Nursing student aims to build Costa Rica’s pool of nurse scientists

The nation of Costa Rica has only one nurse-scientist with a PhD conducting research in the field—but Ana Laura Solano Lopez is hoping to change that.

A student in the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing’s bachelor’s-to-doctorate program, Salano, of Turrialba, Costa Rica, is one of four graduates of the University of Costa Rica with special scholarship support to travel outside the country for doctorate degrees and then return home to enhance Costa Rica’s research program in nursing.

The four students have headed off to different schools—two to South America and another to the University of Miami. Their varied experiences, Solano said, will contribute different perspectives to research and education in their home country.

She has earned a licenciatura, which is midway between a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. When she returns home, she will be under contract to teach for eight to 12 years, she said.

Before starting her search for a graduate program, Salano was not acquainted with universities in the United States. But after searching U.S. News and World Report rankings and finding Case Western Reserve’s nursing school at 15th in the country, she applied and was accepted. She’s now the first doctoral student from Costa Rica, according to Jaclene Zauszniewski, associate dean for doctoral education.

After her acceptance, Solano had to find financial support, as UCR pays for only part of her tuition.

She found help from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science and Technology. “I was one of the first students to receive support in the health sciences,” Solano said. She also works on campus to provide for her living expenses.

Once she reaches the research phase of her doctoral degree, she will return home to hopefully undertake a project on hypertension. While the research project is still taking shape and direction, she knows she wants to study how the perception or lack of perception of signs and symptoms of high blood pressure influences people’s self-management of the disease.

Ultimately, though, her primary goal is to make a big difference in her country.