The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Meet Dr. Karen Kalmakis, DNP Program Director

Oct 22, 2020

Karen A. Kalmakis, PhD, MPH, FNP-BC, FAANP, Associate Professor at the College of Nursing, was recently appointed Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Dr. Kalmakis is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts nursing and public health colleges. She is a certified family nurse practitioner with special interests in trauma informed care. Her research focus is health consequences of childhood adversity/trauma, chronic neurobiological stress, and resilience. Dr. Kalmakis has received federal and foundation funding to support her research, and has disseminated her findings widely through numerous peer-reviewed publications and at national and international conferences.

Dr. Kalmakis has been a member of the College of Nursing Faculty since 2008.


What inspired you to become a nurse?

I was an aspiring gymnast in high school. However, I suffered serious injuries after an accident at the age of 16 that changed my life. Experiencing what nurses do firsthand, and how their care is essential to recovery, set me on the path to becoming a nurse. One of the nurses who cared for me was a neighbor who became instrumental in my decision. A first-generation college student, I have pursued advanced academic degrees in nursing and public health, spending much of my adult life as both a nurse and a student, and now as faculty.


What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

I have been most affected by my work with trauma survivors, women who have endured abuse in their childhood and in adult relationships. Caring for these women, listening to their struggles, and witnessing their strength and resilience has shaped my nursing practice and research careers. 


Do you have any advice for people who are considering a career in nursing?

Perseverance is the single most important element for success, in any career. Stay focused, and persevere during difficult times; they do get better.


Would you like to share any more information about yourself?

My two top activities: a night of dancing, and a ride on a roller coaster!  

Quiet time: sitting by the lake and letting nature soak in.