Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing Scholars 2023

Four nurses nationwide were selected to receive the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award from Rockefeller University's Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing to support nurses conducting independent research. Each award provides a maximum of $25,000 for one or two years. In the ninth year, funding for the awards is from an endowment established by sisters Helaine Lerner and Joan Rechnitz in honor of their parents, Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn.

This year's recipients will study topics ranging from patients' experiences with a left ventricular assist device, barriers and facilitators of Chinese immigrant women with a history of gestational diabetes, developing a resilience-building intervention for Asian Americans with cancer, and understanding nurses' clinical intuition. A senior group of scientists reviewed the applications. As a result, the applications with the highest potential to contribute to the discipline of nursing and healthcare and having the highest scientific and technical merit were selected to receive the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award. For the 2023 award cycle, applications were submitted by doctoral and postdoctoral nurses across the United States from 23 institutions.

The recipients are:

Avery C. Bechthold, BSN, RN

Avery C. Bechthold, BSN, RNMs. Avery Bechthold is a PhD Candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing under the mentorship of Dr. Nick Dionne-Odom and supported by the National Cancer Institute (R37CA252868; PI: Dionne-Odom) and National Institute of Aging (K76AG064327; PI: Iyer). Ms. Bechthold earned her BSN from Jacksonville University in 2019 and was a heart and vascular intensive care unit (HVICU) nurse at McLeod Regional Medical Center in South Carolina.

Ms. Bechthold is conducting a convergent mixed methods dissertation study, 'A Mixed Methods Exploration of the Values Elicitation Experiences of Patients with an LVAD and their Family Caregivers' to explore the values elicitation experiences of patients with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and their family caregivers. The study aims are to: (1) explore how values are discussed, reflected upon, and acted on by patients with an LVAD and their family caregivers using semi-structured interviews; (2) quantify LVAD patients' and family caregivers' self-efficacy and coping using validated questionnaires; and (3) compare quantitative and qualitative findings to identify facilitators and barriers to values elicitation among and across patients with an LVAD and their family caregivers in the Deep South using the joint display. Results will inform Ms. Bechthold's postdoctoral work and her research program focused on optimizing value-concordant, health-related decision-making among patients with heart failure, their family caregivers, and the healthcare team.

Ms. Bechthold has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including a UAB Blazer Fellowship, UAB Graduate School Dean's Scholarship, and UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care Director's Award.


Shuyuan Huang, MPH, PhD, RN

Shuyuan Huang, MPH, PhD, RNDr. Huang’s research focuses on the intersection of chronic disease prevention (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease), maternal health, and minority and immigrant health. Her research program aims to develop culturally and linguistically sensitive lifestyle interventions through mHealth technology for cardiometabolic disease prevention among postpartum Asian/Chinese immigrants with a recent history of gestational diabetes. Supported by the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, her current project, “A Mixed Methods Exploration of Barriers and Facilitators to 24-Hour Activity in Chinese American Women with a History of Gestational Diabetes,” aims to characterize the accelerometer-based 24-hour activity and cardiometabolic risk profile, and to describe the multi-contextual barriers and facilitators to meeting physical activity and sleep guidelines in this high-risk population. The findings from this study will inform future intervention development to improve lifestyle behaviors and, ultimately, the cardiometabolic profile of the population of interest.

Dr. Huang is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. She joins NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing as part of the NYU Provost’s postdoctoral fellowship program. Dr. Huang received her Ph.D. from the Yale School of Nursing, her MPH from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, her MSN from Central South University, and her BSN from Xi’an JiaoTong University. Her research projects have been supported by NIH/NIMHD, Connecticut Nurses’ Foundation Scholarship Award, and Sigma Theta Tau Delta Mu Professional Development Award.


Li-Ting Longcoy, PhD, DrPH, RN

Li-Ting Longcoy, PhD, DrPH, RNDr. Longcoy is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois Chicago and is currently supported by the NCI T32 Cancer Health Equity and Career Development Program. Her research goal is to enhance the quality of life for people with cancer and their family caregivers during the end-of-life stage. She earned a DrPH in Public Health from Georgia Southern University and a PhD in Nursing Science from the University of South Florida. Her doctoral research focused on the interdependence between hospice patients with cancer and their family caregivers.

With the support of the Rockefeller University Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Dr. Longcoy aims to develop an effective and sustainable behavioral intervention that empowers Asian Americans to engage in advanced care planning discussions with their family caregivers and healthcare providers. In addition, she will gain insights into the perspectives of community members regarding death-related topics. The findings from this work will help support the development and assessment of a digital culturally-tailored resilience-building intervention among Asian Americans with cancer. In addition, this work may lay the groundwork for future studies to explore the possibility of training community members as lay facilitators to help people engage in advance care planning discussions.


Yu-Ching (Katie) Yang, RN

Yu-Ching (Katie) Yang, RNYu-Ching (Katie) Yang is a registered nurse and a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Ms. Yang earned her BSN and MSN from National Taiwan University, Taiwan, and had over ten years of clinical experience in cardiovascular critical care across pediatric and adult populations. She received the Taiwan Government Scholarship to Study Abroad, the Sigma Theta Tau research grant, and the Jill Thayer dissertation award. She also received a 2nd place eastern nursing research society (ENRS) poster award.

Ms. Yang’s overall research program is to improve nurses’ clinical expertise to improve patients’ health outcomes during hospitalization. As the first step, Ms. Yang’s dissertation aims to identify biomarkers of nurses’ non-conscious cognitive processes in clinical practice by utilizing neurocognitive theories. In addition, the study is to determine the effects of the non-conscious cognitive process on accurate clinical judgments of patients’ health states. Findings from the study will inform the potential contribution of non-conscious cognition in quality clinical decision-making. The study findings will serve as the basis for the next step to identify determinants and barriers shaping nurses’ non-conscious judgment and decision-making in practice.


