Heilbrunn Center announces recipients of its 2016 Nurse Scholar Awards

Five nurses from around the country have been selected to receive Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Awards, given by The Rockefeller University’s Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing to support nurses while they pursue independent research projects that will make a significant contribution to the discipline of nursing. Each one- to two-year award provides a maximum of $25,000.

“The competition this year was intense,” says Patricia Eckardt, director of the center, which funds the awards, vets the applicants, and mentors the recipients. “This year’s winners will study topics ranging from patient self-advocacy to eating behavior and obesity. They will seek to answer complex questions through rigorous scientific approaches. I’m delighted that the Heilbrunn Center will support these five exceptional nurses in their research endeavors.”

Dr. Barry Coller, director of Rockefeller’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), adds, “We are very proud that the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar program continues our long tradition of supporting innovations in research nursing.”

Funding for the awards, now in their fourth year, is from an endowment established by sisters Helaine Lerner and Joan Rechnitz in honor of their parents, Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn. A committee of internationally recognized nurse scientists selects the winners from applications submitted by doctoral and postdoctoral nurses across the United States.

The Heilbrunn Center and The Rockefeller University Hospital, the first hospital in the country devoted exclusively to medical research, are key components of the CCTS.

The recipients are:


From top: Teresa L. Hagan, Paule Joseph, Krista Knudson, Melissa Kurtz, and Kristen R. Weaver

Teresa L. Hagan

Dr. Hagan’s research focuses on how women with a history of cancer advocate for their health needs and well-being. Her proposed study will develop and test a web-based interactive game to teach women with advanced cancer how to advocate for their own care. Her ultimate goal is to create nurse-led, interactive educational interventions based in psychology that aim to reduce cancer inequities related to lack of patient self-advocacy.

Dr. Hagan is a postdoctoral research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. in nursing science and her B.S.N. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. Dr. Hagan has published eight peer-reviewed articles and two articles related to methods and policy, and has co-authored a book chapter on oncology, women’s health, self-advocacy, and symptom management. Dr. Hagan is the recipient of an F31 training grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) at the National Institutes of Health and a doctoral scholarship in cancer nursing from the American Cancer Society. She is currently a Jonas Policy Scholar with the American Academy of Nursing and serves on its Women’s Health Expert Panel. She is active in the Massachusetts chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition as well as several other community and cancer organizations.

Paule Joseph

Dr. Joseph plans to study predictive models of how brain–gut interactions underlie human eating behavior and obesity. Her goal is to find new approaches to improve personalized nutrition and prevent weight gain in both children and adults. With the support of the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, Dr. Joseph will answer key questions about eating behavior, the microbiome, and obesity, an important milestone toward her early-stage investigator research goals. Dr. Joseph incorporates both clinical and bench science approaches to her work.

Dr. Joseph is currently a clinical and translation postdoctoral fellow at the NINR Digestive Disorders Unit, Biobehavioral Branch. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and her M.S. as a family nurse practitioner from Pace University. Her research interest in eating behavior, genetics, obesity, symptom management, and gastrointestinal disorders stems from her clinical and research experience as a gastroenterology nurse and family nurse practitioner. Dr. Joseph’s goal is to lead and mentor the next generation of research leaders from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds as independent scientists at top research institutions.

Krista Knudson

Ms. Knudson is interested in how individuals and families experience illnesses requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a complex rescue treatment for severe but potentially reversible heart or lung failure. Ms. Knudson plans to examine experiences from the perspectives of both patients and their family members and use her findings to identify opportunities for patient- and family-centered practice changes that may ultimately lead to improved outcomes.

A doctoral candidate at Yale University, Ms. Knudson aims to develop a program of research centered on understanding and addressing the short- and long-term needs of critically ill patients and their families.

Melissa Kurtz

Ms. Kurtz’s study will explore factors that influence decision-making for neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) parents, including one’s perception of being a “good parent.” Outcomes from this study will inform the development of decision-support interventions for NICU parents with the goal of reducing long-term risks to parent psychological health.

Ms. Kurtz is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Ms. Kurtz has 15 years’ experience caring for NICU patients and their families. Her long-term goal is to become an independent nurse scientist and develop a program of research targeting the needs of parents with critically ill children.

Kristen R. Weaver

For her dissertation research, Ms. Weaver is examining brain–gut axis dysregulation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), conducting an exploratory investigation for markers of stress. The Heilbrunn funding will allow her to build upon this work to explore the role of sex hormones, leptin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in modulating the brain–gut axis of patients with IBS, incorporating physiological measurements, patient-related factors, and molecular technologies.

Ms. Weaver worked as a nurse practitioner in gastroenterology while pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing from New York University, and received an Intramural Research Training Award from the NIH in July 2015. Through the Graduate Partnership Program between NYU and the NINR, she is now conducting her dissertation research in the Digestive Disorders Unit, Biobehavioral Branch, of NINR’s Intramural Research Program.

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