Societal Impact & News

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


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.

Assistant Professor Meghan Skiba Receives NIH Loan Repayment Program Award to Support Cancer Survivor Research

Aug. 17, 2023

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to acknowledge the achievement of Assistant Professor Meghan Skiba, PhD, MS, MPH, RDN, for receiving an NIH Loan Repayment Program award! This award repays a portion of a researcher’s qualified educational debt in return for a commitment to engage in NIH mission-relevant research. Way to go, Meghan!

Asked what this award means to her, Dr. Skiba said, "Receiving this LRP award is significant on a personal level, both on how it will impact my family directly and my career trajectory long term. The direct financial support alleviates in real-time the stress felt from the uphill battle of federal student loan repayment. The recognition of my research and scholarship by the National Cancer Institute as worthy of direct financial investment motivates me to continue pursuing important research to optimize energy balance and healthy aging in cancer prevention and control."

Meghan B Skiba , PhD, MS, MPH, RDN

During the two-year period of support from the award, Dr. Skiba will continue to implement adapted evidenced-based interventions promoting healthy diet and physical activity in aging cancer survivors and their caregivers.

"The results from these studies will inform scaling the interventions for broader reach and to better understand mechanisms of cancer-related biological aging," she said. "I will also receive ongoing career mentoring from Dr. Terry Badger. Ultimately, this research aims to deliver innovative and accessible interventions for diverse cancer survivors to improve biological aging and metabolic and psychosocial health by harnessing the synergistic effects of a eating healthy diet and being physically active. By learning about how diet and physical activity may influence the way cancer survivors and caregivers age, can ultimately reduce the burden of cancer and improve health outcomes for our community."

Title: Optimizing Aging in Cancer Survivor-Caregiver Dyads through Diet and Physical Activity
Funder: NCI
Award Period: 8/1/2023-7/31/2025
Description: Provides direct financial support to PI during LRP award period to conduct research related to biological aging and lifestyle behaviors in diverse cancer survivors and caregivers in Arizona and career development and training activities.

Dr. Jessica Rainbow Receives RII Grant to Build Intervention Program for Creating a Supportive College Environment

July 21, 2023

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Jessica Rainbow , PhD, RN

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to congratulate to Dr. Jessica Rainbow and her colleagues for a receiving a new grant! This RII Challenge Grant Project will build on the work the ANCATS team within the CON is doing to identify student sociocultural strengths and impediments to academic success that will be useful in crafting personalized plans to build resilience across undergraduate students at the University of Arizona. 

Investigators: Dalal Alharthi, PI, Jessica Rainbow, Co-Investigator, Michael D. L. Johnson, Co-Investigator, Shalini Sharma, Co-Investigator, Valerie Shirley, Co-Investigator, Chantelle Warner, Co-Investigator, and Jeremy Garcia, Co-Investigator

Title: Wellbeing for Wildcats (WellCATS): An Intervention Program for Creating a Supportive College Environment

Funder: UArizona RII

Amount: $50,000

Award Period: 7/1/23-6/30/24

Dr. Taylor-Piliae Receives Funding to Address Type 2 Diabetes Using an Integrative Intervention

July 20, 2023

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

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to acknowledge the achievements of Ruth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, professor, and her colleagues, who recently received a $20,000 award  from The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES) Foundation to address type 2 diabetes using an integrative intervention. This project involves several CON faculty members and a PhD student. 

Investigators:  Ruth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN (Principal Investigator), Julio Loya, PhD, RN (Co-Investigator), Meghan Skiba, PhD, MS, MPH, RDN (Co-Investigator), and Carlie Felion, PhD Student, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, BC-ADM (ADCES Intervention Monitor)​​​​​​

Title: An Integrative Online Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Intervention Featuring Tai Chi Easy

Funding Agency: The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES) Foundation

Amount: $20,000

Award Period: 07/19/2023-06/18/2024

Description: In this project, adults (40-64 years) with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) receiving care in a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC) in Southern Arizona will participate in a six-week Integrative Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) Intervention featuring Tai Chi Easy™ (TCE). To expand diversity and equity by increasing access to Diabetes Care and Education, the proposed Integrative DSMES+TCE intervention will be delivered asynchronously on-line using Zoom Technology, leveraging existing online learning platforms and accommodating working adults.


