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College of Nursing

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Research Projects

From the research building to the community

Our nurse scientists don’t just crunch numbers all day long, they also look at ways to translate their research into meaningful impact in clinics and communities across the state.

Below are some of our current projects.

“Happy Family, Healthy Kids”
“Happy Family, Healthy Kids” will launch in 2020 at Lansing-based Capital Area Community Services, Inc. Head Start and Early Childhood Programs, as well as at the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency, specifically Cadillac, Charlevoix, East Jordan and Kalkaska. The program will target families who engage in “emotional eating” – or ill-advised food choices for their families – due to stress in their lives, often caused by a lack of income. Parents will be coached on making happy and healthy eating behavioral changes at home that will support their young children to establish lifelong healthy eating habits.
College of Nursing leads: Drs. Jiying Ling and Lorraine Robbins

Instilling healthy habits in children
Dr. Lorraine Robbins is launching a three-part intervention project called Guys/Girls Opt for Activities for Life, or GOAL, thanks to a $3.8 million National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant, which will be spread across five years. The grant has 2 parts; if the first part in Year 1 is successful, remaining funds will be released to conduct the second part over the next 4 years. The program will involve young adolescents in 5th-7th grades along with one parent/guardian per adolescent who will serve as a source of support.
College of Nursing lead: Dr. Lorraine Robbins

Keeping heart failure patients active
Regular exercise is a key to good health, and even more so for heart failure patients. Dr. Pallav Deka has studied ways for heart patients to adhere to exercise guidelines. That includes the use of wrist-worn activity monitors such as Fitbit trackers to provide positive feedback on exercise and physical activity. When patients can monitor their heart rate and step counts, it encourages them to maintain their walking regimens. Deka’s research combines his roles as exercise physiologist and nurse researcher. His pilot study to improve adherence to exercise in heart failure patients won the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society.
College of Nursing lead: Dr. Pallav Deka

Improving parent-child communication 
Dr. Tsui-Sui Annie Kao is studying parent-child relationships and communication, particularly among minority and low-income families. In research and interviews she’s found that obesity, substance abuse and irresponsible sexual activity can be positively affected if parents and children talk more openly and, importantly, listen to one another. Kao has developed motivational methods to coach parents and their kids. She teaches mindfulness, using meditation techniques to defuse volatile relationships through compassion and consideration of others’ feelings and perceptions.
College of Nursing lead: Dr. Tsui-Sui Annie Kao

Reducing fatigue in cancer patients
As a breast cancer researcher, Dr. Horng-Shiuann Wu has examined closely how the disease drains energy of patients, who often suffer in private. Fatigue, depression and insomnia are common after chemotherapy or radiation treatments end, Wu says. One path to comfort Wu tests is light therapy, commonly used to treat winter depression for people who are sensitive to lack of sunshine. Wu says cancer disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms, which are affected by exposure to light. Adding artificial blue-green light to cancer patients’ daily routines can alleviate fatigue, lack of sleep and depressive mood it's an inexpensive, simple non-drug treatment.
College of Nursing lead: Dr. Horng-Shiuann Wu

Exploring complementary therapies for symptom management among cancer patients
College researchers are exploring the connection between complementary therapies and cancer symptoms, including through the practice of reflexology, which relates to placing pressure on various parts of the feet so that they, in turn, affect certain organs including the nervous system; as well as mindfulness, which focuses on meditative practices as a form of symptom management. Drs. Wyatt and Sikorskii are completing a NCI grant designed to tailor the “right intervention” to the “right patient” for better symptom management. Dr. Lehto is a Co-I on this community-based project where the therapies are offered in the home by the friend or family caregiver.
College of Nursing leads: Drs. Gwen Wyatt, Rebecca Lehto

Improving care delivery processes in health systems
Dr. Ann Annis’ area of research involves the utilization and measurement of care-delivery processes in health systems, especially in regards to interprofessional clinicians other than physicians and providers. Throughout her career, she has contributed to the development and evaluation of multiple clinician-focused healthcare programs and initiatives, at both state and federal levels. Her recent work at the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System has included the identification of clinician-specific care-delivery models and examination of care-delivery trends in both primary care and inpatient settings.
College of Nursing lead: Dr. Ann Annis