University of Michigan’s Katapodi Named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’

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August 31, 2010                                                                           202/371-1999
University of Michigan’s Katapodi Named a
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Nurse Faculty Scholar’
Genetics, Cancer and Family Dynamics Researcher is Selected for Prestigious
Program to Advance Careers of Nation’s Most Promising Junior Nurse Faculty
Ann Arbor, MI—Maria Katapodi, Ph.D., R.N. an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, has won a competitive from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to develop a family communication and decision-support intervention for women who carry genetic mutations that increase their chances for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. Katapodi is one of just 12 nurse educators from around the country to receive the three-year $350,000 Nurse Faculty Scholar award this year. It is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. The grant period begins next month.
“It’s such an honor to be selected for this award, because it was very competitive and extremely prestigious,” Katapodi said. “The support I receive will give me the time and mentoring that I need to pursue my research. It’s very important that women know their genetic risks for breast and ovarian cancer because these cancers are preventable. Because of issues around privacy and confidentiality, health care providers cannot inform family members of mutation carriers about their own chances of having the same mutation. Mutation carriers, who most of the time are struggling with their own cancer diagnosis, are left with little, if any idea of what genetic information to communicate and to whom. On the other hand, family members are extremely uncertain about the meaning of this genetic information, and the implications it has for their own health,”
Katapodi’s research focuses on genetic risk for hereditary cancers, decision-making and family communication. She focuses on identifying ways to help women with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes to better disseminate genetic information to their family members, and to help high-risk relatives make informed decisions about genetic testing. She hopes to find ways to help mutation carriers share their diagnosis with family members, help family members understand their genetic risk for the disease, successfully cope with their risk and determine the best course of treatment with their health care providers.
“Right now, we see only about 50 percent of the people who are at risk of carrying these genes and are at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome,” Katapodi added. “We need to support these families and know more about the decision-making processes that leads to genetic testing. Not only is it difficult for a woman diagnosed with hereditary cancer to talk about it, but you also need to think about the shock for a family member of hearing that they might be at extremely high risk for cancer, too. Where this kind of cancer is concerned, your patient is the whole family.”
Laurel Northouse, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., theMary Lou Willard French Professor of Nursing at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, and Sofia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, Co-Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program and Director of the University of Michigan Center for Global Health, will serve as Katapodi’s mentors.
“Dr. Katapodi’s work could make an enormous difference in our ability to help people assess their risk for breast and ovarian cancer which, in turn, may lead to ways to better treat and prevent the diseases,” Northouse said. “What we learn may also be something we can apply to informing family members about other diseases with genetic components.” 
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by developing the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing. Supporting junior nurse faculty will help curb a shortage of nurse educators that could undermine the health and health care of all Americans. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will vastly increase the number of people who can access health care in the United States. As the number of patients increases, there will be greater demand for skilled nurses and faculty to educate them. Right now, many schools of nursing are turning away qualified applicants because they lack the faculty to teach them.
The Nurse Faculty Scholars program is helping to curb the shortage by helping more junior faculty succeed in, and commit to, academic careers. The program provides talented junior faculty with salary and research support as well as the chance to participate in institutional and national mentoring activities, leadership training, and networking events with colleagues in nursing and other fields, while continuing to teach and provide institutional, professional and community service in their universities.
The program will also enhance the stature of the scholars’ academic institutions, which will benefit fellow nurse educators seeking professional development opportunities.
To receive the award, scholars must be registered nurses who have completed a research doctorate in nursing or a related discipline and who have held a tenure-eligible faculty position at an accredited nursing school for at least two and no more than five years.
Several Nurse Faculty Scholars have been recognized for outstanding work since they were accepted into the program. In 2009, Scholar Kynna Wright-Volel, Ph.D., M.S.N., M.P.H., an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Nursing, won the Minority Health Community Trailblazer Award in 2009. It is given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in recognition of work to eliminate health disparities.
Earlier this year, Nurse Faculty Scholar Joachim Voss, Ph.D., R.N., A.C.R.N., an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Washington, received the 2010 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Voss was among only five faculty to receive this year’s award and the first professor from the School of Nursing ever to receive the honor. The Award is open to all faculty members at the University of Washington, which has 3,600 instructional faculty.
Three Nurse Faculty Scholars—Angela Amar, R.N., Ph.D. of the William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College; Cynthia Anderson, Ph.D., W.H.N.P., an assistant professor at the College of Nursing at the University of North Dakota; and Nancy Hanrahan, R.N., Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing—will be inducted into the American Academy of Nursing this fall. Amar is using her RWJF grant to research the factors that encourage college women to report interpersonal violence, Anderson is looking at vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women from the rural, northern plains, and Hanrahan is studying outcomes from patients who are admitted to hospitals to receive psychiatric services. 
The Nurse Faculty Scholars program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered through the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. It is directed by Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., who is the Anna D. Wolf chair and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.
To learn more about the program, visit
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we’ve brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime.