The University of Florida (UF) College of Nursing in Gainesville found itself $1,531,000 richer this year after receiving three separate grants to pursue research in cancer, asthma, infant mortality and other health problems that disproportionately affect minorities.

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing, came $831,000 to help the school expand its nurse-midwifery program, with an emphasis on reducing infant mortality. The National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) gave $670,000 to the college to create an interdisciplinary Biobehavioral Research Center. And the American Cancer Society is awarding a $30,000 scholarship to Carmen Rodriguez, ARNP, MSN, a clinical nursing instructor at the college, to help finance her studies related to evaluating pain in elderly cancer patients.

 

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“The infant mortality rate . . . ranges between 8.3 and 16.8 deaths per 1,000 live births for whites and between 12.2 and 28.7 for nonwhites,” reports Alice H. Poe, CNM, assistant professor and coordinator of the UF nurse-midwifery program, citing the results of studies done at the school’s program sites in Jacksonville, Tampa and Gainesville. Compare these numbers with nationwide figures of six deaths per 1,000 live births for white infants versus 13.7 deaths for racial and ethnic minority infants and it’s easy to see why UF believes in the necessity of finding ways to reduce this serious disparity for minority families living in medically underserved areas, particularly in Florida.

 

The college’s nurse-midwifery program will use its federal grant money to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds, medically underserved areas and underrepresented minority groups to seek careers as nurse-midwives. An educator/recruiter will be hired with the sole purpose of visiting culturally diverse and medically underserved areas, local elementary and high schools, and colleges with large minority enrollments to discuss the advantages of this career.

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“Nurse-midwives from such populations often have a special sensitivity and awareness of the needs of minority patients and are more likely to seek employment serving these groups,” says Poe.

The three-year Advanced Nursing Education grant will expand the UF midwifery program through its traditional master’s degree program, the accelerated RN-to-BSN/MSN program and a cooperative degree program with the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The Biobehavioral Research Center’s initial undertaking will be to conduct four new federally funded pilot studies aimed at assessing the effectiveness of asthma education, as well as exploring the links between autism and diet, exercise and bone density, and herbal remedies and osteoarthritis. UF is one of only seven to nine colleges in the United States expected to receive the three-year NINR Nursing Research Exploratory Center Grant this year.
According to Carolyn Yucha, RN, PhD, associate dean for research at the UF College of Nursing, “the Biobehavioral Research Center will oversee pilot research studies with both biological and behavioral outcomes.The infrastructure of the new center will allow us to further develop the research program within the College of Nursing and help our investigators collect sufficient data to pursue specific areas of inquiry through other funding mechanisms in the future.”

Nurse researchers will work alongside co-investigators in biostatistics, exercise physiology, health education, medicine, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychiatry and radiology.

Faculty member Carmen Rodriguez is one of only eight nurses in the country–and the only nurse in Florida–to receive this year’s American Cancer Society Scholarship in Cancer Nursing. Rodriguez, who is working on her doctorate in nursing at the University of South Florida, will use the funds to investigate the most effective method for evaluating pain in older patients with head or neck cancer and speech and language impairments.

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“Health care providers working with patients with communication impairment face significant challenges when attempting to obtain information related to the measurement of pain,” explains Rodriguez. “Information obtained from this study will contribute to nursing knowledge and facilitate understanding of the experience and impact of pain on this special population.”

Graduate students pursuing doctoral study in cancer nursing are eligible for the American Cancer Society’s cancer nursing scholarships, which are awarded for up to four years with a stipend of $15,000 per year. Rodriguez will receive two years of funding.

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