Meet Laura Simbulan!

Laura Simbulan

Laura Simbalan, BSN student, was nominated by her instructor, Dr. Sunita Iyer, to share her research project at the Student Academic Showcase.  The project is a 2 quarter culmination of Laura’s research on increasing minority blood donors for Bloodworks Northwest, the major blood bank in the PNW. 

Laura took the time to answer a few questions about her research project and her experiences at UW Bothell.

Tell us about yourself and what led you to UW Bothell.
After working as a financial planner in the retail industry, I had a strong desire for a career where I could have a direct positive impact on individuals. This led me to a career in nursing where I achieved my RN-ADN degree at EVCC. One of the reasons I chose the EVCC RN program was that they have a close partnership with the University of Washington Bothell and I knew I wanted to complete my BSN degree at UW.

Please tell me about your research project and what it means to you.
Initially I worked with an exceptional student group in collaboration with a community partner, Bloodworks Northwest. Bloodworks Northwest is a regional blood bank and research organization. They supply 95% of the blood to Pacific Northwest hospitals for transfusion. Both my independent project and group work focused on how to build diversity in the donor base. Donor diversity is very important for several reasons. Blood types are inherited from our families and there are hundreds of unique biological markers that make blood unique (American Red Cross). In addition, research shows that about 80% of donors self-identify as white. Moreover, Black non-Hispanic populations are at higher risk for hemoglobin disorders like Sickle Cell Disease which require blood transfusions. This means that the populations that are at higher risk for needing a transfusion are at lower risk of having the right blood available. My proposal was three-fold. First, blood banks need to work on community building and education. Due to systemic racism and past medical abuse (e.g. Henrietta Lacks, etc.) there is good reason for medical mistrust. Second, provide health screenings, like cholesterol and blood sugar testing, which would benefit this population specifically due to the higher rates of hypertension and diabetes. Third, offer rewards and incentives to attract young, first-time and lapsed donors through a college blood drive, like with UW Bothell. They could partner with the University for a meal voucher “while supplies last” and work with clubs like the Black Student Union. These proposals could be tested with a pilot study as a test and learn.

How did your experience in your coursework help you find your career path (area of focus)/or influence your research project?
This project was a culmination of work over two quarters. My instructors, Dr Christopher Wade who taught Critical Reading and Information Literacy and Dr Sunita Iyer who taught Translating Knowledge to Nursing Practice, were great mentors along the way. They taught me how to critically read research and apply it to a real-world setting. Naomi Watts at Bloodworks Northwest was very generous with her time, sharing knowledge and providing feedback. Having instructors and community collaborators so engaged made this project really satisfying. The highlight of the project was when Dr Iyer nominated me to present my independent research at the Student Academic Showcase. Her confidence in my work meant a lot to me, and as she told our class, the purpose of research is to share it with others. She was right.

What are your future plans?
I am currently working as a nurse at a local area hospital. I am enjoying contributing to the health and wellness of my patients and hope to grow into a leadership role in the future.

Was there a faculty, staff or student service that had a positive impact on your success?
Dr. Iyer inspired me to work hard on this project. She encouraged the class to try, to not focus on perfection, but to just continue to get ideas on to “paper”. Sometimes students will find an instructor that brings out the best in us, she was that person for me and many others in the class.

How do you spend your time outside of school/work?
I am a full-time student; I work full time as a nurse, and I am part of my hospital’s nurse residency program. I do not have a lot of downtime. When I do have a moment, I like to play board games with my friends, bake, and ride my bike.

What else would you like to share?
I would like to encourage others to find the reason for all the hard academic work. Get involved in projects where there is an opportunity to apply what they are learning in real world settings. Enjoy every moment, life is short.