Dr. Dawn Aycock begins her 18th year as faculty in the School of Nursing at Georgia State University with the 2023 fall semester. This academic year will be her first as a professor and she is the first African American faculty in the school’s history to reach this rank.
“It’s ironic because I recall interviewing for a clinical instructor position back in 2005 and being skeptical about a career in academia,” Dr. Aycock said. Prior to joining the School of Nursing, Dr. Aycock had spent most of her career coordinating clinical research trials and had developed a passion for research. When she was asked during her interview where did she see herself in five to 10 years, she responded, “I’m not sure, but where ever it is, it will involve research.”
While at GSU she earned her PhD in nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and was promoted to assistant professor. With findings from her dissertation, she developed the Stroke Counseling for Risk Reduction Intervention, or SCORRE, with funding from GSU’s Cleon Arrington Research Initiation Grant and a National Institute of Nursing Research K01 Mentored Research Scientist Award. SCORRE is a nurse-led, community-based intervention designed to reduce stroke risk in African Americans aged 20-35 years by giving them the knowledge and resources needed to live a healthy lifestyle. SCORRE was inspired by Dr. Aycock’s own family history of stroke, her desire to address the increase in stroke among young adults and the health disparities observed among African Americans.
Dr. Aycock’s contributions to nursing research, education and service have received local and national recognition. In 2019 she was appointed director of the nursing PhD program, and enrollment increased under her leadership. She received GSU’s Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award for excellence in scholarship, teaching and service. The highlight of her nursing research career, she said, was giving a keynote speech at the 2019 Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research Nightingala, the premier event for nurse scientists with about 900 people in attendance. In 2020, Dr. Aycock was one of 11 nurse scientists in the United States selected for the inaugural cohort of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship Program for Nurse Leaders and Innovators. Funding from this fellowship enabled her to continue developing and testing SCORRE with a focus on tailoring the intervention to young African American men. The following year she was selected as one of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing’s 70 Visionary Leaders for extraordinary leadership, innovation and service to nursing and healthcare.
Dr. Aycock also has been inducted as a fellow in the American Heart Association, the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association and the American Academy of Nursing for service, impactful research and scholarship. In addition to moving primary stroke prevention science forward by increasing stroke awareness and action with SCORRE, Dr. Aycock also has disseminated strategies to increase methodological rigor in research and to increase the pipeline of diverse nurse scientists.
“It’s been wonderful to watch the University climb in research funding over the years and to be highlighted as one of the most innovative universities in the country,” she said. “I am just proud to be a part of these successes.” She credits the mentorship she received and opportunities provided for catalyzing her achievements. When asked about the next five to 10 years, Dr. Aycock says, “My vision has not changed, I think research is in my DNA, and my goal is to continue to promote and elevate research and nursing science careers.”