Maichoua Lor Earns a UW-Madison
Ph.D. in Nursing
|Maichoua Lor, a former participant in the Information Technology
Academy and PEOPLE Scholar, is the first Hmong nurse to attain
her Ph.D. in nursing from an American university.
was culturally and linguistically sensitive for populations that are non-literate and non-English speaking so that they can participate in
surveys,” Lor said. “If you look at our national surveys that are done through the CDC, all of that requires people to speak English or can read
or write in English or in their native language. I know we have a large part of the Hmong population in the United States that does not read at
all. That’s what I did for my dissertation. People liked my dissertation a lot.”
When the Hmong came to the U.S. from the Thai refugee camps, it was almost always the children who learned English and the elders became
somewhat isolated and dependent on their children to navigate the American governmental systems for them. And in some ways, this flip-
flopped the traditional Hmong parent-child relationship. Lor took this situation.
“I did 30 elders and 30 helpers,” Lor said. “I quizzed only the helpers because we know that working with the older generation, younger family
members are very involved, particularly in filling out surveys. I wanted to also figure out how we can incorporate family members who usually
read the English document to the elders into the survey data collection process. And so I looked at, ‘If we include them, does it work or not?
What really happens when we include them?’ I also took video of the whole process of what the interaction is like too in order to get a better
understanding. So I feel like I was making a contribution not to just health science, but also to sociology and the survey field. In surveying, the
traditional way that you do it is you have a trained interviewer if you do face-to-face or you do self-report. We don’t often include family helpers.”
Another approach that Lor worked into her survey leveled the playing field between elder and child, so that both received a first-hand
understanding of what the survey was all about.
“I wanted to accommodate for language proficiency for both the family helper and the older adult,” Lor said. “Acknowledging that younger
family helpers will be more fluent in English and less fluent in Hmong, I provided this survey in English, but also had a pre-recorded audio
translation that reads the entire survey questions to them. So they have the option of, ‘Hey I’m really fluent in Hmong. I could just read it and
translate to my elder’ or ‘I’m not so confident in my Hmong, let me just play it so we can both listen and discuss it.’ It gives them both the
opportunity to understand it. And that also allows the older adult to also carry out the translation versus hearing it from the younger family
While Lor is headed east to do some postdoctoral work at Columbia University in New York, her thoughts won’t go very far from Madison. She
hopes to return to her hometown and have a positive impact on the health outcomes for the Hmong, immigrant and refugee communities.
“I realize that as a Ph.D. student here, I have had so many, so many Hmong undergraduates as well as students of color come up to me and
say, ‘I’m experiencing this,” Lor said. “’I’m identifying this in my community. Can you help me? What can we do with it?’ I started mentoring
people at a very early age in my program. I had a really good mentor who said, ‘Here’s how you mentor people.’ They helped me mentor
undergraduates and even master’s students. I’ve had people who graduate from UW-Madison coming back to me saying, ‘Hey, do you have a
new project that I can help you work on?’ At the time, I had a full plate and couldn’t do anything. Eventually I hope to develop a Hmong health
professional group to help advance the community in different ways. It would include administrators, doctors, nurses and other professionals
so that we can somehow work together. I know the Latino community has the Latino Health Council. They have a group that talks about these
issues and prioritize what the needs are. And we need one like that here as well.”
As the first Hmong nurse to receive a Ph.D. in nursing, Lor feels a certain responsibility. “I’m privileged,” Lor said. “And with privilege, comes
Eventually, Maichou Lor will have an impact on Madison for decades to come.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Maichou Lor has been blessed. Lor, the first Hmong nurse to earn a Ph.
D. in nursing from an American university, has found a calling that she is
passionate about that also deals with issues in the Hmong, immigrant
and refugee communities. Lor feels a certain responsibility to the
community. Her degree and talent are not entirely her own.
When Lor decided on a subject area for her dissertation and began to
apply to the National Institutes for Health for grant money to study chronic
diseases in the Hmong community, she faced an uphill struggle because
there was no data to support the need for her to do research in that area.
And so Lor’s dissertation took a new direction. She would develop the
tools that would allow people researchers to gather important data on
the Hmong community so that further research could be conducted on
the health issues facing the Hmong, immigrant and refugee communities.
“My whole dissertation was about developing a data-collection tool that