CADILLAC — It’s never too late to become a Fulbright scholar. And Dianne Conrad, 63, is living proof. She is leaving Thursday for Ireland, where as a Doctor of Nursing Practice, her expertise will be welcome.

Conrad, on sabbatical from Grand Valley State University where she is an associate professor with the Kirkhof College of Nursing, will teach and conduct a project in collaboration with the Dublin City University’s Centre for Integrated Care. The project will assess advanced practice nursing graduate education as Conrad consults with eight universities. It will also address rural health care and use informatics to improve chronic disease management.

“It’s exciting and scary to be a representative of the United States in this endeavor,‘ she said. “But Fulbright has been asking for more nursing scholars to promote the cultural exchange internationally. I think that’s why we were selected. Ireland needs advanced nurses to fill their gaps in health care access.‘

Conrad is one of a five-member global team with Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees whose mission is to promote the practice-focused doctorate, a degree that “addresses the complexities of health care today.‘ Conrad is a recognized and published authority on the subject, a degree that she believes “focuses on the highest level of nursing practice.‘

Today nurses must not only provide one-on-one care, they also need a skill set for advanced nursing roles that include clinical practice and leadership — and skills to interact with policy makers that provide coverage and pay for care. After receiving a DNP degree in 2011, Conrad began promoting and providing education about the need for the advanced training that she believes can improve the quality of patient care.

“Our team has been consulting all over the United States on the degree and we wanted to branch out internationally,‘ she said. “Our colleague, Dr. Catherine Corrigan from Dublin City University, received her DNP degree here and returned to Ireland to teach. We received an invitation to Ireland ... but you have to apply and it’s very competitive. We found out that we received the Fulbright in March.‘

After Conrad arrives, she will present at the Global Health Exchange conference in Dublin. She will return home after the semester ends in December when her team colleague, Dr. Rosanne Burson, will continue the project during the winter semester.

“We received two out of the three Fulbrights for Ireland which is amazing,‘ Conrad said. “Ireland has a shortage or providers; they have very few nurse practitioners ... and need to increase those numbers, especially in rural areas.‘

Conrad is a practicing Family Nurse Practitioner at Cadillac Family Physicians with certification in Advanced Diabetes Management. She has a post-master’s certificate from Michigan State and a bachelor and a masters nursing degree from Northern Illinois University. She is an associate professor at GVSU and is a recognized and published authority in the DNP education and practice and has co-authored a textbook on the subject.

Cadillac News