by Gary Sullivan
Five years after Marissa Abram ’08 earned her B.S. at Adelphi University, she returned as a Nurse Practitioner of Psychiatry to pursue her Ph.D. at the College of Nursing and Public Health (CNPH).
A passionate Long Islander with a deep commitment to the area, Abram has continued to work in the field as a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and a credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor – first at Phoenix House in Hauppage, and now for the Drug and Alcohol Division of the Town of Babylon – while continuing doctorate-level data collection and analysis work towards her degree.
While pursuing her Ph.D., Abram became a CNPH assistant clinical professor in 2015, teaching mental and community health nursing courses, and is now helping the College’s Assistant Dean, Dr. Jane White, develop a new program for aspiring mental health nurse practitioners.
Her commitment to the community is further reflected in the work she has taken on as a co-chair of the Nurses’ Advisory Panel for the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse and on the board of Long Island’s PULSE Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy, where she contributes to the strategic plan and community outreach events.
And her work is being noticed. This year the prestigious American Nurses Association honored her as a Rising Star in their 2017 Excellence in Nursing Awards. She was also named one of the “Rising Stars in Nursing” in the January, 2017, issue of Modern Healthcare magazine.
“It was a huge honor, and it all really began for me at Adelphi,” Abram said, referring to the undergraduate Mental Health Nursing class taught by Dr. Arlene Trolman where Abram first discovered her passion. “All of my nursing professors really instilled the values of the profession in me, which in turn has helped me critically appraise the environments I’ve worked in – I’m constantly asking myself, how can I help to improve things?”
“I’m a nurse by training, and I definitely consider that kind of face-to-face work with patients to be my core identity,” Abram said. “But while I was out working in the clinical world, I felt the need to contribute even more, to do everything I could to inspire positive change, and that led me back to the academic world, and specifically Adelphi.”
“I was also drawn to the rigor and convenience of Adelphi’s Ph.D. program, to its cohort format, which is designed so that the working student can go to school one day a week.”
Abram said that the opportunity to work with Dr. White was a big factor in her decision to return to the University. “She’s a genuine expert in the kind of qualitative research I’m doing, and she consistently pushes me to do my best and think creatively and innovatively. The faculty here all really seem to push students’ thinking beyond our clinical experience – it’s more than just about getting the degree, it’s a growth process.”
Abram is just as excited to work with Dr. White on expanding the CNPH’s nurse practitioner program to include a psychiatric-mental health track. “While certification isn’t a New York State requirement for nurse practitioners, it’s not possible to get a job without it,” she said. “So, we’ve helped Dr. White do competency mapping and develop the clinical tools one needs to meet the requirements. There’s work still to be done, like finding the right adjuncts and preceptors and clinical sites for training. It’s an enormous undertaking, but there is a serious need for psychiatric providers on Long Island, and we really feel like this is a call to meet the needs of the community. We want to ready mental health nurse practitioners to become licensed and certified, to prepare them to work with children, with families, with the community.”