UA assistant professor selected as 1 of 12 national scholars

Published: Oct. 10, 2014 at 3:14 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 5, 2015 at 11:46 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - An assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing has been selected as a national scholar.  

Sheila M. Gephart, RN, PhD, was only one of 12 nursing educators to be named a 2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar. Gephart will receive a $350,000 award over the next three years. 

This award is given to early-career nursing faculty members, according to a release from the U of A College of Nursing. These members demonstrate 'outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing and health care.'  Factors in the selection process were demonstrated teaching excellence, commitment to racial, ethnic, gender and cultural diversity in nursing, and the potential to become a national leader in their area of scholarship, according to the release. 

Gephart's research is focused on prevention and early detection of a devastating condition called necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening complication that affects infants born prematurely whereby part of the intestine becomes damaged and can die. Driven by her experience as a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, she is focused on saving lives while reducing costs (20 percent of NICU spending is due to NEC) and infant disabilities. A graduate of the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing program at the UA College of Nursing, Gephart developed a first-of-its-kind risk score for NEC called GutCheckNEC. 

According to the release, Gephart plans to use technology to automate a set of NEC prevention and early recognition practices for infants born prematurely. In partnership with Arizona neonatal intensive care clinicians, including Michelle Fleiner, DNP, CCNS, RN-NIC, a neonatal clinical nurse specialist, they will create a clinical decision-support intervention and study the outcomes over time. Findings from the study will improve neonatal intensive care quality and can be applied to other complications in the future.

Gephart is the third member of the U of A College of Nursing staff to receive this honor; she joins Matthew J. Gallek, PhD, RN, CNRN who was selected in 2012; andRuth Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN selected in 2009. 

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