2022 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Recipients

Lauren Covington, PhD, RN

Lauren Covington, PhD, RNDr. Covington’s clinical experience as a practicing Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurse caring for families living in inner-city Baltimore, and her graduate training, have centered around her desire to improve sleep and health in families experiencing low socioeconomic status (SES). The overarching goal of Dr. Covington’s research is to promote lifelong health in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups through the development of sleep and health behaviors in early childhood. The goal of her proposed study, supported by the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, is to elucidate reciprocal links between caregiver and toddler sleep and caregiver’s coping and emotional response to experienced daily stressors within low SES families. This pilot data will support the development of a family sleep intervention centered around helping caregivers in low SES contexts cope more effectively with contextually induced stress, which may promote better caregiver and toddler sleep. Caregiver coping and emotional response to stress is a viable and potentially potent intervention target to promote sleep health in low SES families across the life course.

Dr. Covington is an Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware School of Nursing. She received her BA in Biological Foundations of Behavior from Franklin and Marshall College and her MSN and PhD from the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Nursing. Her graduate work, supported by Sigma and the Jonas Nurse Scholars Program, focused on examining the associations between several dimensions of accelerometry-estimated sleep (duration, timing), sleep routines, and obesity risk in toddlers living in low SES families. Her most recent work, supported through University of Delaware internal funding mechanisms, explores the association between family-level factors and child-caregiver sleep health and the severity of sleep deprivation among low SES families. Dr. Covington currently serves on the Journal of Advanced Nursing Early Career Advisory Editorial Board, the Sleep Research Society Pipeline Development committee, and numerous School of Nursing and University-level committees. In addition, she has been nominated for the University of Delaware Excellence in Teaching award and Delaware’s Top Nurse for Advancing & Leading the Profession.


Jessica Davis, BSN, RN

Jessica Davis, BSN, RNJessica Davis is a Registered Nurse and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant pursuing her PhD in Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh. With the support of the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Jessica will investigate the relationship between neonatal diet type, neonatal gut microbiome development, and incidence of adverse feeding outcomes among neonates with congenital heart defects that require surgery or palliation in the first 28 days after birth. She expects that completing this dissertation project will expand the clinical applications of microbiome science to pediatric cardiac intensive care.

Jessica has extensive experience caring for diverse populations of neonates and their families through her time as a nurse and lactation consultant. Her research interests include direct chest/breastfeeding and human milk use for infants with complex congenital disabilities, specifically those infants born with congenital heart defects. Jessica is also involved in the community-based lactation support. She serves as a board member for the Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank and the Associate Area Professional Liaison for Western Pennsylvania La Leche League.


Doncy Eapen, PhD, RN, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Doncy Eapen, PhD, RN, MSN, APRN, FNP-BCDr Eapen is an Assistant Professor at Cizik School of Nursing, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas. She earned her BSN and MSN from Manipal College of Nursing in India and post-master’s in Family Nurse Practitioner and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.

Her project “Positive Parenting: Empowering Young Mothers Experiencing Homelessness with a History of Inter-personal Violence (IPRV) to Improve Parenting Strategies” aims to (i) strengthen the women by addressing the social and emotional trauma that they experienced from IPRV and homelessness and (ii) promote positive parenting strategies. The study will be conducted in two parts using two evidence-based interventions. First, women will receive a counseling intervention called Recovering from Intimate Partner Violence through Strength and Empowerment (RISE), developed by researchers at Veteran Health Administration Second, women will be trained on positive parenting strategies using Play and Learning Strategies (ePALS).

This dual-pronged intervention can serve as a strong foundation for building positive parenting strategies and supporting very high-risk parents to be sensitive and responsive with their young children, thus preventing adverse long-term outcomes for the next generation. The financial support from Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award will be used to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of RISE+ ePALS among women who have experienced IPRV and homelessness.

Dr. Eapen uses qualitative and quantitative methodologies to learn about IPRV among marginalized populations, including people who experience homelessness. She was selected as an Academy of Violence and Abuse (AVA) Scholar in 2021. Her doctoral dissertation received several awards, including the Midwest Nursing Research Society award. She is a member of professional organizations, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, Southern Nursing Research Society, and the National Association of Indian Nurses of America (NAINA). In addition, she serves as the leadership succession committee chair of Sigma Theta Tau International Society, Zeta Pi Chapter.


Gee Su Yang, PhD, RN

Gee Su Yang, PhD, RNDr. Yang’s research focus is cancer prevention and survivorship. Her research program aims to develop knowledge of biobehavioral mechanisms underlying symptoms, predictors of symptom profiles, and precision-based approaches to symptom management in cancer survivors to improve quality of life and functioning. Currently, she is passionate about characterizing phenotypes and investigating novel biological processes of aromatase inhibitor-associated musculoskeletal symptoms in women with breast cancer and immunotherapy-associated adverse symptoms in cancer survivors. The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award will support a study profiling psychoneurological (PN) symptoms and examining the interplay of social determinants of health and pathways of microbiota-hormonal signaling that may affect health and treatment outcomes following immunotherapy. This work will provide a foundation for identifying subgroups of patients likely to be at the highest risk for adverse symptoms after systemic immunotherapy.

Dr. Yang is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing. She received her BSN and MSN from Seoul National University in South Korea and her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Maryland. She completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Florida College of Nursing through an NIH/NINR F32 individual postdoctoral fellowship. Her preclinical and clinical cancer research projects were and/or are being supported by the NIH/NINR training award, Oncology Nursing Foundation, American Nurses Foundation/Midwest Nursing Research Society, American Society for Pain Management Nursing, and Healthy Americas Foundation.


