Faculty Programs of Research

College of Nursing faculty are engaged researchers who are building the science of nursing and nursing education. Nursing faculty are teacher-scholars who integrate their research and teaching, enriching student learning experiences to prepare the practitioner-scholars of the future.


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Understanding health disparities in the Hispanic/Latinx community - Sylvia Peña, PhD, RN, CNEn

Dr. Peña’s program of research focuses on understanding health disparities in the Hispanic/Latinx community. Her current research is focused on cervical cancer screening in Hispanic/Latinx women. The aim of her research is to better understand this health disparity in the Hispanic/Latinx community and promote health in this population.  


Mother-Infant Dyad Impacted by Maternal Opioid Use Disorder - Nicole Mattson PhD, RN, CNS-BC

Dr. Mattson’s program of research focuses on facilitating optimal wellness of mother-infant dyads impacted by maternal opioid use disorder. She is particularly interested in understanding how mothers using medication-assisted treatment manage the needs of the dyad during pregnancy and the early parenting period. Her goal is to develop nursing-based interventions to promote and strengthen self-management work by mothers.    


Improving survivorship and long-term outcomes for survivors of critical illness and their families - Krista Knudson, PhD, APRN

Dr. Knudson is a seasoned clinician and nurse scientist with postdoctoral training in intervention development. The aim of her program of research is to improve the survivorship experience and long-term outcomes for adult survivors of critical illness and their families. Dr. Knudson’s work incorporates principles of participant-centered and trauma-informed approaches to care and is informed by human-centered design strategies. She is specifically interested in survivors of severe critical illness (such as those supported with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation [ECMO]), translational research, and innovative healthcare solutions. 


Advancing health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses – Dora Clayton-Jones, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC

 Dr. Clayton-Jones is a community engaged scholar. The aim of her program of research is to advance health and health care equity for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses. Using community based participatory research (CBPR) and qualitative research methods, she engages the community and recipients of interventions in developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions that optimize self-management behaviors and health care transition readiness. Dr. Clayton Jones’s research interests include self-management of chronic conditions to include sickle cell disease, health disparities and equity, spirituality and health in adolescents, qualitative research, and community based participatory research.

Breastfeeding Disparities Impacting Breastfeeding Outcomes for African American Mothers -- Karen Robinson, PhD, CNM

Dr. Robinson’s program of research focuses on racial disparities in maternal-child health. She has centered her research around breastfeeding disparities by examining breastfeeding barriers for African American mothers. Specifically, Dr. Robinson is investigating how racism, implicit bias, and discriminatory behaviors towards African American mothers negatively impact breastfeeding outcomes within this population. She has also studied the positive effects of breastfeeding peer counselors and group prenatal care on breastfeeding outcomes. Dr. Robinson’s goal is to develop culturally appropriate, mother-infant centered, interventions that will address the inequities in breastfeeding support that impede higher rates of breastfeeding among African American mothers. Dr. Robinson is skilled in qualitative methodology and her expertise has been sought for collaboration in research utilizing qualitative inquiry. Dr. Robinson also has experience with conducting systematic review, meta-analysis, and secondary analyses.

Childhood Obesity Prevention, Interprofessional Education, Teaching Excellence – Marilyn Frenn, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FTOS, FAAN

Dr. Frenn's programs of research concern 4th-8th grade children and their parents to prevent obesity, using a tailored online intervention and testing a prebiotic. She has also investigated student response to interprofessional education (especially in testing instruments with acceptable estimates of reliability and validity) and has used grounded theory in prior research related both to health promotion and teaching excellence.


Communication Among Pediatric and Adolescent Patients with Life-Threatening Illnesses, Their Families, and Health Care Clinicians -- Amy Newman, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, CPHON

Dr. Newman’s program of research aims to enhance communication among pediatric and adolescent patients with life-threatening illnesses, their family members, and health care clinicians, particularly discussions around goals of care, values, and care preferences. Dr. Newman is specifically interested in leveraging the role of the nurse to engage in more collaborative relationships with physicians and other members of the health care team to ensure the communication needs of patients and families are met throughout the illness trajectory.

Community engaged family interventions for persons with autism – Norah L. Johnson, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC

The aim of Dr. Johnson's research is the development of knowledge and interventions to decrease child challenging behaviors and improve the health of persons with developmental disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and their caregivers. She works with an interdisciplinary team as part of the Marquette Autism Initiative. She studies family care-giving stress, family functioning and quality of life as well as exercise as medicine including swimming programs for children with autism and their caregivers. Her community engaged program of research uses mixed methodology. She developed a copyrighted iPhone autism Health Care Manager app. She is also a member of the Milwaukee Pediatric Nursing Research Consortium involved in translational research, implementation evaluation, and developing and evaluating staff development curriculums for pediatric hospitals.

