of the Graduate Nursing Programs at Concordia University Wisconsin. Her practice hours are with Aurora Health Care, an integrated, not-for-profit health care provider serving communities throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  Diane’s project, “Design, Implementation & Analysis of an Interactive Educational Hypertension Project,” aims to develop and implement teams of interprofessional students to educate a cohort of under-served African American hypertensive patients through interactive hypertension educational game boards for use in the community setting. The project is based on a previous grant-funded program that provided interactive diabetic education to underserved individuals in an Aurora Health Care clinic in central city Milwaukee.  The ultimate goal of the project is to foster better self-management of chronic disease with subsequent improvement in biometrics, overall health, and quality of life.

Young Adult Award

hellesto_rachel_20120604_003_a_4x6.jpg Rachel Hellesto, BSN, RN, CCRN is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in the Family Nurse Practitioner track at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing.  She is a graduate of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.  Rachel has worked as a registered nurse in critical care in Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington.  During her time as a critical care nurse she saw firsthand how many acute and chronic illnesses were preventable, and she made it her goal to devote her energy to preventive care as a nurse practitioner.  This award will fund her DNP project, "Goal Setting and Self-Monitoring to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk,"which will assist patients at a free clinic in Washington to improve their cardiovascular risk status.  

Geriatric Award

RamosPic (002).jpg Litzie Ramos, BSN, RN is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. She has worked as a supervisor in an adult skilled nursing rehabilitation facility and has also worked in outpatient settings including family practice and pediatric practice.  Litzie is passionate about primary prevention and improving patients’ ability to improve their own health.  Her special interest in health policy, world health, and health disparities is demonstrated in her work with underserved populations.  This award will support her project, "Diabetic Heart Disease Prevention," focused on improving heart disease outcomes in a primary care practice setting in San Antonio. The aim of the study is to improve provider adherence to recently established guidelines that will reduce the sequalae of heart disease in patients with Type II diabetes.

2010-2011 Award Winners

Pediatric Award

Carolyn Montoya, RN, MSN, CPNP, PhD(c) 

Ms. Montoya is pursuing her PhD at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is the Academic Program Director for the Advanced Practice Concentrations and Coordinator of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Concentration at that institution. Ms. Montoya is a nationally certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who maintains a clinical practice at Pediatric Services in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Health Policy Fellow in the RWJ Foundation and Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico. The NPHF/Astellas “Heart Health Across the Age Span” award will help fund Ms. Montoya’s research in determining if children ages 8-11 have an accurate perception of their weight and if there are differences between Caucasian and Hispanic children’s perceptions.

Adult Award 

Beth Whittaker, FNP, DNP-c 

Ms. Whittaker is pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. She has worked as a Registered Nurse on the Medical-Surgical/Transplant Intensive Care Unit at the University of Washington Medical Center. Ms. Whittaker is currently a member of the Heart Failure Committee at the University of Washington Medical Center. This award will fund her study identifying factors associated with 30-day heart failure readmission at the University of Washington Medical Center. The goal of the study is to develop recommendations for care to reduce readmissions.

Lufei Young, PhD, APRN – Geriatric Award

Dr. Young is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and an assistant professor at the College of Nursing – Lincoln Division at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. She practiced as a primary care physician in the People’s Republic of China before coming to the United States in 2000. The NPHF/Astellas “Heart Health Across the Age Span” award will help fund Dr. Young’s research to develop strategies to improve medication safety and quality of care during care transition in rural communities through an ANP-managed medication reconciliation program. This research will evaluate the impact and feasibility of the program on medication discrepancies and use in elderly patients with heart disease discharged from a rural critical access hospital.