By Erica Techo
The UAB Nutrition and Obesity Research Center has selected University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing PhD student Shameka Rodgers Phillips, MSN, CRNP, FNP-C, for a prestigious T32 fellowship that is funded by the National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Phillips, who is set to graduate in Fall 2021, will focus her dissertation on childhood sleep health disparities with an ultimate goal of generating new research in pediatric health disparities and creating new interventions to improve habits and improve health outcomes.
“I’ve always been interested in preventative health, and I myself have dealt with childhood obesity,” Phillips said. “I want to educate people about the risk factors, and that led to my progression of obtaining a masters degree and becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, as well as my desire to generate research and interventions to help decrease health disparities.”
As the first nurse to receive the T32 fellowship from NORC, Phillips said she has learned from other disciplines and perspectives while also helping others learn from the nursing and nurse scientist perspective.
“It has been really mutually beneficial to collaborate with other disciplines,” Phillips said. “I think the fact that I am the first nurse to get this T32 shows how much nurses are needed. It shows that you can really branch out from your discipline and benefit from collaboration. It also shows that as a nurse, you can remain in the nursing realm while working on interdisciplinary research.”
Phillips’ connection with the Nutrition and Obesity Research Center began in the first year of her PhD program. UAB School of Nursing Professor Marti Rice, PhD, RN, FAAN, connected her with NORC Assistant Professor Paula Chandler-Laney, PhD, and Phillips became a research assistant on Chandler-Laney’s R01 funded study, the Healthcare After Pregnancy – Intergenerational Transmission of Obesity project. This interdisciplinary team not only provided her with research experience, but also helped Phillips learn about the T32 program.
“I’m really thankful for my mentor, Dr. Marti Rice. She has helped shape my career and my trajectory since I entered the PhD program,” said Phillips. “She connected me with Dr. Chandler-Laney, and they both have been so helpful in pushing me to learn more, giving me opportunities to walk beside them at all stages of the research process and guiding me on papers and presentations.”
The T32 program includes regular seminars, research training and additional courses that focus on nutrition and obesity, providing Phillips with educational opportunities and chances to network with top nutrition and obesity researchers, as well as students from other disciplines. The program also provides opportunities to talk with research professionals outside of higher education, including individuals from the Centers for Disease Control. Through the fellowship, Phillips will be fully funded throughout her PhD program.
As Phillips continues her degree program, her NORC committee includes School of Public Health Associate Professor Olivia Affuso, PhD; Professor of Nursing Marti Rice, PhD, RN, FAAN; Department of Nutrition Assistant Professor Paula Chandler-Laney, PhD, and Assistant Professor of Nursing Peng Li, PhD.
Rodgers Phillips is a 2014 graduate of the school’s BSN program and a 2016 graduate of the MSN program.