Community Participation in Public Health Decision-Making and Human Rights: Neoliberal Policies and Universal Health Care Coverage in Brazil -- Alexandre Martins, MI, PhD

Dr. Martins' project develops a participatory action research about the relationship between human rights, health care, health-related policies and community participation in the context of Brazil. The Brazilian public health system known as Unified Health System (SUS, acronym in Portuguese) was created after the 1988 Constitution that stated the right to health of all and the duty of the State in ensuring it. Although the right to health is a constitutional right in Brazil, political decisions and policies in the last few years have favored a commodity approach to health care, fostering the private health sector. Consequently, these policies have impacted the SUS in a way that they seem to exacerbate SUS problems and marginalizing vulnerable populations from accessing health care. This project examines these policies and whether or not they have functioned to dismantle the SUS and directed the health care perspective from a right to a privilege and how these policies impact the lives of low-income families by considering two communities in São Paulo, Brazil. Further, this research will engage these two communities and their activities from their local Catholic Church by using a participatory action research method combined with insights from liberation theology. Semi-structured interviews will be performed to understand their experience accessing health care services. The findings of this research will provide education for the communities that participate in the project and also help them to develop strategies and actions for their political engagement in the public health system.

Effects of positive thinking, resilience and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity – Abir Bekhet, PhD, RN, HSMI

Dr. Bekhet's program of research focuses on the effects of positive thinking, resilience, and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity across vulnerable populations that include, but are not limited to, older adults, family caregivers, and immigrants. The results of her research contribute to nursing knowledge development by providing a better understanding of the relationships among the major components of resilience theory: risk factors, protective factors, and indicators of resilience. In terms of the practical significance, the results of these studies provide direction for nurses to include strategies that strengthen positive thinking and resilience to promote the health and functioning of caregivers and other vulnerable populations. 

Engaging patients and their families in healthcare -- Teresa Jerofke-Owen, PhD, RN 

The nurse and patient experience of healthcare engagement in acute care settings is the focus of research by Dr. Jerofke-Owen. She specifically examines ways that nurses can engage patients and their families in their care and the associations between patient perceptions of engagement and empowerment, the patient care experience, and patient outcomes, such as length of stay and health care utilization. She has developed and validated instruments to assess patient preferences for engaging in their health care and patient perceptions of receipt of nurse-empowering behaviors.

Exercise for symptom management in chronic disease, discharge teaching -- Linda Piacentine, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC

Dr. Piacentine’s program of research focuses on methods individuals employ to self-manage symptoms that have developed from disease or related treatments. Working with an interdisciplinary team, Dr. Piacentine has focused on exercise to mitigate symptoms of cancer and multiple sclerosis. She has led qualitative research regarding team experience. The team has also used mixed methodology to understand the psychological and physiological changes cancer survivors who engage in exercise. Dr. Piacentine also collaborates on investigations of readiness for hospital discharge and education of student nurses regarding discharge teaching.

Health disparities and equity, depression, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, community engagement – Abiola Keller, PhD, PMH, PA-C

Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes for adults with chronic illnesses, including depression, by engaging patients, families, and clinicians in multi-level interventions that optimize chronic disease self-management behaviors is the focus of Dr. Keller's research. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and has experience working with complex health survey data such as the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care and National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys. She also conducts community-based, participatory research with community and corporate partners.

Hospital Discharge Research  Marianne Weiss, DNSc, RN, Professor Emerita

As emeritus faculty, Dr. Weiss continues to be an active researcher extending her longstanding program of research on the contribution of acute care nurses to patient outcomes at discharge and post-discharge. This research includes the impact of nursing staffing structure and quality of discharge teaching on readiness for hospital and post-discharge return to hospital for readmission or ED visits. With my collaborators, this work focuses on intervention studies and large sample and multi-site studies of the characteristics and performance of the individual nurse, the complement of nurses within a nursing unit, and the interprofessional team in relation to patient care outcomes including inpatient mortality, patient safety outcomes, and discharge transition outcomes. 

Hospital Discharge Scales: Dr. Weiss has authored and rigorously tested 3 scales to measure nurse contribution to the discharge transition variables: Quality of Discharge Teaching Scale, Readiness for Hospital Discharge Scale, and Post-Discharge Coping Difficulty Scale. The scales have been translated into several languages.

READI Study: a 33-hospital cluster randomized trial of implementation of discharge readiness as a standard practice for hospital discharge.

