Carol Howe, Ph.D., RN, CDCES, FAAN, director of nursing research and scholarship at TCU, was named the inaugural Paula R. and Ronald C. Parker Endowed Professor.
An Experienced Health Educator
For over a decade, Howe served as a clinical nurse specialist and the director of diabetes education at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Her husband’s career change brought her to North Texas. It was during this period that Howe had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong aspiration by enrolling in and successfully completing a Ph.D. program in nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Initially, Howe envisioned returning to a children’s health system, but her path took a different turn when she met TCU Nursing Professor Gina Alexander, Ph.D., at a Sigma Nursing conference in Grapevine, Texas.
“I am immensely thankful for her encouragement and guidance, which ultimately led me to consider TCU as a platform to develop and lead my own research program instead of assuming an administrative role within a health care system,” Howe said.
During her tenure as director of diabetes education, Howe keenly observed the challenges faced by numerous patients and their families in acquiring the skills necessary to effectively manage their child’s diabetes. This realization led her to delve into the concept of health literacy, which revolves around a patient’s capacity to access, comprehend, evaluate and apply health-related information to make informed decisions. This also included health care professionals and system roles and responsibilities to decrease the complexity of health care information.
Motivated by this insight, Howe proactively introduced health literacy programs during her time at CHOP. Subsequently, it became a natural progression to direct her research efforts toward the intersection of health literacy and diabetes, recognizing this area’s profound impact on patients and their families.
Impact at TCU
Howe teaches the course “Professional Role III: Member of the Research and Evidence Based Practice Community” to junior nursing students. In the course, students examine the research process, theory and technique related to the development of evidence-based nursing practice.
Howe mentored five new faculty members to teach the course as the program grows.
“I’m truly enamored by the vibrant intellectual curiosity that permeates our community,” Howe said. “In my role as the director for nursing research and scholarship, my primary mission is to provide unwavering support to our dedicated faculty, with a particular emphasis on those pursuing tenure. I’ve personally experienced the incredible support system that exists here at TCU during my own tenure track journey, and it’s immensely fulfilling for me to now contribute to this tradition by paying it forward.”
Howe also instructs senior nursing students in their public health clinicals. As part of the course, students create an interactive diabetes education program in collaboration with Cornerstone Clinic in Fort Worth. The clinic serves Spanish-speaking patients without health insurance who have low levels of education and health literacy.
This program offers comprehensive diabetes education, often their patients’ first experience with such education. Students learn to use hands-on, interactive teaching methods to engage with patients and to collaborate with Spanish interpreters (often TCU student volunteers).
The clinic has received overwhelmingly positive feedback, requesting that students return each semester. Furthermore, Howe provides one-on-one consultations for patients struggling with diabetes, enhancing her relationships and professional credibility with the clinic.
Inspiring the Future
Nurses are facing burnout, and a significant number are leaving the profession. To combat this, many in the nursing community focus on promoting self-care. Howe’s contribution to this cause is teaching nursing students in her public health clinical course to knit. Students can also bring something else they enjoy doing, like reading a book, during dedicated 20- to 30-minute weekly sessions that prioritize self-care.
When asked what she hopes her students remember from their interactions with her, Howe says, “I hope students remember how much I love what I do as a nurse. Our field holds so many opportunities for nurses to expand their career to always keep it interesting.”
As part of Lead On: A Campaign for TCU, the university collected tangible proof of the impact of gifts like those from the Parkers in the form of love letters from Horned Frogs. TCU received heartwarming and inspiring responses from so many sharing what TCU – and the university’s support – means to them. This video is an example of just that.
The Paula R. and Ronald C. Parker Endowed Professorship in Nursing was established in the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences by Mr. and Mrs. Ronald C. Parker in 2017. The Parker Professor enhances the university’s intellectual climate and serves as an example to faculty colleagues and students.
“I support TCU because I believe in the school, the principles, the mission, the vision and the way we are preparing our students for the world,” said Paula Parker, RN.