NPHF/Astellas Promoting Heart Health Across the Age Span Award Program 

2016-2017 Award Winners

Pediatric Award

Keeton headshot 4 4 2017.jpg Victoria Keeton, MS, CPNP, CNS, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist with over a decade of experience in pediatric primary care and nursing education.  She is an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as an NP at Zuckerberg SF General Hospital in the Children's Health Center and Obesity Clinic.  She is bilingual and bicultural and has primarily served Latino and under-resourced populations in community health and school-based health settings in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and Los Angeles County.  Victoria has clinical expertise in childhood obesity prevention and management and has published on obesity as it relates to physical activity, special needs populations, and behavioral health concerns in children.  Her project, "Impact of a Clinic-Based Pilot Educational Intervention on Health and Lifestyle Indicators of Obese Latino Preschool-aged Children and their Families," will eventuate the impact of a 12-week intervention program to encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors among Latino families and their preschool-aged children, looking at specific parameters including, child BMI, blood pressure, self-reported dietary habits and physical activity, as well as parental satisfaction.


Helm pic.jpg                       Dirdack head shot.jpg

Julie D. Helm, BSN, RN (left) and Brittany Dirdack, 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, MSNc, 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.  

Adult Awards

DVANG Headshot 4 2017.jpg

Duachy Vang, BSN, RN is currently a DNP student in the FNP track at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  She has worked as an RN for over 13 years with experience in inpatient cardiac, phych, home health, and telemedicine.  Her passion is promoting health and wellness in low-income racial and ethnic minority populations, and specifically among Asian-American subgroups.  Through her active involvement in the Hmong community in southeastern Wisconsin, she has learned that second generation Hmong Americans are at high risk of developing diabetes due to earlier adoption of Western diets, contemporary inactive lifestyles, and psychosocial stress exacerbated by weaker traditional familial and cultural ties.  The goal of her DNP project, "Development of Culturally Tailored Diabetes Education for Second Generation Hmong Americans," is to increase diabetes risk awareness, inspire action towards healthier lifestyles, and empower collaboration with healthcare providers about screening, prevention, and early management for Hmong Americans.


McCormack photo 4 28 17.jpg

Mary McCormack, MS, APRN, FNP-C, DNP(c) is an adjunct faculty member in the graduate nursing department and Molloy College where she is actively pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree.  She earned her Masters of Science Degree (Family Nurse Practitioner) at Molloy in 2009.  Mary practices as a Family Nurse Practitioner in Pre-Surgical Testing at Northwell Health in Manhasset, NY.  Her nursing career has primarily focused on caring for cardiac patients in both the inpatient and outpatient setting, including post open heart surgery, cardiac transplantation, and cardiac imaging.  Mary has dedicated her doctoral studies toward improving patient outcomes from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).  Her doctoral project, "Creation of a Campus-Wide Sudden Cardiac Arrest Safety Net," aims to empower student athletes witht the life-saving skills necessary to assist victims of SCA occurring in the community.  Mary is passionate about improving cardiac screening procedures for students and providing community CPR and AED education.  


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.


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

K Anderson headshot 4 28 17.jpg

Kelley M. Anderson, PhD, FNP is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies and serves as faculty member teaching in te DNP, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Undergraduate Honors Programs.  Dr. Anderson has held a clinical position as NP at Medstar, Georgetown University Hospital in the division of Cardiology since 2002.  In 2013 she began collaborating with the Arlington Street People Assistance Network (A-SPAN) to provide primary care services to the homeless in Arlington, VA.  Dr. Anderson has published in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Heart & Lung, Journal of Acute and Critical Care, Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing and she is the editor of Advanced Practice Nurse Cardiovascular Clinician.  Dr. Anderson's project, "Development of a Heart Failure Action Plan," will inform the development of on action plan for individuals living with heart failure.


MacKenzie headshot 4 1 2017.jpg

Dr. Meredith MacKenzie, PhD, CRNP, CNE is an assistant professor at Villanova University College of Nursing and a nurse practitioner at the Unity Clinic in Philadelphia, PA, a free clinic which serves a large Indonesian population in the local area.  Dr. MacKenzie earned dual MSNs in Adult Geriatric Primary Care, a Post-Master's in Nursing Education and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research focuses on health outcomes and self-care for patients with cardiovascular disease and their family caregivers.  Dr. MacKenzie's clinical expertise includes prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in diverse populations.  Her project, "A Culturally Tailored Approach to Lifestyle Modification (Indonesian Community)," focuses on reducing the high incidence of hypertension in the community by improving adherence to lifestyle modification.  Significant barriers have been identified and specific interventions developed to address these, including translation of HTN educational materials into Indonesian, exercise and nutrition classes, and self-monitoring of BP.  Expected outcomes will be improved patient adherence to lifestyle modifications with resulting improvement in blood pressure control.


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.