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OHSU students are training to become the health workforce of tomorrow — yet many struggle with significant student debt. Scholarships and financial awards, such as the ARCS Scholars program, can help ease the burden.

The ARCS Foundation is a national women’s group dedicated to advancing science and technology. The ARCS Scholars program provides financial awards to academically outstanding students who are studying to complete PhD degrees in science, engineering, math, technology and medical research. More than 140 scientists at OHSU have been financially supported by the ARCS Foundation Oregon Chapter since its founding in 2004.

Mary Roberts-Davis, a third-year PhD student in the School of Nursing, was awarded the Giesy Family Scholar award to pursue research in heart disease. Barbara Giesy, ’57 BSN, ’80 MSN, established the endowed gift to provide support to the strongest PhD candidates in the field of nursing.

Recently, Mary (left) and Barbara (right) discussed the importance of giving and how financial awards impact students. Hear a snippet of their conversation.

Barbara: Mary, we have a lot in common, with both of us having a great deal of experience in nursing. Tell me about your years in practice.

Mary: I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in 1998, and since then, I’ve worked primarily in the critical care setting. I have spent about 18-19 years in critical care, with the last 10 years focused on cardiovascular intensive care patients. You could say my heart is with the cardiovascular system.

Barbara: After all that experience, what made you decide to go into a PhD program to learn more about heart disease?

Mary: I’ve always been fascinated with research. I did a lot of teaching for medical and nursing students around cardiovascular care in the inpatient setting. I noticed women were different than men in this area — women tended to come into the ICU much more unstable than men. Over time, I heard so many stories of women who didn’t recognize their symptoms or were told their symptoms weren’t medically related. It piqued my interest into researching how women could be better understood if we knew more about hemodynamics (the dynamics of blood flow) and a woman’s biopsychosocial profile (the psychological, biological and social factors contributing to a person’s illness). OHSU was perfect for that, ultimately, because I knew there was a robust program of researchers waiting to mentor me.

Barbara: I am so grateful for people who understood the difference in women. I had a triple bypass surgery at age 57, and it was because the physician realized the pain in my back was actually a pain in my heart. I’m still here to talk about it because people like you in cardiovascular work are amazing. I am so thrilled to hear you are bringing your life experience into your advanced practice.

As the first recipient of the Giesy Family Scholar Award, how has that helped you get where you are today?

Mary: It’s helped me immensely in two really important ways. First, the financial gift has allowed me to attend and present at conferences. It’s not easy to travel and to financially prepare for those types of conferences, which are really essential in research. It has eased the burden. And second, this ARCS award gave me a boost of confidence that someone trusted and believed in my future. Not having been in school for some time, it has been a bright spot to feel support from the program and your family.

Barbara: It’s been a great pleasure. The reason we named it the Giesy Family Scholar Award is because I come from a history of women in nursing, and now my two daughters and a granddaughter are continuing that legacy. There are other medical professionals in the Giesy family, so I could have given anywhere, but I wanted to provide the opportunity for nurses like you to bring their perspective to scientific research. As the first recipient, your research exemplifies what I had hoped for.

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