School of Nursing
What are your general research interests?
I have several projects underway with various teams of collaborators, all under the general umbrella of developing policies and programs to help vulnerable populations.
What are your current projects, how are they funded, and who are your collaborators?
I am currently involved in three projects:
1. The National Children’s Study. In this 5-year, $5-million project funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), we’re examining the effects of the environment on the growth, development, and health of children from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the role various factors have on health and disease. Our team here at UD includes Suzanne Milbourne, who is the project coordinator, and Ingrid Hansen, who serves as community liaison. We’re partnering with Christiana Care Health System and Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children under the auspices of the Vanguard Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
2. Emergency room use by patients on Medicaid. This state-funded contract, which includes both research and policy aspects, is supported by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). We’re doing quantitative analysis of some 2 million data files on Medicaid recipients’ use of emergency rooms. We’re also conducting focus groups and interviews with healthcare professionals and providers who work with Medicaid patients, as well as interviews with Medicaid recipients to determine why and how they use the ER. Our goal is to work with DHSS and institutions such as hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers to develop strategies to reduce reliance of this population on ERs. Our UD team includes Suzanne Milbourne and Ingrid Hansen in the School of Nursing; Mike Peterson, Greg Dominick, and Mia Pappas in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition; and Paul Solano and Mary Joan Duffy in the School of Public Policy and Administration.
3. Disaster training and disaster preparedness. This project is being conducted through a collaboration among the DHSS Division of Long Term Care Residents Protection, our School of Nursing, and the Disaster Research Center at UD, which is headed by Prof. Jim Kendra. We recently held a two-day conference at UD to share the lessons learned from a statewide research project to develop a crisis response capacity for long-term care facilities during natural and man-made disasters in Delaware. More than 250 long-term care facility administrators and staff members attended the conference, which was funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Delaware Division of Public Health. Many state agencies, emergency responders, and healthcare organizations partnered in planning the event.
What are the likely “next steps” in your work?
We’ve just been awarded a contract with the State of Delaware to administer the Medical Reserve Corps through our School of Nursing. The MRC is a
volunteer corps of medical and healthcare professionals and other community members who give their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. Through this contract, we will be responsible for administering the training of all MRC volunteers. The work will dovetail nicely with our extensive experience in disaster preparedness, while also complementing our growing emphasis in the College of Health Sciences on interprofessional training of healthcare providers.
How would you describe your work’s importance to an interested lay audience?
At-risk populations include not only infants and the elderly but also individuals and families living in poverty, people with chronic illnesses, teen parents, and medically fragile patients of all ages. These vulnerable groups provide particular challenges to our healthcare system. My goal is to combine my roles as a nursing professor and a state senator to effect change for at-risk people through both research and policy efforts.