Whether she is mapping a career path or charting a racecar course, Ashley Pinkham knows how to keep her seat while navigating the bumps and curves.
With a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry, Pinkham launched her career as an Environmental Educator at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maine where she collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor the health of the Kennebunk River and produce a stream crossing survey.
Ashley also served as a pharmacy technician with Rite Aid before accepting a position as a microbiologist at Warwick Mills in southern New Hampshire. As the lead microbiologist, she worked on the development of a self-decontaminating textile glove (BioTecT) under a National Science Foundation grant.
While field-testing the glove at Concord Hospital in New Hampshire, Pinkham was inspired to directly connect her microbiology experience with people in an epiphany that prompted her to apply to the Direct Entry Master’s in Nursing program at UNH and to certify as a master’s-prepared Registered Nurse and Clinical Nursing Leader (CNL). Her thesis centered on empowering patients to be active participants in infection prevention and her paper was published in the Journal of Infection Prevention.
"Like a detective, I enjoy tracing infections to their point of origin so I was fascinated by the clinical experiments using the prototype glove as an infection barrier. Initially nervous about making a pivotal shift in my path, I explored the power of positive thinking to help me successfully complete the program and move into a nursing career."
To further advance her new career choice, Ashley enrolled in the UNH Post-Master’s Family Nurse Practitioner certificate program. Pinkham worked closely with Dr. Andrew Chevalier, the visionary behind a cutting-edge naturopathic practice in New Hampshire. This exposure to alternate therapies formed the framework for embracing a holistic approach to patient care, incorporating their overall health issues into her treatment plans for controlling infection.
Ashley’s most recent milestone was the completion of the online UNH Doctor of Nursing Practice program in 2023. For her quality improvement project, she analyzed the incidence, detection and treatment for tick-borne diseases, a growing problem in the northeast.
As an Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner with Concord Hospital, Pinkham was actively involved in opening a second disease control center at Laconia Hospital. With a unique background in biology and chemistry, lab work and field testing, nursing practice and leadership training, Ashley envisions a future collaboration with the State of New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Diseases, especially for conditions related to insect bites.
"I believe that most diseases originate in the digestive system; nutrition and lifestyle choices either build resistance or create vulnerabilities to infection. After reviewing a patient’s overall health, I often recommend therapies to strengthen their immune system to fight the infection naturally before prescribing antibiotics whose side effects will substantially impact their microbiome."
Pinkham believes the DNP program at UNH is uniquely structured for online students, using technology to enhance the learning experience. Up-front access to the course syllabi enabled her to manage her coursework and balance her study schedule with the demands on her time as an infectious disease specialist during the pandemic.
"UNH nursing instructors are top-notch professionals who know how to challenge their students. The learning technology surpassed my expectations for a high-quality education experience in an online environment. I recommend the UNH DNP program to any nurse who wants to acquire leadership skills and tap into a wide community of professionals."
With a cool head under pressure, Ashley loves to “unplug” by spending time in the mountains of northern New Hampshire. She was formerly a co-driver for rally car races where, after studying the course in advance, she would narrate navigational instructions to the driver who kept the car on the road at top speed as they hurtled down the curving mountain roads.
With confidence and dedication, Ashley enjoys an exciting ride, either tackling infectious diseases or competing on the racecourse.
Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet, UNH Online