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Nursing doctoral student receives NIH service award for pre-term birth study

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Alexis Dunn, CNM, MSN, a doctoral student at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing received the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health to further her research on pre-term births in African-American women. The award is presented to individuals pursuing pre and postdoctoral research training in specified shortage areas.  

Dunn's research will explore the biobehavioral determinants that impact the structure and dynamics of the microbiome –the microorganisms in a particular part of the body.  It is believed that the microbiome modulates brain function, development, and behavior as well as the infant immune system and stress response. Dunn will then examine its association with pre-term birth rates in African-American women by analyzing data from a socio-economically diverse group of 120 pregnant, African-American women. An analysis will also be conducted of behavioral risk factors for infection along with biological samples, and clinical and questionnaire data collected at the prenatal care visits.

"I am extremely grateful to receive this award that will allow further research into the underlying causes of preterm births in African-American women despite the many advances in risk factor identification and obstetrical care," says Dunn.  "Identification of novel risk factors, both biologic and behavioral, may provide additional insight into mechanisms contributing to the racial disparities in perinatal outcomes.

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