Faculty Research Interests


Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Claudia Protzman Barone, DNP, EdD, APRN, CCNS, CTTS

Roles: Nicholas P. Lang, MD and Helen F. Lang, RN Endowed Professor, Department of Nursing Practice, UAMS College of Nursing

Research Interests: Tobacco Control, Tobacco Cessation, Low Dose CT Screening

Brief Bio:

Dr. Claudia Barone is the Nicholas P. Lang, MD and Helen F. Lang, RN Endowed Professor in the College of Nursing at UAMS where she holds the rank of Professor with tenure. As part of Dr. Barone’s role in tobacco control, she serves as a certified tobacco treatment specialist and has a portion of her time committed to patient care in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and the LowDose CT Imaging program in Radiology.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title: Tobacco Cessation in a Thoracic Oncology Clinic    

  • Project Goal: This study investigated tobacco cessation among patients presenting for care in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Thoracic Oncology Clinic. The aim was to identify tobacco behaviors and determine what stage of change the patient was in and assist with reducing or quitting tobacco use and integrate tobacco cessation into the standard of care.

Natalie Capps, MNSc, RN

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Natalie Capps, PhD, RN

 Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Education, College of Nursing

 Research Interests: Cervical Cancer, Women’s Health, Genetics, Nursing Education

Brief Bio:

Dr. Natalie Capps is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing. Dr. Capps earned her doctorate at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she completed pre-doctorate work in molecular genetics through an NINR, NIH, and Georgetown University partnership. Dr. Capps has secured several research grants surrounding interests in cervical cancer and secondhand smoke exposure, cervical cancer and genetics, sleep disorders and pregnancy, and nursing education.

Current/Recent Research Projects:
Project Title: Smoke exposure and cervical cancer: Analysis of the National Health and Nutrition  Examination Survey

  • Project Goal: This study examined associations between cigarette smoke exposure and cervical cancer. The primary aim was to investigate the relationship between smoke exposure (active and secondhand) and cervical cancer in a representative US population of women. A secondary aim was to compare methods of collecting smoke exposure data and trends of exposure among US women.

 Project Title: Reducing Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes: Interactive Sleep Improvement Education

  • Project Goal: This study examined the possibility of online education to pregnant women emphasizing the importance of healthy sleep throughout pregnancy. The aim of this study was to design, implement and evaluate an online, interactive educational module for pregnant women on healthy sleep and sleep-disordered breathing.

 Project Title: Sleep Disordered Breathing in Pregnant Women: A Pilot Study

  • Project Goal: This study examined the complex relationship between sleep-disordered breathing and maternal/fetal complications. The aim of the study was to determine the logistic feasibility and acceptability of study measures and devices and to obtain preliminary data on the correlates, trajectory, and impact of sleep-disordered breathing in pregnancy.



Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Patricia Cowan, PhD, RN, FAAN

Roles: Dean, Professor, & Linda C. Hodges Endowed Chair, College of Nursing; Graduate Faculty, Graduate School

Research Interests: Childhood obesity; adolescent health; cardiac and diabetic risk; minority health, lifestyle interventions (exercise, diet); kidney and pancreas transplantation; student recruitment & retention;  disadvantaged students; nurse workforce diversity

 Brief Bio:

Dr. Cowan has served as dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) since November 2015.  She holds a research doctorate in nursing (PhD) from the University of Tennessee (Memphis), a master’s degree in adult health nursing from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  Dr. Cowan completed leadership fellowships through the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Wharton School of Business. In 2016, she was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

Over the past 35 years, Dr. Cowan has merged science, teaching, and patient care to address health disparities in adults and children, and educational disadvantagement in higher education.  Her scientific work contributed to understanding the relationships among ethnic/racial group membership, lifestyle behaviors, and health disparities in adults and youth with and without renal impairment.  Dr. Cowan developed an innovative recruitment and retention program that resulted in a highly educated, diverse nursing workforce qualified to lead practice and research initiatives to reduce health disparities and inequities.  Her 5-year New Careers in Nursing Program (2008-2013) project resulted in 100% graduation, >95% first-time NCLEX pass rates, and 46% of these students advancing to graduate education. Dr. Cowan’s research teams have obtained over $5,000,000 in external funding, and her research-practice collaborations resulted in the rapid translation of research findings to provide evidence-based care to minority populations in the areas of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases prevention and management.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title: SUSTAIN – New Careers in Nursing Program Initiative

