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Students and Faculty Collaborate on Research on Violence Against Native American and Indigenous Women and Girls

4 presenters pose as group
Scientist and mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell (2nd from right), is with the FCN students who conducted research with her and presented at ENRS this spring, junior Lily Nguyen, sophomore Aiden D'Souza, and junior Gurleen Sindhar.

Native American and Indigenous (NAI) peoples of the United States have long experienced poor health outcomes, high mortality rates and events of violence, and no population experiences violent acts more than those of murdered or missing Indigenous women (MMIW). A collaborative research team from Villanova’s Fitzpatrick College of Nursing (FCN) and Boston College recently examined MMIW data using a developmental framework.

The FCN students - junior Lily Nguyen, sophomore Aiden D'Souza, and junior Gurleen Sindhar - worked alongside mentor and scientist Professor Elizabeth Dowdell, PhD, RN, AFN-C, FAAN, coordinator of Undergraduate Research and a nationally recognized expert in trauma, violence and victimology who is certified in forensic nursing. Much of her scholarship focuses on children and adolescents. She led the FCN team on the research project, with the group of nursing faculty-student researchers from Boston College co-led by Professor Ann Burgess, DNSc, RN, FAAN and Assistant Professor Victor Petreca, PhD, DNP, PMHNP-BC, CNP. 

The collaborative research team from VIllanova Nursing and Boston College.

That combined team presented their findings at the Eastern Nursing Research Society (ENRS) 35th Annual Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia this spring in a symposium session Reducing Violence of Native American Indigenous Women and Girls: Improving Health Outcomes through Nursing Science.

Their findings demonstrated that NAI women and girls are at significantly higher risk for intimate partner violence, injury during a family event, physical and sexual aggression, and assault from known perpetrators.

Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell
Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell presents research findings from the study.

Dr. Dowdell presented the research study findings from her work on the database on the girls under 18-years-old in her presentation “Murdered Native and Indigenous Girls: A Comparison Study of Perpetrators.”

The students each shared a pediatric case study that represented an area of violence, while highlighting nursing areas for interventions, with clinical implications, in their presentation “Native American/Indigenous Children and Maltreatment: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” In addition to their exceptional work, Dr. Dowdell says, “The students were polished and practiced” in their presentations.

Of note, streaming service Hulu was on site and filmed the symposium session for its documentary on murdered indigenous women.

Among the ever-expanding scholarly opportunities for FCN undergraduate students, these three students had a unique experience this spring, advancing their research skills through an innovative and interdisciplinary project while learning the deep and wide potential impact of nursing science on health from an expert mentor.