2021 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Recipients

Jennifer Glayzer, BSN, RN

Jennifer Glayzer, BSN, RNMs. Glayzer's research examines vulvodynia and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS). Ms. Glayzer was the first to identify that females with EDS, a group of heritable connective tissue disorders, may have 6 times the rate of vulvodynia as the general population. With support from the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Ms. Glayzer will build upon this foundational work by: (1) characterizing vulvar and generalized pain in females with vulvodynia and/or EDS through the membership in pain phenotypes; (2) examining comorbid condition cluster membership in females with vulvodynia and/or EDS; and (3) determining how membership in pain phenotypes and comorbid condition clusters are associated. Determining these associations will guide development of targeted treatment strategies for these debilitating conditions.

Ms. Glayzer is a registered nurse, a 5th year PhD student at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing, and an NIH, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Pre-Doctoral Fellow (F31NR019529) at the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). Ms. Glayzer was also selected and completed training at the NINR Summer Genetic Institute (2018). Ms. Glayzer earned her BSN from Michigan State University (2015), and a BS in Health Science from Grand Valley State University (2009). In addition to researching chronic pain Ms. Glayzer advocates for the rights and needs of persons with disabilities through her membership on committees at UIC and the Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS). Ms. Glayzer is honored to have been selected as a Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar.


Cassandra Godzik, PhD, APRN

Cassandra Godzik, PhD, APRNDr. Godzik's research focuses on understanding home sleep environments in older adults with insomnia. Due to current challenges with measuring home sleep environment, her proposed study will help measure techniques to collect data in older adult homes. Future randomized trials could then determine whether relatively simple improvements in the home sleep environment effectively improve sleep in older adults.

Dr. Godzik is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Psychiatry Department at Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. She earned her BS from the University of Vermont, BSN and MSN from Regis College, and PhD from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Godzik works as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in outpatient and inpatient settings. She has published journal articles that include cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia using web-based technology, psychiatric symptomatology, and a concept analysis on 'gateless communication' within healthcare practices. She received the International's Home Care Nurses Organization Nursing Research Award, the Sleep Research Society Mentor-Mentee Award, and the Sleep Research Society Trainee Merit-Based Award. She is a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.


Sara M. Mithani, PhD, RN

Sara M. Mithani, PhD, RNDr. Mithani's research goals are to develop a comprehensive understanding of how changes in biomarkers (i.e., blood, sweat, imaging) relate to chronic symptoms, particularly neurological deficits, and sleep disturbances, following traumatic brain injury (TBI) in both veteran and civilian populations. The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholars Award will support a pilot study to examine neuronally derived exosomes in peripheral blood to determine central processes affected by mild TBI and their relationships to chronic neurological symptoms and neurological deficits. This pilot study may provide insight into possible therapeutic targets to inform novel interventions in veterans who are more likely to develop chronic symptoms following a mild TBI.

Dr. Mithani is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Nursing Research (NINR) in the Tissue Injury Branch. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in 2016 and a Ph.D. in Nursing Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2020. Dr. Mithani completed her dissertation research at the National Institutes of Health as part of the Graduate Partnership Program Intramural Training Award. Her doctoral research focused on identifying differential gene expression in individuals with insomnia using high throughput RNA sequencing technology. Dr. Mithani was a Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar (2018-2020) and has completed a Certificate in Sleep Medicine from UIC. She has trained at the NINR Summer Genetics Institute (2018), Precision Health Bootcamp (2019), Translational Science Training Program (2019), Young Investigators Research Form through the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2020) and is honored to continue her training through the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholars Program.


Seyedehtanaz Saeidzadeh, PhD, RN

Seyedehtanaz Saeidzadeh, PhD, RNDr. Saeidzadeh is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The focus of her research is on the long-term and late effects of cancer treatments on cancer survivors’ health (individuals receiving curative intent treatments). Dr. Saeidzadeh is interested in promoting health and well-being of cancer survivors through symptom management as well as understanding the underlying biological mechanism of cancer treatments on symptoms that cancer survivors experience. Her goal is to develop and test symptom-management interventions that can be translated into evidence-based clinical practice to improve care and quality of life.

Dr. Saeidzadeh’s dissertation examined the self-management activities of long-term cancer survivors. The results showed the need for designing self-management interventions for cancer survivors. The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award will support Dr. Saeidzadeh to conduct a pilot study on psychoeducational intervention for anxiety and depression in head and neck cancer survivors. This study will evaluate the intervention feasibility and acceptability (delivery, cytokine collection). Findings from this study will be used to support protocol development for a larger randomized clinical trial of the psychoeducational intervention.


McKenzie K. Wallace, PhD, RN

McKenzie K. Wallace, PhD, RNDr. Wallace’s research seeks to understand the bio-behavioral-social contributions to immunologic alterations present in preeclampsia. In particular, she is interested in characterizing inflammatory maker changes that may predict preeclampsia and develop interventions to modulate the immune response in pregnancy to prevent preeclampsia. The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award will support a study characterizing 20 inflammatory markers in a cohort of overweight and obese women with preeclampsia. The goal is to develop inflammatory marker profiles associated with preeclampsia which may inform the development of a clinical prediction tool for PE. This work will also provide foundational data for future studies to investigate how behavioral and social determinates of health interact with and influence the immune response in preeclampsia. This study also fills a critical gap because although up to 60% of pregnant individuals in the US are overweight or obese, overweight and obese individuals are generally excluded from previous studies attempting to characterize inflammatory markers in pregnancy.

Dr. Wallace is a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and is supported by an NIH/NINR T32 training grant. She earned a BS in Nursing and a BA in International Studies/ Global Health from the University of Iowa and her Ph.D. in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University. Her Ph.D. program was supported by an NIH/NINR T32 training grant and the Jonas Nurse Scholar’s program. Her dissertation work examined the interaction of health factors (diet, physical activity, stress, and obesity) and inflammation (CRP and IL-6) related to the development of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Sigma Theta Tau International supported her dissertation work.


