Nursing faculty researching ways to improve lives

Patricia B. Howard is interim dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. Thomas Kelly is associate dean for research at the college.
Patricia B. Howard is interim dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. Thomas Kelly is associate dean for research at the college.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto articulated in his recent op-ed his rationale for joining the presidents from 165 colleges and universities across the United States to petition President Barack Obama and members of the 113th Congress to recommit to fundamental investments in research.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report on the role of nursing within the changing health-care landscape, stating: "Health care reform provides an opportunity for the profession to meet the demand for safe, high-quality, patient-centered and equitable health care services," and "shortages of nurses in the positions of primary care providers, faculty and researchers continue to be a barrier to advancing the profession and improving the delivery of care to patients."

University of Kentucky College of Nursing faculty members are engaged in a range of federally sponsored research aimed at improving patient care and the equitable delivery of health.

For example, we Kentuckians suffer from rates of cardiovascular disease that are among the highest in the nation.

Debra Moser and colleagues in the Center for Biobehavioral Research in Self-Management of cardiopulmonary disease, develop interventions to lessen the impact of patient-level factors associated with heart failure and other cardiac disease risk.

Terry Lennie's funded studies examine the role of nutrition in heart failure and other cardiovascular disease. Rebecca Dekker examines emotional factors, such as depression, in cardiovascular health risk. Dr. Gia Mudd-Martin focuses on genetic and genomic factors in cardiovascular disease; she plans to use her findings to inform public health policy.

Kentuckians also suffer from rates of cancer that are among the highest in the nation.

Ellen Hahn and colleagues in the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy conduct federally funded research examining the processes that influence smoke-free policy in Kentucky, particularly in rural areas. Jenna Hatcher-Keller develops interventions to enhance cancer screening among the disparate groups in our communities who do not receive cancer screenings at rates that are comparable to others in the commonwealth, despite heightened risk.

Federally funded research by our faculty address other important topics, as well. Deborah Reed is focused on agricultural health, including health and safety issues among farm families and aging farm workers. Kristin Ashford's research targets maternal-child health; Kentucky ranks among the highest in maternal health complications during pregnancy as well as preterm birth rates and low birth weight.

Our early-career faculty members have not yet obtained federal funding, but are committed to improving the health and quality of life of Kentuckians.

Jan Odom-Forren is developing a new e-health system for delivering care to patients recovering at home following acute surgical interventions, who suffer from pain, nausea, loss of function, mood disturbances and other post-surgical complications. Elizabeth Salt is developing non-pharmacological interventions for pain management that can be delivered to patients suffering from chronic pain and acute injuries in order to reduce the burden of prescription pain medication.

Ana Maria Linares is developing interventions to enhance breastfeeding, particularly among disparate groups that are susceptible to adverse health conditions linked to breastfeeding. Fran Hardin-Fanning is developing sustainable interventions designed to improve access to healthful food and enhance economic prosperity among Appalachian families. Zim Okoli is developing interventions to reduce smoking among patients suffering from mental health disorders.

These early-career investigators require federal research support in order to achieve their career goals of enhancing the health and quality of life of our citizens.

Equally important, federally sponsored research plays a critical role in the training of future generations of nurse scientists and practitioners. Each year, the College of Nursing awards as many as nine PhDs and 20 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees to nurses committed to advancing human health and quality of life through research and clinical service.

The college also provides 15 research internships and 10 practice internships in addition to the nursing practice base that is foundational to undergraduate nursing training. The breadth and quality of this research training is determined by faculty research.

For these reasons, we fully support the petition for a recommitment to fundamental investments in research recently spearheaded by Capilouto and other college and university presidents, as well as the IOM's call for the expansion of nursing research.

At issue: Aug. 25 commentary by Eli Capilouto, "Research investment drives progress; cuts in public grants threaten growth"

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