Elyssa Vasas

I come from a long line of nurses; women who have encouraged me over the years and given me the confidence to discover my own professional path. In my undergraduate nursing program at Boston College, I was given the opportunity to travel with a group of students to Kingston, Jamaica, where we spent our time volunteering in various community settings. For the first time, I experienced the social inequities which result in poor health, disease, and marginalization. The trip served as the determining event which has guided the trajectory of my nursing career thus far: I became committed to engaging in research and practice that will influence the reduction of health disparities among vulnerable populations.

Graduating from a BSN program in 2000, I began my career working in a pediatric intensive care unit while I studied for my Master's degree in Public Health at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Following several years of clinical experience, I enrolled in the doctoral program at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Nursing. Over the past two years, the faculty at UPENN has provided unparalleled support and mentorship, and has been a constant source of inspiration with their innovative research and inquiry. I have been afforded several opportunities that have focused my research and professional goals, including an internship with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in Switzerland, as well as a Predoctoral Fellowship in the Center for Health Disparities Research. For my dissertation work, I hope to return to Jamaica to examine some of the social, cultural, and interpersonal characteristics that influence the sexual decision-making of adolescent girls and translate into risk for HIV acquisition.