Project Goal: (1) increased enrollment and retention of underrepresented groups (minorities and males) in an accelerated, entry-level nursing program, and (2) development of nursing leaders through mentorship, academic support services, and leadership activities. Use of evidence-based strategies included scholarships for financial support, monthly leadership sessions, monthly service leadership activities, and twice-monthly social and academic support sessions with faculty mentors and doctoral students.

Project Title: Genetics, Environment, and Weight Gain Posttransplant

  • Project Goal: To test if gene-environmental interactions predict whether individuals will become obese at one-year posttransplant.

Project Title: Cardiac Risk Profile of Obese African American Adolescents

  • Project Goal: Examine five interrelated factors (overweight severity and distribution, insulin resistance, cardiorespiratory fitness, diet, and family history) to determine predictors of glucose intolerance and cardiovascular risk in overweight adolescents


Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Lauren Haggard-Duff, PhD, RN, CNE

 Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Education, College of Nursing

Research Interests: Food insecurity; Pacific Islander health; Culinary Medicine and chronic disease prevention and management; Infant and maternal health

 Brief Bio: Dr. Lauren Haggard-Duff is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). She has over 15 years of experience caring for diverse populations across the lifespan as a clinical nurse in the hospital setting, and 20 years as a nurse educator.  She is a certified nurse educator through the National League for Nursing and is currently earning her designation as a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist.  Dr. Haggard-Duff’s decades of service to her patients and students continue to heighten her sensitivity to the needs of diverse and underserved populations.  Dr. Haggard-Duff’s current scholarship is focused on addressing disparities in access to medical care, and understanding inequities in health outcomes.  As Site PI for the UAMS HRSA Healthy Start program, she collaborated extensively with the research team to document, understand, and address the disproportionate burden of infant and maternal mortality among Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders (NHPI), with a special focus on the Marshallese community in Arkansas.

 Recent/Current Research Projects:

 Project Title: Home Food Delivery for Diabetes Management in Patients of Rural Clinics (Long C., PI)

  • Project Goal: I am a co-investigator for this current project focused on home food delivery for diabetes management in patients of rural clinics. My role is to assist in creating meals for patients with diabetes and to develop and implement patient education materials.

 Project Title:  Healthy Start (HS) Kōmmour (McElfish, P., PI)

  • Project Goal: I am currently Site PI for the Healthy Start (HS) Kōmmour project, which seeks to ensure access to culturally sensitive, community-based health and social services to women, infants, and families. HS Kōmmour’s target population consists of women of reproductive age, pregnant women, mothers who have just given birth, infants, and families with a special focus on the Marshallese Pacific Islander (Marshallese) community.

Project Title:  Improving the health of Arkansans with food insecurity and Type 2 Diabetes (Long, C., PI)

  • Project Goal: The goal of this project is to improve the nutritional health and self-sufficiency of low-income food-insecure people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) by implementing and evaluating 1) an intervention using home-delivery of T2D-appropriate food boxes; 2) a toolkit to engage food pantries in supporting the health of their clients with T2D; and 3) an education module to improve graduate medical, nursing, and pharmacy students’ readiness to support the health of food insecure individuals at risk for diet-sensitive chronic diseases. As Nurse Educator Consultant, my role is to design, create and implement the interprofessional training modules.