Improving Care of Critically Ill and Mechanically Ventilated Patients – Jill Guttormson, PhD, MS, RN

Dr. Guttormson’s program of research generates knowledge and interventions to enhance patient centered care in the intensive care unit and improve patient outcomes after critical illness.  Specifically, her research is focused on a) improving symptom identification and management during critical illness b) interventions to support patient ability to communicate during mechanical ventilation c) understanding critical care nurses’ practice when caring for mechanically ventilated patients.

Improving long-term outcomes of critical illness survivors -- Kelly Calkins, PhD, RN, CCRN

The aim of Dr. Calkins’ program of research is to improve the long-term outcomes of critical illness survivors. Her program focuses on post intensive care syndrome and improving the recovery experience of critical illness survivors after hospital discharge. Dr. Calkins has used qualitative methods to gain a better understanding of survivors’ perceptions of their recovery and the barriers and facilitators they encountered during their recovery. This knowledge will be used to develop and implement interventions to support survivors in the community.

Individualized interprofessional care strategies for youth with chronic illness and their families -- Joan Totka, PhD, RN

Dr. Totka holds a joint position between Marquette University and Children’s Wisconsin. The aim of her program of research is to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate evidence-based programs and resources to support clinical teams working with youth with chronic illness and their families. Partnering with interprofessional teams, she uses implementation strategies to translate research into practice.  She has experience conducting mixed methods research and engages with those interprofessional teams to holistically individualize care.  Current research involves integrating patient reported outcome measures, such as social determinants of health, quality of life, depression, anxiety, and disease specific measures into clinical practice.

Mental and physical well-being of marginalized women; qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and mixed methods -- Jessica Zemlak, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC

Dr. Zemlak’s program of research centers on the physical and mental well-being of marginalized women. Her previous research among street-based sex workers in Baltimore City, MD explored the intersection of interpersonal violence and contraceptive method use and decision-making. Her research is driven by the desire to meet the needs of women through a trauma-informed and harm reduction framework.

Natural Family Planning for achieving and avoiding pregnancy -- Richard Fehring, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Fehring, a professor emeritus and director of the Institute for Natural Family Planning, is an internationally known Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABM)  researcher. His research includes effectiveness studies of FABM for achieving and avoiding pregnancy, use of FABM during reproductive transitions including the postpartum transition to fertility, and the transition through perimenopause. Dr. Fehring is one of the prime developers of the Marquette Method of natural family planning, a modern evidence-based method that integrates the newest hormonal monitoring systems that allow women to track their fertility for family planning purposes and as a vital sign for women's health. His research also includes the influence of FABM and contraception on women's health.

Nurse Coaching to Keep Women Moving through Life’s Transitions – Jennifer Ohlendorf, PhD, RN  

Dr. Ohlendorf's research centers around how nurses use their health promotion skills to act as health coaches for women to promote uptake of physical activity and healthy eating behaviors during life transitions. She working to develop and test a theory-based coaching intervention helping pregnant women set their own attainable physical activity and healthy eating goals throughout all 3 trimesters. The hope is that women will set up habits that may impact their health and the health of their families. Additionally, she engages in qualitative inquiries to understand the meaning movement, exercise, and athletic endeavors like running have in the lives of women.

Nursing Education Research – Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN

As a pedagogical nurse scientist, Dr. Dreifuerst's program of research is focused on expertise in reflection and becoming a reflective practitioner and includes a) developing, using, and testing innovative teaching methods to improve prelicensure and graduate students’ clinical reasoning skills to be ready for practice, and b) investigating how faculty can best be prepared to use evidence-based methods including simulation and debriefing to enhance teaching and learning.

Older Adults’ Social Engagement – Stacy Barnes, PhD

Dr. Barnes is a social gerontologist, program evaluator, and director of the Wisconsin Geriatric Education Center. Her research focuses on the social connections between older adults and the community in which they live. She is especially interested in older adults’ connections to family members, informal (unpaid) caregivers, and the health professions.

Palliative care, advance care planning, interdisciplinary education --  Susan Breakwell, DNP, PHNA-BC, FPCN

Broadening the understanding, valuing, and integration of palliative care into health care practice is foundational to Dr. Breakwell’s research and role as director, Institute for Palliative and End of Life Care. Her work focuses on palliative care, advance care planning, and interdisciplinary education and practice as it relates to students, nurses, other disciplines, and communities.

