UArizona Nursing PhD Student Shines at Medical Conference, Advocates for Nursing's Vital Role

Oct. 2, 2023

Emerald Bell, a driven and passionate University of Arizona College of Nursing student, has embarked on a remarkable journey in the field of healthcare. In a recent interview, Bell shared insights into her career choice, her path to pursuing PhD at UArizona Nursing, and her focus on groundbreaking microbiome research.

She also discussed her experience at the Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology (IDSOG) Conference in Denver, which promotes scientific exchange, cross-disciplinary collaboration, education, and leadership in gynecologic, sexual, maternal, and neonatal infectious diseases. At the conference, Bell was in a unique position to advocate for the importance of nurses having a seat at the table for discussions.

Bell's fascination with nursing began around the age of 12. She vividly recalls hearing about neonatal intensive care (NICU) nurses and being captivated by the idea. “I’m sure it helped that my mom was a nurse,” she says. “She ended up talking to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and asked them if I could do a job shadow with a NICU nurse.”

Determined to explore this path further, Bell spent an entire 12-hour shift learning the ropes of the profession. She was exposed to the full spectrum of childbirth, witnessing both C-sections and vaginal births. Holding a fragile 3-pound baby and caring for another weighing just 1 pound left an indelible mark on her. From that day forward, she was unwavering in her resolve: "This is what I want to do with my life."

My coworkers often suggested that I become an educator, because I was the person people approached with questions. I started looking for PhD programs and lo and behold I found a fantastic program at UArizona Nursing. I considered other schools, but I honestly thought the UArizona program was the best," ~ Emerald Bell, UArizona Nursing PhD Student

Bell’s mentor, UArizona Nursing Associate Professor Helena Morrison, PhD, RN, has seen that passion in action and has nothing but good things to say about her dedicated mentee. “As a mentor, Emerald is the type of student/mentee that every mentor dreams of having,” Dr. Morrison says. “She is a self-driven, intelligent, creative, and capable student. In addition to being the foundation of Emerald’s future as a scientist, her research focus and progress has helped our college engage with woman’s health investigators between UArizona Tucson and Phoenix.”

Tell us more about your background.

I did my nursing prerequisites and became a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) when I was still in high school. I took two years of college courses during my junior and senior year. I went to college for half the day and go to high school for the other half, so I was a CNA as soon as I graduated. I moved to the valley and started working at Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix, in women’s health. Later, I got an associate degree in nursing (ADA) and worked in med-surge. I was there about two-and-a-half years before one of the surgeons poached me for the Operating Room, which is where I’ve been for about 10 years now.

What led you to pursue your PhD at UArizona Nursing?

I was always the person who read the newest scientific articles and kept up to date on the latest information. My coworkers often suggested that I become an educator, because I was the person people approached with questions. I started looking for PhD programs and lo and behold I found a fantastic program at UArizona Nursing. I considered other schools, but I honestly thought the UArizona program was the best.

What is the focus of your studies/research?

Microbiome research. I’ve been working at a lab in the College of Medicine for the last two years that has a focus on women’s health. My dissertation will be on the vaginal and gut microbiome in women with endometriosis and co-morbid anxiety. I’m currently recruiting for that study.

Can you tell us about your experience at the recent IDSOG Conference in Denver?

I presented a study that I’ve been working on for the last couple years with the lab group that focuses on the microbiome and chronic pelvic pain. It’s an interesting conference because it has so many different areas. It’s heavily attended by physicians, specifically obstetrics, gynecology, and infectious diseases, but also scientists from across the world. There were also members from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as industry professionals.

I quickly realized that nurses weren’t represented. There was a speaker session where they asked prominent members of the society, ‘What do you think that we should do as an organization moving forward?’ Most of the members didn’t have much input, so I got up and gave some. There had been a session earlier about breastfeeding for patients that are HIV positive, so I explained that the recommendations have now changed. It used to be recommended that they not breastfeed, but if they’re on medication the morbidity and mortality for infants is higher if they’re not breastfed.

I talked about how the society is pushing physicians to have these conversations with patients, and I said, ‘You can have those conversations throughout the entire pregnancy, but if I’m the nurse for that patient after delivery and I don’t know the newest recommendations, or I have some preconceived notion about breastfeeding for patients that are HIV positive, in one day I could completely destroy all the work that you’ve done on educating this patient. You must make sure nurses are included in these conversations. I’m here at this conference where I’m learning all these great things, but if I’m the only nurse, you’re missing out on a huge demographic that is vital to this process.’

What are your thoughts on bringing nurses and midwifery to the conversation to ensure best practices going forward?