Melodee Harris

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Melodee Harris, PhD, RN, APRN, GNP-BC, AGPCNP-BC, FAAN

Roles: Associate Professor, Department of Nursing Practice, College of Nursing; Co-Director Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence; Specialty Coordinator of Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Specialty

 Research Interests: Massage; Dementia and Neuropsychiatric Syndromes; Geropsychiatric Nursing; Sleep; Gerontological Nursing Workforce

Brief Bio:

Dr. Harris serves as the Specialty Coordinator of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is a board-certified adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner and a gerontological nurse practitioner with geropsychiatric nursing practice in rural Arkansas nursing homes.

 Current/Recent Research Projects:
Project Title: Dementia and Neuropsychiatric Syndromes

  • Project Goal: The goal of this project is to provide education modules on dementia and neuropsychiatric syndromes for advanced practice nurses and caregivers.

Project Title: Geriatric Advanced Practice Nursing (HRSA-15-046A)                    

  • Project Goal: The goal of this project is to enhance the gerontological nursing workforce with advanced practice nurses who are experts in health disparities.

Project Title: National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education: Accelerating Interprofessional Community-Based Education and Collaboration for Older Persons with Mental Health Disparities

  • Project Goal: The goal of this project is to test community partnerships for screening older adults with depression and mental health disparities.

Laura Hays

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Laura Hays, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, FAHA

 Role: Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing

 Research Interests: Special populations, genetic biomarkers for disease susceptibility, self-care in chronic conditions

 Dr. Hays is an Assistant Professor with tenure track- research in the College of Nursing and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the College of Health Professions at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She teaches in the College of Nursing graduate program and is a clinical consultant with the Arkansas Newborn Screening Program through a contractual agreement with the Arkansas Department of Health and the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Genetics and Metabolism. Dr. Hays earned her doctoral, Master’s, and baccalaureate degrees in nursing science from UAMS, and a 2019 graduate of the highly competitive NIH FAES/NINR Summer Genetics Institute. Her research focuses on the discovery of genetic susceptibility markers to provide powerful insights to programs serving understudied minority populations experiencing disproportionately high rates of metabolic diseases.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title:  Investigation of a Transiently Elevated Genetic Marker on NBS Results in the AR  Marshallese Population

Project Goal: As PI, Dr. Hays is performing mitochondrial DNA sequencing of newborn screening dried blood spots to investigate variants influencing energy metabolism in the Arkansas Marshallese population.

 Project Title:  Determining Willingness to Consent to Research Use of Newborn Screening Dried Blood Spots.  Pilot Study

  • Project Goal: Hays was PI of this completed study which sought to determine the willingness of parents of Marshallese infants in Arkansas to consent to a hypothetical future study to perform additional testing using their baby’s existing newborn screening dried blood spot samples.

Project Title:  Assessing Genetic and Genomic Knowledge and Practice in Arkansas RNs

  • Project Goal: Hays was PI of this study that assessed UAMS registered nurses’ genetic/genomic knowledge, as well as their perceived intent to enroll in graduate coursework to gain genetics knowledge.

 sara jones

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Sara Jones, PhD, RN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP

Role: Associate Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing; Specialty Coordinator Psychiatric Mental Health NP Specialty

Research Interests: Mental health, First Responders, Qualitative Methods

Dr. Sara Jones is an Associate Professor with tenure in the College of Nursing and coordinator for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner graduate program. Dr. Jones earned her doctoral degree at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and practices as a board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in private practice. Dr. Jones is also a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Dr. Jones’ research focuses on improving the mental health of first responders by developing a tailored mental health service model that meets their self-identified needs. Dr. Jones has been awarded a half-million dollars in combined grant funding from Sigma Theta Tau International, the International Society of Psychiatric Nurse, and the National Institutes of Mental Health. With continued funding from NIMH, Dr. Jones aims to implement Mental Health Personal Prevention and Education for Firefighters throughout Arkansas to decrease rates of PTSD and suicide and improve first responders’ overall well-being.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title:  Building Partnerships with First Responders to Explore Strategies to Improve Delivery and Access of Mental Health Services

Project Goal: This study built upon partnerships with first responders’ statewide to identify their preferences and priorities regarding mental health service and delivery methods. The goal was to conceptualize and develop a service delivery intervention that is applicable, acceptable, sustainable, and feasible for implementation.