Partnering with communities to conduct research that promotes human flourishing -- Kristin Haglund, PhD, RN, PNP, FNP, APRN

Prior to Marquette, Dr. Haglund was a nurse and then a nurse practitioner. In both roles, she cared for children and families in the City of Milwaukee, many of whom experienced marginalization and oppression due to poverty, structural racism, and other forms of discrimination. This work sensitized her to the depth and severity of pressing social and health needs. She acknowledges and stands in solidarity with every community that experiences inequalities, especially communities of color.  Over her career as a nurse, she honed core beliefs that have informed her research and scholarship namely, people -- including children and adolescents -- are expert on their own lives; peoples' strengths are sources for solutions; and context matters. Today, she is a community-engaged researcher specialized in qualitative and arts-based methods and interventions.  Her program of research has generated knowledge and interventions to advance health equity and to facilitate optimal health and psychosocial outcomes for children, adolescents and adults.  Her research studies build on the strengths of populations to promote healthy communities, positive youth development, healthy interpersonal relationships, violence prevention, and risk behavior reduction among other topics.

Pedagogical Research: Expanding and Improving Nursing Education -- Amber Young-Brice, PhD, RN, CNE

Dr. Young-Brice’s program of pedagogical research explores the relationship between the influence of non-cognitive factors, such as grit, self-regulation, the successful trajectory of students, and ways to foster these factors though theoretically derived and evidence-based pedagogical innovations. Her research is grounded in expertise as an educator and underpinned by theories from nursing, education and social sciences as well as her passion for inclusive teaching and increasing the diversity of the nursing profession. Nursing is constantly evolving due to advances in health science, changing patient demographics and economic pressures. Well-prepared nurses who represent the patients they serve are needed to address and improve patient care outcomes and advance the profession. Dr. Young-Brice's program of research seeks to develop and test innovations that expand and improve nursing education and create diverse clinicians and leaders within the discipline.

Perinatal mental health in the NICU -- Kathryn Malin, PhD, RN, APNP, NNP-BC

Dr. Malin’s program of research is focused on perinatal mental health in the setting of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Specifically, her research has concentrated on perinatal post-traumatic stress disorder in parents after their infant’s discharge from the NICU. She is also exploring the relationships between infant and parent mental health in the NICU with the goal of laying a foundation for future nursing intervention development. Her research and clinical work is driven by a deep desire to serve families with premature or sick infants both during and after NICU hospitalization.

Post-hospitalization issues within Medicare -- Lisa Grabert, MPH

As a visiting research professor, Grabert focuses on post-hospitalization issues within the Medicare program. With a keen emphasis on reimbursement policy, Lisa is able to research the effect of policies she crafted as a capitol-hill aide on the powerful U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means. The goal of the research is to inform policy development around the quality and cost of care delivered in nursing homes, at home and in specialized rehab and critical care hospitals.

Probiotic interventions to reduce antenatal Group B Streptococcus colonization during pregnancy – Lisa Hanson, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN

Dr. Hanson's program of research is on probiotic interventions to reduce antenatal Group B Streptococcus colonization during pregnancy. She also seeks to study how probiotics and prebiotics modify the maternal and infant microbiomes. This work has led her to instrument development for gastrointestinal symptom assessment. She has expertise in clinical trials (double-blind placebo-controlled RCT and quasi-experiment) and working with the Food and Drug Administration for Investigation of New Drug Applications. Her program of research involves corporate engagement and collaboration with clinical partners and she is currently funded by NIH/NICHD R21HD095320; Clinicaltrials.gov NCT03696953.

Safety in Critically Ill Children  -- Christine Schindler, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC/AC

Dr. Schindler's research focuses on safety in critically ill and complex medically fragile children. She has researched diverse areas around safety and has specific expertise around wound care, serious skin injury prevention, and skin failure within the context of multi-organ dysfunction syndrome. Dr. Schindler also has an interests in leadership, transition to advanced practice through APP fellowships, and global health.  

Student Learning and Debriefing Using Simulation Pedagogy – Aimee Woda, PhD, RN, BC

Dr. Woda's program of research explores student learning and debriefing using simulation pedagogy. She continues to focus on learner outcomes in nursing education science, with the goal of making evidence-based recommendations for curricular changes.

Symptom Management of Chronic Illness -- Donald Miller, Ph.D., M.S., RN

Dr. Miller’s program of research focuses on symptom management of chronic illness with an emphasis on individuals living with systemic scleroderma. People living with certain chronic illnesses may also struggle to adapt psychologically to the illness experience. His background in both psychology and nursing have influenced his research trajectory. Employing both qualitative and quantitative methods, he investigates how feelings of identity loss, self-diminishment, and biographical disruption relate to symptom management for individuals living with systemic scleroderma. Dr. Miller’s interest in autoimmune disorders also guide his work with systemic scleroderma.