2020 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Recipients

Stephen Breazeale, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC

Stephen Breazeale, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC Mr. Breazeale's research focuses on the biopsychosocial processes that contribute to post-injury symptoms, as well as the effects of such symptoms on long-term outcomes, among trauma survivors.  For his dissertation, Mr. Breazeale aims to (1) identify symptom cluster profiles and (2) examine the associations of serum concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and BDNF genotype with symptom cluster profile membership among hospitalized survivors of traumatic orthopedic injuries.  Findings from this study will help identify those at risk for high symptom burden following traumatic orthopedic injury and potential biological targets for screening and intervention to improve long-term outcomes among trauma survivors.

Mr Breazeale, a PhD Candidate at Yale School of Nursing, is a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Pre-doctoral Fellow (F31NR018996), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholar, and an orthopedic trauma nurse practitioner.  Upon completing his BSN at the University of Florida in 2009, Mr. Breazeale spent 5 years caring for trauma survivors and solid organ transplant recipients in the surgical-trauma ICU at Tampa General Hospital.  Mr. Breazeale completed his MSN in 2014 at the University of Tampa, after which he worked as a nurse practitioner caring for trauma survivors across acute and ambulatory care settings in the Department of Orthopedic Traumatology at the University of Maryland Medical Center's R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.


Shannon L. Gillespie, PhD, RN

Shannon L. Gillespie, PhD, RNDr. Gillespie is an Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Nursing Martha S. Pitzer Center for Women, Children, and Youth.  She earned a BA in Psychology from Ohio University, an MS in Nursing Science from OSU, and a PhD in Nursing from OSU.  Her clinical and scientific training focused on maternal-infant health, with an F31-funded dissertation on the psychoneuroimmunology of preterm birth through NIH/NINR and CANS/ANF-funded postdoctoral research on the epigenetics of inflammatory preterm birth.  She is now completing a mentored research experience funded by the NIH/NINR K23 mechanism focused on clinical and translational immunobiology, with special emphasis on the immuno-pathologies of preterm birth.  Her long-term goal is to optimize the health of mothers and infants by leveraging maternal immune monitoring to identify risk for and prevent complications of pregnancy and postpartum.

With support from the Rockefeller University Heilbrunn Nurse Scholars program, Dr. Gillespie and her team aim to determine if profiling of leukocyte gene transcripts active within candidate signaling cascades can predict inflammatory spontaneous preterm birth risk and intervention response.  To test their hyptheses, they plan to prospectively enroll in early pregnancy 150 pregnant women possessing one or more risk factors for spontaneous preterm birth.  They expect this work to support the design of risk prediction tools, biomarker strategy trials testing the efficacy of bio-based intervention allocation, and novel immunotherapies for preterm birth prevention.


Lacey W. Heinsberg, PhD, RN

Lacey W. Heinsberg, PhD, RNDr. Heinsberg's research seeks to uncover biological and environmental targets for intervention to reduce the burden of obesity, diabetes, and related chronic and complex conditions.  In particular, she is interested in using omic and bioinformatic approaches to understand how environmental chemicals impact health across the lifespan.  The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award will support a pilot study to investigate the relationships between variability in exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, a type of environmental chemical), the metabolome, and obesity status in a longitudinal sample of infants.  This pilot study may provide insight into the biological mechanims of obestiy and PFAS disruption in the body, representing an opportunity for intervention by nurses to improve obesity-related health outcomes.

Dr. Heinsberg is a Registered Nurse and Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in the Department of Human Genetics and is supported by a National Institutes of Health TL1 training grant through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.  Dr. Heinsberg has had a long-standing interest in the environment and holds Bachelor of Science in both Civil Engineering (Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 2009) and Nursing (Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, 2012) as well as a PhD in Nursing (University of Pittsburgh, 2020).  Dr. Heinsberg's doctoral research examined associated between genetic variability and DNA methylation trajectories of the iron homeostasis pathway and patient outcomes following subarachnoid hemorrhage.  It was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) T32 training grant for Nurses in Genomics (T32NR009759, PI: Conley) and a National Research Service Award (F31Nr017311, PI: Heinsberg).  Dr. Heinsberg has trained at the NINR Summer Genetics Institute (2016), and Precision Health Bootcamp (2019), as well as the University of Washington's Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics (2017 and 2018) and, is honored to continue her training as a Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar.


Hongjin Li, PhD, MSN, BSN

Hongjin Li, PhD, MSN, BSNDr. Li's research seeks to use omics tools (i.e., genomics, metabolomics) to better understand the mechanisms underlying the psychoneurological symptoms among cancer survivors.  Her proposed study will combine genetic and metabolomics data and apply a machine learning technique to better understand inter-individual variability of psychoneurological symptoms among cancer survivors.  Findings from this study will better explain individual differences and mechanisms underlying psychoneurological symptoms and will serve as a foundation for future interventions studies to manage symptoms.

Dr Li is a Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Illinois College of Nursing.  She earned her BSN from University of Missouri-St. Louis, MS in Biostatistics from Columbia University and PhD from University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Li has published articles on symptom clusters, quality of life, metabolomics, and the biological underpinnings of symptoms.  She is a recipient of the American Cancer Society's Doctoral Degree Scholarship and Sigma Theta Tau International, Eta Chapter's Research Award.  She is a member of the Midwest Nursing Research Society, Oncology Nursing Society and Sigma Theta Tau.


