Category: School of Nursing


Helping women succeed in CHS

March 24, 2021 Written by Kelly Bothum | Photo by

We have celebrated Women’s History Month so far by recognizing the historical contributions of women in healthcare and those who have supported the College of Health Sciences over the years

Our focus now is on the present, and in particular, two women who help CHS thrive on a daily basis, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Gina Porter, chief of staff to Dean Kathy Matt, and Amy Hagstrom, professor of Nursing and director of the Center for Global Health, exemplify the inclusive, supportive and innovative spirit that makes CHS such a welcoming place for students, community members, patients, faculty and staff. 

Porter and Hagstrom continually go above and beyond to help others they encounter, whether it’s answering questions from faculty and helping visitors navigate the Health Sciences Complex or mentoring students pursuing their graduation education and supporting interdisciplinary efforts for global health. 

Check out these short interviews to learn more about the contributions of these dynamic women and who inspire them to keep making a difference:

Gina Porter

Q. What is your history with the College of Health Sciences? 

A. I was working with (Dean) Kathy Matt at Arizona State University and was fortunate to be able to transition with her when she started as dean in 2009. It has truly been my pleasure to work with the dedicated staff and faculty AND the fabulous students in CHS and across the University.

Q. How do you think higher education can support women, particularly when it comes to the STEM field? 

A. I’ve been very blessed to work with visionary, powerhouse women at all levels. They’ve inspired and supported me. That collaborative culture where women feel like they have a place and can make a difference is incredibly empowering. I think it makes everything richer when all voices are valued. 

Q. How have you helped female students navigate their undergraduate and graduate careers? 

A. I don’t have a favorite part of my job, but if I did, it would be mentoring students. Whether they are our student workers who add so much to what we do on the STAR Campus and in the dean’s office or our high school pipeline students, they blow me away. Their enthusiasm for where they are going and their passion for making a difference really give me hope in the future. It’s definitely bittersweet when they graduate, but they keep in touch as they move on through graduate school, careers, getting married, and starting families. It’s exciting to see how they each make the world better wherever they end up. 

Q. What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you? 

A. Work hard, be nice, stay humble, and be open to how life unfolds. 

Q. Who is a female hero of yours? 

A. 100% my mom. She did such a great job setting me up to be successful in life and taught me the really important things: how to be resilient in challenges, how to be confident in your own skin, how to challenge the status quo if it’s harming someone, and how to be on the lookout for ways to help others.


Amy Hagstrom

Q. What is your history with the College of Health Sciences?

A. I completed a Master of Science in Nursing at UD in the early 90s while I worked in the [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] NICU at Christiana Hospital and raised my four children. I was clear then that I wanted to return to UD as faculty and set my course to earn my Ph.D. at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., following the UD graduation. I am now working my 25th year at the University as a full professor in nursing with a joint appointment in Women & Gender studies. My work transitioned over time to global health and I now serve as the College of Health Sciences Director of Global Initiatives.

Q. How do you think higher education can support women, particularly when it comes to the STEM field?

A. There are several directions we can take to support women in STEM.  

1. STEM scholarships could be offered after completing some freshman level science courses — maybe competitive, but always attached to research experiences in CHS as well as shadowing experiences in careers of UD grads. 

2. Women working in STEM make up less than 30% of that workforce which means we need to focus efforts in moving women into that area. BUT there is a caveat — salary equity is abysmal for women in STEM! The latest U.S. figures show women in STEM earning only 81 cents to the male dollar. So how can higher education support women in STEM? That will require an alignment of salary and opportunity — which will need leadership to make huge changes in opportunities. 

Q. How have you helped female students navigate their undergraduate and graduate careers? 

A. I see mentoring females as my calling in higher education, and it spans beyond students. I focus on helping women embrace their strengths so that they can achieve their goals in education and career aspirations. I look for those traits in women that they may not see in themselves, and I encourage them to consider their possibilities. In this role, I have helped nurses return to graduate education, mentored undergraduate students to become nurses, identified and maintained long-term relationships with more than 10 “Women of Promise,” and supported staff in finding “best fit” career opportunities. I know that seeing the talents in others and offering powerful affirmation insights supports individuals as they make decisions on education and careers.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?

A. Years ago as I began my nursing career, an elderly woman offered me sage advice that I have shared over the years with many, many young students. She said that the "most important skill a nurse offers is that of empathetic listening." Think about it — empathetic listening is active listening that enhances meaning by considering emotions, knowledge, and the patient experience. 

Q. Who is a female hero of yours?

A. Katharine Hepburn has always been my hero. I admire her dedication to the health and welfare of children, fierce independence, and obvious belief in her own qualities.  Her comment on following the rules inspired me. To paraphrase, she stated that "If you obey the rules, you miss all the fun.” Think about it — life should be a terrific experience.  



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