These nurses are also doctors and Sound Sound tech leaders

Allan Belton is the acting president at Pacific Lutheran University. Photo by
Allan Belton is the acting president at Pacific Lutheran University. Photo by Pacific Lutheran University

The case for more doctoral degrees in the South Sound was laid out by Tacoma’s Ken Miller in a recent News Tribune op-ed piece.

We at Pacific Lutheran University agree that Tacoma needs more PhDs for the technology industry to boom in Tacoma/Pierce County. We also agree that developing a “tech strategy” for the region “requires sorting out the kind of tech in which we can succeed – or even lead,” as Miller noted.

The availability and affordability of quality health care for patients across the socioeconomic spectrum remains a serious public health issue in our community, and equitable access will remain a challenge for years to come as national and state health care reform continues to be debated.

That is why we at PLU launched our first doctoral program, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, in fall 2015.

The first cohort of DNP graduates, who earned their degrees in May, are wasting no time putting their technical dissertation research projects to work improving patient outcomes in our community.

One graduate worked with Providence Health, which hired her to continue work on her project, to streamline and enhance Medicare screenings. Her work will be implemented across multiple Providence regions and used in their training of primary care providers.

Another graduate used statistical data analysis to improve the efficiency of heart failure case managers conducting home visits.

Yet another graduate is improving the social and care competency of those providing care to patients who identify as transgender. She distilled the scattered and cumbersome recommendations for screening and treating gender variant patients into an information tool. She is now employed with Kaiser Permanente — with whom she worked on her research project — to build upon that tool.

All of these doctoral graduates have two things in common: They are not just great nurses, but also health care industry leaders bringing innovative ideas to a people-centered approach to health care technology.

It is an approach that improves the quality of lives, creates stronger communities and accelerates economic growth.

But it doesn't always take a doctoral degree to launch a successful technology endeavor; just ask famous college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

That’s why PLU is launching a minor in Innovation Studies next year.

This program will help students understand the process of innovation in historical and ethical contexts, and learn fundamental concepts in economic theory and emerging global economies, art and design, communication, computer science, philosophy and business management.

Students will be challenged not just to learn theory, but also to gain greater expertise by working in teams. It’s a program that complements all majors at PLU, connects students to the region and establishes a shared meeting space on campus.

The goal is to prepare students for life after graduation by emphasizing skills that employers most want. That includes not just proficiency with important technologies, but the ability to communicate well with others, organize and prioritize workflows, create and make connections, and sell ideas.

We believe creativity and innovation work best when diverse and unexpected connections are fostered across groups of people, interests and academic-professional boundaries.

We also believe great ideas and groundbreaking research can happen at all levels of education. The key is making those opportunities relevant and accessible.

There are lots of great minds and energy in the South Sound. Let’s work together to create a collaboration zone that kick starts our own tech boom.

Allan Belton is acting president at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland. He was named to that role in May while PLU conducts a national search for a new president. He previously served as the school’s senior vice president and chief administrative officer.