College of Nursing jumps to #20 in NIH funding

The College of Nursing at The Ohio State University has moved from number 31 to number 20 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH provides the largest amount of publicly funded biological research support in the country.


“We are delighted to propel to the top 20 in NIH funding among colleges of nursing throughout the country, which is testimony to the innovative and significant research being conducted by our talented faculty and PhD students,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, Ohio State vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer, and dean, College of Nursing. In addition to recognizing the research programs underway in our college, this accomplishment reflects the stellar leadership of Mary Beth Happ, PhD our associate dean for Research and Innovation, and her team, which supports faculty and PhD students through the process of formulating meaningful research questions, developing impactful studies, and then writing and submitting grants to fund their work.”


The Ohio State University College of Nursing has more than $3 million in NIH funding. Projects range from several studies on measuring physiological indicators of stress to determine negative effects on various populations to developing a reliable method for predicting who will develop Alzheimer’s long before symptoms appear.


Here are additional details from a sampling of current studies:


Preventing pre-term births in African-American women


Professor Carmen Giurgescu is looking at social stressors that can lead to inflammation conditions, which may in turn lead to pre-term births among African-American women. “African-American women are one-and-a-half times more likely to have a pre-term birth compared to non-Hispanic white women,” explained Giurgescu. She has spent the past 10 years looking at other studies, and developing mixed methods of determining the factors that may cause this. They’ve conducted quantitative studies along with qualitative interviews, and utilized mixed methods of data analysis. They learned that women who experience racial discrimination had elevated cortisol levels as well as several other physiological indicators that can lead to preterm birth. While social support can mitigate the effects of stressors, much more research is needed to fully understand how to support African-American women to prevent preterm births.


Professor Bernadette Melnyk and co-principal investigator Susan Genaro, PhD, dean and professor  of the William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College were recently funded by the NIH to test a cognitive behavioral skills building (CBSB) prenatal care intervention for pregnant minority women experiencing emotional distress. “Given the well-established link between emotional distress, poor health and birth outcomes and the prevalence of emotional distress in minority women, prenatal care interventions designed to improve mental and physical health outcomes for these women are vital,” said Melnyk.  It will be the first clinical trial to test a CBSB health promotion intervention embedded into prenatal care for emotionally distressed minority pregnant women.


Understanding adolescent stress


Associate Professor Jodi Ford is the director of the Stress Science in the College of Nursing Biomedical Research Lab. She is particularly focused on non-invasive methods of collecting physiological measurements of stress in order to determine stress levels in adolescents. They conducted a training session on the background and measurement process of using hair cortisol. Patients do not seem to mind having a small piece of their hair cut off for the study; they have found it much easier than a blood sample. A current study tests a high-quality, feasible and cost-effective protocol for the collection of chronic stress biomarkers to investigate the biological impact of social risk on adolescent health and behavior. The biomarker data collection


Predicting Alzheimer’s disease

Associate professor and director of biomedical research Loren Wold and two of his colleagues may be on their way to developing a reliable method for predicting who will develop Alzheimer’s long before symptoms appear. Officially titled “Mechanisms of exposure-induced tissue functional and pathological changes in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease,” the project grew out of studies Wold began years ago to measure the impact of air pollution on mice. They initially specialized in the effects of particles and air pollution on the heart, Wold explained. But when the mice in his studies were exposed to concentrated amounts of pollution for extended periods of time to determine the effect on their hearts, he also observed changes in their behavior, “very similar to what you see in a mouse that has Alzheimer’s Disease.” Further examination revealed that a protein associated with the development of Alzheimer’s was showing up in the hearts of the mice. Meanwhile, research by Wold’s colleague found a similar result in research on humans. Wold’s research, which also shows a worrisome link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s, could play a role in the eventual development of effective Alzheimer’s treatments. “If we can somehow delay the progression of this protein from the heart to the brain...we might ultimately be able to stop or at least delay the progression of the protein to the brain.”



2/26/18 by Melissa L. Weber; Joe Ashley and Susan Neale contributed to this story