When Visalia native Andrew Kim began his nursing journey nearly 20 years ago, he never could have predicted this — graduating with his doctorate in nursing practice during a global pandemic.
However, what he really did not anticipate was how timely and relevant his doctoral project would be today. Work on his project, which analyzes the use of telehealth for diabetes management in the rural health care setting, began nearly two years ago.
“Diabetes is growing at a fast rate across the nation,” Kim said. “It is and continues to be a large public health issue. As a health care provider, it is one of those things you see so much of around you, and I’ve always wanted to play a part in terms of being part of the solution.”
A family nurse practitioner for a small, rural health clinic in Exeter, Kim has seen a steady rise in Type 2 diabetes throughout the years. Through his project, he hoped to explore the intricacies of diabetes management with access to health care.
In particular, Kim sought to examine why some patients had issues with access to health care, and ways health care providers could mitigate those factors via telehealth. As COVID-19 cases rose in the Valley, the way health care providers interacted with their patients had to adapt with today’s landscape.
One modality of telehealth Kim found most beneficial is mobile health counseling, which requires nothing but a phone between patient and provider. It is a service that is expected to gain even greater traction in the years to come.
Through Kim’s research, he discovered demographics most likely to use telehealth services are those younger than 50, which is likely attributed to a familiarity with technology. He says the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the growing importance of providing health services in other ways.
“If there is any silver lining in this, it’s that, from what I read and from what I’m experiencing, patients and providers are really resilient and are able to, more or less, roll with the punches,” Kim said. “For many of us in health care, COVID-19 kind of thrust us into this world of telehealth. I can say for myself, I had some limited experience with it, but for many of my colleagues, physicians and other nurse practitioners, there were many that had varied from little to no experience. I think that overall, providers and patients are doing a really good job adapting to the current environment that we’re in right now.”
For Kim, serving the San Joaquin Valley as a health care provider is something he takes great pride in. His parents immigrated from South Korea to Tulare in 1980, and soon after, he was born. His family later moved to Visalia, where Kim was raised and educated within the public school system.
Kim is the first in his family to achieve a college degree — let alone three. He earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing from California State University, Bakersfield in 2006. Eight years later, he returned for his master’s degree in nursing, which he earned in 2014 from Fresno State. For Kim, achieving his doctoral degree in nursing is the highlight of nearly 20 years of dedication to the field.
This month, Kim will be part of the last cohort to graduate from the Northern California Consortium Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which was introduced in 2012 as a joint partnership with San Jose State. Since then, the program has produced over 180 graduates — nursing leaders who continue to impact the nursing profession through enhanced roles in hospital administration and nursing education.
In fall 2019, the School of Nursing at Fresno State began offering an independent Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and is no longer partnered with San Jose State, which now also has its own doctoral degree nursing program.
“Andrew’s project amplifies the modalities of health care services to the rural diabetic population in Central California and his approach to reaching out to these vulnerable populations truly embodies his commitment as a leader to promote safety and provide a scalable approach to coordinated and collaborative health care,” said Dr. Nisha Nair, assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Kim’s project chair.
Kim is quick to credit his professors for his success in the five-semester program, especially Nair, who is also an alumna of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and was part of the first cohort to graduate from the program in 2014.
Kim said his passion for the profession is what inspired him to continue pursuing higher education in the field. He plans to advance his research long after graduating.
“I really feel that to be the best clinician that I could possibly be, I also need to be a sound researcher as well,” Kim said. “How can I know that I’m doing the most optimal intervention or treatment for my patient without knowing the latest information out there? Thinking back, my nursing education has been quite a long journey, but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It has been very rewarding.”