Posted on Jul 19, 2018

USF College of Nursing PhD Student Selected as Jonas Scholar

USF College of Nursing PhD Student Selected as Jonas Scholar

The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Health Care has awarded the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing a $10,000 grant and named incoming PhD student Tina Mutka a 2018-2020 Jonas Scholar.

The prestigious two-year award provides scholarship and leadership development to high-potential nursing students pursuing doctoral degrees whose research addresses the nation’s most critical health care needs.

Mutka, who works as a laboratory technician at the college, will begin her doctoral studies in August and receive a matching $10,000 grant from USF — bringing the financial benefit to $20,000 over two years.

She is among 200 nursing students across the nation selected to be part of the 2018-2020 cohort. The Jonas Nurse Scholars initiative began in 2008, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), as a way to address the nation’s nursing faculty shortage by providing funding, leadership and mentoring opportunities.

“I’m excited that there are new avenues for me to explore. I’m a lab nerd. I like research. I love working in academia. I like the exchange of information and the constant new information,” Mutka said.

Nursing is a second career for Mutka. She spent seven years as a microbiologist doing malaria research in the global health lab at the USF College of Public Health. For the past four years, she has been a critical care nurse. But she wanted to pursue something further in nursing, so she applied and got accepted into the college’s PhD nursing program in January.

A chance meeting with future faculty members led Mutka to apply for the Jonas Scholar award.

Mutka said after getting accepted into the program, she visited the college to meet the faculty and see what research opportunities were available. She said she was hoping for a part-time job in the lab.

That’s when she met Dr. Maureen Groer, a professor spearheading a research grant studying depression and the ophthalmological health in pregnant Hispanic women with the toxoplasma gondii parasite.

Dr. Groer, PhD, RN, FAAN, encouraged Mutka to apply for the Jonas Scholar grant, telling her to go home, write a one-page essay and send it to her that night since applications were due the following day.

Both believe the grant project’s ophthalmological focus and Mutka’s experience in global health infectious disease research made her a good candidate. Malaria and toxoplasma gondii are in the same class of parasites.

“I picked ophthalmology for her area (of research) and I think that probably made it stand out, because there aren’t that many people in nursing doing ophthalmology research,” said Dr. Groer.

Mutka said she is excited to begin her doctoral studies as a Jonas Scholar and is thankful that her second-career leap back into academia and the research lab has fallen into place.

 “For me, I like the research and I was just ecstatic because I didn’t think that I was going to get it,” Mutka said of the Jonas Scholar award.

As a Jonas Scholar, Mutka will have the opportunity to attend a webinar and the Jonas Scholars leadership conference scheduled for October 2019 in Washington, D.C. She will also meet regularly with her assigned mentor, Dr. Allyson Duffy, an assistant professor at the College of Nursing. In the past few years, the College of Nursing has been granted numerous Jonas Scholar awards — six in 2016-2018, six in 2014-2016, and four in 2012-2014.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing