By Richa Pokhrel/@nepalichoriblog
This month we have Nirmala Lekhak, an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She teaches in the Department of Nursing and this is her first year there. I admire her because of her dedication to be an expert in her field and then go out and inspire others. In addition to being super smart, Nirmala is also an amazing dancer (something she forgot the mention). She also dedicates herself to organizations and causes outside of the classroom. I wish her all the luck for her first year of being an Assistant Professor. I know she’ll be amazing!
1. Why did you study nursing?
Nursing basically means caring. When I first understood the meaning of nursing, it resonated with me. I wanted to be able to care for people when they needed it the most.
2. When you decide that you wanted to pursue a Ph.D in nursing and how did you come to that decision?
Before pursuing PhD, I never thought I would be going that route. I knew I would be joining grad school, but that for me was a Master program. Sometime you just need to listen to people who are pursuing the same route and learn from them. When I was applying for grad school, my husband was studying PhD in Sociology. So, he had a huge influence in my joining the PhD program.
3. What was your most important achievement as a student?
Finding a leader in me and finishing PhD.
4. What had been the most challenging thing about pursuing a Ph.D?
Time management. I have always struggled with time management. It became so stressful towards the end.
5. What had been the most satisfying thing about pursuing a Ph.D?
It was really a struggle at first, but as I began to understand the things I could do with research (especially things I am passionate about: to promote health of older adults, reduce health disparities, and influence health care/policy), it made the struggle worthwhile.
6. Outside of the classroom, what else are you involved in?
As I am just starting to teach, I am not involved so much outside. I am completing my roles as Leadership Succession Committee Chair of Alpha Mu Chapter, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI, a Nursing Honor Society) and Virtual Membership Ambassador of STTI North America Region 10. As a PhD student, I served in different roles such as Graduate Student Senate/Council Representative and Board Member, Institute of Healthcare Improvement Open School Chapter Secretary and Vice President, PhD Student Nurses Association Chair, Case Nepali Student Organization Secretary. I also served as Event Chair for Nepali American Organization of Ohio. I was also involved with University Allied for Essential Medicine and Students for National Healthcare Program School Chapters. I am hoping to be more involved in faculty organizations to promote health and education equity.
7. How is teaching different than working in the hospital especially in the nursing field?
Working as a nurse, you are in direct contact with your patients: taking care of them, but you also have role of teaching and advocating for your patients. As a teacher, you just take that role further to teach future nurses so they can be a better healthcare provider and advocate for their patients. From education provider point of view, we are providing a platform to students to not just learn clinical to improve their nursing skills, but also provide information on community, leadership, health policies, medical drugs, and so on. We try our best to make our students critical thinkers, and look at bigger picture.
8. What social issues do you feel most passionate about and why?
I am very passionate about reducing health disparities. Because there should be no disparities at all. Everyone deserve health care, not just who can afford it.
9. Who are your role models?
Every person and experience. It is amazing how much I have learned about myself and my weakness/strengths through negative experiences. So, I consider every experience a learning opportunity and every person a teacher. There is so much to learn from people around us. We never succeed alone. However, I was really inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s biography. But, as I have started to understand more, he was not a perfect person either. History holds you up for what you did and also for what you did not do.
10. What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a similar career?
If you are really passionate about research, PhD is the way to go. When you are in the program, please do not think your dissertation/thesis as your life’s work. You have your whole life after PhD to take your research forward. Do not second guess your ability, you can do it!
11. Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
I was a tomboy when I was a kid.
12. Best piece of advice you have received.
“Be yourself, people will love you.”