Who We Are: Our Community at the School of Nursing

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Each month, we feature faculty, staff or students of the UW-Madison School of Nursing. Is there someone you'd like to see here? Email us.

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Elisa Torres, Assistant Professor

 Photo of Assistant Professor Torres

What do you do here at the School of Nursing?
I am an assistant professor and so I have research, teaching and service obligations.

Name a challenge and a reward of your job.
A challenge is the workload. I could work 100 hours a week and still not address everything that needs to get addressed.

Something I like about my job? The students here are some of the strongest students that I have ever worked with. I mostly teach upper-level undergraduate students, and so these are students that have made it into the nursing program. The students that get in are the brightest of the bright. I can do things with them that at other schools I wouldn’t do unless they were graduate students. They inspire me and remind me of why I became a nurse 20 years ago. 

How long have you been at the University of Wisconsin and what brought you here?
I have been here for two years, and came here for the research. Here, researchers collaborate across disciplines. That is not the case everywhere.

Who or what inspired you to get where you are in your career?
While I was working on my nurse practitioner credentials, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. My professors were very supportive, though, and they encouraged me to go on for my PhD in nursing, which I eventually did.

How do you think you are making a difference in your field?
I study the antidepressant effects of physical activity. Since arriving here, I have been studying the association between physical activity and areas of the brain related to depression, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. I hope to elucidate the mechanism by which physical activity protects the brain, particularly by preventing depression, which may stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you keep up your motivation in your research after having manuscripts or proposals for grants rejected?
Rejection is part of research. For every one manuscript that gets accepted, there are maybe 10 to 15 that are not. That goes for grants as well. I knew this going in. I have small successes along the way and focus on the positives. Also, research is not all that I do. Teaching and working with talented and motivating students provide a tremendous amount of inspiration.

What do you believe the greatest benefit is of a nursing degree?
We help people in very tangible ways, and the profession as a whole is highly respected. You can meet anyone and they will have a good idea of what a nurse is, and they usually have a story about how a nurse helped a loved one. I really like that, and I think that is our gift to the world. It is important to me that I help people in ways that are acknowledged and respected by society. I chose nursing because nursing is a very trusted and respected profession.

What occupies your free time?
I started biking a lot since I moved to Madison. Last fall I signed up for mindfulness meditation through the UW Health system. I also started yoga. We recently moved to Wisconsin so we are slowly trying to travel and explore more of the state.

What is your favorite part of Madison?
The bike paths. They are just amazing! I have never lived in a place that has so many of them. They interconnect, they are very well maintained, they are well marked, and I feel safe on them.

What is a piece of advice that you have received that has stayed with you?
Find your passion—that is the thing that keeps you going.

--Morgan Dorfman

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Previous Interviews:

Linsey Steege, Assistant Professor

Shannon Anderson, Nursing Alumna

Avery McClain, Undergraduate Student

Reena Chandra-Rajpal, Director of Advancement and Development

Karen Mittelstadt, Assistant Dean for Academic Programs

Brent Fisher, Academic Advisor