The sitting president at the time approached me afterward and told me they would love to have me provide input. They asked me if I would become a member so I could become more involved and give that perspective. Those are aspects that we’re looking at, not only bringing other members of UArizona Nursing to the conference, but also being a collaborative person with the group as a member to expand nursing’s input. 

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Thaddeus Pace Explores Stress Biology in Cancer Survivors Experiencing Distress, Fatigue and Depression

Sept. 27, 2023

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Thaddeus Pace PhD

In an effort to recognize the achievements of our incredible faculty and staff, the University of Arizona College of Nursing is starting a monthly spotlight to share the great work accomplished by our noteworthy Wildcat Nurse community.

This month, meet Associate UArizona Nursing Professor Thaddeus Pace, PhD, who is also Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science, and Director of the College of Nursing Biological Core Laboratory at the University of Arizona.  

Dr. Pace studies mechanisms of stress-biological changes in cancer survivors who experience distress, fatigue, and depression. Informed by this work, he also investigates the effectiveness of novel integrative interventions for survivors designed to optimize psychosocial wellness.

These include Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, a compassion meditation program, and curcumin. Dr. Pace's research is supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health of the United States. He is a PopTech Science Fellow and was named one of Tucson's 40 Under 40 by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Pace’s interests and expertise include cancer survivorship, health equity, interventions, mental health, physiological, psychological, quantitative methods, and social determinants.

Most recently, Dr. Pace received a new award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This new two-year, R21 grant is a partnership with the College of Public Health and the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. The goal of the study is to test the efficacy of a smartphone-based meditation app to reduce psychological distress among firefighters.

Read more about Dr. Pace’s innovative research in these articles from our news archive:

Researchers to Test Compassion Meditation to Improve Health for Breast Cancer Survivors and Their Partners

$50K Gift to UA College of Nursing Professor Will Aid Investigation of Compassion Meditation Technique

Mind Over Cancer: Reducing Stress with Compassion Meditation

Dr. Judith Gordon Receives NIH R01 Supplement Award

Sept. 25, 2023

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Judith S Gordon , PhD

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is pleased to congratulate to Judith Gordon, PhD, for receiving an NIH R01 supplement award! Dr. Gordon has been granted an administrative supplement for her current R01 project, titled “Testing the Efficacy of a Scalable, Telephone-Delivered, Guided Imagery Tobacco Cessation Intervention.” This one-year supplement will support additional personnel and project costs for the third year of this five-year study. All these efforts contribute to our college's national visibility and financial sustainability. Great work, Dr. Gordon!

Dr. Gordon, Ph.D., is a Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Research and Executive Director for Research Initiatives in the College of Nursing. She is also a Professor and was previously Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Gordon received her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Oregon, Eugene. Previously she was a Senior Scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, Eugene.

Dr Gordon’s areas of expertise include public health tobacco cessation interventions delivered in dental and medical settings, self-help tobacco cessation programs,  educational tobacco cessation programs for healthcare practitioners, computer-based tobacco prevention programs, multi-behavioral interventions to address weight, physical activity, and tobacco, and the use of mobile health technologies (e.g., mobile apps) for lifestyle change and medication adherence.

Dr. Gordon has been the PI or Co-Investigator on more than 30 projects funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has authored and co-authored numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, and presented widely at national and international scientific conferences. She has served on several proposal review committees, editorial boards, and professional societies.

PI: Judith Gordon

Title: Supplement to Testing the Efficacy of a Scalable, Telephone-Delivered, Guided Imagery Tobacco Cessation Intervention

Grant Number: 3R01AT011500-03S1

Award Period: 09/18/2023-08/31/2024

Award Amount: $119,151

Dr. Timothy Sowicz is a Co-investigator on Newly Funded NIH Grant

Sept. 21, 2023

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Timothy Joseph Sowicz , PhD, RN

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is pleased to announce that Assistant Professor Timothy Sowicz , PhD, RN is a co-investigator on a newly funded NIH grant. This large-scale, Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS) grant is a collaboration with the Southeast Arizona Health Education Center (SEAHEC) and aims to improve access to mental/behavioral health services and ultimately improve health outcomes for Hispanic/Latino communities with lower socioeconomic status, and rural underserved communities. Great work, Dr. Sowicz!

We caught up with Dr. Sowicz to learn more about his research as well as his thoughts about this newly funded grant.

What does receiving this funding mean to you and your research? 

