2021 Awarded Grants


Name: Matthew Beacom, MD

Title:  Behavioral Health and Isolation in Long Term Residents in Nebraska

Funding Agency:  UnitedHealth Group

This is a 24 month project supporting rural long term care workers and residents with tools to support behavioral and mental health coming out of the Pandemic. We are addressing isolation, worker shortage, anger management, etc. UHC has asked us to expand the audience to include critical access hospitals as well as nursing facilities.

For more information, contact Dr. Matthew Beacom at matthew.beacom@unmc.edu.

Eric Cranes

Name: Eric Carnes, PhD

Title:  XPED Phase III Support Summer/Fall 2021

Funding Agency:  National Strategic Research Institute

The current global health system relies heavily on products that require they be shipped and maintained at various temperatures below ambient, such as biological therapeutics and reagents, which are commonly stored at -80C. The necessity of maintaining this cold-chain poses a considerable challenge for governments across the world, including those countries developing cutting-edge medical technologies. This award will support our continued refinement of two novel technologies capable of eliminating cold-chain requirements for complex biological samples during the third and final phase of this program, with the overall goal of having products available for global deployment by the end of 2022.

For more information, contact Dr. Eric Carnes at eric.carnes@unmc.edu.


Name: Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD

Title:  Racial disparities in biomarkers, tobacco cessation, and smoking relapse in association with electronic cigarette use

Funding Agency:  DHHS/NIH/NIDA

This study examines the heterogeneity in biomarkers of exposure to toxicants among African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos. The study will extend our knowledge on the heterogeneity in biomarkers of exposure and toxicants across racial and ethnic groups, including use of different vaping products, flavors, and transition between e-cigarettes and cigarettes. We will further develop a bio-socio-psycho risk index score to predict abstinence from cigarette smoking, relapse to cigarette use, and tobacco-related health outcomes using machine learning algorithms for African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos.

For more information, contact Dr. Hongying (Daisy) Dai at daisy.dai@unmc.edu.


Name: Caitlin Golden, MPH

Title:  Identifying the necessary and sufficient factors to improve translation of rural childhood obesity treatment programs

Funding Agency:  American Heart Association

The pre-doctoral fellowship through the American Heart Association was awarded for a two-year period to examine the factors that increase the likelihood of supporting high implementation quality, as well as positive changes in weight status across 7 micropolitan communities engaged in the Nebraska Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration (N-CORD) 3.0 Project. Given the differences in access to resources and expertise for childhood obesity treatment between metropolitan communities and micropolitan and rural communities, there is a need to determine where these communities should focus limited resources to inform adaptations and speed the translation of evidence-based pediatric weight management interventions in medically underserved areas.

For more information, contact Caitlin Golden at caitlin.golden@unmc.edu.


Name: Brandon Grimm, PhD

Title:  Creating a framework to implement community-oriented interventions to address health inequities in a rural setting

Funding Agency:  Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health

The purpose of this project is to provide recommendations and lessons learned for schools and programs of public health to build trusting relationships, strengthen the public health system, and improve health and quality of life in rural communities. This guidance focused on 1) Frameworks for Engagement, 2) Roles of Schools and Programs, and 3) Implementation Strategies.  

For more information, contact Dr. Brandon Grimm at blgrimm@unmc.edu.


Name: Moses New-Aaron, MPH

Title:  Hepatocyte-hepatic stellate cell axis in potentiation of alcohol and HIV-induced liver injury

Funding Agency:  DHHS/NIH/NIAAA

Approximately 3% of the world HIV cases are in the US, and 34,800 new HIV infections were reported in 2019. While active antiretroviral therapy has significantly decreased AIDS incidence among people living with HIV, non-AIDS related mortality has continued to increase due to the incidence of organ damage. In fact, liver damage accounts for 18% of non-AIDS related mortality and 50% of the liver diseases are associated to alcohol abuse among HIV infected individuals. This is not alarming since alcohol abuse among HIV-infected individuals is twice the HIV-uninfected population. Preliminary data described a “double-edged sword” phenomenon where alcohol metabolites induce the clearance of HIV-expressing hepatocytes, which consequentially activate hepatic stellate cells to induce liver fibrosis. Therefore, the proposed study aimed to unravel the mechanisms of profibrotic activation in hepatic stellate cells after internalization of HIV-containing apoptotic hepatocytes. This is important to develop therapeutic strategies for the treatment of liver disease among alcohol abusing HIV-infected individuals. 

For more information, contact Moses New-Aaron at moses.newaaron@unmc.edu.


Name: David Palm, PhD

Title:  United Healthcare Medicaid Flu Vaccination Project

Funding Agency:  UnitedHealthcare, Inc.

