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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Geriatrics and Integrated Community-Based
Systems of Healthcare and Social Service Delivery

Claudia Beverly, PhD, RN, FAAN

My areas of research interests include geriatrics and integrated community-based systems of healthcare and social service delivery.  My goal is to develop systems of care delivery for older adults that places them in the least restrictive environment and to link the care needed to the right health care provider that is the most cost effective.  My secondary area of research interest is long-term-care with a particular focus on tele-health.

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

Patricia Cowan, PhD, RN, FAAN

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Seongkum HeoCongestive Heart Failure, Quality of Life, Symptom Management

Seongkum Heo, PhD, RN

My recent research interest areas are quality of life, self-care, and symptoms in patients with heart failure. I have examined factors affecting self-care, symptoms, and quality of life, and the relationships among the factors. I have conducted studies examining the effects of modifiable factors including psycho-social and behavioral factors on symptoms, quality of life, and hospitalizations and mortality. Psychosocial factors include depression, perceived control, and social support. Behavioral factors include medication adherence, dietary adherence, and symptom management. I have been involved in development and delivery of dietary and meditation interventions to help patients with heart failure self-manage their diet, physical symptoms, and psychological symptoms, and, in turn, improve quality of life  effectively.

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Psychological 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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Oncology supportive care; Sleep deficiency in vulnerable populations

Ellyn E. Matthews, PhD, RN, AOCNS, CBSM

Sleep is a critical determinant of health and well-being. Yet, roughly 30-40% of U.S. adults report sleep deficiency, defined as a deficit in the quantity or quality of sleep obtained compared to the amount needed for optimal health. Using quantitative and qualitative approaches, my funded program of research focuses on the biobehavioral aspects of sleep deficiency in cancer survivors and other at risk populations such as Veterans with traumatic brain injury. My studies have addressed sleep deficiency in racial/ethnic minorities, women throughout the lifespan, and others who are disproportionately affected by consequences of inadequate sleep. Our publications and presentations have tackled the methodological challenges of using data from sleep diaries, and established and innovative devices to measure activity and rest. My ultimate goal is to improve quality of life through better symptom assessment and improved sleep self-management tailored to vulnerable populations, particularly in the South. Certifications in behavioral sleep medicine and advanced oncology nurse specialist are evidence of the clinical expertise that inform my research.

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Women 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 am also involved in the UAMS Translational Reserve Institute.  I use both qualitative and quantitative methods in my research endeavors.

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Neonatal 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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Christina PetteyCardiovascular Disease; Health Disparities; Genetics

Christina Pettey, PhD, RN, FAHA

Although improvements have been made, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death world-wide and health disparities persist for some groups including African Americans and women. My research has focused on examining the causes of CVD health disparities and identifying ways to eliminate them. I was selected to attend three national training programs: the NIH Summer Genetics Institute, the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities Translational Health Disparities course, and the American Heart Association 2014 10-Day Seminar on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. I recently completed my dissertation study and NIH-funded NRSA entitled: Factors Affecting Hypertension Treatment Adherence among African Americans (1F31NR012347) and a UAMS College of Nursing-funded study entitled: The Relationship of Sleep Disturbance, Depression, and Inflammation with Coronary Heart Disease in Women (UAMS CON Research Intensive Faculty Experience –RIFE). The goal of this research is to identify ways to diagnose coronary heart disease earlier in women. I have been a volunteer family nurse practitioner in a free, faith-based, primary care clinic. My interest in health care disparities has grown out of my clinical experience in providing care to the uninsured, indigent residents of central Arkansas and I am interested in the factors influencing health care disparities, including culture, genetics, and environment

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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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