Rafael Romo, PhD, PHN, RN

Rafael’s professional life began in software engineering, spending 20 years in various capacities working on embedded systems S/W. During this time, he worked with clients from around the world and developed a broad lens from which to view the world. After the death of his mother, he became a nurse, working with hospitalized older adults. His experience included cardiac, stroke, and progressive (between ICU and other care) care. He saw first-hand the impact that nurses have on patients’ lives but saw how poor communication and understanding led to outcomes many older adults repeatedly said they didn’t want. This led to a PhD. He was drawn to Dominican because it reflects his personal story. He attended a small undergraduate school that provided an environment for him to flourish, and like many Dominican students, he is an ethnic minority, a first-generation American, and the first to attend college. Dominican offers Rafael the opportunity to “give back” and be part of developing a new generation of nurses.


University of California, San Francisco, PhD, Nursing
University of San Francisco, MS, Nursing
California State University, Bakersfield, BS, Mathematics

Research Interests

Rafael’s research focuses on how older adults make healthcare decisions as they approach the end of life, and how that process impacts the care they receive. He examines many aspects of the phenomenon, including interpersonal relationships, literacy, health policy, and physical health. He has recently begun to explore this area among older adults with mild cognitive impairment and how changing cognition influences choice.

Honors and Awards

  • UVA School of Nursing Roberts Scholar
  • Hospice and Palliative Nursing Foundation Research Scholar
  • John A. Hartford Foundation, Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity Fellowship
  • UCSF Distinguished Dissertation in Nursing Award
  • UCSF Hartford Center Leadership Development Award
  • UCSF Graduate Dean’s Health Science Fellowship
  • UCSF Hartford Center for Nursing Excellence Scholarship

Contact Information

Office Hours

Wed. 12:30 p.m.–2 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m.–noon