James Muchira, PhD, MSN

James Muchira, PhD, MSNDr. Muchira's work involves investigating intergenerational cardiovascular health (CVH). His current research interests include (1) examining the relationship between maternal CVH, defined using the American Heart Association's CVH metrics: blood pressure, blood glucose, blood cholesterol, physical activity, smoking, body mass index and diet, and early childhood obesity, and (2) the vascular hemodynamics and natural progression of atherosclerosis in young children.  Dr. Muchira recently joined Vanderbilt University School of Nursing as a postdoctoral fellow.  He was previously involved in global health research programs in Africa, such as the Seed Global Health Boston, the Kenya Heart, and Sole Project, as well as Massachusetts General Hospital, sponsored study, the Ugandan Non-Communicable Diseases, and Aging Cohort.  He also has experience in longitudinal data analysis of population-based datasets.  He utilized the Framingham Heart Study, one of the longest-running multi-generational cohort to study temporal trends, CVD burden, and association of cardiovascular health between parents and their offspring.  Dr. Muchira obtained his PhD in population health/health policy and MS degree in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Dr. Muchira's goals are to identify innovative ways to address CVD in families.  His research aims to utilize a family-based approach to care by addressing CVD risk in childhood and substantially break the cycle of inter-generational cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality, which disproportionately impacts historically at-risk populations and families.  He is currently a member of the American Heart Association, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and Sigma Theta Tau International. 


2019 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Recipients

Jesus Casida, PhD, RN, APN-C

Jesus Casida, PhD, RN, APN-CDr. Casida is nationally and internationally known for his work on self-management in left-ventricular assist devices (LVADs).  He built and advanced the LVAD self-management science through theoretical and empirical work.  The Heilbrunn Award will support the expansion of his work focusing on building patient and caregiver self-efficacy skills and adherence to LVAD care regimen.  For this purpose, he invented a mobile phone application (VAD Care App©, 2014) as a tool for LVAD self-management process.  He plans to evaluate the effect of VAD Care App-directed and nurse-supported self-management intervention on healthcare utilization (e.g. hospital readmission) outcomes. His interdisciplinary team envisions that the findings of this randomized controlled trial, supported by the Heilbrunn Award, will inform future studies to further understand the mechanism(s) of the effect of LVAD self-management on healthcare utilization and its economic impact as well as overall health and quality of life.  Dr. Casida's long-term goal is to expand the intervention to other implantable artificial organs (whole heart, lung, kidney) and complex conditions requiring intensive self-management supported by nurses.

Dr. Casida recently joined John Hopkins University School of Nursing as a Faculty Associate and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar Alumnus.  He also has extensive clinical and leadership experience in cardiac surgery and cardiology critical-care including pioneering an advanced practice nursing role for LVAD in heart failure and transplant treatment program.  Dr. Casida obtained his MS degree in Critical Care from Columbia University School of Nursing and his PhD in Health Sciences from Seton Hall University.  He has served as chair for several nursing research committees at regional and national levels.  Currently, he is the founding leader for the Nursing, Health Science, and Allied Health Council Research Workforce within the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.


Karen M. Jennings Mathis, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC

Karen M. Jennings Mathis, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BCDr. Karen Jennings Mathis will examine relations among early life adversity, adipokine status, dietary composition, and physical health outcomes among adults.  Dr. Jennings Mathis' primary research interests include biopsychosocial mechanisms underlying the development and maintenance of mental disorders and synergistic relationship between research and practice. Dr. Jennings Mathis is a Jonas Nurse Leader Scholar, a Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson New Careers in Nursing and Scholarship, and a recipient of the 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leader Awards.

Dr. Jennings Mathis is an Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing.  She recently completed a NIMH T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at The University of Chicago and was adjunct Clinical Faculty at Rush University Chicago College of Nursing.  She received her BA in Psychology from Amherst College, and her MS and PhD in Nursing from Boston College.  She is certified as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse n the specialty of Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing.  Dr. Jennings Mathis currently serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and is a Section Editor for the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services.  She also serves as the co-chair for the Research-Practice Committee and is a member for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee to the Board for the Academy for Eating Disorders and serves on the American Psychiatric Nurses Association's Research Council Steering Committee.


Mitchell Knisely PhD, RN-BC, ACNS-BC

Mitchell Knisely PhD, RN-BC, ACNS-BCDr. Knisely's research seeks to optimize pain assessment and management through a better understanding of the biopsychosocial determinants of pain in individuals with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).  Mainly, this study will focus on characterizing pain profiles in adults with SCD and identify genetic polymorphisms associated with the identified pain profiles.  Findings will provide a foundation for identifying patients at risk for high pain burden and potential new targets for interventions to prevent or manage pain in this population. 

Dr. Knisely is an Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Nursing.  He earned his BSN from Purdue University, MSN and PhD from Indiana University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing.  Additionally, he trained at the NIH National Institute of Nursing Research's 2015 Summer Genetics Institute.  Dr. Knisely is board certified as an Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist and in Pain Management Nursing. 


Maura McCall MSN, RN

Maura McCall MSN, RNMs. McCall's dissertation research will explore the complex relationships among the symptom experience, genomic variation, and medication adherence in women with breast cancer.  Her proposed study will examine aromatase inhibitor adherence and symptom patterns and trajectories and will explore the role of genomics in these patterns and trajectories. 

Ms McCall is a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing (T32NR009759 Targeted Research and Academic Training Program for Nurses in Genomics).  She earned her MSN at the University of Pittsburgh and BSN at Duquesne University.  She has many years of experience in chronic disease medication adherence research.  Maura has published articles on study recruitment, mentoring students, and the biological underpinnings of symptoms.  Also, she co-authored chapters on adherence, an online educational module for rheumatology practitioners, and a continuing education video on patient adherence to hospital discharge instructions.  Maura attended the NINR's Summer Genetics Institute.  She is a recipient of the American Cancer Society's Doctoral Degree Scholarship in Cancer Nursing and the Oncology Nursing Foundation Research Doctoral Scholarship.  She is a member of the International Society of Nurses in Genetics, Oncology Nursing Society, Sigma, National Council on Undergraduate Research and the Pharmacogenomics Research Network.


