SHERC awards $180,000 to fund pilot projects focused on health equity

Naomi Lee, Nanette “Gigi” Lopez, Ricky Camplain, Matt Salanga

Northern Arizona University’s Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative (SHERC) awarded Pilot Project Program research grants totaling $180,000 to four NAU junior faculty investigators conducting health equity research in the areas of biomedical, behavioral and clinical sciences.

This year’s award recipients are Naomi Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ricky Camplain, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences, Nanette “Gigi” Lopez, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Matt Salanga, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

The Investigator Development Core of SHERC funded the four new pilot projects during the third annual cycle of its five-year grant. The purpose of the Pilot Project Program is to provide preliminary seed funding to support and to mentor junior investigators to increase their competitiveness for National Institutes of Health and other external health and health equity-related research funding.

“I am very pleased to welcome our newest cohort of pilot projects to the program,” said Provost Diane Stearns, who is the SHERC Investigator Development Core lead. “Including these four, the SHERC Investigator Development Core supports a total of 12 pilot projects in research areas broadly related to health equity. We are very proud of our pilot program researchers’ accomplishments. These early-stage investigators have made impressive contributions to SHERC’s overall funded grant and publication productivity, as well as to NAU’s recent breakthrough into the list of top 200 US research universities.”

Anna Schwartz, an NAU professor and associate director of research for the School of Nursing, is the co-lead of the SHERC Investigator Development Core.

“This cohort of outstanding researchers has programs of research that may have a meaningful impact on underserved populations,” Schwartz said.

The Pilot Project Program funds exemplary projects that address diseases disproportionately impacting minorities and other populations affected by health disparities and that lead to the development and support of sustainable relationships with community-based partners.

Lee’s project, “Multivalent Display of HPV Antigens Using Self-Assembling Peptides,” will work to find next-generation vaccines for the human papillomavirus that are more robust and provoke a strong immune response.

Camplain’s project, “Physical Activity among Women Incarcerated in Jail,” will estimate physical activity among women incarcerated in jail and identify the motivations and barriers to being physically active while incarcerated. Although more men are incarcerated than women, rates for women being imprisoned are increasing when compared to rates for men. Experts believe that successful promotion of physical activity among this population may provide improved short- and long-term health benefits.

Salanga’s project, “Synergistic Toxicity of Depleted Uranium and UV Radiation in a humanized Zebrafish Model with Melanoma,” will use zebrafish that are predisposed to melanoma skin cancer as subjects to test the hypothesis that depleted uranium embedded in the skin can interact with UV radiation to induce melanoma. Depleted uranium is a metal used in armor-piercing munitions by modern militaries and has become a common battlefield contaminant to which soldiers and civilians are exposed. Wars are often waged in regions with high UV exposure, such as the Middle East, increasing the risk of depleted uranium and UV radiation interaction.

Lopez’s project, “Latino Fathers’ Stress and Their Children’s Obesity Risk,” will study 50 fathers and their 8- to 12-year-old children to determine how fathers’ stress affects their children’s risk of obesity. Lopez will test cortisol levels in fathers and youth to measure stress, physical activity, sedentary behavior, dietary behavior, body composition and anthropometrics (i.e., height, weight, waist circumference). The fathers’ parenting practices also will be measured.

SHERC is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded cooperative agreement with the Center for Health Equity Research at Northern Arizona University. SHERC is supported by funding from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the NIH.


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Lisa Dahm | Center for Health Equity Research

NAU Communications