Jo A. Dowell, Ph.D., APRN, CNP, PNP, FNP-BC, CFNE, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Ph.D. Program at Kent State University College of Nursing expertise is in child health. As a nurse researcher, she focuses on children’s health outcomes for low-income families because she shared, “these children experience a higher rate of chronic illnesses.” According to Dowell, the number one curable chronic illness in children is asthma, an inflammatory condition in the respiratory system.
“There is a high morbidity and mortality rate among African American and Hispanic population experiencing asthma, and we don’t know why,” stated Dowell. “My focus is on rural areas to create and investigate appropriate interventions for this population.”
Dowell was the first in her family to enter the medical profession, however, she doesn’t recall what initially sparked her interest in the field. She fondly remembered a memory of being a young girl and receiving a doll and dollhouse from her father, who intended for her to enjoy make-believe play. Dowell, however, had other plans, like make believing the dolls had injuries so she could make them better.
“Even as a child I wanted to be in pediatrics,” she explained. “I ran experiments on the doll and used the house as my surgical wing.”
In addition to her inquisitive nature from childhood, Dowell has always had a strong desire to serve others, which she believes led to her calling as a nurse. Dowell humbly exclaimed that she has been blessed in her life and it is her desire to use that feeling to help care and nurture others. While at the bedside, Dowell worked in the pediatric ICU at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Brenner’s Children Hospital, in Winston-Salem, NC. In addition to serving the North Carolina communities, this facility was also a receiving hospital for surrounding communities in Virginia and Kentucky as well as the West Virginia mountains.
During this time, Dowell cared for children who had been brutally abused and lost others who might have been saved had the community medical team had more advanced knowledge. Feeling frustrated, Dowell asked herself what she could do as a nurse beyond this unit, beyond that hospital. The answer, more education. She went on to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner practicing in rural communities as a solo provider.
Her advanced education quickly led Dowell down a new path.
“I had school loans to repay and that’s how I found myself enlisting as a member of the National Service Corps,” explained Dowell. “You serve where they tell you and I found myself in the rural areas of North and South Carolina where providers weren’t present.”
After serving in the National Service Corps, Dowell completed her Ph.D. and post-doctorate. She spent hours consuming material about childhood asthma and family relationships, explaining that if a parent is unable to recognize the early symptoms, that puts a child at greater risk and needs to be addressed by education.
Dowell began her academic teaching career as a Ph.D. student. She then went on to become a two-year teaching fellow. Under this assignment, a colleague talked with her about her leaving a legacy. Dowell knew she needed to pass along all she had learned.
A faculty member at Kent State University College of Nursing for eight years now, Dowell uses her experiences to inspire her students. She was explicitly drawn to Kent State as she observed students have the freedom to expand their knowledge and think beyond the box. According to Dowell, this is one of the most important things necessary to grow the next generation of nurse leaders.
“I show my students how to overcome challenging situations, no matter what bias they may be facing. I teach them to remember we each have our own different opinions and that is okay because it helps make the world go round.”
Looking to the future of the nursing profession, Dowell believes we must spark excitement early on with middle and high school students.
“As nurses, we must talk to younger students about what we do. We may not capture the attention of everybody, but we may get one, and that’s extremely important.”
Following her own recommendation, Dowell held a handwashing boot camp for Black American low-income students during the pandemic. She demonstrated exactly how much time was needed and the steps required to properly wash your hands. She noted that while some of the students thought the exercise was funny, others saw the reality and practicality of the experience.
Dowell currently serves as the Co-Director for the Ph.D. in Nursing program at Kent State University College of Nursing. In this role, she oversees the Ph.D. program.
To learn more about the PH.D. program, please visit https://www.kent.edu/nursing/programs/doctoral.