The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing is committed to cutting-edge research to advance nursing knowledge, guide improvements in patient care and positively impact health outcomes. To achieve these goals, the School of Nursing's research program focuses on four substantive areas:
Social Context, Stress, and Epigenetic Determinants of Health
Discoveries in the field of epigenetics have transformed our understanding of how the environment, including diet, physical activity, psychological stress, and social context, influence gene expression, affecting the health of individuals and their offspring. Epigenetics refers to gene expression states that occur in the absence of a change in the sequence of DNA. Unlike DNA, which is stable, the epigenome is dynamic, responding to environmental cues that translate environmental experiences or exposures to the genome, either amplifying or diminishing gene transcription. Epigenetic alterations can be reversible, such as through lifestyle modification; thus, epigenetic inquiry has high relevance to health promotion and symptom management. Within this field, faculty research is aimed at integrating social context, early life adversity, cumulative life stress, and epigenetics to understand phenotypic variation in: biological and behavioral stress reactivity and resilience, symptom expression in cancer, pregnancy outcomes, and risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, and diabetes.
Health Disparities and Vulnerable Populations
Health disparities adversely affect well-being based on such factors as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location, (such as rural or border locations), gender, age, and sexual orientation. In general, vulnerable populations face greater social stressors, higher incidence of chronic disease, and earlier mortality than non-vulnerable populations. Researchers within the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing leverage their clinical and scientific expertise to reduce individual and societal burden of a variety of health issues and diseases, including untoward pregnancy outcomes, urinary incontinence, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. Research initiatives are aimed at reducing health disparities among African American men and women, Filipino women, Asian Indians, at risk youth, and veterans. In addition, faculty are partnering with the community and engaging students to explore novel interprofessional care models to address health issues rooted in disadvantage and social injustice.
Faculty/Postdoctoral Fellow Profiles: Linda Janusek, Karen Saban, Jorgia Connor, Regina Conway-Phillips, Lindsay Garfield, Dina Tell, Sandi Tenfelde, Barbara Velsor-Friedrich, Annie Thomas, Lisa Burkhart, Fran Vlasses, Emily Chin, Colleen Andreoni, Pam Andresen
Prevention and Self Management of Chronic Disease
Research designed to prevent and improve self-management of adverse symptoms is vital to achieve optimum function and quality of life for individuals and families living with illness. Investigators in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing are engaged in symptom science research aimed to clarify bio-behavioral factors that contribute to symptom intensity and duration, to improve understanding of how symptoms affect individuals and families, and to test innovative approaches for individuals to prevent and/or self-manage symptoms. Research projects address a range of symptoms associated with diabetes, cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and the perinatal period. In addition, faculty investigate stress and coping in families dealing with bereavement, end of life care, impact of genetic testing, and symptoms and quality of life in parents of adolescents and young adults with spina bifida. Ongoing research initiatives in symptom self-management include: vitamin D therapy for depression in women with diabetes and vitamin D therapy to improve quality of life for women with metastatic breast cancer; interventions for at risk adolescents; coping skill training for adolescents with asthma; yoga to reduce symptoms associated with female urinary incontinence; and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) to reduce behavioral symptoms and immune dysregulation in women with breast cancer; and MBSR to reduce inflammatory and cardiovascular risk in women veterans.
Faculty Profiles: Karen Saban, Sandi Tenfelde, Jorgia Connor, Nancy Hogan, Monique Ridosh, Sue Penckofer, Mary Byrne, Kim Oosterhouse, Patricia Friend, MariJo Letizia, Carol Kostovich, Kristi Feutz, Barbara Velsor-Friedrich, Joanne Kouba, Linda Janusek, Lindsey Garfield, and Dina Tell
Optimizing Outcomes in Education and Practice
Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing faculty have high standards for both education and practice with a constant focus on optimizing outcomes for our students, individual patients, families, and the community. Research is being conducted by faculty to optimize the learning environment for students, including the interprofessional team. There is a strong presence of nursing researchers amongst our faculty conducting studies in clinical practice arenas. Within this focus, faculty conduct and guide scholarship focusing on patient centered care, quality and safety in a variety of health-care settings and within the community. Faculty are engaged in developing and implementing interprofessional team projects and models of care to address the health care needs of patients with multiple chronic conditions in minority or underserved areas. Population health and infection prevention are also recognized for their importance and emphasized. Graduate nursing students at the Master’s and doctoral levels are mentored by faculty throughout their programs to foster the development of research and evidence-based practice skills that will be used within the education and practice areas.