A man and a woman posing for a photo inside a government building
Elizabeth Speakman, senior associate dean of the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences, recently represented Delaware at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Hill Day in Washington, D.C. (On the left) Tom Carper, Delaware senator.

November College of Health Sciences For the Record

December 01, 2023 Written by CHS Staff | Elizabeth Speakman

For the Record provides information about recent professional activities and honors of University of Delaware faculty, staff, students and alumni.

Recent appointments, presentations, publications and honors in the College of Health Sciences include the following:

Awards

The College of Education and Human Development’s (CEHD) Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) was designated as a Delaware Health Hero through the 2023 Lt. Governor’s Wellness Challenge for its Shining the Light on You program. This recognition honors the individuals, organizations and institutions that help make healthy choices the easiest choices for their communities. Designed by Rena Hallam, DIEEC director and professor in CEHD’s Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, and Laura Lessard, associate professor in the College of Health Sciences’s Department of Health Behavior and Nutrition Sciences, Shining the Light on You is an innovative health and wellness program tailored for family child care educators.

The School of Nursing (SON) 2023 graduates recently obtained a 94% passing rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) as first-time takers. This licensing exam is a requirement after graduation before nurses can work in their field. The 2023’s passing rate reflected a 14-point increase over 2022 and can be attributed to the addition of new resources like ATI (Assessment Technologies Institute), implemented by SON to prepare students for this comprehensive exam. ATI provides learning tools designed to meet the unique learning system of each individual, spanning across their initial steps into a nursing school all the way up to the licensing exam. After passing the exam, new nurses can quickly acquire jobs in their field. The profession of nursing challenges has been growing even before the COVID-19 pandemic, new nurses swiftly passing the NCLEX and starting their careers is a critical step in ensuring enough practitioners are available to meet patient needs. “With the great need of nurses both locally and nationally, the ability for us to have so many students quickly pass the exam and join the workforce is incredible,” said Elizabeth Speakman, senior associate dean, chief academic officer and professor for the School of Nursing. “This is a testament to the dedication of our faculty and students to leap right into their careers and UD SON’s effort to help alleviate the huge nursing shortage.”

Jennifer Peticacis, who graduated from the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences in 2021, recently won the DAISY Award. The international honor from the Daisy Foundation allows patients, families and co-workers to express gratitude to nurses for providing compassionate care. Peticacis, a labor and delivery nurse at ChristianaCare, was nominated for the award by a patient’s husband after his wife was admitted for severe preeclampsia. 

According to ChristianaCare, in the application, the nominator wrote: “Jenn was fantastic in making sure my wife was cared for and doing well. Thank you for allowing my wife and I to have a pleasant experience in a moment where we weren’t sure what to expect.”

Peticacis called it a great honor to be recognized. 

“At times, as nurses, we forget that this is a patient’s big experience, and they’re going to remember it forever,” Peticacis said. “So, it means a lot to me that this family appreciated the role I played in their story and that they’ll remember what can be a scary and anxiety-inducing experience in a positive way. We don’t do it for recognition, but when we get that positive feedback and see our positive impact as nurses, it makes a difference.” 

Elizabeth Speakman, senior associate dean for the School of Nursing, said it’s wonderful to see a UD-educated nurse recognized so early in her career. 

“We are so proud of Jenn,” Speakman said. “She truly exemplifies what we hope all our graduates become — the nurse who, during a patient's most challenging moment, provides excellent and compassionate care.” 

Alyssa Selimov, a second-year student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and teaching assistant, won the 2023 Innovation Graduate Scholarship from the Tri-State Consortium Sigma Theta Tau International at the organization’s 37th annual conference held this year on UD’s STAR Campus on Oct. 22. Selimov was honored to receive the $500 award that will help fund tuition expenses.

“The theme of this year’s conference was innovation, and I was in awe of the inspiring and exciting research underway in the field of nursing aimed at improving population health,” Selimov said.

As part of her doctoral research, Selimov, who aspires to work in public health, is working to implement evidence-based suicide screening into primary care at the Nurse Managed Primary Care Center on STAR Campus.

Jennifer Saylor, associate dean of faculty and student affairs for the School of Nursing (SON), and Jennifer Graber, associate dean of academic affairs and practice initiatives for SON, who also serves as Selimov’s DNP advisor, nominated her for the award.

“Suicide is a public health problem. The continued exclusion of evidence-based universal suicide screenings poses a threat to patient safety,” Graber wrote in her nomination. “Ms. Selimov is aware that refraining from participating in feasible early intervention strategies can ultimately lead to worsening suicide rates and is working to alleviate this public health crisis.”

