NPs to Admire: 10 Role Models Improving the Lives of Vulnerable Populations

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The most important advice I’d have for someone aspiring to be a nurse practitioner working with marginalized populations is to take time to reflect on what draws them to this particular work. If it isn’t examined, our passion—what draws us to this work—can be the biggest source of professional burnout.
Dr. Josephine Ensign, University of Washington

Access to healthcare is as important as any basic need, but with rising costs and limited resources, those who need medical care the most can be left without. For this reason, providing healthcare access to vulnerable and underserved populations is an important cause with ever-growing relevance.

According to CareCentrix, those considered vulnerable populations include children, the chronically ill, elderly, ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, and those living in rural areas. These groups are more likely to have trouble receiving healthcare regardless of insurance or income.

In both academia and clinical practice, the field of healthcare is interdisciplinary. Doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and others focus on a wide range of specialties, from cancer care to disease prevention. Some healthcare professionals choose to concentrate on spreading access to medicine to underserved groups.

Nurse practitioners play an important role in healthcare. These licensed clinicians have furthered their education and skills to provide specialized care to their patients. Some nurse practitioners have a particular interest in working with vulnerable populations and have gone above and beyond to serve these groups.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are almost 250,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the United States. With aging Baby Boomers and a growing immigrant population, the number of patients considered vulnerable or at-risk is expected to increase. Therefore, the demand for healthcare professionals will also escalate.

These ten nurse practitioners are exemplary leaders of professionals who are improving the lives of underserved patients. Not only do they have hands-on experience helping people in their communities and around the world, but they have also made meaningful contributions to educating future nurse practitioners.

Becoming a nurse practitioner takes years of education and clinical experience. These role models have proven that their hard work has benefited the wellbeing of their patients and their communities. Their accomplishments can inspire other healthcare professionals to work toward the greater good.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” By improving healthcare access to vulnerable and underserved populations, we can progress toward a better and brighter future.



Providing healthcare to underserved populations is an important cause. Influential leaders are featured in this article according to the following criteria:

  • University affiliation: Professors on this list are associated with accredited universities in the United States and are currently teaching courses in nursing practice programs.
  • Publication: They have published their work and findings in peer-reviewed journals and delivered presentations at industry conferences.
  • Nursing Practice: Outside of academia, these professors contribute to serving vulnerable populations within their communities and improve healthcare access to underserved groups.
  • Institutional and peer recognition: These featured leaders have been recognized by colleagues, employers, or institutions for their contributions and accomplishments. Whether deans, program directors, in leadership positions at other professional organizations, or award and grant recipients, these professors are dedicated to the advancement of healthcare for the vulnerable


Featured Interviewee: Dr. Josephine Ensign, University of Washington

Dr. Ensign weighed in on the importance of serving vulnerable groups and offered her advice to aspiring nurse practitioners.


Other Role Models Improving the Lives of Vulnerable Populations

Stefanie Veneziano

Stefanie Veneziano


Stefanie Veneziano is a freelance content writer and editor based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Originally from Maine, she left her political career in the United States in 2015 to travel the world and has since been to over 40 countries. When she’s not working on her laptop or posting her adventures on Instagram (@stefanieveneziano), she likes to conduct culinary experiments, study vexillology, and play a game of backgammon.