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Class of 2009: College of Nursing & Health Innovation and College of Health Solutions

portrait of Erica Mahn
May 02, 2014

During the May 2009 commencement ceremony, President Barack Obama told graduates to “continuously adapt to a continuously changing economy," follow their passions to benefit their communities and to “keep taking risks as new opportunities arise.” Five years later, graduates from the College of Nursing & Health Innovation and programs within what is now known as the College of Health Solutions haven’t forgotten those words and chose to use them to springboard into the successes they enjoy today.

Striving to overcome a doomed job outlook

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition, Erica Mahn hoped to go to medical school but was overwhelmed with a financial burden many new grads face, like student and home loans. Instead, she found a job at a diagnostic laboratory and worked part-time for an adventure planning company. Mahn says while she wasn’t doing exactly what she’d hoped right out of college, she accepted her situation and was determined to make the most of it.

“The president’s speech foreshadowed much of what I was to experience in the years following graduation,” Mahn said. “Having had such a powerful influence there to motivate us despite the poor economy, I believe, made us strive for more than the hardship the newspapers made it seem we were doomed to face.”

Today, Mahn says she is thrilled to be using her ASU nutrition degree to its fullest, working as a product development technician for a major international food company.

“I absolutely love what I do!” she says. “I get to formulate foods and supplements, learn the ever-changing rules in food regulations, both domestically and internationally, and work with manufacturers and research and science departments on clinical trials. I wouldn’t be doing any of this had I not stuck to my goals and persevered.”

“The challenges I’ve faced over the years brought me into what I do now,” Mahn said. “I continue to grow and learn in this field, and know that challenging times are still ahead but my knowledge and experience has given me the tools to get through any obstacle.”

Grad takes president’s notion of creating a “ripple effect” to heart

Moments away from earning his doctoral degree in physical activity, nutrition and wellness from ASU in 2009, Jeremy Pomeroy sat in the audience at commencement reflecting on the people who helped make his achievements a reality and the work it took to get there.

“My wife and family, Dr. (Pamela) Swan and my colleagues were instrumental in my success and fed my desire to keep it going, to keep working to fill gaps in health and health care,” Pomeroy said. “In his speech, President Obama talked about 'the ripple effect' – the idea our good work continues, rippling throughout communities and the world. That sentiment resonated with me and has truly shaped my current and future goals.”

Today, Pomeroy is a postdoctoral fellow at the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), working on health interventions in native communities in Phoenix and rural Alaska, as well as communities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Sweden. Pomeroy also serves as a mentor for students in the NIDDK Office of Minority Health Research Coordination summer internship program.

“Mentoring students allows me to continue the tradition Dr. Swan set forth for me,” Pomeroy said. “If I can keep that ripple effect going by inspiring and mentoring students, I’ll feel satisfied in taking on the president’s challenge of leaving the world a better place.”

Rising to president’s challenge, grad follows her passions, finds leadership roles as a result

In his commencement address, President Obama encouraged graduates to make a commitment to do what is meaningful to them, help others and do what makes a difference in the world. Adriana Perez, who earned her doctorate in nursing and health care innovation in 2009, is doing just that.

In addition to being a well-respected faculty member in the nationally ranked College of Nursing & Health Innovation, Perez is a Southwest Borderlands Scholar and co-director of the Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. She is also president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses: Phoenix Chapter, where she recently helped develop a bilingual training model in partnership with the AARP-Arizona to empower Arizona nurses to educate multicultural communities on the basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve been inspired to get out of my comfort zone, engaging in policy and leadership activities,” she said.

Earlier this year, Perez was selected as one of four nurses around the country to meet with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss improvements in conducting research and enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“I see real efforts to transform our system from a sick-care focus to a health and wellness focus, so I’ve gotten involved in health policy, particularly health care reform, where the expertise of nurses is needed.”

Perez also volunteers for the American Heart Association, and was named a “40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40” by Latino Perspectives magazine.

Student earns PhD, meets President

As if being part of the first graduating class of the doctorate in nursing program at ASU wasn’t exciting enough, as a doctoral graduate, Diana Jacobson got to walk across the stage to shake President Obama’s hand.

“I was crying when I crossed the stage,” Jacobson said. “The president just grasped my hand with both of his and said, ‘Happy tears? It will be OK. Congratulations.’ It’s an experience I will never forget.”

Today, Jacobson is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing & Health Innovation at ASU and coordinator for the pediatric specialty in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

In addition to teaching, Jacobson has fed her passion for adolescent health and obesity prevention. Heeding the president’s challenge to graduates to give back to their communities, Jacobson extends her nursing skills beyond the classroom and into the community, researching adolescent obesity and mental health in children and teenagers.

“Health care delivery changes are redirecting patient care to the outpatient and home settings, and focusing on prevention,” Jacobson said. “Nurses are ideally educated and trained to improve patient outcomes now and in the future, and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Jacobson also developed a program called Healthy Choices, a healthy lifestyle intervention for overweight and obese school-age children to be delivered in a primary setting. Jacobson acknowledges her work as a nurse is never done.

“The nursing profession is a service profession based in science, so we are continuously learning and implementing new ways to keep people healthy,” she said. “It’s hard, demanding work but so very rewarding.”