Project Title: Duty-related Mental Health Education for First Responders: A Pilot Intervention Study

  • Project Goal: The goal of this study was to develop and implement a mental health education program tailored for first responders, and evaluate its feasibility and efficacy to improve awareness, knowledge, and attitudes about duty-related MH issues.

Project Title: Exploring the Mental Health Needs of First Responders in Arkansas: A Pilot Study

  • Project Goal: The goal of this study was to establish partnerships with key first responder stakeholders across Arkansas to discuss mental health and establish buy-in for future research. It also explored individual first responders’ perceptions of mental health problems and use of services, including barriers and facilitators to help-seeking.

Lefler Feb 2021

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Leanne Lefler, PhD, RN, APRN, ACNS-BC, FAHA, FAAN

Role: Associate Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing

Research Interests: Cardiovascular: self-management, telehealth, prevention, heart failure; Physical activity: clinical trials; Gerontology related to cardiovascular disease, Mixed methods

Dr. Lefler is an Associate Professor with tenure in the College of Nursing and holds the endowed Professorship in Women’s Cardiovascular Health. She is the Principal Investigator for two grant awards from the Patient-Centered Research Outcomes Institute in which she is leading a health systems comparative effectiveness study to compare self-management of patients with heart failure who receive Health interventions compared with enhanced standard care. For the second award, she is evaluating the effectiveness of telemedicine compared to standard in-person medical visits in patients with heart failure. Dr. Lefler is nationally recognized for her work as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing as well as the American Heart Association. She obtained her PhD from UAMS and Postdoctoral training from the John A. Hartford Foundation.  Dr. Lefler has been awarded more than $7 million in combined grant funding from the NIH, PCORI, Hartford Foundation, and others.

 Research Projects:
Project Title:  Comparing Quality of Telemedicine & Standard Provider Visits with Healthcare Utilization Metrics of Older Patients with Heart Failure During Covid-19 Pandemic.

  • Project Goal: The overall aim of this research is to determine which type of patient care visit (standard in-person or telemedicine visit) is most effective, preferred by patients with heart failure, and results in the most effective health care utilization metrics. We aim to also describe patients’ experiences and care preferences with both types of clinic visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project Title: Innovative Care Model For Older Adults With Chronic Heart Failure (i-COACH): A Comparative Effectiveness Clinical Trial For Improving Healthcare Systems.

  • Project Goal: To evaluate whether an enhanced mHealth care management model with connected health technology used in partnership with the health care system team, an older person with heart failure, and their caregiver is more effective than a provider-directed management model using non-connected home equipment kits. Self-care, quality of life, and quality care are represented by multiple outcome measures that are important to patients, caregivers, and healthcare (HC) systems.

 Project Title: Interprofessional Education: Simulating Poverty to Accelerate Learning about Upstream Determinants of Health and Health Outcomes. [Program Grant].

  • Project Goal: To improve population health outcomes of students and faculty at UAMS by employing an educational innovation called the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) across campus.

Nagel Feb 2021

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Corey Nagel, PhD, MPH, RN

Role: Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing; Co-Director, Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence

 Research Interests: Chronic disease/multimorbidity among older adults; Physical and cognitive functioning in aging; Health disparities; Global health (Water, Sanitation, IAP); Analysis of longitudinal data; Latent variable modeling; Machine Learning. Big Data.

Dr. Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and the Co-Director of the Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence. Dr. Nagel’s clinical training and background is in gerontological nursing and Dr. Nagel has extensive interdisciplinary training in epidemiology and biostatistics. Dr. Nagel’s current program of research focuses on socio-environmental determinants of healthy aging, long-term trajectories of functional and cognitive performance among chronically ill older adults, and methodological issues related to the ascertainment and measurement of health status, health services utilization, and functional performance from complex survey data. Dr. Nagel’s work generally involves an analysis of data from nationally-representative health surveys merged with external data sources such as medical claims, census records, and geographic information systems. Dr. Nagel has specific expertise in multilevel and latent variable modeling of longitudinal data, time to event models, causal inference methods for observational data, and machine learning.

