Cal State LA nursing graduate focuses on whole health
She will begin work at Cedars-Sinai in the fall.
By Henry Fuhrmann | Cal State LA News Service
Working as a community nursing assistant, graduating Cal State LA senior Leah Ramsaier is as likely to inquire about her patients’ teeth as she is to evaluate their vital signs.
“The thing with dentition is that once you start getting cavities, it becomes this big problem,” she says. “If you have poor oral health it’s systemically spread. We learn about that in nursing school and how it really affects all your systems.”
Ramsaier’s interest in oral health fits with the whole-body approach to health care that she has learned in the Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing, and illustrates her willingness to follow her academic muse to intriguing assignments. Similarly, she has taken what might be termed a whole-scholar approach in pursuit of her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in her three years on campus.
As a standout in the classroom, Ramsaier has landed on the Dean’s List with a 3.65 GPA. As a student leader, she serves as vice president of the nursing class of 2019. As an ambassador for the profession, she traveled with classmates to China to assist in burn units and establish a cultural exchange with nursing students there. And as a researcher, she has co-presented posters on using informatics in nursing coursework and teaching tai chi as an alternative to traditional exercise to help prevent falls in older adults.
“I’ve always loved learning,” Ramsaier says. “I’ve always loved being around people. And so, for me, education is the way to make not only your personal life better but to really impact the people around you.”
And that, in large part, is how Ramsaier found herself signing up as an intern in fall 2017 with a state-funded program to improve access to dental care for low-income children and teens. The Local Dental Pilot Project, a collaboration between Cal State LA and USC’s dental and social work schools, organizes students into mobile care teams to conduct oral health screenings and connect families with dentists. The project is part of the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services’ Educational Community Health Outreach program.
Inspired by the chance to speak Spanish while working in the field, Ramsaier stayed on as a project assistant this past year. She also wanted an opportunity to learn about building bridges in underserved communities from Professor Emerita Rita Ledesma, principal investigator for the Cal State LA grant, director of the Local Dental Pilot Project and special assistant to the dean of the Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services.
“Leah reaches for the stars,” says Darlene Finocchiaro, associate director and chair of BSN programs in the Patricia A. Chin School of Nursing. “She is committed, always reliable, passionate about what she does and has compassion for her patients and peers. Leah is a leader among her peers, takes charge, is proactive and is an organizer. You would want her on your team.”
Ramsaier, 25, is a native of Ventura County. She recalls the lasting influence of having served as a student volunteer at St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo, including shifts in the emergency room and intensive care unit. “I remember I was very green when I was volunteering at the hospital. But they put me in the ICU, and that really just shaped me,” she says. Observing patients and professionals in such challenging circumstances, and experiencing similarly rewarding work at an elder-care center, inspired her decision to pursue nursing.
Ramsaier transferred from San Diego State in 2016, drawn by Cal State LA’s reputation for preparing students to be “competent, caring, professional nurses.”
“Everyone I’ve met here, they’re all driven, they have passions, they all want to help people,” she says of her classmates.
This semester Ramsaier completed a capstone clinical internship in the operating rooms at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles under the hospital’s partnership with Cal State LA. After taking her state nursing licensure examination, she will return to Cedars-Sinai in August to work full time under the new-graduates portion of the program, which is designed to create a pipeline of future nurses from Cal State LA to the hospital.
As she looks back on her time at the university, Ramsaier credits mentors such as Finocchiaro and Ledesma for making her time on campus so rewarding. The faculty, she says, are “great at professional development and pushing students to take chances, and have personal accountability too, and go for opportunities.”
“The nursing program has exceeded my expectations,” Ramsaier says. “They have been so wonderful to us. It’s all about fostering our growth and development and giving us all these opportunities. There are so many ways to get involved and meet people. That’s kind of what nursing is about: the people.”