Faculty Research Interests

Claudia BaroneTobacco Cessation

Claudia Barone, EdD, RN, LNC, CPC, CCNS-BC, APN

My research program involves tobacco cessation. The first area of interest is in training health care providers in the delivery of evidence-based tobacco cessation strategies to patients. This research includes education of health care providers on brief motivational interviewing, counseling, cessation strategies and pharmacotherapy for cessation through pre tests, post tests and 6-month follow-up surveys assessing knowledge and self-efficacy.

A second research focus revolves around establishment and data collection of patients seen in a tobacco cessation clinic. These patients will be assessed using an evidence-based tobacco cessation questionnaire and from the results, develop an individualized, evidence-based tobacco cessation plan. This research is interdisciplinary involving the Colleges of Health Professions and Medicine and the clinic is location in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

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cowanAdolescent Health; Cardiometabolic Risk; Diabetes; Obesity; Lifestyle Interventions

Patricia Cowan, PhD, RN, FAAN

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Laura HaysGenetic/genomic links to health outcomes; congenital heart disease

Laura Hays, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, FAHA

Genetics and genomics discoveries broaden opportunities for nurse scientists to explore applications of omics in cardiovascular disease, cancer, public health, and almost every disease realm. My current research investigates differences and implications of transiently elevated newborn screening results in Arkansas infants. This research brings together an incredible multidisciplinary team; the pilot study is supported by the College of Nursing and the Heartland Regional Genetics Network. Future implications of this research could include improvements or changes in treatment protocols based on knowing associated impairments in vitamin synthesis and/or transport with a genetic variant and could provide insight for future research on the relationship of this synthesis and related disease. I am also conducting research to assess registered nurses’ attitudes, receptivity, confidence, knowledge, social system influences, and adoption of integrating genetics and genomics into nursing practice.

Previous research has centered on the self-management needs of adults with congenital heart disease. I plan to continue my work with individuals affected by congenital heart disease by including how genetic links may play a part and might influence self-management.

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sara jonesPsychological and Psychosocial Effects on Trauma

Sara Jones, PhD, ARPN, PMHNP-BC

I am interested in the psychological and psychosocial effects on individuals who experience trauma, as well as perpetrate violence. My previous research focused on assessment and treatment of individuals convicted of sexual offenses. Specifically, I have used neuroimaging to explore the neurobiology of juveniles who sexually offend.

My new program of research explores the mental health needs of first responders, specifically EMT/paramedics and firefighters. When considering the nature, frequency, and intensity of daily, duty-related traumatic exposures, first responders have a significant risk of developing mental health problems. However, they are apprehensive to report problems or ask for help regarding them because of the stigma associated with mental illness and culture of self-reliance. My research is the first to use a community-engagement approach and qualitative design to explore their perceptions about help-seeking and use of mental health services. Findings have the potential to provide foundational data for the eventual development of a mental health program that will be accessed and valued by first responders.

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Leanne LeflerHeart Disease Prevention & Physical Activity Interventions for Older Adults

Leanne Lefler, PhD, Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist-BC, APRN

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the major killer in the United States, affecting over 17 million with a cost estimated at $2 billion annually. Of all diagnoses, spending for CHD is predicted to escalate as the baby boomers retire. My research focuses on the prevention and early treatment of CHD in older adults. I have examined the accuracy of older, racially diverse women’s perception of their personal risk for heart disease, understanding of cardiac risk factors, and the factors that promoted or hindered their attempts at modifying cardiac risk factors. With an interdisciplinary team, I also examined medication adherence in older women with CHD and described typographies of veterans with heart failure concerning values and needs at end of life.
I have conducted quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method research and worked in the church community, acute care and primary care environments. Currently, my interdisciplinary research team is conducting an NIH-funded randomized controlled trial aimed to promote physical activity in older, community dwelling women. We are also involved in feasibility work to determine best methods of conducting research involving physical activity interventions in older adults. I remain very interested in improving the health and well-being of older adults and have published widely on these topics. I also lead the education mission of the College’s Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, a center dedicated to improving the health of older adults and their caregivers, and improving the capacity of nurses to teach and care for older adults.

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mcsweeneyWomen and Heart Disease; Psychiatric Disorders and Stress in Veterans:
Risk Factor Modification

Jean McSweeney, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN

Women continue to have difficulty receiving early diagnoses of coronary heart disease (CHD) and tend to have advanced CHD when diagnosed. I have been investigating women’s early warning and acute symptoms associated with CHD in order to promote early recognition of CHD symptoms.  We have recently completed two grants, one funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, and one by the UAMS Translational Research Institute. These grants focus on predicting which women will have a CHD event in the next two years based on their symptoms, risk factors, and biomarkers. We use an instrument in these studies that we have developed and refined with previous research funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research. Our goal is to further refine this instrument and include the most predictive symptoms and biomarkers based on these 2 studies. Our next proposal will test the predictive ability of our revised instrument in a diverse sample of women. I have also conducted research in other areas of cardiac research including cardiac rehabilitation, heart transplantation, and heart failure.  I also have appointments with the Veterans’ Administration and the College of Public Health and serve as a co-investigator on a variety of grants. These studies focus on veterans with posttraumatic stress syndrome, families of returning veterans, rural health access, obesity, and food selection and availability. I am very interested in tailoring bio-behavioral interventions. I also serve as chair of the UAMS (CTSA) Translational Research Institute’s Arkansas Research Registry.  To date, more than 6300 Arkansans have signed up on the Registry to be contacted about future research studies. I use both qualitative and quantitative methods in my research endeavors.