The College of Public Health received funding from United Healthcare Medicaid on two projects in 2021. The first project focused on promoting flu vaccinations for people in the Medicaid program. The project involved building a network of traditional (e.g., local health departments) and non-traditional partners (e.g., refugee organizations), creating a media campaign that featured local "trusted voices" and social media, and organizing clinics.  This was the first project between a private insurer and the COPH that focused on a specific prevention initiative for the Medicaid population in Nebraska. Although the number of vaccinations for the Medicaid population was low, this project laid the groundwork for future activities.  

For more information, contact Dr. David Palm at david.palm@unmc.edu.


Name: David Palm, PhD

Title:  United Healthcare Medicaid Flu Vaccination Project

Funding Agency:  UnitedHealthcare, Inc.

The second collaborative project between the COPH and United Healthcare Medicaid was focused on developing strategies to increase the number of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations for the Medicaid population in Nebraska. The two main strategies were the development of a media and educational campaign to overcome vaccine hesitancy and work with nontraditional partners to help them identify and reach Medicaid recipients. The media campaign was successful in that the number of impressions and clicks for COVID-19 was considerably above the industry average, and the number of COVID-19 vaccinations for the Medicaid population was about equal to the national average although there was significant variation across the state (e.g., higher rates in urban areas versus rural areas). 

For more information, contact Dr. David Palm at david.palm@unmc.edu.


Name: Edward Peters, DMD, SM, ScD, FACE

Title:  The Impact of Environmental Stressors on Chronic Disease Disparities in Women

Funding Agency:  DHHS/NIH/NIA

The overall objective of this project is to determine the impact of social stressors on epigenetic age acceleration and chronic health disparities and to test whether the social environment, individual health behaviors, and race/geography/SES modify or mediate the association between traumatic stress and health (disparities), directly or indirectly through biologic age acceleration. The study is conducted within a cohort of Louisiana women. Aim 1 will investigate disparities in psychological health (PTSD, depression), physical health (diabetes, hypertension, and cancer), and DNAm age acceleration as women age, particularly as influenced by cumulative trauma burden. Aim 2 will examine the influences of contextual variables, including social capital and financial strain, that may mediate or moderate the effects of cumulative trauma burden on adverse psychological and physical health outcomes. Aim 3 will explore the mediating effects of DNAm age acceleration on physical and mental health outcomes.

For more information, contact Dr. Edward Peters at epeters@unmc.edu.


Name: Catherine Pratt, MS

Title:  Developing Risk Mitigation Measures by Mapping Especially Dangerous Pathogens in Conflict-Ridden Regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Funding Agency:  CRDF Global

This project endeavors to use genome sequencing and a biorepository of samples collected from symptomatic ebola-negative patients during the 2018-2020 Nord Kivu province Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to identify and implement appropriate diagnostics at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB), Democratic Republic of the Congo, and across Central Africa. We aim to provide new insight into pathogens circulating in the DRC; expand local genome sequencing expertise; provide a genomic resource for future comparative studies; enhance biosecurity at INRB; and improve coordination on disease surveillance in neighboring countries.

For more information, contact Catherine Pratt at catherine.pratt@unmc.edu.


Name: Catherine Pratt, MS

Title:  Sequencing SARS-CoV-2 samples in Nebraska

Funding Agency:  Nebraska DHHS

This project aims to provide surge support for whole-genome sequencing of infectious diseases and subject matter expertise to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sequencing of recent and biobanked specimens enables the identification of variants to monitor the evolving pandemic within Nebraska.

For more information, contact Catherine Pratt at catherine.pratt@unmc.edu.


Name: Hilary (Abbie) Raikes, PhD

Title:  Early Learning Environmental Assessment for Schools 2030

Funding Agency:  Aga Khan Foundation

This project focuses on measuring quality of preschool classrooms in Uganda, Portugal, Brazil, and Tajikistan. In partnership with Schools2030, this is a new initiative designed and implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation. 

For more information, contact Dr. Hilary (Abbie) Raikes at abbie.raikes@unmc.edu.


Name: Dejun Su, PhD

Title:  Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) COVID-19/Flu Vaccination

Funding Agency:  Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln

This study seeks to fill a major information gap by conducting an assessment of the readiness, willingness, and capacity of residents of Lincoln, Nebraska for receiving COVID-19 vaccination. The study team conducted an online survey between May and July 2021 to collect related data from 318 residents in the metropolitan area of Lincoln, Nebraska, with oversampling of residents from immigrant and minority communities. A research report was developed based on the analysis of collected data and shared with Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln.

For more information, contact Dr. Dejun Su at dejun.su@unmc.edu.