In addition to research focused on older adults in the US, Dr. Nagel also works 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. Dr. Nagel’s recent global health work includes cluster-randomized controlled trials of large-scale sanitation (India), household drinking water (Rwanda), and improved cookstove (Rwanda) interventions.

Current/Recent Research Projects:
Project Title: Multimorbidity Combinations and Dementia Onset Among Race-Ethnic Older Adults.

  • Project Goal: This study examines race/ethnic differences in longitudinal trajectories of multimorbidity and cognitive function among a nationally-representative cohort of older adults.

Project Title: Changes in Multimorbidity and Disability among Race/Ethnic Older Adult

  • Project Goal: This study examines racial/ethnic differences in the longitudinal development and progression of multimorbidity and disability among older persons and its relationship with health care utilization and mortality.

Parker Feb 2021

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Pearman Parker, PhD, MPH, RN

 Role: Clinical Instructor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing

 Research Interests: Patient education, health literacy, patient-centered communication in cancer, breast cancer survivorship, qualitative design and analysis, mixed-methods design

Dr.Parker is a Clinical Instructor in the College of Nursing at UAMS. Dr. Parker’s research interests are in patient-centered cancer communication, health literacy, and breast cancer education. Dr. Parker’s interest in patient education and patient-centered communication stems from Dr. Parker’s background as a psychiatric nurse and health care journalist. Dr. Parker has over two years of clinical nursing experience working in an acute care psychiatric setting on an adolescent unit. She left the bedside to pursue a career dedicated to reducing breast cancer disparities and uses her psychiatric experiences to inform her research questions.  Dr. Parker was recently was awarded the KL2 Mentored Research Career Development Award to support her project examining perceptions of cancer educational materials for young women breast cancer survivors. Her research is supported by the TRI KL2 Scholars Program (UL1TR003107; KL2 TR003108) and Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program. 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 through her work in this field.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title: An exploration of the perceptions of educational materials for young women with breast cancer and implications for developing patient education materials.

  • Project Goal: This study investigates young women breast cancer survivors’ perceptions of cancer educational materials. We aim to understand the beliefs and attitudes surroundings cancer educational materials for survivors. Further, we seek to evaluate the readability, understandability, and actionability of commonly available breast cancer survivorship materials.

Project Title: Shared care of breast cancer survivors: A telemedicine in the rural population feasibility study.

  • Project Goal: The objective of this study is to pilot test the feasibility of shared care between oncologists at UAMS and primary care providers (PCPs) at ARCare using teleoncology. We hypothesize that breast cancer survivors in the shared care group will have higher satisfaction of their care and better quality of life because of less effort in traveling for breast cancer survival care.

E. Riley

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Elizabeth Riley, DNP, RNC-NIC,CNE
Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Education, College of Nursing

Research Interests: Educational Research, Neonatology

Brief Bio:

Dr. Elizabeth Riley is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the UAMS College of Nursing BSN program. She is course coordinator for Foundations of Professional Nursing II, co-facilitates simulation in the Care of the Childbearing Family, and teaches Introduction to Research and Evidence-Based Practice and Pathophysiologic Basis for Health Assessment. Dr. Riley earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in Educational Leadership from American Sentinel University in 2018. She has been awarded over $115,000 in combined intramural and extramural sources for educational and neonatal research. Dr. Riley’s research focuses on curricular interventions in nursing education and clinical interventions to promote positive neonatal health outcomes.

Current/Recent Research Projects:
Project Title:  Implementation of Standardized Bedside Interprofessional Rounds in Neonatal Intensive Care

  • Project Goal: The goal of this project includes utilizing an implementation science framework to enhance the occurrence and standardization of interprofessional rounds in the NICU at UAMS. A quantitative survey and semi-structured qualitative interview process will be used to survey provider practices. Evidence-based interventions will be implemented with measurement of rounding occurrences pre and post-implementation to measure effectiveness.

