KINGSTON, R.I., May 23, 2017 — A senior nursing student from the University of Rhode Island has been awarded a pediatric oncology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital through The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellowship Program.
Jackie Davenport of South Pomfret, Vt., is one of only two students from the region — and the only one from Rhode Island — named as a Flynn Fellow at the hospital. “It’s an honor for a URI student to be selected,” said Maureen Hillier, an assistant clinical professor of nursing who leads the College of Nursing’s clinical program at Boston Children’s Hospital, in which Davenport participated. “Within the clinical group, Jackie stood out as one of the leaders and has been an exceptional student,” she said.
The Flynn Fellowship Program is highly selective, and Hillier said Davenport was competing against students from larger programs with greater name recognition, including the University of Massachusetts, Boston College and Northeastern University. URI is one of 32 schools that Boston Children’s Hospital offers clinical experiences to and is the only Rhode Island school to have that privilege, Hillier said.
Davenport excels as a student, is committed to pediatric oncology and has strong communication skills, which are vital when working with teams of health care professionals, young patients and their families, Hiller said. “It’s a special calling,” she said of pediatric oncology.
Davenport’s commitment to caring for cancer patients — and their families — is rooted in personal experience. When Davenport was 11, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Davenport would accompany her to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. “Her medical team was phenomenal and would explain everything to me,” she said.
Her mom recovered, but a few years later, Davenport lost a grandfather and an aunt to cancer, solidifying her desire to pursue a career in oncology. “It gave me such a passion for helping people in that situation,” she said.
Davenport devoted hours to her fellowship application, which included a resume, cover letter, personal essay, letters of recommendation and an interview with a panel of professionals in Boston. She prepared for the meeting by downloading typical questions one might get in a job interview and then wrote out answers to each. Still, her nerves sapped her confidence a bit. “I analyzed every detail afterwards and thought I did horribly,” she recalled.
But late one night in early spring, she checked her email and was thrilled to learn that she had been selected for the eight-week program, which is preceded by two online courses and required reading of the book “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande. The reading selection proved serendipitous. Davenport had received the book as a Christmas gift from her grandmother and already had begun reading it.
In addition to getting practical learning experience, Flynn Fellows must complete an evidence-based research project that they will present to oncology nurses and leadership at the close of the program. Given her family’s experiences, Davenport is giving some thought to a research project focused on sharing knowledge with siblings, other relatives and of young cancer patients. “What you don’t know is truly terrifying,” she said.
Not long after getting the Flynn Fellowship news, Davenport received the Francine Brem Excellence Award in Pediatric Research and Practice from Sigma Theta Tau International, a nursing honor society with members in dozens of countries. The twin honors only strengthen her already strong commitment to pediatric oncology nursing, she said.
The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellowship Program was created with the intent of developing the next generation of oncology nurses. It was created by Frederick C. Flynn in memory of his wife, Susan D. Flynn, who died of ovarian cancer in 2013, and out of respect for the quality of nursing care she received.