My research is concerned with health care access among people living with mental health and substance use disorders. This study aligns nicely with my focus given that it is about identifying and intervening upon structural factors that may negatively affect people's ability to access health care for their mental health disorders. Being a member of the project team means that I will have opportunities to learn from and with community members, staff from multiple agencies, and university colleagues.

How did the collaboration with SEAHEC come about?

Dr. Lisa Kiser, Assistant Clinical Professor, here at the College of Nursing is a member of the Board of Directors of SEAHEC. Dr. Kiser and I have written grants together to address how medications and health equipment are managed when people migrate to the United States' southern border. Dr. Kiser knew about my research interests and introduced me to Gail Emrick, the Executive Director of SEAHEC. After meeting with Gail and discussing how I might help the team, she invited me to write some portions of the grant and be a co-investigator. I am grateful to Dr. Kiser for thinking of me, introducing me to Gail and her colleagues, and most importantly, personifying collegiality! 

How will this research aid in improving outcomes for this population? 

We know that several major structural barriers for accessing health care for mental health disorders exist (e.g., care that is not culturally respectful, lack of health insurance). While the project team has identified some health-related outcomes to potentially measure, it will be very much driven by the community members themselves. They will be essential and valuable members of the project team, actively participating in all phases of the project including, for example, identifying which aspects of the structural barriers should be addressed first, what interventions should be implemented to eliminate the barriers, and how to gauge progress toward removing the barriers. 

PI: Gail Emrick (SEAHEC)

Co-I: Tim Sowicz

Title: Projector Juntos/Project Together

Funder: NIH

Award Amount (Prime): $5,890,075

Award Period: 9/19/2023-9/18/2028


Dr. Jessica Rainbow Named Director of Clinical Research Partnerships in UArizona Nursing

Sept. 15, 2023

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Jessica Rainbow , PhD, RN

Congratulations to Dr. Jessica Rainbow for being named Director of Clinical Research Partnerships in the University of Arizona College of Nursing!

As the Director of Clinical Research Partnerships, Dr. Rainbow will work with Dr. Judith Gordon and Dr. Nancy Johnson to develop and enhance research partnerships with community healthcare organizations. Dr. Rainbow will also assist in the development of agreements, policies, and procedures for maximizing clinical research partnerships. We are excited to have Dr. Rainbow recognized for her work to build research relationships with our clinical partners!

We caught up with Dr. Rainbow to hear a few of her thoughts on her new position:

What is the importance of developing research partnerships with community healthcare organizations?

Our goal in continuing to develop research partnerships with community healthcare organizations in Southern Arizona is that we can work together to create research proposals, conduct studies, and disseminate results in a way that is beneficial to healthcare systems and those they serve, and advances science. When we develop strong relationships, we can listen to our partners’ needs and priorities and develop studies that align with those while also having established relationships, streamlined processes, and research sites for faculty working on proposals.

How do you feel about this new responsibility?

I am really excited about this new responsibility. I have served as the faculty representative on the PIRC committee that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the CON and Banner Nursing, and I hope that we can continue building that relationship and develop new relationships in this role. I have seen developing new relationships and strengthening existing relationships with community healthcare organizations as a need in our college for a few years, and I’m looking forward to contributing in this area. Developing and advancing relationships with community healthcare organizations will take time, but I’m looking forward to building these relationships and overcoming challenges along the way.

What are your hopes for the College’s future with these kinds of partnerships?

I am really excited about this new responsibility. As the faculty representative on the PIRC committee that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the CON and Banner Nursing, I plan to continue fostering that bond. I also hope to develop new relationships in this role. Developing new relationships and strengthening existing relationships with community healthcare organizations is an important need in our college, and I’m looking forward to contributing to its growth. Developing and advancing relationships with community healthcare organizations will take time, but I’m looking forward to overcoming challenges along the way

Terry Badger, PhD, Honored with University of Arizona Women of Impact Award 2023

Sept. 11, 2023

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Terry A. Badger, PhD, RN

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to acknowledge the achievement of Professor Terry Badger, PhD, RN, who received a University of Arizona Women of Impact Award 2023! Dr. Badger received this award for her stellar contributions to science, leadership, and education. She was selected for this competitive award based on her research accomplishments, successful mentoring of junior faculty and PhD students, and many years of leadership as division chair and now as Director of Research Initiatives. This is truly a well-deserved honor!

