Linda Moneyham, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a UAB School of Nursing Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. She has served as a Senior Scientist in the UAB School of Medicine Center for AIDS Research since 2007, and has more than 20 years of experience researching HIV/AIDS. We sat down to discuss her journey to nursing, as well as the steps that brought her to the UAB School of Nursing.
Q: What led you to pursue a career in nursing?
My first goal, as a first generation college student, was to get a college degree. I knew that a college degree would be a ticket to open doors for me that were not accessible in the Appalachian area where I grew up. The college I attended happened to have a nursing program. While I had never previously thought about nursing as a career option, I knew I wanted to do something that I could be proud of and which would provide me many different career opportunities. When I entered my second year of college, my advisor told me that I had to declare my major, so I picked nursing. It was one of the best uninformed decisions I ever made.
Q: Are there any notable moments in your career that you would like to highlight?
As I look back over my 40+ year career in nursing, I can see how I grew and developed at every stage. However, the most growth producing period of my career started when I entered the PhD program. Given permission to think out of the box and to be creative, I began to have confidence in my own thinking ability and I realized that I had so much potential that I had not be using. When I changed by beliefs about my ability, it changed my world.
Q: Your career has emphasized empowering women with HIV, mentoring students, and preparing leaders in nursing. I’d like to explore some of those focuses further. As a researcher, what led you to pursue HIV research and to focus on empowering individuals with HIV to cope and develop self-care skills?
Growing up in Appalachia, I was very familiar with the health disparities of disadvantaged women. Where I grew up in a rural community, many of the women I knew developed chronic health conditions at a young age, which led me to focus research on the health of women. When I began my research, it was at the same time that women emerged as a group at high risk for HIV disease. With this context, it was a natural transition to focus my work on women with HIV disease.
My initial research showed that these women with HIV were very isolated and lacking the support and care they needed, with minority women and those living in rural communities as the most vulnerable. At that time these women had very poor health outcomes.
Q: As an educator, what led you to be a dedicated mentor? Are there any mentors you had that you try to emulate?
Mentoring is something that always appealed to me and brought me great satisfaction. Because it was not easy for me to climb the ladder of success, I wanted to share what I had learned with others who were just starting the climb. This is what mentors did for me. They showed me the ropes, showed me the way to get where I wanted to go. I have been blessed to have had some great nurses who showed me the way, and still do. I have found mentoring others to success to be the most satisfying thing I have ever done.
Q: What first drew you to the UAB School of Nursing, and what goals have you accomplished as Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs?
When I was first approached to consider a position at the UAB School of Nursing, I was very happy in my current position and was not really looking for a change. But, I was invited and I came to visit the UAB School of Nursing. What I found at UAB was really special, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Most impressive was the culture of collaboration that was part of the DNA at UAB. Also, I loved Dean Doreen Harper’s vision for the school, and I wanted to help achieve that vision.
As Senior Associate Dean, my greatest accomplishment has been in building an academic leadership structure and team that have worked to assure that we have the highest quality academic programs that are meeting the needs of the nursing workforce in the state and beyond. Our programs are very innovative and producing great outcomes so that our graduates are in high demand.
Q: 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have presented many challenges. How have you seen nurses rise to those challenges?
The response of our faculty, students, and our clinical partners has been phenomenal. Our faculty stood up to the challenge to find alternative learning experiences to ensure our students continued to progress toward graduation. Within three months of the onset of the epidemic, our students safely returned to clinical learning experiences. Our faculty utilized every possible resource to develop alternative learning experiences that were unbelievably innovative and effective. Perhaps the one thing I and others in the SON are most proud was the number of faculty and students who have volunteered to work at UAB Hospital during the most recent surge in COVID hospitalizations.
Q: What advice would you offer to a nursing student or future nurse as they consider their career options?
Nursing is not just a “job” but a career, and nursing provides many different types of career opportunities. In my nursing career I have practiced as a bedside nurse in acute care, a psychiatric/mental health clinical nurse specialist, a counselor in private practice, a nurse scientist and researcher, a nurse educator, and a nurse administrator. I have worked with and provided care to older adults with dementia, abused women and children, adults with HIV disease, and rural women and minorities with health disparities, just to mention a few.
My advice to nurses is to plan for continuing their education. With every degree I completed, more doors opened with many new opportunities. I have never been bored with nursing because I am always learning something new and trying new roles. Because of nursing I have been blessed with doing work I enjoy and that has helped me to be a lifelong learner.