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BY MARK HOUSER

If you secretly enjoy complaining about your commute, steer clear of Lisa J. Hogan D'09. Here's how Hogan, an assistant professor and assistant program director of the school of nurse anesthesia at the University of New England in Portland, Maine, spends her Thursdays:

  • 3:30 a.m. — Get up, drive to the bus station, and take the bus to Boston.
  • 7 a.m. — Catch the early flight to Pittsburgh.
  • 8:30 a.m. — Rent a car at the airport and drive to the Holiday Inn on University Boulevard.
  • 9 a.m. — Check in, sit down, start studying. Break for lunch and a shower.
  • 5 p.m. — Head to campus for a four-hour doctoral night class.
  • 10 p.m. — Return to hotel; set alarm for 4:45 a.m. to catch Friday morning flight back to Boston, take the bus back to the car, and drive to work in Portland.

Now consider this: Hogan, the former chief nurse anesthetist at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., only started working on her Ph.D. in instructional management and leadership at RMU after she finished her doctorate in nursing practice (D.N.P.) at RMU. In other words, this is the second time she's making that commute from New England — while married, with a teenage daughter, and working a full-time job. When Hogan earns her second RMU doctorate in 2014, she'll be the first person in the university's history to do so.

"It's apparent I'm an overachiever," says the former track coach, who still holds a pair of Massachusetts high school records in long-distance running from the days before she started long-distance commuting. "I'm typically in the middle of one adventure and thinking what the next adventure is going to be."

As if getting one doctorate, let alone two, isn't enough, Hogan's capstone project for her D.N.P. won Georgetown University's first National Nursing Patient Safety Award for Education in 2011. Her project undertook to train operating room staff at Emerson to eliminate unnecessary noise before and after surgery. Noise from banging instruments, moving noisy equipment, talking loudly, and cleaning up can be a distraction at an already stressful time, just as anesthesia providers are trying to help patients relax. Now for her Ph.D. dissertation, Hogan is planning to work on the flip side — measuring various ways anesthesia providers can shut out unavoidable noise before and after surgery.

Her mother became a nurse while Hogan was in high school, but the idea had been in Hogan's head long before that. In kindergarten she told her classmates she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up, and also be in the army. She did both, getting commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve in order to earn her M.S.N. degree. In 2003 she was assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center for several months as a nurse anesthetist, treating soldiers gravely wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One memory that won't leave her is a young soldier with a shiny new prosthetic leg, standing over his friend in bed who had a head injury and was unresponsive. There were young wives, some still teenagers, carrying babies on their hips, sitting at their husbands' bedsides. "I was supposed to relieve their pain, but I realized there was no amount of medication that would relieve their pain."

Hogan was at Emerson when she began looking for an opportunity for educational advancement. She found the D.N.P. program while searching the Internet. She hadn't heard of RMU, but its program appealed to her because of its combination of online and on-campus classes, which encourage student cohorts to provide mutual support and enrich learning. The universities in her area that offered a D.N.P. either were entirely online programs, which seemed too isolated to her, or required students to be on campus several days a week.

As a veteran, Hogan receives the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits that cover tuition and a stipend, which she uses to cover her plane tickets and hotel room. She said she was looking for a "veteran friendly" program, and praises the university's Veterans Education and Training Services Center for its assistance. "I literally had to do nothing, they were so accommodating and ready to help me."

The D.N.P. program paid career dividends. Hogan got her current job at the University of New England partly as a result of her degree, she says. "Every degree I've gotten in nursing has opened more doors for me. The Ph.D. will open that much more."

And while she still gets occasional quizzical stares when friends, family, and colleagues find out she goes to school in Pittsburgh, Hogan says she feels almost like she's coming to her second home when the plane touches down every Thursday.

"I didn't know what to expect at RMU," Hogan says. "But I have so many friends and colleagues here now. There's such a sense of community and belonging. I would probably move here, if I didn't love the seacoast so much."

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