Project Title:  Maintaining Academic Performance and Student Satisfaction during the Remote Transition of a Nursing Obstetrics Course to Online Instruction

  • Project Goal: This study explored the effect of rapidly transitioning an in-person pre-licensure nursing specialty course to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The redesign included the following learning technologies: live and recorded whiteboard lectures with Socratic-style questioning, electronic audience response systems, remote simulations, and virtual unfolding case studies to replace didactic and clinical learning experiences. Quantitative results indicate that learning quality was sustained, with no significant difference in students’ course performance or satisfaction.

 Project Title: Adopting Open Educational Resources (OER) in a Nursing Informatics Course: An Evaluation of Student Performance and Course Satisfaction

  • Project Goal: The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of OER adoption by analyzing final course grades (to measure student performance) and course evaluations (to measure student satisfaction) in an online nursing informatics course in an RN-BSN completion program.

Martha Rojo

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Martha Rojo, PhD, RN

Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing

 Research Interests: Qualitative Research Methodology, Qualitative Data Analysis, Recruitment of Special populations (including Hispanic & African American), Community Engagement – Community based participatory research, and heart disease awareness

Dr. Martha Rojo is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Dr. Rojo earned her doctorate degree in nursing from UAMS and currently teaches qualitative research methods in the nursing PhD program. Dr. Rojo’s research focuses on heart disease awareness in minority groups such as Hispanics and African Americans and her major strengths are using qualitative methodology strategies. Dr. Rojo is fundamentally interested in improving health disparities in minority groups. Dr. Rojo’s research interests are cardiovascular disease specifically focusing on heart disease awareness among minority women. Dr. Rojo’s secondary research interest is the recruitment of minority groups to improve their research participation in research studies and consequently improve health disparities among minority groups. Over the past 10 years, Dr. Rojo has worked primarily with the rural Hispanic population to establish bonds between academia and the community by volunteering as a nurse in free clinics and by participating in various research endeavors. Dr. Rojo is also a member of the ARreseach Registry committee of the Translational Research Institute and is primarily responsible for recruiting Hispanic subjects. In the past 3 years, Dr. Rojo has served as PI and completed two pilot studies using innovative recruitment strategies in minority groups.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title: Connecting our Neighborhoods Need for Enhanced and Coordinated Testing to
Achieve Equity: CoNNECT to Achieve Equality.

  • Project Goal: To work with community partners to increase COVID-19 testing and prepare for future vaccination trials and vaccine distribution. We also aim to implement and evaluate access and uptake strategies of community-driven COVID-19 testing approaches to understanding effectiveness and impact on vulnerable populations such as Hispanics and Marshallesse.                                                                 

Project Title: Expanding Translational Research in Arkansas

  • Project Goal: Our goal is to develop new knowledge and novel approaches that will measurably address the complex health challenges of rural and underrepresented populations. In this role, the goal is to increase the number of Hispanics participating in clinical and behavioral research. Innovative strategies are utilized to engage the community to increase their knowledge and willingness to participate in an existing research registry at UAMS.

Sharon Stevenson-headshot

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Sharon Stevenson, DNP, APRN, PPCNP-BC
Role: Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing Practice, College of Nursing

Research Interests: Pediatric Neurology, Faith-Based Community Health, Faculty Diversity

 Brief Bio:

Dr. Sharon Stevenson is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She teaches in the Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program. Dr. Stevenson earned her doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Her clinical and research experiences have focused on pediatric neurology specialty care specifically epilepsy, migraine headaches, spasticity and Tourette syndrome. She was awarded an ACHRI intramural research grant to evaluate children with new-onset seizures undergoing neuroimaging. As a health ministry leader, she was awarded a Blue & You Foundation grant funding a faith-based community health fair. As an African American underrepresented minority clinician and faculty member in a higher learning academic setting. Throughout her 30-year career, Dr. Stevenson has worked as the first, or only, staff, clinician, administrator, and educator of color on various projects. As a result of these lived experiences, she is keenly aware of the need to diversify the health care academic and practice workforce.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

 Project Title: Exploring barriers and facilitators to attracting and retaining African American and Hispanic faculty

  • Project Goal: The purpose of this study is to describe the experiences of current African American and Hispanic faculty members to gain an understanding of barriers and facilitators faced in an academic setting, specifically related to recruitment and retention. The long-term goal is to develop strategies to improve the engagement and retention of underrepresented minority faculty members in postsecondary, degree-granting, higher education institutions.