UArizona Nursing Receives $2.6M Grant to Support Doctor of Nursing Practice Students’ Clinical Placements

July 19, 2023

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Allen Prettyman , PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP and Lindsay Bouchard , DNP, PMHNP-BC, RN

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is proud to acknowledge the achievements of Drs. Allen Prettyman, clinical professor, and Lindsay Bouchard, associate clinical professor, who recently received a $2.6 M four-year Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to increase the number and diversity of family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and certified nurse midwife students trained with UArizona Nursing and federally qualified health center partners in Southern Arizona. 

Grant Details: Allen (PI) and Bouchard, Lindsay. HRSA 1T94HP49356 “ANEW Program; Project IMPACT Immersive Managed Practice Adaptable Clinical Training,” 

The students, who are part of the College’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, will be prepared through immersive education and training to provide primary care services, mental health and substance use disorder care, and maternal health care for the diverse populations in the rural, border, and medically underserved communities in Southern Arizona.

UArizona College of Nursing Rises in Blue Ridge Rankings of National Institutes of Health Funding

Feb. 21, 2023

In February, the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR) released its rankings for Colleges of Nursing funded by the NIH in 2022. The UArizona College of Nursing rose in the organization’s rankings to 23 in 2022, up from 27 in 2020, with $3.7M in awards.  The BRIMR is the only organization that compiles NIH funding across colleges in the United States. The rankings are used as a measure of research productivity.

UArizona Nursing was able to increase its ranking between 2020 and 2022 due to the combined efforts of many faculty to secure NIH funding. Dr. Terry Badger has multiple R01s, Drs. Bell, Gordon, Insel, Pace, and Rainbow also have R01 funding. Many faculty members have other types of NIH funding, including Mentored Scientist awards (Drs. Erickson and Fox).

“The faculty in the College of Nursing are highly productive,” said Judith S. Gordon, PhD, Associate Dean for Research in the UA College of Nursing. “They submitted 38 proposals in 2021-2022, which resulted in over $4.7 million in federal funding. We are very proud of their hard work and accomplishments.”

This ranking is a testament to our hard-working faculty. The College of Nursing’s increase in NIH funding is a direct result of their dedication to improving the care of individuals and society through discovery and testing of interventions designed to promote health and wellness," ~ Interim Dean Kathleen C. Insel, PhD, RN

“This ranking is a testament to our hard-working faculty. The College of Nursing’s increase in NIH funding is a direct result of their dedication to improving the care of individuals and society through discovery and testing of interventions designed to promote health and wellness,” said Interim Dean Kathleen C. Insel, PhD, RN, who received a $2.5 million grant that contributed to the ranking.

The BRIMR rankings underestimate the amount of research being conducted by UA College of Nursing faculty, Dr. Gordon said, adding the rankings include only NIH funding to faculty members listed as principal investigators within the College. The rankings do not reflect faculty’s roles on grants funded to other colleges or universities or other types of extramural funding, such as the Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Defense, NASA, or private foundations. The UA College of Nursing recorded over $6 million in research expenditures in 2022.

The College’s research aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the State of Arizona and our nation. For example, our faculty and staff are making innovations in prevention, treatment, and management of chronic illness, improving nursing workforce systems, and maternal and child health. The UA College of Nursing are leaders in health research and science.

The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research is a nonprofit organization that ranks U.S. medical schools by NIH grant awards each year. The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world. NIH-funded research has led to breakthroughs and new treatments helping people live longer, healthier lives, and building the research foundation that drives discovery.

The Blue Ridge Rankings track yearly NIH funding awards from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The rankings are determined by the whole value of awards to a principal investigator’s institution and do not include research and development contracts.