Rural Health Care Research Center Receives Federal Stimulus Funding

September 29, 2009

September 29, 2009 — The University of Virginia School of Nursing has received federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support five undergraduate and graduate student interns in the Rural Health Care Research Center in 2009, and eight positions beginning in 2010.

The goals of the internship program are to support the research productivity of faculty as well as provide students an exposure to rural health care and nursing research.

"This funding will play an essential role in expanding our research and outreach efforts, while creating wonderful opportunities for our students and also students from other universities," said Beth Merwin, Madge Jones Professor of Nursing and the school's associate dean for research. "We were grateful for the opportunity to apply for this funding and pleased that our programs were singled out among so many applicants. Exposing students early in their careers to rural research may influence their future career choices and contributions."

Each intern is assigned to assist specific faculty members and is required to take part in weekly seminars to learn about the various rural research projects being conducted at the school as well as how the academic studies develop and evolve.

Brian Andrew, a recent graduate of Stanford University with a degree in human biology, is one of the interns and has worked with four different faculty members. A Virginia native, Andrew moved to Charlottesville in order to take his last prerequisite class for medical school and to study for the MCAT. When he came across an advertisement for the Rural Health Care Research internship program on Craigslist, it "sounded too good to be true," he said.

"I've especially enjoyed the variety that the internship has afforded," Andrew said. In addition to working in the neuroscience lab of Lisa Goehler, Andrew has performed census research for use in Pamela Kulbok's study concerning the value of interventions to prevent cigarette smoking in rural adolescent males. Also, Andrew has conducted research concerning nurse practitioners as colposcopists for Merwin, and has assisted Irma Mahone with a grant proposal for a study to research the use of decision aids by Region Ten for the treatment of the severely mentally ill.

"My internship at the School of Nursing has been a great learning experience and I'd like to see others take advantage of the opportunity in the future," Andrew said.

Simona Parvulescu-Codrea, another intern in Rural Health Care Research program, agrees.

Parvulescu-Codrea, a native of Romania, is working toward her second master's degree through the Clinical Nurse Leader program at U.Va. In addition to taking classes and participating in the Rural Health Care Research internship program, Parvulescu-Codrea is employed as a part-time nurse at Hampton Roads Specialty Hospital in Newport News.

With two decades of clinical practice and experience as a physician in Denmark, Parvulescu-Codrea truly understands the importance of nursing research. "It is what I really love to do because it is the foundation to the treatment and practices we use every day as nurses," Parvulescu-Codrea said, "and, I believe as a caregiver, that when we conduct research, we have a greater understanding when it comes to patient care."

During her time as a Rural Health Care Research Center intern, Parvulescu-Codrea has worked closely with Ishan Williams and Sharon Utz on their study that concentrates on the African-American population and how to better manage diabetes and prevention of its complications through culturally tailored education. Parvulescu-Codrea has also worked with Williams and Karen Rose on a study that will explore perspectives from health care professionals with expertise in dementia care in order to reach a consensus on the important items to be included in a family quality-of-life questionnaire.

Additionally, she has assisted Arlene Keeling on a historical study that is focused on the flu pandemic of 1918 and how the policies and procedures relate to those currently being used in the recent H1N1 virus outbreak.

The other interns assisting the nursing faculty on different levels of their research are: second-year undergraduate student Premkumar Periyasamy; recent graduate Meghan Sheely; and Tasmin Fanning, a 2009 Virginia Tech graduate.

— by Hannah Walker

About the Rural Health Care Research Center

The Rural Health Care Research Center is funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research and has been receiving funding for five years. The goal of the center is to increase the quality of rural health care through interdisciplinary research by focusing on the following objectives:

  • Design novel interventions to meet specific needs of rural people in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Use technology to deliver clinical and system interventions in rural settings.
  • Adapt interventions developed in tertiary health care settings for use in rural areas.
  • Training rural health care providers in new assessment and therapeutic techniques and system improvements.

Each rural community is different, so it is hard to implement practices but by conducting and disseminating research, a better system can be put to use.