Portrait of Sarah Howard
Sarah Howard will graduate with her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the WSU College of Nursing in May.

Nurses have always been patient advocates.

So it should come as no surprise that Sarah Howard will be taking those skills, gained through bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the Washington State University College of Nursing, to Genentech, one of America’s leading biotech companies.

Howard landed an intensely competitive one-year internship in Genentech’s unit focusing on patient access to medications. She’ll rotate through three departments in the Access Solutions group: as a case manager working with patients on access to Genentech medications; as a reimbursement specialist working with insurers; and as a foundation specialist, helping enroll patients in a program to provide free medications to uninsured and underinsured patients. She’ll be guided by a mentor at every step.

“What it comes down to is patient access and being a patient advocate so they can get on and stay on the medications they need,” she said. “It’s a natural transition to being that liaison because as nurses, that’s what we do, be that bridge between the provider, the patient and the family.”

Howard became aware of Genentech while working in neuroscience at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. One of the company’s flagship medications, Activase, is used to dissolve clots in stroke patients.

“I literally watched stroke patients’ deficits dissipate before my eyes,” she said. “That’s actually what motivated me to go back to school and get my DNP,” referring to the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, a clinical doctorate for nurse practitioner students, including at WSU.

Genentech representatives told her about a career fair for interns, which led to interviews where she was often told that she was the only DNP student the interviewer had ever encountered.

“They were unfamiliar with the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and that select graduate-level nurses were doctorally prepared,” Howard recalled. “They see a lot of pharmacy student applicants.”

Interviewers were intrigued, and especially liked that DNP students at WSU can achieve a graduate certificate in nursing leadership along with their degree.

In addition, they valued Howard’s years of nursing experience, which is the case with many DNP students.

Said Sarah Fincham, a clinical associate professor in the DNP program at WSU and Howard’s faculty advisor, “Sarah is representing our profession and degree in a new landscape. This shows tremendous leadership. I’m proud of Sarah’s accomplishments and thrilled for her to have this opportunity she worked so hard to earn.”

Howard sees the opportunity at Genentech as a chance to “give nurses a place at the table where we traditionally might not be seated.”

–Story by Addy Hatch

Learn more about the DNP degree at Washington State University: https://nursing.wsu.edu/dnp