Alumna Spotlight- Christina Foushee

CF Golden Gate

Christina Foushee is an EKU alumna who received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at EKU before going on to earn a Master’s degree in Health Policy and a Ph.D. in Occupational & Environmental Health with a Health Policy focus from the University of California, San Francisco. Christina discussed with us her unique career path, her motivations for continuing her education, and her experience as a student EKU.

Where are you currently working, and what career path led you there?

Currently, I work with McKesson Health Solutions where I research and develop evidence-based decision-making guidelines for healthcare organizations.  This work was attractive to me in that our guidelines are turned into software that assists those in often chaotic healthcare environments make up-to-date, safe, and informed decisions about patient care.

What motivated you to continue your education after graduating from Eastern?

There have been numerous key moments from my early nursing career that influenced the decision to pursue graduate school.  I had the great opportunity to work as a traveling nurse for much of my 20s which landed me largely throughout the Northwest and California coast.  My first day of my first nursing job after graduating from EKU was on a neuro-trauma unit where teenagers injured the Springfield, Oregon school-shooting were admitted. This was the earliest tragedy of its kind in the U.S.  Another major milestone in my career was volunteering as a triage nurse during the Kosovo Crisis in the border town of Kukes, Albania. The take-aways from that experience could never have occurred from the (relative) safety or structure of nursing practice environments in the U.S. From there, I worked in both in oncology and trauma units where end-of-life decisions often weighed on families and health providers. I also worked as a clinical research nurse where, despite being in awe of cutting-edge research, I often pondered the utility of research study funding that supported the use of highly technical, time-intensive, costly treatments over support of basic prevention and primary care.

The common thread in each of these career examples is that there are real policy decisions that impact real people in real time.  Nurses understand this at a visceral level, I think, though we may not articulate it as such to the public. What is the most responsible way to approach gun control in our country? When and under what circumstances should the U.S. be involved in international affairs? What rules should we adhere to during wartime? What does a dignified death look like and how can we as individuals, healthcare providers and communities discuss end of life care both rationally and compassionately?  How should we decide who gets what amount of research funding?  How do we deliver the highest quality, safest care at the lowest cost? Where do we get the most bang for our buck? These are the questions that drove me to pursue graduate education in health policy.  More than carving out perfect solutions to extremely complex problems, what I learned at University of California San Francisco was how to think about, struggle with and work through very complex issues that impact  individual and community health outcomes as well as our national budget and economic viability.

How did your time as a student at Eastern influence you?

This is an interesting question because I certainly didn’t see myself as the perfect student. In fact, I wasn’t at all sure that I was pursuing the right career. Like many, I was working, going to school, figuring out how to be an adult, figuring out how to create and maintain meaningful relationships—all of the insanity and uphill growth that comes with the college years.  Looking back, I’d have to say it was certain influential professors who framed my most fond memories at Eastern. Take Dr. Anne Brooks, for example.  She taught my favorite course at EKU–Humanities.  The way she delivered each word, her posture, her toughness—the thrust of her fist or squint of those brilliant blue eyes when emphasizing  a point—she was teaching us how to be human. Though, of course, I didn’t really fully get that at the time. I still have a textbook she co-wrote which is splattered with coffee stains.  Dr. Pamela Moore is another great example.  She taught our health leadership class—and gave us a lot of room to discuss and grapple with issues.  She wrote a letter of recommendation for my graduate school application that is still so touching to me.  The things she chose to mention in that letter helped me understand that she saw something in me many years before I understood those characteristics in myself.  This is what the best educators do. They teach but they also have this way of seeing and knowing.  And helping you see and know, too.

What advice do you wish someone had given you as an undergraduate?

Well, you’ve got to start somewhere but you don’t have to have it all figured out yet.  It’s tough to know at such a young age exactly where life will take you.  Sometimes you have to keep your head down and just do the work.  Sometimes you have to keep your chin up because disappointment is part of game.  Remember to be grateful when things, be they big or small, go right.  Stay open and curious.  Listen, notice, take note.  When you don’t have all the answers, life has this way of providing a few hints as to what to do next.



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Categories: Alumni Spotlight


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