Nurse Profiles

Frances Lewis a "gem" within the profession

“People who achieve their goals do so with passion, planning, persistence and purpose.” (Lynda Field)

These four Ps came to my mind recently while talking with KCNA member Frances M. Lewis, RN, MN, PhD, FAAN. It occurred to me just how eloquently her career, indeed her entire life, has illustrated each one.

     Fran Lewis is a marvel, a gem — a whirlwind of knowledge, compassion and energy. Her career has been a “journey,” she says, during which she has moved in several directions, but has always followed her passion (and certainly not without the planning, the persistence and a determined sense of purpose).

     Fran grew up in Chicago and attended Loretto Heights College, Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver. Ever the lover of science, she chose nursing as a way to combine the sciences with her desire to serve her community. Then, as a nursing assistant, she developed an interest in “what happens after the diagnosis, and what nurses might do to help the family make sense of it all.”

     Fran earned her M.N. at the UW, then received her PhD in the sociology of education from Stanford. In 1978, she joined the UW faculty. Today, Fran looks back on a career that achieved her goals, a career that includes 40 years of “describing, statistically modeling, and designing behavioral interventions whose goals are to enhance the well-being of patients, caregivers, and the dependent children in families.” She is a noted evaluation methodologist, an expert in health behavior theory, and a founding editor of the award-winning textbook, Health Behavior & Health Education: Theory, Research and Practice.

     One mustn’t, however, get the idea that Fran’s career is behind her. As a professor in the Department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington, she teaches classes in the DNP program and continues her research. (When emailed a request for this interview, her reply came promptly, “I am grading 115 student nurse assignments this week-end… how is Monday?”) In addition, Fran is the UW Medical Center Endowed Professor of Nursing Leadership and an affiliate of both the Public Health Sciences and Clinical Sciences Divisions of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

     Begun during the 1980s, Fran’s research has studied families impacted by serious illness. Specifically (and to name a few):

n the study of impacts upon the family of serious medical illness in the mother, including testing theoretical predictive models of family members’ adjustments;

n a randomized clinical trial of a psychoeducational intervention for spouse-caregivers of women with breast cancer (National Cancer Institute);

n a pilot study of a couple-focused educational counseling program to enhance adjustment to the diagnosis of colorectal cancer (Oncology Nursing Foundation);

n testing of a telephone-delivered cancer parenting education program (National Cancer Institute);

n training and evaluation programs in eastern and central Europe, with the goal of adding to the capacities of health care workers to enhance quality of life. (Fran’s work in Ukraine, she says, “was to honor my father,” — work for which she took it upon herself to learn the language.)

     In 2006, Fran was awarded a Bloedel Professorship to support her continuing work. At that time, Fran says, her goal was to “move evidence-based programs and services for families impacted by cancer from research into clinical practice in health care systems.”

     Clearly, Fran Lewis is not a woman whose accomplishments can be covered in a page profile, because on top of all her academic achievements, Fran is so much more: a loving wife; a dedicated caregiver; an amazing mother, mother-in-law and grandmother; a dog lover (anxiously awaiting her next companion from Pug Rescue), and no doubt more!

Watch Dr. Lewis' inspirational TED Talk, "Caring for the Caregivers." Nurses and caregivers will benefit from her wisdom, born of research, about the myths of caregiving, the caregiving toolbox and how to survive and thrive as a caregiver.


Nurse’s family puts “good education” at top of list

Pauline Lao’s paternal grandparents, Chinese by birth, lived in Cambodia during the war in Vietnam. During the era of the “killing fields” in Cambodia, they emigrated to the U.S. Her mother’s family is Chinese also, but emigrated here from Malaysia.

“The most important thing to both my parents has always been for their children to have an opportunity to get a good education,” says Pauline.

Encouraged throughout her early schooling, Pauline was the first in her immediate family to attend college. She now holds a DNP/ ARNP and is midway through a year-long fellowship in geriatrics and palliative care at Northwest Hospital.

In high school, Pauline’s idea was to become a pediatric oncologist. While volunteering at Seattle Children’s, UWMC and elsewhere, however, she was mentored by some very special nurses. She later decided that the nature of nursing care was closer to the work she wanted for herself. She attended University of Washington School of Nursing, graduating in 2011.

After graduation, Pauline worked in the neurology and kidney program (“otherwise known as ‘electrical and plumbing,’” she says) at Virginia Mason Hospital. When she decided on graduate school two years later, Pauline worked part-time as a TA in the University of Washington “learning lab.” Incredibly good at juggling many balls, Pauline graduated with her DNP/ARNP in March 2016, and got married that April!

Currently, Pauline is working to complete her post-graduate fellowship, which includes both clinical and didactic experience, and also allows her to take short specialty courses in areas such as geriatric psychology and hepatology. “The fellowship has provided an opportunity to refine skills and expand knowledge,” she says, “and has been an invaluable experience in preparing me to specialize in geriatrics and palliative care upon completion of the program.”

Pauline has been an active member of KCNA for a number of years, serving as board secretary and on the Scholarship and Membership/PR committees. She is known to many members for her help at the Annual Meeting & Spring Banquet, where she frequently announces the scholarship recipients. Pauline is also a volunteer mentor with the KCNA MentorLink program.

According to Executive Director Sue Vermeulen, “Pauline is just a perfect fit for the volunteer work she does for us. She is smart and kind, and she brings a welcome perspective to the board and the Scholarship Committee. Pauline is easy to work with, and when she commits to something, you just know it will happen."

And in her spare time? By now the reader assumes that Pauline has no spare time, but in fact she does manage the occasional time for relaxation and fun. She and her husband love to travel; they recently returned from a trip to Thailand (“an overdue honeymoon”), which allowed them to tick off one of their “international bucket list” items.

Closer to home, they have enjoyed spending time with family and friends, cooking and hiking. (Pauline recently hiked Mailbox Peak, several miles straight up. “I don’t know that I would do it again,” she says, “given my fear of heights.”)