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Anita MitchellNeonatal Pain and Stress Management

Anita Mitchell, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, APN

My research focuses on preterm infants and infants with congenital defects or who are ill and may undergo multiple painful procedures daily. The pain of these procedures as well as the stress of being in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may result in adverse physiological and neuro-developmental consequences. Clinical research lays the foundation for evidence-based practice to prevent and relieve pain and stress in neonates. We are engaged in research to test the effectiveness of alternative forms of pain and stress management such as kangaroo care, massage therapy, administration of 24% sucrose, and gentle, low current electrical stimulation. We are also studying the physiologic effects of routine procedures such as eye exams for retinopathy of prematurity.

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NagelCorey-100x150Geriatrics; social determinants of health; global health

Corey Nagel, PhD, MPH, RN

My research broadly focuses on the social and environmental determinants of health, both in the US and globally.  In the US, my work involves using data from nationally-representative health surveys merged with external data sources such as medical claims, census records, and geographic information systems data to identify factors that impact the health and function of older adults. Globally, I work with a team of researchers to evaluate community-level environmental health interventions in low-income countries, with a focus on reducing child morbidity and mortality from diarrheal and respiratory disease. My recent global health work includes cluster-randomized controlled trials of large-scale sanitation (India), household drinking water (Rwanda), and improved cookstove (Rwanda) interventions. Currently, I am a co-investigator on (1) an NIA-funded R01 examining racial/ethnic differences in multimorbidity among older persons and the impact of distinct multimorbidity profiles on functional decline and disability, and (2) an experimental trial of a sensor-driven approach to increase adoption of clean-burning cookstoves in households in rural Rwanda.

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Breast cancer; health literacy; patient-centered communication in cancer

Pearman Parker, PhD, MPH, RN

Dr. Parker’s research interests are in patient-centered cancer communication, health literacy, and cancer education. She recently was awarded the KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Award to support her project examining perceptions of psychosocial cancer educational materials for young women with breast cancer.

Her research is supported by the TRI KL2 Scholars Program (UL1TR003107; KL2 TR003108) in which she is investigating the perceptions of psychosocial cancer educational materials for young women with breast cancer within the multi-dimensional sphere of patient centered cancer communication. Results from this study will inform the development of breast cancer educational tools within the patient-centered communication process for women with varying health literacy levels.

Dr. Parker has demonstrated a commitment to furthering breast cancer research. As a doctoral student, she was selected as a Susan G. Komen Graduate Trainee Scholar (GTDR17500160), which recognized her commitment to reducing breast cancer disparities. She has served as a research assistant on an R01 funded study, Teleconference Group: Breast Cancer in African Americans (NIH/NCI R01CA107305), and published five co-authored papers surrounding psychosocial issues for patients with breast cancer.

She was most recently a research assistant for a pilot study (NIH/NIMHD 1R43MD008661) which tested the usability and feasibility of a smartphone app for African Americans with heart failure. During the project, Dr. Parker assisted in the creation of a low-literacy booklet, which educated participants about how to use smartphones and the app created for the study.

Dr. Parker joined the College of Nursing as a new faculty member in 2019. She received her doctorate from the University of South Carolina where her dissertation was funded through the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

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Arthritic Pain; Tai Chi in Elders; Dementia

Pao-Feng Tsai, PhD, RN

Alice An-Loh Sun Endowed Professorship in Geriatric Nursing

Many persons with dementia suffer from chronic pain that may exacerbate existing cognitive impairment and lead to further suffering. Inability to communicate pain poses great difficulty for pain management in persons with dementia; consequently, their pain tends to be under-treated. Since pain management depends on adequate assessment, it is necessary to find a valid tool to assess pain in this vulnerable elderly population.  Therefore, my first NIH funded project, was to study pain behaviors as an objective measure of osteoarthritic knee and/or hip pain. The long term goal of this project was to develop an assessment model that predicts osteoarthritic knee and/or hip pain in elders with severe dementia. My second NIH funded project was to study the effect of Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, on osteoarthritic knee pain in elders with mild dementia. Many elders show symptoms of osteoarthritic knee while they reside in the community and still actively engage in many social functions. Pharmacological interventions have limited effects and produce serious side effects. Therefore, it is important to identify an effective non-pharmacological intervention to reduce their osteoarthritic knee pain. Our findings showed that Tai Chi is effective in reducing knee pain in this population. My future research will focus on comparing the effectiveness of Tai Chi and other exercise for reducing knee pain in this population.

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Patricia WrightHIV/AIDS, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health

Patricia Wright,  PhD, MPH, RN

My research focuses on HIV prevention, drug use, and mental health. There are wide disparities in HIV and AIDS rates among African Americans and Whites, especially in the South. Drug use has been recognized as one of the driving forces in spread of the epidemic as well as a major barrier to service utilization. I have used qualitative and quantitative methods to examine individual, structural, and contextual barriers and facilitators to HIV testing among rural African American cocaine users, and to integrating HIV testing in substance abuse treatment and other community locations from the perspectives of drug users and providers. Such knowledge is especially needed in the rural South, where the HIV epidemic is growing rapidly. One of the major findings from this study is that many rural African American cocaine users assume they have been tested for HIV as part of routine care. We do not know at this time, however, if this passive testing phenomenon is prevalent beyond this sample of rural African American drug users, perhaps extending to urban drug users or the general population.  Future research will investigate the extent of passive testing assumptions in this high-risk population and among others, as well as examining racial/ethnic, gender, and generational differences in risk behaviors, risk perception, and HIV testing.  I also collaborate with investigators from the College of Public Health where I serve as project director and co-investigator for a clinical behavioral trial of a sexual risk reduction intervention among rural African American cocaine users. I am very interested in access to health services and factors that influence use of health services.

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