nursing research

VCU School of Nursing alumna Sarah Farrell, Ph.D., created the Sarah P. Farrell Legacy Research Endowment at the School of Nursing to support a graduate student or faculty member pursuing research. Photo: Tyler Trumbo, MCV Foundation

A Drive to Innovate Nursing Research

Sarah Farrell, Ph.D., said experience on the faculty at Yale School of Nursing and working for the Commonwealth of Virginia inspired her interest in nursing research. While encountering some of the field’s most perplexing questions through her work, she decided to apply for her doctoral degree. 

As she waited to hear back from the programs she had applied to, she got the call that influenced her final decision: She was a recipient of the A.D. Williams Scholarship at VCU School of Nursing.

“I told the program director, ‘I think you’ve made a mistake. I didn’t apply for a scholarship,’” said Dr. Farrell, who grew up in rural Franklin County, Va.

Sarah Farrell, Ph.D. Photo: Daniel Sangjib Min, MCV Foundation

The scholarship brought VCU’s nursing program to the top of her list, especially after she discovered the school’s strong relationship with the Department of Health Administration at the VCU College of Health Professions, which had piqued her interest.

“The nursing program had an innovative approach to interprofessional education that really led me to VCU,” said Dr. Farrell, who today is a leadership executive at Apple working with researchers to develop innovative devices for the health care market. 

Dr. Farrell has been a donor to the school since graduating in 1996, and a conversation with Jean Giddens, Ph.D., former dean of the School of Nursing, helped her realize what mattered to her most was to give back and support others the way she had been aided with the scholarship.

“Dean Giddens used the term legacy, and I never thought about it that way,” said Dr. Farrell, who was a first-generation college student. “The school and MCV Foundation already had the systems in place. All I had to do was think about what I wanted to achieve, and everything just fell into place.”

In 2018, she created the Sarah P. Farrell Legacy Research Endowment at the School of Nursing to support a graduate student or faculty member pursuing research. Each year, she helps grow the fund’s impact through a variety of methods such as corporate matches from her employer or through her donor-advised fund (DAF). Dr. Farrell has also provided for future support from her estate to grow the endowed fund.

“If I can provide seed money for people in the early stages of their career that can help them go on to get national funding, then I feel like I’ll have made a bigger impact,” she said. “This way, the students and faculty are also giving back to the profession to increase the power of nursing research, and I’m giving back to the research community. It’s a full circle.”

If you would like to support student scholarships at the VCU School of Nursing, please contact Pam Lowe, the school’s senior director of development, at 804-827-0020 or