one FY20 research study involves covid transmission among students at UCI

Assistant Professor Dr. Sanghyuk Shin and his co-investigators were awarded a grant from the UCI Joint Research Fund to study the spread of COVID-19 among college students.

Last fiscal year (FY 2019-20), the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing received $4 million in research dollars, a 139% increase over FY19.

The wider UCI campus has also seen impressive growth in its research funding: 22% over the last year.

Much of the schools research in 2020 was focused on understanding COVID-19, such as how its transmitted and its effect on our mental health.

Other faculty research has branched into the areas of tuberculosis, mental health among college students and pediatric cancer pain.

Three faculty-led research grants

Yearlong study of UCI students and COVID-19

Assistant Professor Dr. Sanghyuk Shin and his co-investigators were awarded a grant from the UCI Joint Research Fund to study the spread of COVID-19 among college students.

Many college students are within the age group that experiences mild to no symptoms of COVID-19. As a result, they may be important factors in community transmission.

The study will recruit and follow a random sample of 500 students on campus for a year. Their blood and saliva will be collected every three months. The researchers will also conduct a survey to learn about social interactions among students.

The information gathered in the study will ultimately be used to understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads among students and help universities develop guidelines to prevent it.

COVID-19 infection and substance use patterns among homeless adults

Founding Dean Adey Nyamathi, ANP, PhD, FAAN, and colleagues at UCI (Sanghyuk Shin, PhD), campus (Saahir Khan), LA County Health Department (Alicia Chang, MD), UCLA School of Medicine (Lillian Gelberg, MD, MSPH) are studying the effects of social isolation on homeless adults during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Because of limited healthcare and social services, homeless adults reported more loneliness, depression and anxiety, as well as greater use of street drugs. The study was funded by a UCI CRAFT-COVID grant.

Nyamathi also received a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity (NIMHD) to study latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) and treatment adherence among homeless adults. TB disproportionately affects marginalized and impoverished communities.

LBTI can advance to active TB disease when the immune system is compromised. Two promising approaches to eradicating TB are to focus on high-risk groups and treat LBTI before it becomes active.

Nyamathi’s project, featuring an innovative nurse-led community health worker model resulted in a 92% treatment completion rate among the 50 eligible homeless adults in the study, as compared to a historical control group completing 65%.

The effect of media consumption during the pandemic

Professor Alison Holman, PhD, and her co-investigators, Dana Rose Garfin, PhD, and Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, received several grants this year to study the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis represents a unique opportunity to study the impact of repeated exposure to stress over time.

One such grant from the National Science Foundation was for Holmans team to examine survey respondentsrisk perceptions, fear, media use, health protective behaviors and distress surrounding the outbreak.

The NSF also funded a project that examines how individuals make proactive decisions about hurricane threats during the pandemic.

New research centers

Infectious Disease Science Initiative

The UCI Infectious Disease Science Initiative received another year of funding in 2020, receiving $150,000 to continue its research and educational activities.

The initiative, led by Sanghyuk Shin, PhD, facilitates new collaborations between UCIs infectious disease leaders to better understand the factors driving infectious disease outbreaks and antibiotic resistance around the world.

Research projects the initiative has led or facilitated include:

  • An investigation into the dynamics of tuberculosis transmission in Botswana
  • A study of COVID-19 risk among healthcare staff at UCI Medical Center

The Center for Nursing Philosophy

The Center for Nursing Philosophy, led by Miriam Bender, PhD, RN, seeks to:

  1. Create a formal structure with the capacity and resources to engage school, university and allied institutionsfaculty in dialogue across the philosophical spectrum.
  2. Lead the advancement of nursing philosophy by supporting faculty and student scholarly collaboration, publication and dissemination.

The centers vision is to be recognized as a pioneering locus for nursing philosophy around the world.

The CNP aims to provide a platform for increased nursing philosophy scholarship development and dissemination, as well as wider engagement with the local, national, and international philosophy community to identify new foci for inquiry and advancement.

Technology-based research

Vulnerability Scoring System for COVID-19 patients

Assistant professor Jung In Park, RN, PhD, was a member of the team that combed through thousands of points of data to build the Vulnerability Scoring System (VSS) using machine learning.

The VSS is a web-based tool that uses the data of past COVID-19 patient outcomes to determine which patients need treatment soonest. The result is faster and more accurate triage of the most critical patients. The system updates in real-time to provide the most accurate information.

Mental health app for college students

Associate professor Melissa Pinto, PhD, received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to develop and test a mental health app for college students experiencing symptoms of stress and depression. Nearly half of all college students in the U.S. struggle with depression and stress symptoms. They can impact academic and life performance.

Managing cancer pain in children

Michelle Fortier, PhD, is continuing her research into the development of a novel pain assessment and symptom management tool for children with cancer. The tool is Pain Buddy, an app that uses a server to deliver child-reported symptom data to healthcare providers. The app also teaches children cognitive and behavioral pain management skills.

Fortier also received a three-year grant from Alexs Lemonade Stand Foundation. She will partner with a community advisory board of low-income Spanish speaking children who have been treated for cancer.

Ultimately, she will develop and test a culturally appropriate intervention to improve well-being and quality of life for such children and their families.

Nursing in the community

Family caregiver mental health

Jung-Ah Lee, PhD, realized that when Californians were ordered to stay at home, it would deeply affect family caregivers for a person with dementia (PWD). Her study involves assessing their emotional state and providing them with stress management tools in their own language.

Virtual visits at UCI Medical Center

When UCI Medical Center was closed to visitors earlier this year, hospitalized patients lost a critical means of support. To ease their loneliness, assistant clinical professor Sara Brown, PhD, and her students provided virtual visits and discharge instructions to the patients. The program was so successful, the medical center continues to provide the service to its patients.

Helping refugees get their footing

Another one of Browns projects is a partnership with Home for Refugees, a nonprofit group that helps refugee and asylum-seeking families establish themselves in the United States. Through the partnership, Browns students are assigned a family.

Their initial tasks are to set up their internet so they can partake of telehealth services. The students also work to get each family on at least one waitlist for a rental property in Orange County. After that, the student becomes a resource for the family, answering any questions they have.