Rose Mary Xavier, PhD, MS, RN, PMHNNP-BC

Rose Mary Xavier, PhD, MS, RN, PMHNNP-BCUsing novel tools from network science and bioinformatics and by integrating multiplex high-dimensional data including genetic, neuroimaging, cognitive and symptom data, Dr. Xavier aims to (1) identify neurobiologically informed psychosis and schizophrenia symptom profiles and (2) examine potential functional mechanisms of risk for psychosis ad schizophrenia spectrum in a community sample of youth.

Dr. Xavier's program of research broadly focuses on understanding neurobiological mechanisms of psychiatric symptoms that cross traditional diagnostic boundaries for clinical translation.  A second but equally important interest is in research methodology and analysis guided by the philosophy and principles of open science.  A Nurse Scientist and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, she completed a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine.  July 2019, she transitioned to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she started her research lab as a tenure track Assistant Professor.  Dr. Xavier has a PhD in Nursing with a doctoral certificate in Cognitive Neuroscience from Duke University with interdisciplinary training in Genomics.


2018 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

Basile Ibrahim

Basile IbrahimMs. Basile Ibrahim’s research explores women’s experiences seeking a vaginal birth after cesarean in a diverse U.S. population.  Her other research interests include physiologic birth, primary cesarean prevention, and health disparities in maternal and infant mortality.  Bridget is a Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar and an NINR T32 pre-doctoral trainee.

Ms. Basile Ibrahim has just completed her PhD coursework at Yale University, and will be starting her dissertation research this summer.   Prior to returning to school full time, Bridget worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner, providing primary care in Community Health Centers in Boston and Ottawa, Canada.  Bridget holds an MSN from UCLA, where she completed a subspecialty in the care of vulnerable and underserved populations.  She holds a BSN from Johns Hopkins University.  Bridget is also a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and has trained as a doula.  Prior to nursing school, Bridget worked in international development as a Cultural Anthropologist.  She holds a BA and MA in Cultural Anthropology from Boston University.


Christina Fleming

Christina FlemingMs. Fleming will conduct a two-phase study to construct and validate a novel instrument that will assess health care provider knowledge for the care of women and girls affected by Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting using an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design. This study will result in a validated knowledge assessment instrument that will enable health care systems, organizations, and/or researchers to assess health care providers’ knowledge about FGMC, including the practice itself, its legal and ethical implications, adverse health consequences, and appropriate clinical management of FGMC-affected clients.

Ms. Fleming is a PhD Candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, an Instructor in the Midwifery and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Program at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, and a Certified-Nurse Midwife practicing in Washington D.C.  Ms. Fleming completed her undergraduate degree in International Affairs at Georgetown University. She holds a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, and a Master's of Science in Nursing from Yale University. Ms. Fleming's clinical practice in midwifery has focused on refugee and migrant populations both in the US and abroad. Ms. Fleming's international work includes volunteering with Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan, and research on the reproductive health of women affected by violent conflict in Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Syria, and Somali-refugees in Kenya.


Jennifer Morone

Jennifer MoroneTo address persistent racial health disparities seen in pediatric Type 1 diabetes, Ms. Morone’s study aims to expand our understanding of how social determinants of health may influence family and self-management of pediatric Type 1 diabetes in single-caregiver black families. Outcomes from this study will inform pediatric diabetes care delivery and the development of culturally relevant, family and community interventions to better support family and self-management of pediatric Type 1 diabetes.

Ms. Morone is currently a doctoral candidate and Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA (NINR T32) doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Ms. Morone received her M.A. in art therapy and mental health counseling from Lesley University and her B.S.N in nursing from Russell Sage College. She has over 15 years of pediatric clinical and research experience as an art therapist and registered nurse, working in a variety of inpatient and outpatient pediatric settings with children and families experiencing chronic illness. As an independent nurse scientist, her goal is to develop a program of research that addresses health disparities across pediatric chronic illnesses.


Marliese Nist

Marliese NistMs. Nist’s dissertation research will focus on very preterm infants’ stress exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit NICU, as it is associated with significant, long-term neurodevelopmental impairments in cognition, motor performance, social and behavioral functioning, and sensory perception. Systemic inflammation may be an important, modifiable mediator of stress exposure and neurodevelopment, but the relationships among stress exposure, inflammation, and neurodevelopment have not been fully explored in the context of the preterm infant’s developing brain. Using a non-experimental, repeated measures design, this study will more clearly delineate the relationships among these variables so that interventions can be developed to improve preterm infant neurodevelopment.

Ms. Nist is a NINR F31 Pre-Doctoral Fellow and PhD Candidate at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia and working as a research assistant for several years, she returned to school at The Ohio State University and earned a bachelors’ in nursing. She accepted a staff nurse position in the neonatal intensive care unit where she found her passion. Ms. Nist is interested in the biological pathways mediating neurodevelopmental impairment in preterm infants. She is especially grateful to her mentors, Drs. Rita Pickler, Deborah Steward, Tondi Harrison, and Abigail Shoben.


Allison A. Norful

Allison A. NorfulDr. Norful will validate and psychometrically evaluate a novel health services research instrument, the Provider Co-Management Index (PCMI).  The PCMI, the first of its kind, will measure co-management when two or more providers share care management responsibilities for the same patient.  The tool will also be used to determine if a co-management care delivery model alleviates provider burnout, improves job satisfaction and increases provider retention.

Dr. Norful is a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University School of Nursing with a joint appointment in the Columbia University Medical Center Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Norful has held several clinical, administrative, and academic positions.  She practices as an adult nurse practitioner with a clinical expertise focused on chronic disease prevention and management.  Her research and clinical practice are strongly integrated.  Her current research program investigates interprofessional team remodeling and provider co-management to achieve optimal patient and practice outcomes. She earned a PhD and MPhil from Columbia University, MSN from New York University, and a BSN from La Salle University.  She is an adjunct clinical faculty member at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, a past Hermann Biggs Society/Macy Foundation Scholar, and is a fellow in the New York Academy of Medicine.


