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Scholar Spotlight: Kristi Louthan

Kristi Louthan is the de Tornyay Center’s Germaine Krysan Undergraduate Scholar. An ABSN student, her research project looks at lifestyle factors and dementia in Asian American older adults. Her faculty mentor is Basia Belza.

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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What research or practice areas are you interested in?

What I really love and am passionate about is kinesiology, so the movement of the body, and actually trying to fix physical problems as naturally as is possible. I was initially interested in going into chiropractic work, then differed into Emergency Medical Services, EMS, and then through that found my love toward nursing. The body is something I’m passionate about.


Why did you choose nursing?

I’ve gone through a few different careers. But a few years ago, I sat down and said, nursing might be something I’m interested in. I had seen myself being pushed and drawn toward it throughout the last years in my medical careers. EMS has always been my main drive, I’ve been a firefighter, EMT, ambulance worker, ER tech, and a few other jobs with dialysis and a detox treatment facility.

I was in the ER working right underneath nurses and physicians and able to see what exactly nurses in the ER do. After seeing nursing in that realm, I knew I was going to be very happy doing this. That was my final deciding factor.

I always am trying to push myself and be open to learning new skills and new traits, techniques and knowledge in general. Nursing was definitely something I saw myself going after and wanting to pursue, so the ABSN program was the fastest way to do that and made the most sense for me. It works out perfectly timewise. It’s like it was meant to be.


What is your research project with the de Tornyay Center?

The focus is on Asian Americans and dementia and Alzheimer’s associated diseases. I’m going to be a subset of the study, asking a couple of questions directly related to the active lifestyle of the individual throughout their life and what effect does that have on dementia and other Alzheimer’s associated diseases.


How did you find the research project?

It was the first week of school, I was trying to find a room, and I was looking lost. Basia Belza, a professor, was walking by, and she showed me how to get there. In the discussion we had in the stairway, she mentioned her specialty in geriatrics care and movement, and I said it was something I was interested in. She said if you’re interested in a research program, come to me.

When I sat back and thought about it, research would be kind of fun. In my undergrad, I didn’t really do anything research specific. Now’s the time to get my foot wet. When I had a sit down with her, she proposed the research program through a couple of her graduate students and said if you want, you could do a subset directly related to kinesiology and movement in the Asian American population. I said yes, sign me up.


Why is this project important?

Living to an older age is increasingly common. There are a lot of people impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s and all the other progressive diseases. It’s so unfortunate, they might be able to be physically functioning fine, but their mental abilities are impaired, and it takes away from them being able to have the best quality of life. And as we live longer, it’s just going to become a bigger aspect that we need to pay attention to.


What interests you in working with older adults?

One thing would be I’m just not interested in pediatrics. Older adults, they can make changes, they can have direct impacts on their health. They have the choice. In my first undergrad, I started volunteering with hospice, and it opened me up toward the medical side of working with older populations.


What has been an unforgettable experience during your time at the school of nursing?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how open and willing everyone is in this department to support you getting to where it is that you want. It’s a stressful program, but it blew me away, having everyone behind your back, helping you so much to get to the end goal.


How has your experience at nursing helped you with your career trajectory?

My goal as a future healthcare professional is to try to work diligently as a team member, and a future leader, to create a pathway for better quality of life for the patients and for a healthcare system that struggles with limited resources and increased costs of care. My background education is in kinesiology, a focus on movement, development, and maintenance of the body, and my passion is healthy living, through a collaboration of physical, mental, and emotional health, and simple objectives such as diet, sleep, and hydration. Completing the ABSN program will help me reach my goal of becoming a nurse for both my love of medical practice, along with my own personal love related to this idea of overall health.


What are your plans after graduation?

ER work is what I’m most interested in, but I’ll see what specialty I’m more drawn to. It might be something totally off the wall, but we’ll see.