By: Catie Middleton
For Martin Mikell, the road to a PhD in nursing was never straight, but rather much more circuitous.
“So well it took a long time, it took seven and a half years,” Mikell said. “My wife would frequently say, ‘Are you done yet?’ It is a bit of a journey. Sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes there’s lots of bumps, and the journey is a part of the process.”
That journey started growing up in a Chicago home where medical jargon was never taboo.
“My mom was a nurse, and my father was a chiropractor, so table talk in our home always surrounded medical things or physiology, or bodily functions if you will,” Mikell said.
Finding inspiration from both his parents and a high school Spanish teacher, Mikell, through many varying degrees of education and work experience wound up at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee pursuing a PhD with a dissertation entitled, “Exploring Factors Influencing Health Promoting Behaviors Among Latino Immigrants.”
Starting as a home outreach nurse at InterFaith, an organization aimed at assisting the elderly, Mikell made connections through churches and into the Latino communities that would help to further his research.
“With the churches, I knew many of the pastors already so I could just go to them and say ‘Would you mind if I conducted research at your parish?’ And they were very welcoming. So that was the key piece there because you have to have access to your population otherwise you have no research,” Mikell said.
Through the participation of 195 Latino people, Mikell studied their exercising habits, the way they ate, and whether or not they had become acculturated, as that affected their exercising and eating habits.
“My sample had only been here for an average of ten years or less. Well, what’s the big deal there? The big deal is that my median age was 41,” Mikell said.
Personal connections were made and built upon through Mikell’s research, however the conclusion of the project was a shock to Mikell “I was hoping to see something and what I found was nothing,” Mikell said. But for him, finding nothing is significant, as his advisor Dr. Julia Snethen pointed out. In the end, he’s proud of how his research was conducted and the way his outlook on nursing changed.
“As a nurse it has helped me understand a little better where nursing can really impact healthcare. And it can do it in the clinical setting but also in the community which is really what I would like to focus at,” Mikell said.
“Nursing can play a key role in the health of communities. We need to get to the table with the decision makers and say these policies have long ranging impacts on communities so we need to rethink this policy, or change what we’re doing to foster and help the health of the community.”
Mikell, who works at the VA as a staff nurse, is not deterred by the findings of his defense, but hopes to continue to work with Latino populations.
Mikell was the recipient of the Carol Porth Nurse Physiologist Scholarship and accredits much of his success to the support he was given by everyone at UWM and his family.
“What the future holds for me, again I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities, with a lot of gifts. Dr. Porth put it best, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ I get that, I get that.” Mikell said.