The Connell School of Nursing has long been defined by its mission: training nurse leaders to care for the whole person. But despite its rising profile as a research institution, Connell has yet to identify (or brand) the strengths of its faculty in different areas of inquiry. That is why Professor Christopher Lee spent most of his first year as CSON’s associate dean for research doing just that. And after interviewing faculty about their research interests and goals, looking back at 15 years of faculty publications, and scrutinizing sources of external funding, Lee determined that the Connell School researchers distinguish themselves in three key areas: health equity for women and children, person- and family-oriented aging, and safety and quality of care.
Lee calls these categories “Pillars of Innovation.” The nomenclature, he says, allows the Connell School to better brand itself while identifying more opportunities for faculty collaborations, recruiting graduate students, and securing grants.
A cardiovascular nurse scientist, Lee began analyzing and categorizing faculty research at Connell soon after arriving at the school in January 2018. “It was an important exercise, both to familiarize myself with faculty, and to determine the cross-currents between all of their work,” he said. He had helped conduct similar faculty overviews at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his Ph.D., and at the Oregon Health & Science University, where he worked for seven years, most recently as the Carol A. Lindeman Distinguished Professor, before moving to Boston College.
In 2017–18, CSON faculty received $1.1 million in external-sponsored research funding—more than in the previous two academic years combined, Lee said. The support came from the federal government, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and elsewhere. Projects ranged from Supporting Family Caregivers in Transition, led by Associate Professor Ellen Mahoney, to Associate Professor Jane Flanagan’s Post-Acute Outcomes in Nursing Home Residents with Dementia, to Associate Professor Holly Fontenot’s Using Mobile Application Strategies to Increase HPV Vaccination Rates Among Young Men who have Sex with Men.
To find the common thread among them, Lee examined the keywords most commonly used in project abstracts and in the past 15 years of publications and grant applications. Based on these and what he learned during one-on-one interviews with colleagues, Lee determined that all research-oriented faculty members fit naturally within one of the three categories, or pillars.
Twelve faculty, for instance, fall within the Health Equity for Women and Children category—a group that includes Associate Professor Joyce Edmonds, who studies cesarean delivery rates; Assistant Professor Nadia N. Abuelezam, who applies mathematical models to understand the impacts of HIV treatment and prevention strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa; and Susan Kelly-Weeder, who researches the co-occurrence of high-risk eating and drinking behaviors, Lee noted.
The Person- and Family-Oriented Aging pillar includes 11 faculty—from Lee, who takes a data-driven, “biobehavioral profiling” approach to heart disease, to palliative care nurse scientist and Associate Professor Susan DeSanto-Madeya.
The Safety and Quality of Care pillar comprises nine faculty, from Associate Professor Judith Shindul-Rothschild, a psychiatric nurse clinical specialist, to Professor Ann Wolbert Burgess, a pioneer in assessing victims of abuse and trauma.
While other schools often organize their faculty researchers based on the diseases and disorders they study (e.g., respiratory or sexually transmitted diseases), illness “is not what binds us,” says Lee. “Our bigger mission is improving quality of care, health equity, and treatment of aging, across contexts.”
And while Lee admits that “almost every faculty member could fit easily into more than one of these categories,” he said he organized each “pillar,” or sub-group, to create forums of faculty who share themes in their primary research. Each group, says Lee, plans to meet regularly to “think more strategically about what do we, as a group, want to accomplish in the next few years?
“The categories are extremely helpful,” Lee adds, “because they can help us recruit faculty with common interests, and even doctoral students. Also, while researchers traditionally have perpetually applied for grants to support their own work, having united fronts makes us eligible for funding as a group of scientists—from Institutional Research Training Grants, to Exploratory Centers, to Centers of Excellence, to Cooperative Agreements.
“Researchers naturally zero in on their own work to get research done,” he adds, “but it can be insular and isolating. Taking the time to see where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts can help faculty have a greater collective influence.”
Christopher Lee’s year-long investigation found that faculty at the Connell School fall into three primary categories of research. They are comprised of:
HEALTH EQUITY FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Research interests: Epidemiology, immigrant health, social networks, biostatistics race
Research interests: Maternal health, cesarean delivery rates, provider variation, race/ethnic disparities
Research interests: Sexual health, prevention of STDs/HPV/HIV, vaccines, LGBTQ health
Research interests: Perinatal nursing practice, perinatal education, stress in families with preterm infants, global women’s health
Research interests: Adolescent sexual risk behaviors, media influences of health behaviors, parentchild sexual communication, urban health and health care disparities
Research interests: Adolescent and young adult sexual risk behaviors and substance abuse, family and community influences of adolescent risk behaviors, parent-teen sexual communication
Research interests: Disordered eating behaviors, high-risk alcohol use, Web-based motivational interventions, lifestyle risks for infertility
Research interests: Feeding difficulty in infants and young children with medical complexity, biobehavioral methodologies, heart rate variability
Research interests: Feeding difficulties of high-risk preterm infants, biobehavioral methods to study physiologic and behavioral parameters of infant feeding, intervention studies
Research interests: Prevention of smoking relapse in postpartum women, innovative strategies for perinatal nursing, simulation learning in childbearing courses
Research interests: The effect of chronic teasing and bullying on the psychological and physical health of children and adolescents
Research interests: Integrative health care, mind-body interventions, positive youth development, adolescent mental health in primary care
PERSON- AND FAMILY-ORIENTED AGING
Research interests: Cancer symptom management, neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with cancer, delirium
Research interests: Palliative care, end-of-life care
Research interests: Understanding the human response to acute and chronic illness, transitions across the health care continuum, impact of integrative health modalities
Associate Professor Elizabeth Howard
Research interests: Geriatric nursing, successful aging for community-dwelling older adults
Associate Professor Corrine Jurgens
Research interests: Heart failure—biobehavioral factors, symptom perception, self-care, cognition; gerontology
Research interests: Health promotion, immigrant and minority health, chronic illness management, cardiovascular health
Research interests: Improving outcomes for patients with heart disease
Research interests: Family and dyadic experiences of chronic illness
Research interests: Human responses in chronic illness/disability, patterns of behavior in persons with dementia, nursing interventions to promote functional ability in the elderly
Research interests: Health promotion/disease prevention, chronic disease management, vulnerable/hard-to-reach populations
Research interests: Sleep disturbances and non-pharmacologic nursing management of agitation in the elderly, palliative care, pain management
SAFETY AND QUALITY OF CARE
Research interests: Psychiatric/mental health response patterns of crime victims, Internet crimes against children
Research interests: Genetics/genomics, rare disease, chronic care, digital solutions
Research interests: Psychiatric and mental health nursing, family nursing, health policy, workplace bullying
Research interests: Nursing and health care ethics, problem analysis, philosophy of nursing
Research interests: Investigation of patient’s recovery at home following ambulatory surgery with local and general anesthesia
Research interests: Nurse practitioner quality and efficiency of care
Research interests: Leadership development, diversity, and innovation in baccalaureate nursing education
Research interests: Registered nurse staffing in hospitals, quality of care and patient outcome research, collective bargaining and nursing labor issues
Research interests: Patient safety in labor and delivery, simulation in clinical teaching