PhD student receives NIH R36 grant

Photo of Pamela Jackson

By Erica Techo

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing PhD student Pamela Jackson, BSN, RN, MLT(ASCP)BB (BSN 2018), has received a pre-doctoral dissertation award from the National Institutes of Health.

She will use the one-year, $50,000 R36 grant to look at the epigenetic age acceleration—an analysis of epigenetic changes that may impact an individual’s biological age—and its relationship to racial disparities and chronic low back pain. Epigenetics is the study of how behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way genes work.

Chronic low back pain is one of several age-related diseases that disproportionately impacts Black Americans and residents of high deprivation neighborhoods, areas that are categorized by a high concentration of poverty and a lack of socioeconomic resource indicators such as employment or quality housing. This can lead to greater stress on the body, which in turn can impact biological age. This can include a life expectancy differing by 15 years or more between individuals living in different parts of the same city, Jackson said.

“My interest in researching geographic disparities comes from personal experience. My childhood homes were in places that experience this disproportionate burden of disease,” Jackson said. “My ultimate goal is to reduce disparities in biological aging by creating healthy neighborhood environments for everyone. This dissertation research is building a foundation for a program of research that will contribute to that goal.”

Associate Professor and Director of the Dual DNP-PhD Pathway Edwin Aroke, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, is Jackson’s mentor. Aroke’s program of research examines the mechanisms that cause and sustain chronic pain, and racial pain disparities to address racism in pain management and research.

“The mentoring that I have received has been the most critical component for the progression of my training. In addition to my primary mentor Dr. Aroke, the other members of my committee Drs. Burel Goodin (Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences), Mirjam-Colette Kempf (Professor of Nursing), Peng Li (Assistant Professor of Nursing), and Bertha Hidalgo (Associate Professor in the School of Public Health), as well as faculty in the School of Nursing, have elevated the rigor of my research,” Jackson said. “Resources available through the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science have given me valuable insight into scholarly productivity and the Office of Research and Scholarship in the School of Nursing has been indispensable in my grant submission process.”

Last modified on November 10, 2022

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