Nurses fill a variety of roles at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. From left are nurses Annie Swinea, Kelly Gentry, Janice Gales, Donna Prickett, Judy Harris, Carmen Childs and Julie Traylor.

At the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, nurses take care of thousands of patients living with autoimmune diseases. But they also do much, much more.
In OMRF’s Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence, nurses are involved in nearly every aspect of the patient experience. Carmen Childs and Donna Prickett provide direct patient care, Julie Traylor – the clinic’s manager – keeps all parts of the center running smoothly, and Annie Swinea helps patients connect with service and resources in her role as case manager.
“MS is a complicated and challenging disease,” Swinea said. “We work together to help patients navigate their journey with this condition.”
Guiding patients to understanding also motivates Judy Harris, who serves as a lead clinical research nurse for a clinic that works with patients with a rare condition called sarcoidosis. “We listen, we encourage, and we help them advocate for themselves,” said Harris, who became a nurse after a 30-year teaching career.
Kelly Gentry uses her experience as a nurse to serve as program coordinator for the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research, a program of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust housed at OMRF. She manages the center’s grant applications, communications and administration.
“Being a nurse requires skills that go way beyond taking care of patients,” said Gentry, who’s held a variety of roles since her career began as a floor nurse at Children’s Hospital. “I never thought I’d have a desk job, but the skills I learned at Children’s, like talking to doctors and managing charts, helped prepare me for the administrative career I’ve had since then.”
Janice Gales serves as the foundation’s clinical research nurse coordinator for studies of Sjögren’s disease, an autoimmune illness in which the body attacks its own moisture-producing glands. After screening and enrolling participants, Gales walks them through the necessary forms, tests and lip biopsy.
“I’m not afraid to jump in to help with a blood draw if we’re falling behind,” she said. Thanks to her training as a nurse, “It’s something I can do that not everyone in my position does.”
Gales also coordinates OMRF’s institutional review board, which ensures that every research project involving human participants is conducted ethically, safely and legally. As someone who got her start in acute care, Gales says she can “look at a protocol and understand how a participant will be treated.” And by overseeing research studies involving hundreds of subjects, she now cares for more people than ever.
“Our nurses are indispensable, not only to our clinics, but to the entire foundation,” said OMRF Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Judith James, M.D., Ph.D. “Our patients often tell us they look forward to their next clinic or research appointment, and we know that’s largely due to the connection and well-earned trust they develop with our nurses.”