Abigail Wilpers

Abigail WilpersWith the support of the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Ms. Wilpers is conducting her dissertation research designed to generate a model of nursing practice and identify research priorities in the emerging field of fetal care. Fetal care is comprehensive perinatal care provided by a multidisciplinary team following the prenatal diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. This includes evidence-based and experimental fetal therapies. This study will serve as a primary step in developing a nursing specialty in fetal care and studying nursing’s impact on clinical outcomes. The findings will significantly contribute to building, defining and enhancing fetal care.

Ms. Wilpers is a doctoral candidate at Yale University. She received her MSN from the Yale School of Nursing and her BA in psychology from Barnard College of Columbia University. She has 10 years of experience working with families whose pregnancies have become complicated by a fetal anomaly. She is currently working at the Yale Fetal Care Center developing a Perinatal Palliative Care and Bereavement Program. Ms. Wilpers is also a Robert Wood Johnson Future of Nursing Scholar. Her long-term goal is to become a nurse scientist and develop a program of research focused on the needs of families facing severe fetal complications.


2017 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

Jacquelyn Taylor

Jacquelyn TaylorDr. Taylor plans to examine the genetic and psychosocial factors that may influence blood pressure, a major symptom of lead exposure and a major public health concern for African Americans. The Heilbrunn award will be used for team building with multi-site investigators and pilot testing of 10 samples of the data collection, laboratory, and data analysis methods.

She is a Tenured Associate Professor in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Specialty. Her undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees in nursing are from Wayne State University College of Nursing in Detroit Michigan. She is prepared as both a pediatric nurse practitioner and a school nurse practitioner. She holds a certificate in molecular genetics from Georgetown University and has completed additional coursework in cardiovascular epidemiology at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Taylor also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Urban Health of Older Populations at the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Nicole Osier

Nicole OsierThe purpose of Dr. Osier’s proposed study is to address this significant knowledge gap by examining the ability of promising pro-inflammatory protein biomarkers to: (1) identify TBI cases and (2) predict the subset of individuals who experience psychiatric symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other emotional issues. Dr. Osier’s research uses molecular genomic techniques to understand the consequences of brain injury and identify those individuals most likely to respond to therapy and/or have favorable recovery profiles.

Dr. Osier is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research, Tissue Injury Branch, and Brain Injury Unit. She earned a PhD (2016) from the University of Pittsburgh, and both a BS in Nutritional Science (2008) and a BSN (2010) from Michigan State University. Her dissertation project used molecular techniques to explore melatonin receptor changes in response to pre-clinical TBI. This dissertation was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, the Neuroscience Nursing Foundation, the International Society of Nurses is Genetics, and The Copeland Fund of the Pittsburgh Foundation. Dr. Osier has received several honors including being named a “Rising Star of Research & Scholarship” at the 2016 Sigma Theta Tau International Annual Conference in South Africa and invitation to the “Young Investigator’s Colloquium” at the 2017 American Psychosomatic Society Conference in Spain.


2016 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

Hagan Joseph Knudson Kurtz Weaver

From left: Teresa L. Hagan, Paule Joseph, Krista Knudson, Melissa Kurtz, and Kristen R. Weaver

Teresa L. Hagan

Dr. Hagan’s research focuses on how women with a history of cancer advocate for their health needs and well-being. Her proposed study will develop and test a web-based interactive game to teach women with advanced cancer how to advocate for their own care. Her ultimate goal is to create nurse-led, interactive educational interventions based in psychology that aim to reduce cancer inequities related to lack of patient self-advocacy.

Dr. Hagan is a postdoctoral research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. in nursing science and her B.S.N. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Dr. Hagan has published eight peer-reviewed articles and two articles related to methods and policy, and has co-authored a book chapter on oncology, women’s health, self-advocacy, and symptom management. Dr. Hagan is the recipient of an F31 training grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) at the National Institutes of Health and a doctoral scholarship in cancer nursing from the American Cancer Society. She is currently a Jonas Policy Scholar with the American Academy of Nursing and serves on its Women’s Health Expert Panel. She is active in the Massachusetts chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition as well as several other community and cancer organizations.

Paule Joseph

Dr. Joseph plans to study predictive models of how brain–gut interactions underlie human eating behavior and obesity. Her goal is to find new approaches to improve personalized nutrition and prevent weight gain in both children and adults. With the support of the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Dr. Joseph will answer key questions about eating behavior, the microbiome, and obesity, an important milestone toward her early-stage investigator research goals. Dr. Joseph incorporates both clinical and bench science approaches to her work.

Dr. Joseph is currently a clinical and translation postdoctoral fellow at the NINR Digestive Disorders Unit, Biobehavioral Branch. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and her M.S. as a family nurse practitioner from Pace University. Her research interest in eating behavior, genetics, obesity, symptom management, and gastrointestinal disorders stems from her clinical and research experience as a gastroenterology nurse and family nurse practitioner. Dr. Joseph’s goal is to lead and mentor the next generation of research leaders from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds as independent scientists at top research institutions.

Krista Knudson

Ms. Knudson is interested in how individuals and families experience illnesses requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a complex rescue treatment for severe but potentially reversible heart or lung failure. Ms. Knudson plans to examine experiences from the perspectives of both patients and their family members and use her findings to identify opportunities for patient- and family-centered practice changes that may ultimately lead to improved outcomes.

A doctoral candidate at Yale University, Ms. Knudson aims to develop a program of research centered on understanding and addressing the short- and long-term needs of critically ill patients and their families.

Melissa Kurtz

Ms. Kurtz’s study will explore factors that influence decision-making for neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) parents, including one’s perception of being a “good parent.” Outcomes from this study will inform the development of decision-support interventions for NICU parents with the goal of reducing long-term risks to parent psychological health.

