Rural Health Scholar: Carla Zupko

Rural Health Scholar: Carla Zupko

When Carla Zupko was a young girl growing up in Little Falls, Minnesota, she discovered a box of old books in her grandmother’s attic, including a book about Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. “That book made me love the idea of nursing,” says Carla, who still lives in Little Falls today. But coming from a poor family, she didn’t think of college as an option. Instead, she graduated high school and went to work in a factory that printed mass marketing mail. 

Driven to do more

By her early 20s, Carla was unfulfilled and ready to do something meaningful with her life and career. Then a young mother of two, she became a Licensed Practical Nurse and worked in a family medical center for 10 years. In 2004, she enrolled in Central Lakes College’s nursing program, becoming an RN in 2006. Carla joined the Centracare System and worked her way up as a nurse in various hospitals and clinics.

Carla loved nursing—as she knew she would—but wanted to continue to bolster her resume with further education. “I earned the BSN in 2009 and moved into nursing supervisory positions not long thereafter,” she says. By 2012, Carla was a nursing supervisor and site manager of a Centracare family medicine clinic.

CHI St. Gabriel’s Health

In 2014, Carla set her sights on her next goal: an MBA Healthcare. To make it possible, she decided to take a position with a more regular schedule at a hospital closer to home: CHI St. Gabriel’s Health, the very hospital where she was born. 

“I was hired on the hospital side as the outpatient services director and started the MBA program about a year later,” she says. The role Carla had her eye on for the future was vice president of patient care services, a job for which she was hired as she neared completion of her MBA Healthcare program in 2016. 

Achieving a terminal degree

In 2020, Carla began thinking about earning a doctorate. “I am committed to being a lifelong learner and I feel stagnant if I don’t have goals to achieve,” she says. “I researched several Doctor of Nursing Practice programs and American Sentinel stood out to me.” The director of inpatient services at CHI St. Gabriel’s Health also is enrolled at American Sentinel (in the MSN Nurse Practitioner program), and her positive endorsement was the final influencing factor. Carla started the DNP Educational Leadership program in early 2021 and hopes to finish in 2023.

Rural Health Scholarship

Carla is a recipient of American Sentinel’s Rural Health Scholarship. “This means so much to me,” she says, adding that serving the community where she has lived her whole life is an honor and a privilege. “In rural communities like this, many of us know each other well. So, when patients come in, they get treated like family always. I’m very honored to earn this scholarship and continue my education so that I can continue to offer the best care possible to the people here in this area.” 

Furthering her opportunities

Carla says that the DNP Educational Leadership will expand her opportunities and allow her to explore her options later on. “My biggest goal is to help as many people as possible,” she says. “I can be a voice for patients and for the healthcare industry. That’s really exciting to me, and I’m eager to use it. I think having the DNP in progress makes my voice a little louder.” 

American Sentinel has created the Rural Health scholarship program to help healthcare providers and patients overcome obstacles that are different than those in urban areas. Eight scholarships are awarded per year. Congratulations to this quarter’s recipients. Learn more and apply here.

For those wanting to advance to leadership positions in education, hospital management, informatics or other related areas, consider American Sentinel’s online DNP program, with specializations in Executive Leadership, Educational Leadership, Informatics Leadership and Professional Leadership.

Check out our blog about DNP specialties to help you make this decision.

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