Center for Nursing Research Awards Nearly $80,000

The Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) Center for Nursing Research announced the winners of the 2016 Small Grant Award. Leigh Ann Simmons, Schenita Randolph, Michael Relf and Elijah Onsomue, Sophia Smith and Deb Allen, and Ryan Shaw won research funding totaling nearly $80,000. The projects range from dietary intervention during pregnancy to testing mHealth technology.

“Our mission is to provide resources that our nurse researchers need to advance nursing and interdisciplinary science,” said Marilyn Hockenberry, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, FAAN, Bessie Baker Professor of Nursing and associate dean for Research Affairs. “I am excited that we’re able to grant funding that will allow these DUSON faculty members to optimize health care across the spectrum.”

Leigh Ann Simmons, PhD, MFT

Simmons, an associate professor for DUSON, was awarded $25,000 for her pilot grant entitled “Goals for Reaching Optimum Wellness (GROWell): A Pilot Study of a Dietary Intervention During Pregnancy to Reduce Risk for Postpartum Depression.”

Simmons and her team have investigated a novel area of research that may advance the understanding of postpartum depression (PPD) and suggest a preventive intervention: the effect of prenatal diet on monoamine neurochemistry and specifically the generation of neurotransmitters that regulate mood.

“Research shows that on most days, 30 to 40 percent of pregnant women consume a Western diet, characterized by overconsumption of animal protein, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods,” Simmons said. “These diets are overabundant in the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine and valine.”

The work from this research project will determine whether transitioning women from consuming a Western diet to consuming a prudent diet characterized by consumption of primarily fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole grains during pregnancy will reduce the incidence of PPD at three months.

The GROWell study will use mobile health technology and include diet tracking, skills training and tailored feedback based on combined digital and human support strategies.

Schenita Randolph, PhD, MPH, RN, CNE

Randolph, an assistant professor for DUSON, was awarded $25,000 for her pilot grant entitled “Recruiting African American Fathers and Their Adolescent Sons for Qualitative, Sexual Health Research.”

Randolph will work with collaborators from DUSON and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to develop and pilot test recruitment methods for a future study of prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), among black adolescent boys through sexual health education by their fathers. Results from the study will allow Randolph and her team to implement effective recruitment methods for black fathers and sons and determine how best to include fathers in the education of their adolescent sons.

“Results from this study will assist me in informing the design of a Duke University Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) junior investigator research grant proposal in the fall of this year and a K award in the spring of 2017,” said Randolph. “This pilot study will also allow me to form relationships with African American community leaders and members who will help in developing a community action research program.”

The community action research program will focus on improving adolescent boys’ sexual health through the development of a father-son preventative intervention and/or other actions deemed relevant by the community leaders.

According to Randolph’s research, black males between the ages of 13 and 17 are disproportionately affected by STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS, and they currently account for 50 percent of HIV infections among all youth. “Strategies to increase the involvement of black fathers are critical for developing culturally and socially appropriate interventions for adolescent males,” Randolph said.

Michael Relf, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, AACRN, CNE, FAAN

Relf, associate professor and associate dean for Global and Community Health Affairs at DUSON, and Elijah Onsumu, PhD, MPH, MS, MCHES, assistant professor with Winston Salem State University (WSSU) Department of Nursing, were awarded $10,000 each for their DUSON/WSSU collaborative grant entitled “Association between perceived HIV susceptibility and intentions-agreement to conceive among HIV-serodiscordant and -seroconcordant couples in Kenya.”

HIV-serodiscordant (HIVSD) is when one partner in a relationship is HIV positive and the other is negative. HIV-seroconcordant (HIVSC) is when both partners in a relationship are HIV positive. According to Relf and Onsumu, reproductive needs among HIV-infected women in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly urgent, and this situation becomes more complicated when heterosexual couples are HIVSD or HIVSC.

“Kenya has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world,” Relf said. “Addressing the maternal and child health needs of HIVSD and HIVSC is a crucial step in reducing mother-to-child transmission and stigma in Kenya.”

This study will provide a data-based understanding of how HIVSD and -SC couples make decisions about reproductive health. These findings will enable program managers and policymakers to provide timely information, reproductive services and an environment that empowers responsible decision-making.

 Sophia Smith, PhD, MSW

Smith, an associate professor for DUSON, and Deborah Allen, PhD, RN, AOCNP, clinical associate with the Duke Cancer Institute and primary investigator for the project, were awarded $10,000 for their DUSON/Duke University Health System collaborative grant entitled “Identifying compensatory behaviors used to maintain cognitive function in adult survivors of malignant primary brain tumors.”

The study proposes to describe the compensatory behaviors that were used by survivors of malignant primary brain tumors (PBT) during neuropsychological evaluations as compared to health controls that are age-, education- and gender-matched.

Compensatory strategies are techniques or behaviors that individuals use to perform tasks that are difficult for them to perform otherwise.

“Technological advances in cancer treatment have improved survivorship rates for many cancer populations, necessitating research to focus on identifying and improving quality of life issues,” Smith said. “Adult survivors of PBT report experiencing difficulties in their everyday functioning and ability to perform activities of daily living with such severity that it affects the quality of life of both survivors and their caregivers.”

Smith and Allen’s research will lead to the development of interventions used to maintain cognitive function.

“By identifying compensatory strategies that adult survivors of PBT use during cognitive evaluations, we can begin to determine which strategies may aid or hamper cognitive processes and thereby everyday function,” said Smith.

Ryan Shaw, PhD, RN

Shaw, an assistant professor for DUSON, was awarded $9,625 for his partnership grant entitled “The 6th Vital Sign – Testing the Feasibility of Using Apple’s ResearchKit.”

ResearchKit is an Apple® open source software framework that makes it easy for developers and researchers to create apps for medical research. The software also allows anyone with an iPhone to consent and participate in medical research, join programs that can help them track their symptoms and share information with their doctors.

“More than one billion users have mobile broadband and connect with mobile application marketplaces today,” said Shaw. “This garners health care providers with an opportunity to use these interactive capabilities to connect with patients and enable personalized health interventions in real time.”

The 6th Vital Sign mobile application is a tool that allows individuals to assess physical function, both a performance-based assessment of walking speed and self-report of functional status, regardless of geographic location. The app also allows friends and family members to engage their social network by permitting others to easily complete the assessment on other people’s phones.

Mobile health devices include smartphones, wearable activity trackers, wireless connected scales and more. Despite the excitement about the potential for these devices to improve health, their successful adoption by consumers and patients for routine self-monitoring remains uncertain.

This study will be the first to test the feasibility of using a ResearchKit app as a medical research tool to assess mobility leveraging a smartphone accelerometer on a national population level. Shaw and his team anticipate the capability to produce epidemiologic reports of walking speed and risks from immobility among American adults.

Congratulations to all of the small grant winners!

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