Presentations

Elizabeth Speakman, senior associate dean of the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences, recently represented Delaware at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Hill Day in Washington, D.C. During her visit to Capitol Hill on Oct. 30, Speakman met with Delaware’s legislators and advocated for the top issues impacting academic nursing.

“It is always a great opportunity to meet with legislators and discuss the pressing issues in nursing, especially since the nurse and nurse faculty shortage are paramount concerns for all of us,” Speakman said. “As the appointed American Academy of Nursing State Grassroots Liaison in Delaware, it was important that I spend time asking our Delaware legislators to support bipartisan bills that will increase funding for research, nursing education and nursing practice.”

Senem Cevik and Jazzlyn Jones, medical sciences doctoral students, presented their research at the 20th International Symposium on Retinal Degeneration and BrightFocus Macular Fast Track Workshop in Torremolinos, Spain, in October. Cevik and Jones work closely with Esther Biswas-Fiss, chair of the Department of Medical and Molecular Sciences in the College of Health Sciences, on her research on the ABCA4 gene and its thousands of genetic variants. The gene is the leading cause of a rare genetic eye disease, Stargardt disease, which often results in blindness.

Both Cevik and Jones found value in the experience.

“Seeing other’s research helps me think outside the box, and when they ask me questions about my research, it helps me think about different perspectives and teaches me how to better communicate my research to others,” Cevik said.

“This conference showed me that I have a lifetime of working in this field to look forward to, and it motivated me to want to grind a lot harder and make the most of my education,” Jones said.

Sharon Dudley-BrownBeatrice Gaynor and Caren Coffy-McCormick — all in the College of Health Science’s School of Nursing — presented at the Fall Continuing Education (CE) Conference hosted by the Delaware Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (DCNP) on Saturday, Oct. 28. The DCNP is a nurse practitioner organization affiliated with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, which certifies both family nurse practitioners and adult geriatric nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners are required to take 100 CE hours every five years, with 25 of them being in advanced pharmacology. The conference provided seven CE hours, most of which were in pharmacology. Dudley-Brown led a presentation regarding pharmacology and its tie-in to inflammatory bowel disease. Gaynor spoke about pharmacology and the nurse practitioner role in medical aesthetics. Coffy-McCormick provided updates on antipsychotics and bipolar disorder. The conference was designed to encourage nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner students to think deeply when prescribing medicine, ensuring the best quality of care for their patients. 

“This is a unique focus for a conference that provides an update on pharmacology within nurse practitioners' unique fields of practice,” Gaynor said. “Nurse practitioners focus on the whole patient, while this conference will spotlight opportunities to strategically factor in pharmacology further when addressing the needs of patients.” 

Mary Webb, a second-year student in the Nutrition Science PhD Program in the College of Health Sciences, won an Early Career Lightning Talk Competition at the 2023 Obesity Week conference held in Dallas, Texas, in October. Webb, who’s working alongside Melissa Melough, assistant professor of health behavior and nutrition sciences, explained their research focuses on environmental chemicals known as phthalates and their impact on obesity and cardiometabolic health. In examining the connection between phthalates and body fat, they determined some phthalates are associated with higher body fat percentages and more fat around internal organs in adolescent boys and adult women and men. Next, they’ll explore the associations between exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy and early childhood obesity.

“I am honored and grateful to have won the Early Career Lightning Talk Competition at the annual ObesityWeek conference,” Webb said. “This was an amazing event that provided me with the opportunity to effectively communicate my research to an audience in three minutes. I am encouraged and excited by the interest and enthusiasm the audience showed towards the important work I’m completing with Dr. Melough.”

Other authors on the poster presentation included Jillian Trabulsi, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Nutrition SciencesJee Won Park, assistant professor in the Epidemiology Program, and Drew Day, epidemiologist at Seattle Children's Research Institute.

Publications 

Chloe Rogers, a nutrition and dietetics major who graduated in May, and Carly Pacanowski, associate professor of health behavior and nutrition sciences in the College of Health Sciences, recently published a scoping review, “The Relationship Between Cannabis and Anorexia Nervosa,” in the Journal of Eating Disorders. Their review of studies involving human participants explored the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the effects of cannabinoid treatment, and the harms of cannabis use in Anorexia Nervosa (AN). While the evidence is limited, their review found that due to abnormalities in the ECS in individuals with AN, cannabis could be a potential treatment for weight restoration and associated symptoms. Rogers and Pacanowski recommended future research examine individualized dosing approaches of cannabis in individuals with AN to maximize benefits and minimize harm.    

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