 Project Title:  Community Health Fair: Addressing Population Health Among Arkansans

  • Project Goal: In 2018, Arkansas was the fifth lowest-ranked state in the nation for overall health. An indicator for this poor ranking is physical inactivity, the primary contributor to obesity and a precursor to other chronic diseases. Among adult Arkansans, >32% reported doing no physical activity. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness through education about the benefits of preventive health screening and health risk factors. The project focused primarily on physical activity.

Stephanie Trotter-headshot

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Stephanie Trotter, PhD, RN
Roles: Clinical Instructor; Clinical Coordinator; Department of Nursing Education, College of Nursing

 Research Interests: Health Promotion, Health Behavior, Hypertension; Nursing Workforce Diversity; Social Determinants of Health; Community/Public Health; Aging/Geriatrics

Brief Bio:

Dr. Trotter serves as both Clinical Instructor and Clinical Coordinator for Nursing Care of the Older Adult and Community/Public Health Nursing baccalaureate nursing courses. Dr. Trotter completed her BSN and PhD from UAMS. During her doctoral education, she worked as a research assistant for a number of collaborative research projects pertaining to older adults with chronic pain and/or dementia. Her dissertation work examined generational differences in time perspectives and health behaviors in adults with hypertension. Her current research focuses on exploring certified nursing assistants’ opportunities for a career path in nursing, thus potentially impacting care outcomes for older adults in geriatric care facilities. Prior to earning her BSN and PhD, she earned a BA and BFA from Kansas State University.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title:  Increasing Nursing Workforce Diversity Through Innovative Training and Career Development

  • Project Goal: This study has two overarching goals. The first goal is to identify past or current career development opportunities for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in a geriatric nursing setting, via a scoping literature review. The second goal is to identify CNAs’ interest in transitioning to a career in nursing and discover perceived barriers and facilitators in a CNA-to-Nurse career transition/development endeavor. This project will lay foundational groundwork for the potential development of a CNA career transition program.

Project Title: Adolescent Vaping and Barriers to Quitting

  • Project Goal: This study investigates the use of e-cigarettes (i.e., vaping) in Little Rock School District middle and high school students. Additionally, it seeks to identify attitudes toward prevention strategies, current levels of nicotine dependence, perceived barriers to quitting, and acceptable quitting approaches in middle and high school students.

 Project Title: Increasing Public Health Competency Using an Integrated Curriculum and Summative OSCE

  • Project Goal: This project incorporates public health nursing competencies across the baccalaureate nursing curriculum. Measurement of students’ public health nursing competencies will be measured through a team-based OSCE. These scores will also be compared to traditional standardized testing results to determine public health nursing competency achievement.

Judith Weber

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Judith Weber, PhD, RD

Roles: Associate Dean for Research and Professor, Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing; Director and Principal Investigator, Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention, Arkansas Children’s Research Institute

 Research Interests: Childhood Obesity, Nutrition, Community Engagement, Dietary and Physical Activity Behaviors, Environmental Risk Factors

Dr. Judy Weber is the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Nursing. She holds the rank of Professor with tenure in the UAMS colleges of Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health. Dr. Weber is also the director and principal investigator of the Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention (CCOP), funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) award mechanism. The CCOP is located at on the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute campus. Dr. Weber earned her doctoral degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Arizona, where she also completed postdoctoral training in physiology. Dr. Weber has been awarded more than $25 million in combined grant funding from the NIH, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other sources.  Dr. Weber’s research focuses on modifiable individual and environmental risk factors for obesity and related chronic diseases, and large-scale community-based health promotion intervention science.

