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Congratulations to Dr. Zainab Almogheer, for graduating from the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Nursing (CON) with her PhD in Nursing. Almogheer successfully defended her dissertation, “Intentions to Seek Mental Health Services of Nursing Students in the United States: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Psychological Distress” on April 2, 2024. She explains that engaging in her research was driven by her own experiences as a nursing student living with mental health challenges. 

Dr. Almogheer reflects on how her professional and personal development has been impacted since 2018 while working with Dr. Okoli. “When I came into the program, Dr. Okoli took my hand and showed me each of the steps to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. He didn’t make it feel like taking large leaps, he broke it down and took me step by step. This was not only with academia but with life.” Having been used to separating professional life from personal life, she shares, “I didn’t share much about my personal life with my advisors because I saw it as separate from my academia. But Dr. Okoli showed me to trust those around me so that I will receive the same trust. This changed a lot inside of me.”  

While completing the last two years of her PhD program, Dr. Almogheer also worked as a research assistant with BH WELL. She shares that her experience with the BH WELL team was just as profound. “I found that the BH WELL team had the same idea about how they see life and cultivate a supportive environment. They are all very relaxed because they receive the same reassurance from Dr. Okoli. This really changed the way I see things in my own life.” 

Dr. Almogheer also notes how working with BH WELL enhanced her professional development, “The aspect that had the most profound professional impact was the opportunity to collaborate with diverse experts in the field. Engaging in interdisciplinary discussions and learning from their unique perspectives significantly broadened my understanding and honed my critical thinking skills. Moreover, the mentorship and guidance I received fostered my growth not only as a researcher but also as an individual, instilling in me a deeper sense of confidence and resilience.” Almogheer’s experience not only enriched her professional journey but also left a lasting impression on her personal growth, shaping her approach to challenges and aspirations alike. 

Dr. Zim Okoli, Executive Director of BH WELL, shares, “Throughout the program Dr. Almogheer has demonstrated impressive engagement by serving as a peer mentor and the student representative on the PhD program committee and Equity, Outreach and Social Justic Council (DEI) councils at the College of Nursing. In addition to her excellent scholarly presentations and publications, Dr. Almogheer has served as a teaching assistant for several courses. Moreover, Dr. Almogheer's journey through the PhD program is an inspiration to many. She took on a research project that was born as a result of her own deeply personal experiences. Her dissertation research holds the promise to provide support to many students who often face unseen challenges during their college journey. She has provided a glimmer of hope for many by advocating for changes in the educational setting to improve the student experience and promote an environment where students can thrive by de-stigmatizing mental illness and normalizing mental health-seeking behaviors.” 

As Dr. Almogheer reminisces on her PhD journey, she gives honorable mention to two people who were a great support to her. "My sister was going through a very hard time during my PhD journey, but she was the one that would listen any time I asked to talk. No matter what, if she was sleeping or showering, she would be on the phone with me" she says appreciatively. Almogheer also mentions her friend, Sarret, who was also in the same program. “Other than Dr. Okoli and Dr. Moser, she is the very best person that I have met at UK.” 

Armed with these lasting impressions on her growth, Dr. Almogheer shares her future goals. “I would like to have a faculty position in the US. In terms of research, I want to continue working with nursing students and faculty in the College of Nursing to understand their mental health.” Almogheer states one reason for this specific goal is because of a question she frequently encounters about her research that makes her laugh, “People ask ‘why are you still interested in the topic of anxiety and depression? We are done with this topic; everyone is talking about it.’ My response is, ‘Until we have found zero cases of anxiety and depression, I will not stop working on this.’ As long as I can, I will.”  

Congratulations Dr. Zainab Almogheer!