Madeleva Award Presented to Kayla Wilkerson

The recipient of the inaugural Madeleva Award was announced at this year’s commencement ceremony. Kayla Wilkerson of Durham, NC, a Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate is the first recipient of the Madeleva Award.

The Madeleva Award will be presented annually to the outstanding graduate student in recognition of scholastic distinction and exceptional achievement. Each graduate program may nominate one student from among their graduating cohort for consideration. The Graduate Program Committee selects the award winner from among the nominees.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree was designed to empower Advanced Practice Registered Nurses with the knowledge and ability to make a meaningful and lasting impact in the health and well-being of populations. Kayla Wilkerson, who completed the DNP Family Nurse Practitioner program, has fully embraced this role and the mission of Saint Mary's College. Kayla's DNP Practice Innovation Project will have a major impact on how healthcare providers deliver care and the health of people living in rural Uganda.

For her project, Kayla knew she wanted to do something that could create a lasting change and improve health care.

During her first trip to Uganda with Dr. Tracy Anderson, Wilkerson completed clinical hours for her advanced health assessment course by seeing patients at the Kyembogo Holy Cross Health Centre and discovered her passion for global health initiatives. She immediately knew she wanted to pursue her DNP Practice Innovation Project with the Centre.

At her own expense, Kayla made several trips to Uganda in order to learn about the needs and culture of the clinic. In her project, Kayla designed an electronic medical record system that is based on current documentation standards and is consistent with cultural Ugandan norms.  Wilkerson’s project focused on implementing an evidence-based documentation tool into the Kyembogo Holy Cross Health Centre while also utilizing health information technology in the rural setting. The goal was to have the clinic staff use laptops or tablets to electronically document patient encounters based on the latest evidence-based research guidelines. These documented encounters served to help build a base of an electronic medical record system. According to Kayla, "Sub-Saharan Africa hosts 12% of the world's population and 27% of the word's total disease burden while lacking health information technology innovation and use, making it difficult for medical providers to collect high quality patient data, leading to a decreased quality of patient care and poorer patient outcomes." She has spent countless hours interacting with the providers at the Kyembogo Holy Cross Health Centre, training them to use the computers and professionally document their patient encounters. The clinic's willingness to embrace this new form of medical documentation has enabled it to improve continuity of health care delivery and become a regional leader as other clinics in the area have expressed an interest in implementing Kayla's project.

“Ultimately, I viewed this DNP Practice Innovation Project as a first step toward incorporating health information technology into a rural area of a developing nation that could potentially grow through future work and partnership. I worked with the midwives, nurses, and Sisters in order to successfully implement this project, and without them, it wouldn’t have been possible or successful,” Wilkerson said.

“One of my favorite parts of my experience working in Uganda was creating lifelong friendships with the Sisters and the other staff at the clinic. On each trip, I am welcomed “home” by the Sisters and truly feel like Uganda has become a second home. I have been to Uganda four times so far and am already looking forward to my next trip to visit the Sisters and to see how these friendships continue to grow.”

Her innovative work continues in the spirit of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and will improve health care delivery and health outcomes for this rural and underserved part of the world.

“I feel deeply honored to have been nominated and chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Madeleva Award and hope to continue to model the qualities listed in the award description throughout my career and life,” Wilkerson said.

Kayla intends to apply for a post-doctoral fellowship to pursue a career focused on global health care innovation and reducing health care disparities so that no matter where one lives, everyone can access the health care they need.