A white man wearing sunglasses and academic regalia stands next to a Black woman, also wearing academic regalia, with a toddler between them.
Jennifer McIntosh, PhD ’21 (right), with Professor William Jacobowitz, EdD.

Jennifer McIntosh, PhD ’21, has three going on four nursing degrees. Her journey shows the many opportunities nursing offers to those who keep learning and growing.

Jennifer McIntosh, PhD ’21, is a nurse, college instructor and community healthcare advocate who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and then a PhD in Nursing from Adelphi. Now she is back at Adelphi, expecting to complete the psychiatric mental health-nurse practitioner graduate program in December, while continuing to teach graduate courses at Adelphi, Yale University and the City University of New York. She also presented the keynote at the 2023 Pinning Ceremony, advising graduates to embrace every opportunity for professional development and pursue advanced nursing degrees.

Nursing is truly her calling, but, as she said, “It wasn’t a straight road … I took a lot of detours.”

Her journey began in Brooklyn but continued soon after in Haiti, where she was sent to live with her grandparents at the age of 2. Then in 1994, when she was 15, she was back in the United States, visiting her parents as she did every summer, when political unrest in Haiti had led to the cancellation of all international flights. “I ended up staying in the United States and eventually adjusted. However, the trauma from the political turmoil remains,” she said.

At 18, she was a single mother. “In my culture, there’s a lot of stigma and shame associated with that,” she said. “I became estranged from some family members and friends because I no longer fit in what they believed to be the traditional way of being. This only fueled my determination to define and create my own narrative.”

Dr. McIntosh didn’t give up. She enrolled in college but said that as a first-generation student, neither she nor her parents really understood the process and the resources needed to succeed. That, coupled with her new role as a mother, put her dreams on hold. She worked in customer service and enrolled in a business program before deciding on nursing as a career.

Finding Herself in Nursing, and at Adelphi

After earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, she went to work as a nurse for Northwell Health, first at South Shore University Hospital, then transferred to Long Island Jewish Forest Hills where she worked as an emergency department staff nurse. She then earned a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in healthcare systems management. This opened doors to nursing leadership roles and fueled her passion for research. Later, she assumed the role of director of patient care services at South Oaks Hospital, a behavioral health facility that is also within the Northwell Health system.

Now a mother of two, she began to think about better positioning herself to serve the community as a healthcare leader and advocate. She started exploring nursing doctoral programs in New York and chose Adelphi.

“There’s a human touch to the Adelphi program,” said Dr. McIntosh. “They create a warm, inclusive, nonthreatening environment, despite the rigors of the program. They’re with you every step of the way, both academically and personally.” She remains close to Patricia Donohue-Porter, MS ’78, PhD ’87, Vera Bender Professor and director of the PhD in Nursing program, and Professor William Jacobowitz, EdD, her former professor and dissertation chair, and other faculty members. She said the friendships she developed with her classmates, all of whom came from different backgrounds and experiences, were invaluable.

In 2020, Dr. McIntosh was a PhD candidate pregnant with her third child. Rustin Pio, “Rusty,” was born on April 10, 2020, just after she’d attended a class held via Zoom. Dr. Jacobowitz met Rusty in person for the first time at Dr. McIntosh’s doctoral hooding.

“Jennifer is the most industrious and hard-working student I’ve had the pleasure of teaching—completing her PhD dissertation and obtaining an academic appointment in record time,” said Dr. Jacobowitz. “After her graduation, we’ve continued to collaborate on research of mutual interest. She is a colleague and good friend.”

A Nurse Educator and Researcher

Dr. McIntosh’s doctoral dissertation, focused on nursing and the care of those with mental illness, was sparked by her experiences in hospital emergency departments and inpatient behavioral health units. “There’s a critical need for mental health providers in this country, particularly to meet the needs of children and adolescents, particularly those living in under-resourced communities,” she explained. “By having this level of education, and being actively engaged in research and practice, I can serve as an effective advocate in healthcare policy.”

Her education has been enriched by her participation this year in Adelphi’s Interdisciplinary Education and Training Experience (IDEATE) program. She said her yearlong fellowship has been an “exceptional experience” that enabled her to “collaborate in interprofessional teams to deliver integrated behavioral healthcare to children, adolescents and transitional youth experiencing mental health disorders … the networking events facilitated by the IDEATE team have been engaging, fun and, most importantly, have allowed for community building among IDEATE fellows and faculty.”

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