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Doctoral student earns two-year grant for important research

November 10, 2021

Jerian Dixon-Evans

Jerian Dixon-Evans, a Health Sciences doctoral student in NIU College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS), was recently awarded a $138,000 R36 Dissertation Grant from the National Institute on Aging for her project, “The Impact of Race on Quality of Life of the Aged after Heart Transplant or Destination Therapy Mechanical Support.” Dixon-Evans’ research is a secondary data analysis that she will be pursuing as a student principal investigator under the mentorship of principal investigator, Professor Kathleen Grady of Northwestern University.

“Being funded as a pre-doctoral grantee proves that although National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding is very competitive, it is attainable,” Dixon-Evans said. “I want to inspire other students at NIU who are interested in any aspect of research to consider NIH grant funding as they provide an abundance of training opportunities from high school throughout the post-doctoral level.”

Kathryn Mazurek, assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions, agreed, adding that the award is a testament to Dixon-Evans’ abilities.

“This is an amazing accomplishment,” Mazurek said. “Funding of this kind is exceedingly competitive, and an award like this speaks to Jerian’s early career skills and grant writing ability.”

Dixon-Evans said that grant writing support was critical, and she credits both Professor Grady and Professor Adin-Cristian Andrei from Northwestern for helping her achieve the grant for the project.

The purpose of Dixon-Evans’ study is to determine whether older advanced heart failure patients who undergo destination therapy mechanical circulatory support (DT MCS), experience non-inferior change in overall health-related quality of life by race as compared to patients who undergo heart transplantation.

Dixon-Evans said the results of the research may guide health-related quality of life focused therapies – specifically for minorities – and provide important information for minority heart failure patients as they consider treatment options.

“By targeting minorities, researchers and clinicians will have more insight into understanding disparities in outcomes and will be better equipped to identify and implement treatment plans,” Dixon-Evans said. It is my hope that the health disparity gap in elderly minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by cardiovascular disease will be decreased and outcomes will be improved.”

Dixon-Evans said she is grateful for the support and guidance she’s received from her NIU mentors.

“Dr. Kathryn Mazurek and Dr. Shondra Clay have provided me with encouragement, a listening ear and grant knowledge that I will carry beyond my time at NIU,” Dixon-Evans said. “The knowledge and training that will be gained from conducting the study will help shape my future research endeavors.”

Learn  more about the Ph.D. program in Health Sciences at NIU.