The Women of Impact initiative, led by the Office of Research, Innovation & Impact, was created as an effort to embrace and empower women who, through their work at the University, are laying the foundation for a brighter, more equitable future. Each year, we solicit nominations from across the University and select 30 remarkable faculty and staff members whose expertise and recognition in their respective fields elevates our status as a Research I, land-grant institution. Candidates are evaluated based on their unique skills in discovery and innovation, community impact, willingness to empower others, and their commitment to the University's purpose, mission and values. This year, organizers received nearly 200 high-quality nominations, and our amazing selection committee carefully assessed the candidates and ultimately put forward this year’s finalists. The University will commemorate this cohort online and through social media over the next six weeks, and awardees will be honored at a private event on Oct. 20.

Read more about the award, and this year's winner, here

2023-09-08 Statement on College of Nursing Doctoral Student Seminar

Sept. 8, 2023

The College of Nursing does not recommend or advocate for young children to be asked gender-related questions in wellness checks. The college does not have a policy or position on this issue and does not integrate this type of training or education into its curriculum. The college teaches that practitioners should always work with the parents and guardians and with their permission, within their scope of the practice, and in alignment with the employing organization’s guidance when treating pediatric patients.                     

The slides in question were from a 40-minute session on complex issues nurse practitioners face in clinical practice for the purpose of encouraging discussion, analysis and evaluation. The sessions are designed to give students the opportunity to engage with professionals on a wide variety of topics they may encounter in the field. The slides were presented to 31 Doctor of Nursing Practice students, all of whom are already practicing nurses, during three days of seminars held during the final semester of the doctoral program. The material is not provided to undergraduate nursing students.

The seminars are intended to teach students to think critically, a skill that will enable them to be effective health care providers. The College of Nursing faculty members share evidence-based information, but do not recommend any specific practice guidelines related to gender-related issues. Students are taught that providers need to choose their own approach to such issues.

Grant Award will Allow Assistant Professor to Address Pressing Cancer-related Needs in Hispanic Men

Aug. 31, 2023

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Julio C Loya , PhD, RN

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to acknowledge the achievement of Associate Professor Julio Loya, PhD, RN, who, along with his co-investigators, recently received a $100,000 grant award from the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement to pursue a research study entitled, "De Hombre a Hombre: Hablando La Neta Sobre el Cancer De La Prostata" (Man to Man: Speaking the Truth about Prostate Cancer). 

What is the importance of the research you will be conducting?

Prostate cancer (PCa) disproportionately affects Hispanic men. Additionally, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the impact of a community-led research opportunity to improve PCa screening and informed decision-making. By completing this research, we expect to identify culturally appropriate strategies and interventions to reduce PCa risk in Hispanic men, particularly farm workers in the American Southwest. We hope this will also allow us to seek extramural funding for development of community-level interventions.

What does it mean to you to be a part of this important project?

As a Hispanic male, I am at risk for PCa. By being part of this project, I hope to gain a better understanding of the risk of PCa and ways to mitigate it. Also, I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction in trying to help the community to become healthier and live longer.

How could the results of your study impact health-care going forward?

By identifying culturally appropriate strategies and interventions to reduce PCa risk, this could lead to more effective utilization of healthcare services by encouraging members of a vulnerable population to know more about their risk of PCa and how to decrease it.

Award Period: August 2023-June 2025

Description: Despite Hispanic men being at risk for prostate cancer (PCa), there is a lack of knowledge regarding the impact of a community-led research effort to improve screening and informed-decision making (IDM). At the completion of the proposed research, our expectation is to have identified culturally appropriate strategies and interventions to reduce PCa risk. The proposed research focus is understudied and requires a community-academic approach. These findings will enable the team to seek extramural funding (e.g., American Cancer Society) to develop community-level, evidence-based practices that address PCa in Hispanic male farmworkers in the American Southwest. Specifically, this proposal 1) supports Hispanic men in addressing their most pressing cancer-related needs; 2) enhances collaboration between Campesinos Sin Fronteras and UACC researchers to address local cancer issues; 3) fosters the skills and abilities of the community (promotors) to ensure long-term sustainability of our efforts; and 4) provides the scientific foundation for pursing external funds to continue to expand upon this work in the future.

Read more about Dr. Loya here.

Western Academy of Nursing honors 4 from College of Nursing

Aug. 29, 2023

Four University of Arizona College of Nursing faculty were honored by the Western Institute of Nursing during their annual conference in April. Ruth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, a professor and the interim PhD program director, received the Regional Geriatric Nursing Research Award: Senior Researcher. Inducted as fellows into the Western Academy of Nurses were Patricia Daly, PhD, FNP-BC, ENP-BC, FAANP, an associate clinical professor; Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN, AOCNS, a clinical professor, RN-MSN program coordinator and director of teaching/learning practice and evaluation; and Helena Morrison, PhD, RN, an associate professor.

