Christina Lattner witnessed the impact upon multiple women in her life who were diagnosed with cervical cancer at alarmingly late stages. As a practicing nurse, she decided to do something about it.
Lattner, assistant clinical professor in the School of Nursing in DePaul's College of Science and Health, is currently researching the impact of the Human Papillomavirus infection, commonly known as HPV. Her research focuses on African-American communities and how health care providers can better strengthen communication with those patients. Lattner's mission is to educate parents of the African-American community about the importance of the HPV vaccination for their children and the difference it can make in their lives.
Read on to learn more about what drew Lattner to nursing education and how she hopes the relationship between health care providers and their African-American patients will start to change.
What interested you in nursing education?
I've been a practicing registered nurse for 17 years, and I've been a nurse practitioner for two years. In the hospital I always acted as a mentor to help orient the new grads. I felt so much sympathy for them when they came out of school. They didn't know what to do in the clinical environment. They were all over the place and very confused. I thought the best way I could make a difference was to actually teach them at their core. When I was working on my masters, I was required to do clinical hours in nursing education. I completed them here at DePaul, and they invited me to stay.
What drew you to study HPV among African-American communities?
As a nurse practitioner, I work a lot with the underserved population. A lot of my patients are urban youth, and the biggest issue I found in my experience is a total disconnect due to how their culture perceives medicine. They don't seek care as quickly as other ethnic groups. In working with that population and talking to them, I found that it's not just their fear and their mistrust of the system. It's the lack of education and communication. One of the consequences is that the rates of cervical cancer are much higher in African-American females than any other ethnic group.
What sparked your interest in studying HPV awareness?
I knew such a high number of African-American women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer at a very late stage. I noticed they don't get regular pap tests. They don't understand the importance of being checked for cervical cancer. That made me realize there is a disconnect between understanding what this disease is and the mortality of cancer.
Why should a parent be concerned about HPV for their child?
HPV is the biggest link to cervical cancer. When I completed my survey and got my statistical data back I found that a lot of parents had a total disconnect from the fact that HPV is sexually transmitted and that it led to genital warts, in addition to cervical cancer. Once they realized the risk of HPV, and that there's a vaccine to actually prevent this illness, they were a lot more accepting of the vaccination process.
It's a three-step series for girls and boys that should be started between 9 and 10 years old and completed before they actually start college. A cervix is growing in a girl from the ages of 9 to 18, and a lot of research has said that is when the vaccination should be done for the best results.
What do you hope to come from this research?
I hope to see this research used as a tool to help advanced practice nurses realize the impact we can have on preventing cervical cancer mortality by educating parents and adolescents on HPV, as well as the effects of the infection when left undiagnosed and un-vaccinated.