When Ruth-Alma Turkson-Ocran came to the U.S. from Ghana for college, she was set to study business as her parents had. Then she took her first biology class. She loved it and set her sights on medicine.
She decided to pursue a degree in nursing as a back-up in case medical school didn’t work out, but then fell in love with nursing. Now she’s not only a nurse practitioner with a nursing doctorate, she’s also an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a researcher with some 46 research papers to her name who serves on the editorial board of the American Heart Association.
“It’s been a unique path,” said Turkson-Ocran, who said she is the only nurse practitioner doing research in her division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she also sees patients in a primary health clinic. “It makes you feel good. It shows the breadth of things nurses can do.”
Turkson-Ocran focuses her research on cardiovascular disease and the health of immigrants and people of African descent. She’s currently in charge of community engagement for a study looking at whether stipends and nutritionists helping Black Bostonians order home-delivered groceries can improve blood pressure. “As clinicians we tell people they need to eat healthy,” she said, “but we don’t ask, does this person have access to those groceries or the means to buy them?”
— Usha Lee McFarling