WIN is one of four regional nursing research organizations in the U.S. whose members include individual researchers, clinicians, educators, students, academic institutions and health care organizations. According to their website, WIN’s mission is to improve the health of the public through visionary leadership in nursing research, practice and education.

WIN established the Western Academy of Nurses in 1989 to recognize and honor nurses who have been actively engaged in WIN and have demonstrated excellence in nursing research, practice and/or education. Membership in WAN is by nomination, and this year three of the four inductees were from the UArizona College of Nursing.

Regional Geriatric Nursing Research Award: Senior Researcher

Ruth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN

Professor and interim PhD program director

Taylor-Piliae has been a member of WIN for 20 years and a UArizona College of Nursing faculty member for 16 years.

“I am honored to be recognized for my research contributions among older adults with a chronic illness.

“I am recognized internationally as a cardiovascular nurse scientist and mind-body exercise interventionist, with training in cardiovascular epidemiology and clinical trials. My research is focused on promoting physical activity and improving patient-centered outcomes among older adults with heart disease and stroke through the implementation of innovative non-pharmacologic interventions such as tai chi. As a nurse-scientist, I have developed tai chi exercise interventions to improve physical function, reduce falls and improve psychosocial well-being and quality of life. These interventions have enhanced rehabilitation and recovery from cardiovascular disease among older adults. I conducted the first study in the U.S. testing tai chi among stroke survivors.”

Inductees into the Western Academy of Nurses

Patricia Daly, PhD, FNP-BC, ENP-BC, FAANP

Associate clinical professor

Daly, who has been a member of WIN for 12 years and on the UArizona College of Nursing faculty for nine years, also received the 2023 Outstanding Service to the Board of Governors Award during this year’s WIN conference. She was elected to the WIN Board of Governors in 2019 and assumed the role of secretary treasurer in 2020.

“It is an honor to be inducted into the Western Academy of Nurses. It’s an honor to be recognized as a leader in determining the direction of nursing, as well as to be included in a group of amazing colleagues whom I respect, and who contribute so much to our profession and the health of the populations we serve. 

“The Academy provides support and mentoring to students and nursing colleagues. This aligns with my core belief that as faculty, we are tasked with developing future nursing leaders. I have benefited from the support of my two nominators, Drs. Judy Berg, and Joan Shaver, both of whom exemplify nursing leadership. I am fortunate to have their mentorship. In turn, since assuming the role of chairing doctoral students in 2016, 19 of my students have presented at WIN, resulting in their achieving peer-reviewed publication prior to graduation.”

Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN, AOCNS

Clinical professor, RN-MSN program coordinator and director of teaching/learning practice and evaluation

Lacasse has been a member of WIN for nine years and on the UArizona College of Nursing faculty for more than 20 years.

“To be selected as a member of the Western Academy of Nursing is a true honor and recognizes my contributions to the nursing profession and leadership in mentoring and education of future nurses and those who are advancing their careers in health care as clinicians, scientists or health systems leaders.

“Being a member of the Western Institute of Nursing provides many opportunities to network and collaborate with colleagues across the western states that often lead to exciting insights into my professional scholarship projects and inspire the growth and development of all levels of nursing students.”

Helena Morrison, PhD, RN

Associate professor, Biobehavioral Health Science Division

Morrison first joined WIN as a graduate student in 2008. She has been on the UArizona College of Nursing faculty for nine years.

“Being a part of WAN is impactful and meaningful to me because I greatly respect and admire the nurses that are WAN members and active in WAN. I was reviewed and chosen by this group to join their ranks, and that is just astounding to me. I would like to be active in WAN as well, as I learn more (about WAN) and grow in the organization. I look forward to this service.

“WIN is an important part of my professional growth and an opportunity to network in the nursing advanced science/practice setting. Although my science often spans disciplines—being heavily a part of the bench in the ‘bench to bedside’ process—WIN has included me and my science in their opportunities for dissemination and professional growth. In addition, WIN is an excellent setting for my mentees. I love seeing and supporting them as they are swept up in the excitement of science and disseminating their ideas. Being a part of WIN is something that I look forward to every year and I am so happy to now be engaged at multiple levels, WIN and WAN.”

A Visual Tour of August Convocation, 2023

Aug. 24, 2023

The University of Arizona College of Nursing Convocation Ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, honored our hardworking Arizona Wildcat Nurses for completing their rigorous programs, including Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN), Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Systems Leadership (RN to MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD).

The College could not be prouder of the amazing achievements of these hardworking students. Their dedication and drive are an inspiration. Take a visual tour of some of the moments from this special day!