Investigator Spotlight - Faculty

Faculty Investigator

Dr. Cynthia Connelly

The Office of Nursing Research is pleased to present the Investigator Spotlight. The spotlight features both faculty and students research publications, projects, and presentations. If you would like any information concerning this web page, please contact Dr. Cynthia Connelly at


Dr. Mary Barger
Associate Professor
Email: Mary Barger

Dr. Barger’s research interests concern improving women’s health during pregnancy and birth through understanding risk factors for certain pregnancy conditions and the effect of current management practices in pregnancy and labor affect outcomes for mothers, their infants and families. She has conducted case-control and cohort studies of vaginal birth after cesarean and just completed a survey of all California birth hospitals around policies related to vaginal birth after cesarean. She also has an interest of the role of sleep in pregnancy outcomes and completed a descriptive study of sleep problems in pregnancy. Currently, Dr. Barger is conducting a randomized trial of morning compared to evening start times for labor induction to understand the role of chronobiology, sleep, and fatigue on labor progress and outcome. Dr. Barger is professionally active in midwifery organizations. She just completed a 6 year tenure on the American Midwifery Certification Board and is the chair for the Data Management section of Division of Research for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. She is a co-chair of the Education Standing Committee for the International Confederation of Midwives and an Associate Editor for the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health.

Joseph F. Burkard, DNSc, RN, CRNA
Associate Professor
Email: Joseph F. Burkard

Dr. Joseph F. Burkard is an associate professor at the University of San Diego working in the Doctoral of Nursing Practice program, PhD Program, and as an advanced practice clinician / outcomes researcher at the University of California San Diego. His focus of research includes Health Policy, post-traumatic stress in the returning veteran, post-operative nausea and vomiting, stress management and crisis management simulation training. Dr. Burkard completed his DNSc degree at the University of Tennessee specializing in Critical Care, Acute Care Nurse Anesthesia. Dissertation: Bispectral Analysis and Motor Activity Assessment Scores in Mechanically Ventilated Patients in the Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Burkard specializes in Critical Care Medicine, Regional Anesthesia. Dr. Burkard focuses his clinical research time on crisis management skills, airway skills, critical care skills, and simulation skills.

Ruth A. Bush, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor
Email:​ Ruth A. Bush

Dr. Bush’s research focus is on patient engagement, meaningful patient outcomes, and the intersection of technology with healthcare. Currently she is the PI for a R00 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (K99/R00 HS022404), which focuses on the use of the Electronic Health Record patient portal as a tool to improve the transition for adolescents and young adults with chronic illness to adult-focused care as well as to promote independent disease self-management. “Moving from Pediatric to Adult Care: A Patient-Centered Approach” funded by PCORI as part of their Pipeline-to-Proposal funding, on which she is also the PI, is a participatory collaboration of a network of researchers, patients, and family stakeholders who are invested in identifying barriers for adolescents with chronic illness as they transition to adult-centered care. Her expertise in epidemiology, statistics, patient-centered outcomes, and community engagement allows her to identify culturally responsive interventions for vulnerable populations.

Cynthia D. Connelly, PhD RN FAAN
Professor and Director of Nursing Research
Email: Cynthia D. Connelly

Dr. Connelly’s NIH funded program of research currently includes: PI on R01 (MH075788) “Collaborative Model Addressing Mental Health in the Perinatal Period” from the NIMH to conduct a randomized clinical trial of an intervention designed to improve the screening, referral, and treatment for maternal depression among low-income culturally diverse women and Co PI on R01 NR013662-01 “The Effectiveness of Non-pharmacological Treatment for Perinatal Insomnia from NINR to conduct a randomized clinical trial to examine the efficacy of a nurse delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBTI) for maternal insomnia disorder. She works in collaboration with pediatric and obstetrical providers to improve identification and provision of services to mothers and families at risk for adverse health outcomes including mental health issues, violence, sleeping, and eating disorders. Her leadership on multidisciplinary teams of researchers and clinicians to address the high rates of these issues in community pediatric, perinatal settings, child welfare, and judicial systems has resulted in effective screening/referral partnerships across systems of care using innovative information technology and support services. Her work is making a significant impact on policy and practice for responding to adverse behavioral, social, and health outcomes for women and their families within and across racial and ethically diverse populations.

Eileen K. Fry-Bowers, PhD, JD, RN, CPNP
Associate Professor
Email: Eileen K. Fry-Bowers

Dr. Fry-Bowers’ funded program of research focuses on parent-provider interactions, with an emphasis on parental health literacy and self-efficacy in communication. She is particularly interested in the care of underserved pediatric vulnerable populations, especially children with special health care needs and/or medical complexity. She conducts research using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Past research has addressed nurse knowledge of health literacy, the association of maternal health literacy with structures, processes and outcomes of care in vulnerable pediatric populations, and maternal perception of care coordination for young children with developmental delay. Her current study evaluates the use of the Palliative Care Parental Self-Efficacy Measure with English- and Spanish-speaking Latino parents of children with complex medical conditions and examines the relationship between parental self- efficacy and parental health literacy in the context of pediatric palliative care. Dr. Fry-Bowers engages in collaborative research partnerships with several children’s hospitals in California. In addition, Dr. Fry-Bowers conducts health policy and health services analysis and is a Faculty Policy Fellow for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and a member of the AACN Health Policy Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board and Co-Editor of the Health Policy Department for the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, serves on the Research Committee for the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) and is Secretary for the national board of the Society of Pediatric Nurses.

Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN
Dean and Professor
Email: Jane M. Georges

Dr. Jane Georges has focused on a program of research into the phenomenon of human suffering since 2001. Her work has resulted in the development of a contextual model of suffering, which incorporates multiple dimensions of the human suffering experience. She has developed and pilot-tested instrumentation based upon this model in various populations, including persons experiencing catastrophic illnesses and nurses. Her current work is centered on the palliative care population, with a special emphasis on caregiver suffering. She is currently in the pilot testing stages of a Caregiver Suffering Tool (CST), which has the potential to identify those caregivers experiencing severe levels of suffering and allow clinicians to plan appropriate interventions to prevent the long-term psychological and physiological disequilibrium associated with chronic suffering experiences. The ability of palliative care researchers to assess the subscale/type and degree of suffering experienced by caregivers also has the potential to provide a basis for future middle-range theory testing, such as the relationships between and among caregiver suffering, spiritual distress, and compassion fatigue. Dr. Georges is currently engaged in research partnerships with nurse scientists at the San Diego VA Medical Center and San Diego Hospice.

Kathy Shadle James, DNSc, CNP
Associate Professor
Email: Kathy Shadle James

Dr. James is conducting community based research in collaboration with the Linda Vista Elementary School and Linda Vista Community Clinic. Her multidisciplinary team includes experts from the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC) Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego Obesity Initiative, UCSD, faculty, APN students from USD SON and the school's nurse and promotora. The study -- LINDA VISTA Obesity Prevention Program - Ways to Enhance CHildren's Activity and Nutrition [ WE CAN]. Dr James and her team are recruting 3 groups of mothers who will attend a 6 week program and 9 monthly follow up sessions that focuses on parenting capacities to improve diet and physical activity. Primary aims are to decrease BMI's of parents and children, increase activity of family members, and improve dietary choices. Free screening will be offered to parents and their children including blood pressure, lipids and screening for diabetes. WE CAN is a program designed in collaboration with four Institutes of the National Institutes of Health: the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institute of Diabetes (NIDDK), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Cnancer Institute (NCI). There are few published studies of the translation of this program into low income settings and physiologic measures have not been documented. Dr James is also collaborating with one of our PhD students and USCD in a feasibility study at Vista Community Clinic called "Vida Saludable". This is a 4 week program for parents of overweight 3-5 year olds with a 9 month follow up program. In addition to her research, Dr. James is on the curriculum development expert panel for "Mobilizing Healthcare Professionals as Community Leaders in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity Program" for the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality. She served as a past regional president for the California Association of Nurse Practitioners, legislative representative for AANP and is was involved in the early organization of San DIego's CHildhood Obesity Coaltion. She has presented her research and obesity traning at national conferences and is a reviewer for Journal of School Nursing, Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, Evidence Based Nursing and Infant, Children and Adolescent Nutrition.

Ann M. Mayo, DNSc, RN
Email: Ann M. Mayo

Dr. Mayo’s funded program of research currently includes two studies examining functional status in persons with cognitive impairment. One study is designed to examine the difference in decision-making function between persons with mild cognitive impairment and normal controls. Findings from this study will enhance clinician clinical decision-making as they determine if and when persons with mild cognitive impairment would benefit from decision support. In a second study, a data based study using approximately 4,000 cases, Dr. Mayo is examining the relationship between functional status and judgment and problem solving, and moderating variables, in order to predict when clinicians should pursue an assessment of judgment and problem solving in persons with dementia. Dr. Mayo is also preparing to conduct a pilot study that will test the feasibility of brief cognitive screening for memory and thinking problems in a community setting.

Dr. Semira Semino-Asaro
Associate Professor
Email: Semira Semino-Asaro

Semira Semino-Asaro is an Associate Professor in the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. She completed her PhD in Nursing and Health Policy as well as a Post-Graduate Fellowship in Infant-Parent Mental Health at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Semira’s research interests include the influence of culture on human development, health disparities related to maternal-child health, and supportive psycho-education for families at high-risk so as to support healthy relationships and develop strategies to prevent child neglect and/or abuse.
She enjoys participating in multidisciplinary clinical and translational research projects and has a particular interest in mixed methodologies as well as instrument development. Currently, she is part of a collaborative research team of clinicians and researchers from USD and UCSD exploring barriers and facilitators to recognizing and treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in women whose spouses serve in the military.