(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Bita Kash, M.B.A., F.A.C.H.E., the first Ph.D. student in the health services research program at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, recently defended her dissertation on “Nursing home spending, staffing, and turnover.”

“It is very exciting for me as well as for the SRPH,” said Ms. Kash on being the school’s first Ph.D. candidate. “It seems like everyone is excited about this.”

Before coming to the HSC-SRPH, Ms. Kash was a management consultant in Texas. One of her clients was a nonprofit retirement system.

When starting the Ph.D. program, she knew from Day One that “my area of research had to do with making nursing homes better places to work and live.” She added she was lucky to have two faculty members who conduct long-term care research in Drs. Catherine Hawes, Ph.D., and Charles Phillips, Ph.D., M.P.H., considered among the country’s leading researchers in their field.

Ms. Kash’s dissertation research examined the effects of nursing home spending on staffing levels and turnover; clarified the relationship between staffing levels and turnover rates; and identified characteristics of facilities that over-report staffing levels in the online survey and certification reporting system. She found solutions to staffing and turnover should focus on more effective management practices; staff turnover is a predictor of registered nurse and certified nurse assistance staffing levels; staffing levels of licensed vocational nurses is dependent on market factors; and certain types of facilities over-report their staffing levels, which has an effect on consumer information and regulatory activities.

“This is an exciting time for the School of Rural Public Health, and we are particularly pleased that soon-to-be Dr. Bita Kash is the first graduate of the school’s doctoral program in health services research,” said Ken McLeroy, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Affairs at the HSC-SRPH.

“Ms. Kash is setting a high standard for future Ph.D. and Dr.P.H. students in the school, and her work on nursing home staffing and turnover is exemplary. We look forward to her future contributions to both health services research and to public health.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell