Chatham University

Innovation and Research

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Dr. Denise Roubion-Johnson champions early detection and treatment of breast cancer

Alumna Dr. Denise Roubion-Johnson, DNP (’10) tackled an issue that she is extremely passionate about for her Doctor of Nursing Practice capstone project–improving health outcomes related to the early detection of breast cancer for women in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. Denise is the clinical director of the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (LBCHP) in New Orleans, where each week, she provides care and screenings to 30-40 to low-income, uninsured women with breast problems.

The DNP capstone project requires students to tackle evidence-based practice (EBP) change, which relies on the integration of an individual’s clinical expertise with the best available external scientific evidence, as well as patient preferences and values. Beginning with a literature review, followed by a detailed plan for practice change, and culminating with the implementation and evaluation of an actual project, students who complete Chatham’s DNP capstone project emerge with results that can immediately improve nursing care provided throughout the world.

With her sights set on increasing breast cancer awareness and the number of women receiving screening mammograms, it was a logical choice for the topic of Denise’s EBP project.

"My change project at Chatham has opened up all kinds of doors for me," says Denise. "It has given me a platform for me to talk about what I feel is important–early detection–and gives credibility to what I have to say to my patients. My Chatham education was invaluable to me."

After Katrina’s violent destruction of all of the city’s hospitals, the LBCHP was dismantled for several years. Her own home completely destroyed by eight feet of water, Denise left town–returning to New Orleans in 2005 to restart the LBCHP program alone. Initially paying out-of-pocket to provide screening services to women, Denise eventually connected with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Key 2 Life Foundation–both of which provided funding until an annex of the hospital was again up and running in 2007.

Now six years post-Katrina, Denise’s biggest challenge is getting women who detect lumps in their breasts to come in early for treatment "They don’t know that they can come in free of charge," says Denise.

Publicizing the free services available at LBCHP is easier said than done. "We don’t have money to do a media blitz because the program is federally funded," says Denise.

Unfortunately, many women delay seeking treatment. "The women come in so late that treatment options are limited, says Denise. "Where some women might have been able to have a lumpectomy, they end up needing to have a full mastectomy because they waited too long to come in."

In order to spread the message of the importance of early treatment, Denise takes it to the streets. "I volunteer a lot," she says. "I go out to churches, health fairs, anywhere that there might be women who need to know about breast cancer detection services. I tell them, if they find a lump, don’t wait to get services."

Denise’s volunteering caught the attention of the American Cancer Society last year–awarding her the Community Volunteer of the Year award for her dedication to informing women of the importance of screening mammograms and early breast cancer detection. In addition, Denise was named a Healthcare Hero in 2010 by New Orleans CityBusiness in recognition of the physical and spiritual support that she provides to her patients battling breast cancer. "I offer to pray with patients to let them know that we are concerned with their spiritual wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing," she says.

She also invites breast cancer survivors come to the center to speak to newly diagnosed women and let them know "there is hope and that they are not going to be in this battle alone," she says.

Denise’s evidence-based practice change project is just one example of how Chatham University students can work to improve patient care far and wide throughout the course of the DNP program.

For more profiles of Chatham DNP graduates making their mark on the nursing world, visit


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