A passion for nursing

WSU nursing student Frances Ward twice named a Udall Scholar for Native American health sciences.

Frances Ward wasn’t expecting to win a prestigious Udall Foundation scholarship for Native American health sciences students last year, so was surprised and grateful when she did.

She definitely wasn’t expecting to win the scholarship a second time.

Becoming one of a small group of students nationally who have been honored twice by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation gives her confidence, says Ward, who’ll be a senior in the Washington State University College of Nursing in the fall.

Being recognized by the foundation’s Native Health Care program “encourages me, because it shows me that my passion is important to others, tells me I’m on the right path and helps me solidify what I want,” she said.

The Tucson, Arizona-based Udall Foundation was established in 1992 in honor of longtime Arizona congressman Morris “Mo” Udall for his impact on the environment and his support for the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Ward is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and learned of the scholarship through the Native American student center at WSU in Pullman. She’d already decided on a nursing career after participating twice in WSU Health Sciences’ Na’ha’shnee STEAM Health summer camp for Native American high school students.

She confesses to a little trepidation as she started nursing school last year; many nurses were discussing on social media how hard their jobs had become during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But in nursing school I found out I really love the field of nursing and what nurses stand for,” Ward said.

She’ll head to Tucson in August for a scholars’ orientation at the Udall Foundation.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “Even though we had to do the orientation over Zoom last year, I felt like ‘Wow—there are so many Native students out there and they’re amazing people.’”

Her goal is to work in a cardiovascular ICU when she graduates next spring, though she hasn’t decided whether to return home to the Yakima area right away. Eventually, she expects to pursue a graduate degree and become a nurse practitioner, and wants to go home and serve her tribe in some way, either through the Indian Health Service, in behavioral health, or in an area hospital.

Naomi Bender, director of Native American Health Sciences programs at WSU Health Sciences, said, “Frances is so deserving of these honors by the Udall Foundation. WSU is proud of her connection to the university, from participating in the Na’ha’shnee camps as a high school student to excelling as a nursing student today. We can’t wait to see all that she accomplishes.”

Addy Hatch, WSU College of Nursing