PHOTO: Mary Killela

Mary Killela

Mary Killela of Raleigh, North Carolina is the recipient of the Henry Spencer Scholarship. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 2015. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2017, also at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing. 

Mary was inspired to pursue a career in nursing after volunteering in her undergraduate program at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. She was part of a family support program that aimed to provide caregiver relief for parents of children with cancer. In this experience, Mary saw firsthand the impact of social support from community members as well as the importance of holistic nursing care. From here she pursued a second degree in nursing, followed by a fellowship in pediatric nursing.

Throughout her training, she has observed the impacts of financial distress on families of children with chronic illnesses. Her dissertation topic examines how families use online crowdfunding sites to offset the costs of childhood cancer and how social support is present in these online settings. She is interested in the social support, both financial and non-financial, that can exist in crowdfunding spaces. Mary has a keen interest in how individuals identify their stressors and the ways in which individuals cope. Her dissertation work is guided by these concepts. Mary has also been involved in other research endeavors that examine stress and coping of the nursing workforce. She is dedicated to promoting the well-being of both the patients we serve and ourselves as nurses. 

Mary has also had the unique opportunity to mentor fellow students in her PhD program. Through a variety of leadership positions in her program she coordinated programming so that fellow students have great opportunities to make the most out of their PhD experience. She has been a mentor to fellow trainees in fellowship programs she has been part of by offering guidance on everything from theoretical foundations of student’s work to where the best place on campus is for coffee. Mary is very interested in developing methodological expertise in qualitative methods, big data methods, and community participatory research methods. She plans to use her degree to develop interventions to mitigate the financial impacts of cancer on families, influence health policy, and mentor future generations of nurse researchers.

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