From having aspirations of becoming a hospital chaplain to advancing wearable, health tracking technology, Heather Ross has accomplished great feats.
Ross, now an ASU professor teaching health policy in the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, has a long list of accomplishments, including being selected as a 2017 Fellow by American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Ross was accepted to Yale when she was 16 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies only to find she did not agree with some of the principles of the reformed movement of Judaism at the time.
“When I was growing up I remember I said, ‘I’ll major in religious studies,’ and my mom said, ‘What will you do with that?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll be a Rabbi,’” she said. “I ended up not going to seminary. I didn’t agree with one of the principles that the reformed movement in Judaism had to say at the time.”
Ross said she grew up in a very religious family, and she thought being a rabbi would be a logical choice. Even though Ross changed her mind about being a rabbi, she still received a BA in religious studies from Yale and decided to give nursing a try.
“I looked around at the different nursing schools, and Boston College was thinking about starting a master’s program for people who had a degree in another area and wanted to become a nurse,” she said. “I was admitted in the first class of that program.”
In 2000 after Ross received her Masters of Science in Nursing from Boston College, she decided to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice doctorate at ASU in 2010, which she said opened many doors for her.
“That brought me to doing the work that I do now, which has to do with wearable devices, new technologies, human technology interaction and different types of sensor, robotics, artificial intelligence and cyber security,” she said. “I’m just so fortunate that the path that has unfolded in front of me has been one that is full of a lot of really interesting twists and turns.”
In addition to the numerous achievements and accolades, Ross is very close to her family.
Michael Sinclair, one of her three brothers, said Ross is a uniquely determined individual.
"She’s just driven. If she was going to do something, she was always going to be the best at it,” he said. “I would say, for Heather, she’s always been a really good combination of having a big brain and having a big heart. I think that's where she has found herself now is really the perfect intersection of that.”
Sinclair said he wasn’t surprised that Ross has changed her mind about what she wanted to pursue as a career.
“She liked to try a lot of different things," he said. "One day she wanted to be a marine biologist, the next an Air Force pilot and so on. I was not surprised to see that she had found her way from area to area.”
Sinclair said that Ross’s interests were an evolution of her childhood and striving to progress.
“Whenever Heather has set her mind to something, she has said, ‘If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be the best at it,’ and that has been her whole mark growing up and finding a way in professional life,” he said.
Science and technology
Ross began podcasting about science, technology and policy last year in addition to her professorial and personal responsibilities.
“There is a lot of cool stuff that we are interested in and there are a lot of cool people here that are doing interesting stuff, so why don’t we put a podcast together while we have this wonderful opportunity to chat with interesting people, record it and let other people hear the conversation?” he said.
Maynard said when he works with Ross, he notices just how intelligent she is.
“Heather is quite amazing in what she does,” he said. “She has a really sharp interest in how technology is used with health. There is a combination of being technologically savvy as well as really understanding the health profession.”
An ASU graduate who is now a faculty associate, Wayne McIntosh said he had Ross as his professor while he was studying at ASU pursuing a doctoral degree.
“She’s probably the most connected person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he said. “I knew that in the process for my doctoral program I wanted to work with someone I considered the best and could guide me, give me feedback and push me beyond my limits. That was her.”
McIntosh said he marveled about how Ross could manage her busy schedule.
“Personally, I don’t think she sleeps at all," he said. "She has kids, a family, a personal life and then she has all of these professional responsibilities ... She has two freaking doctoral degrees, I don’t know anyone who has two doctoral degrees. It’s exciting to see that those things can be done, and she’s doing them.”
Ross said that every person’s goal should be to, “promote the dignity of the people around them.”
“If you believe that a rising tide lifts all ships, then I think that works out.”