Current/Recent Research Projects:

Project Title: COBRE Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention

  • Project Goal: The goal of this COBRE is to develop an integrated, interdisciplinary, and translational Center for Childhood Obesity Prevention. The objective of the Center is on supporting emerging scientists focused on investigating the origins of obesity and elucidating individual and environmental factors that affect the development of obesity over time and developing interventions to address them.

Project Title: Relationship of Physical Activity and Diet with Socio-Demographic, Environmental, and Metabolic Factors in Arkansas Public School Children” – Arkansas Active Kids Study

  •  Project Goal: This study investigates the complex relationships between factors that contribute to metabolic health and obesity status in prepubertal school–age children in the state of Arkansas. We aim to identify modifiable behavioral and environmental factors and phenotypes related to metabolic health that are associated with obesity status that, if addressed effectively, can aid in designing effective intervention strategies to improve fitness and reduce obesity in children.

Project Title: Intervention for Obesity Prevention Targeting Young Children in At-risk Environments: an Integrated Approach: The Arkansas Grow Healthy Study

  • Project Goal: The purpose of this study is to improve the diets of young children, especially through improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables; to conduct a statewide foodshed assessment for the promotion and facilitation of farm-to-school initiatives; and to ensure that tomorrow’s educators, childcare providers, and other practitioners are able to make a meaningful impact on the childhood obesity crisis throughout their professional lives.

wright, Patricia

Faculty Member Name and Credentials: Patricia B. Wright, PhD, MPH, RN

Role: Associate Professor Department of Nursing Science, College of Nursing; Director of Nursing PhD Program, Graduate School

Research Interests: Substance use and HIV; rural health; health services research; qualitative research methods

 Dr. Trish Wright is an Associate Professor with tenure in the College of Nursing and is Director of the PhD Program in Nursing Science. She has a broad background in public health, with specific training and expertise in qualitative and health services research on behavioral aspects of substance use and risk behaviors. She has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research for many years with interdisciplinary teams and with culturally diverse populations of substance users. She has served as Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator, and qualitative expert on numerous interdisciplinary grants, most focusing on substance use disorders and mental health among rural, underserved populations. Her research collaborations have included subjects with various illnesses (substance use disorders, mental health disorders, HIV, rare diseases, dementia) from various ethnicities and races on grants funded by the Veterans’ Administration (VA), Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), and NIH. Her research includes a thorough assessment of the individual, structural, and contextual barriers and facilitators to HIV testing, and the integration of HIV testing in substance abuse treatment and other community locations from the perspectives of rural drug users and providers. Her recent qualitative research examines critical attitudes, barriers, facilitators, and preferences among rural persons with prescription opioid use disorder that impact seeking, entering and sustaining medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to stop opioid use and prevent relapse.

Current/Recent Research Projects:
Project Title:  Improving Treatment Strategies for Prescription Opioid Use Disorder

  • Project Goal: The primary objectives of this qualitative study are to study patient perspectives of medication-assisted treatment (MAT): (1) to identify the key decision factors for seeking MAT from the perspective of persons with POUD entering outpatient MAT treatment in a rural Southern state; (2) identify the key decision factors among persons with PO use disorder enrolled in outpatient MAT for continuing/discontinuing with opioid agonist or antagonist treatment after completing detoxification; (3) identify and characterize individual- and contextual-level factors contributing to successful detoxification and treatment outcomes among a cohort of persons seeking MAT for PO use disorder at 16-week follow-up.

 Project Title: Evaluation of Gamified Intervention Module for Adolescent Opioid Misuse/Abuse Prevention

  • Project Goal: The goal of this study is to develop and assess the initial acceptability of the first module of a planned, larger gamified opioid misuse prevention intervention that can be delivered via smartphone. Gamification applies game design elements into existing processes and services in order to engage and motivate players while simultaneously attempting to modify their health behavior, incorporating game design techniques, thinking, and mechanics in non-game contexts to promote attitude and behavior change.


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