Ms. Kurtz is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Ms. Kurtz has 15 years’ experience caring for NICU patients and their families. Her long-term goal is to become an independent nurse scientist and develop a program of research targeting the needs of parents with critically ill children.

Kristen R. Weaver

For her dissertation research, Ms. Weaver is examining brain–gut axis dysregulation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), conducting an exploratory investigation for markers of stress. The Heilbrunn funding will allow her to build upon this work to explore the role of sex hormones, leptin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in modulating the brain–gut axis of patients with IBS, incorporating physiological measurements, patient-related factors, and molecular technologies.

Ms. Weaver worked as a nurse practitioner in gastroenterology while pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing from New York University, and received an Intramural Research Training Award from the NIH in July 2015. Through the Graduate Partnership Program between NYU and the NINR, she is now conducting her dissertation research in the Digestive Disorders Unit, Biobehavioral Branch, of NINR’s Intramural Research Program.


2015 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

2015 Nurse Scholar Recipients

Jessica Castner, PhD, RN, CEN, AE-C: Dr. Castner plans to test the feasibility of using the Fitbit, a wireless, wearable activity tracker, to monitor sleep disruption caused by asthma in women. She will then determine the relationship between the women’s sleep data and variations in their lung function, asthma control, and exacerbation. An assistant professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Nursing, Dr. Castner’s research focuses on preventing, eliminating, and managing dyspnea, or difficulty breathing. Her work is focused on diminishing the gender gap in adult asthma control, developing sensors and devices as clinical applications to improve asthma, and using a “big data” approach to ascertain asthma sub-types, and biomarkers.

Julie Kueppers FNP, RN, Doctoral Candidate: As part of her interest in excess weight gain among children, Ms. Kueppers will examine the relationship between mothers’ perceptions of themselves as healthy eaters and their own and their children’s dietary intake and body mass index. The results of this project could assist in developing new approaches to improving childhood nutrition and preventing unhealthy weight gain. A doctoral student at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, Ms. Kueppers has years of experience caring for patients, and currently works as a Family Nurse Practitioner in a college health center. Ms. Kueppers’ long-term goal is to become a nurse scientist, and to develop a program of research dedicated to childhood obesity prevention with a focus on maternal factors.

Chia-Kuei Lee, PhD, RN: Drinking and smoking are two activities that often overlap among undergraduates, and Dr. Lee is interested in how self-perception as a drinker affects how someone processes smoking-related information and their smoking behavior. She plans to survey undergraduates to determine whether or not they perceive themselves as smokers and drinkers. Then, she will assess their responses to smoking-associated stimuli and collect a 90-day history of their smoking and drinking behaviors. Dr. Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, focuses on the role of self-cognition in risky behaviors among adolescent and young adult populations with the long-term goal of prevention. Ultimately, she wants to expand her research to ethnic minority populations experiencing escalating rates of substance use but receiving little attention.

2014 Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award Recipients

Susan Kohl Malone, PhD(c), RN, NCS

Susan MaloneA doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing since 2010, Susan Kohl Malone is currently working on her dissertation, “Does Chronotype Modify the Relationship between Sleep Duration and Body Mass Index in Adolescents?” She intends to become an independent nurse scientist. Ms. Malone received a BSN from Georgetown University in 1984 and a MSN in adult health chronic care from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. She subsequently enjoyed a long career in diabetes education and school nursing. She has extensive experience as a clinical nurse, as a Certified Diabetes Educator, and as a Certified School Nurse/Health Educator. She has won numerous awards and grants, and her work has appeared in a number of peer reviewed publications.

In the course of her career, Ms. Malone has witnessed the worsening overweight/obesity trends in children and the subsequent occurrence of diseases in children (notably Type 2 diabetes) that were formerly only seen in adults. Recognizing the significance of sleep, overweight, obesity, and body composition (particularly intra-abdominal adipose tissue) in Type 2 diabetes in adults, Ms. Malone began to question the potential significance of these phenomena in school children. These trends are the impetus for her doctoral research.

Susan Kohl Malone brings a unique clinical perspective to her doctoral work—a perspective that encompasses both adult and pediatric experiences. Through her research she wants to help ensure that today’s youth are equipped to make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent the onset of chronic cardio-metabolic diseases. With the support of the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Ms. Malone will be well funded to conduct dissertation research that is aimed at addressing key questions about adolescent sleep and obesity in vulnerable populations.

 Jill M. Vanak, PhD, RN, BSN, MSN, ACNP-BC AOCNP

Jill Marie VanakA scholar, clinician, and health services researcher in the field of oncology outcomes research, Jill M. Vanak received her Ph.D. in February 2014 from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Since 2003, Dr. Vanak has been affiliated with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as a board-certified acute care and advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner. In this role, she has specialized in the care of patients with onco-hematologic malignancies, specifically those patients whose treatment includes hematopoietic stem cell transplant. She began her career at MSKCC as a registered nurse on the Bone Marrow Transplant inpatient unit. In 2007, she took on the role of research nurse practitioner for the Lymphoma Service. Dr. Vanak has experience in the design and implementation of phase II and III clinical trials involving an oncologic patient population. She has participated in the development of clinical research protocols, and has played an active role in the orchestration, implementation, and evaluation of trials conducted in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Dr. Vanak pursued her career at MSKCC while completing the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Vanak’s project aims to describe how a group of patients with a hematologic malignancy treated with blood stem cell reconstitution of their bone marrow as an inpatient and their caregivers perceive symptom distress, functional status, and health related quality of life prior to admission, during treatment, and post-treatment as compared to a patient group treated in the outpatient clinic setting. The Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award program will provide Dr. Vanak with support to become an independent nurse scientist researcher within the field of oncology and will further her career goal of developing an interdisciplinary program of research to examine outcomes of critically ill hematologic oncology patients.


Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing Scholars 2023Four nurses nationwide were selected to receive the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award from Rockefeller University's Heilbrunn Family Center