The bedside and beyond
Versie Johnson-Mallard uses research to change behavior in adolescents and young adults
By Sam Burroughs
Versie Johnson-Mallard, Ph.D., ARNP, can see gaps in health care that need to be filled and is using her expertise to help fill them.
Specifically, it was the gaps in the knowledge base of the women she has taken care of in sexual and reproductive health clinics that inspired her to go back to school to get her doctorate in nursing science.
“It gave me the translational research background to take science from the bench to the bedside,” Johnson-Mallard said.
Johnson-Mallard, chair of the department of family, community and health system science in the College of Nursing, is a nurse researcher. Currently, her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health promotion and cervical cancer prevention. She is interested in finding innovative ways of changing sexual and reproductive risk behavior.
“I try to make information available to everyone,” she said. “Nursing research provides a significant body of knowledge to advance education practices and, hopefully, to shape health policy. Shaping health policy is always an end point to research findings,” she said.
Her favorite part of her job is the ability to change lives based on sound, reproducible evidence-based research.
“The biggest part was the idea that I could mold nursing into what I wanted to be. All I had to do was imagine it,” Johnson-Mallard said. “Nursing is a field where you can work in a health care setting where you can make a choice to be at the bench (conducting research), in the classroom or you could absolutely be at the bedside.”
One of Johnson-Mallard’s goals in her research is trying to make information available, understood and translatable to create positive and sustainable behavioral changes among adolescents and young adults.
The path to becoming a nurse was not always easy, she said. But once she received her degrees, she knew she could work in a variety of different fields.
She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Florida A&M University and her master’s degree in nursing from UF. After that, Johnson-Mallard’s next step was working in gynecologic oncology.
“That was really sad because I saw a lot of patients die,” Johnson-Mallard said. “In the ’80s, they were admitted to the hospital because there wasn’t a lot left to do. I lasted about six months and then I moved to orthopedics.”
After a while, Johnson-Mallard said she felt she wasn’t challenged enough. She then moved into the labor and delivery unit and found something she really loved.
“I’ve seen and played a role in thousands of births, and I’ve never become bored. I’ve never seen any child come into this world and it be the same every time,” Johnson-Mallard said. “That was incentive for me to go to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.”
As chair for the department of family, community and health system science, Johnson-Mallard will assist faculty members in moving their research, scholarship and teaching goals forward.
“I joined a dynamic faculty under the leadership of an innovative and visionary dean,” she said. “I have not looked back but forged on.”