PHOTO: Karren Geiger

Karren Geiger

Karen “Keri” Geiger, RN, BSN, ACRN, is the recipient of the Isabel Hampton Robb Scholarship, awarded to the doctoral student with the highest evaluation score.

Keri is a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Keri graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Lee University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and summa cum laude from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Keri’s nursing career is unique, having worked in the United States in labor and delivery, emergency nursing, and public health, as well as spending more than half her career overseas working in humanitarian emergencies for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

Keri’s decision to pursue a PhD was a direct result of her field experience in nursing. While working in armed conflict, epidemic outbreaks, and refugee crises, Keri saw the power nurses have to transform the lives of their beneficiaries and influence outcomes for their organizations. Before beginning her doctoral education, Keri worked in successful HIV treatment programs that operated in the most challenging of circumstances, including armed conflict in Central African Republic, understaffed and underfunded health systems in post-Ebola Guinea, and in South Africa where there are multiple unmet basic primary care needs. These experiences led her to realize that high-quality health care is possible anywhere on the globe, and it is most often delivered by nurses, not physicians. Even during her doctoral program, Keri has remained connected with the global health environment and the humanitarian community, completing three additional field assignments in Ethiopia and Chad to respond to humanitarian emergencies of famine, armed conflict, and a yellow fever outbreak. Because she has seen the necessity of a diverse and flexible healthcare team to achieve positive outcomes in such challenging circumstances, she has chosen to focus her career on ensuring continuity of care for people living with complex diseases during emergencies.

Keri’s choice of a PhD degree aligns with the four aspects she values in her career: clinical practice, research, evidence-based programming, and nurse education. Her dissertation research focuses on two deadly infectious diseases of global importance: HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Her ongoing work in humanitarian crises complements her studies by keeping her research grounded in global practice.

Upon completing her degree, Keri intends to continue working for medical humanitarian organizations in a leadership role. Her goal is to design humanitarian interventions that incorporate care for people living with HIV and other infectious diseases in emergency contexts where such care has not historically been a focus. Her education will help ensure that she is prepared to work with locally hired nurses, empowering them to practice to the full extent of their training and licensure. Underpinned by her belief in high-quality health care as a human right, Keri seeks to prove that achieving such care is possible anywhere in the world during any circumstance and to demonstrate the unique ability of nurses to respond to humanitarian crises through their independent professional practice.

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