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Scholar Spotlight: Isadora Yi

Isadora Yi, BSN, MN, RN, is one of the de Tornyay Center’s Healthy Aging Doctoral Scholars. A DNP student, her project is creating a dementia care toolkit. Her faculty mentor is Hilaire Thompson.

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Find all scholar spotlight interviews here.


When did you realize you wanted to work in gerontology?

I’ve always enjoyed working with my older patients but didn’t realize that this was my niche until I did a clinical rotation in a post-acute care setting this summer. It was the first time I woke up excited to go to clinicals. That quarter went by so fast.

And there aren’t enough geriatric specialized providers, especially with the rapid growth of the older adult population. There are many things that you really need to consider in geriatrics, like ­the types of medications to avoid, dosage changes, and the different ways illnesses present in older adults — just to name a few.


What did you like about your summer rotation?

I liked that I could spend a longer time with them versus internal medicine, where you only have around 15 minutes. The time allowed me to really get to know them, their family, and their stories. I got to learn who they were and not just their body and their diagnosis. That’s what I really enjoyed. I got to see the whole person, all of them.


What is your project with the de Tornyay Center?

My project title explains it, it’s ‘Creating a Dementia Care Toolkit for Caregiving Staff in the Memory Care Units’, with a local senior living community company. The caregiving staff, they provide the most care for adults there with a dementia diagnosis. It’s 24-hour care, yet the staff has the lowest opportunities for education, especially in dementia care. Dementia care is so complex, and it’s really difficult for the organizations to pull them off the floors and offer them training on the side. The agency and I were talking about it and thought we could create an on-site resource for them to give them some on-site support, and they could use it as an educational tool.


Why did you choose this DNP project?

I had an opportunity to do some of my rotation at a walk-in clinic at one of this company’s communities during my first clinical rotation, and I just loved it. The residents and staff are so nice, and the atmosphere is warm, and the cherry on top is working with the 65 plus age group. They are so kind, fun, and wise. And then this summer, I was at another one of their communities and enjoyed the rotation there, too. So when I saw their name come up in our list of projects, it was my first pick.

I have two memory care units that I’ll be working with, and one of them happened to be the first floor of where I was during the summer, so I knew most of the staff there. It’s like I’m going back home.


What interests you about the project?

I am interested in dementia care. One of the risk factors for dementia is age, and if I work in geriatrics, I’m definitely going to see a lot more of it.


Why did you choose nursing?

I would like to say that nursing chose me, but I think my grandmother laid down the first steppingstone. I spent a lot of time at the university hospital as a child because my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. I remember thinking the physicians looked so cool in their white coats, and the nurses were so kind to my grandmother. I knew I wanted to work in the medical field. My first job was in cancer research, in the exact same university hospital my grandmother was treated in.

And then life happened, and I was in California. I had all this passion and energy, and I needed to do something. I saw a sign for a community college near my home, not knowing that it was one of the top-ranking community college RN [Registered Nursing] programs in Southern California at the time. The average wait is one to two years, but I got in the first time, three months after I applied.

To be honest, it started out as ‘maybe I can do something on the side’. Then I got into it and realized nurses do so much more than I thought and most people probably see. It’s really changed me. Nursing taught me empathy and brought more humanism into me. I see the world in color now versus just black and white.


How has your experience at the school of nursing help with your career path?

It’s given me opportunities to learn about the different sectors of nursing, something I wouldn’t be able to do alone because no one in my family has a health care background. I’m a first-generation college grad, so navigating academia has been a little challenging in various ways. The faculty has helped me to spread my wings in a safe space while giving me guidance when I need it.


What has been an unforgettable experience during your time at the School of Nursing?

Meeting intelligent, independent, and confident women who are also motivated to advance their skills and knowledge to help others. I made many new friends that I have so much respect for and look to for support. I never felt like I fit in until I met these great people. We cheer each other on, celebrate the good, and push through the not so good. They helped me find my voice and have continuously pushed me to become a better version of myself.


What are your plans after graduation?

Between March and graduation in June, I’ll be prepping for and taking my boards. I also have a big trip coming up. It’s become a Korean tradition for children to send their parents on an overseas trip for their 60th birthday, so I plan on taking my parents on a trip somewhere in Europe after graduation.  It will be their first time in Europe!