Dr. Cheryl Giscombé and Ms. Karen Sheffield

Dr. Giscombé is dually trained in nursing and psychology, and she is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with training in integrative and mind-body modalities. Her research incorporates biobehavioral, social-psychological, and community-based approaches and focuses on understanding and reducing stress-related health disparities in African Americans. She investigates how stress and coping strategies contribute to stress-related psychological and physical health outcomes including the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and maladaptive coping strategies/health behaviors including stress-related eating, sedentary behavior, or stress-related substance abuse. Her current research examines the psychoneuroendocrine underpinnings and cultural-relevance of mind-body interventions (e.g., mindfulness-based stress reduction) designed to reduce diabetes risk in African Americans with pre-diabetes. This research includes the examination of relevant stress and metabolic biomarkers and their association with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors that influence health promoting behaviors. Karen’s scholarly work, which focuses on utilizing holistic, integrative strategies to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being for individuals and communities closely aligns with Dr. Giscombé . Karen’s dissertation will develop strategies to reduce long term negative health effects of psychological trauma, anxiety, and depression in women during the perinatal period. Along with Dr. Giscombé , Karen has a particular interest in the biopsychosocial benefits of self-compassion, mindfulness, and other mind-body therapies as adjuncts to conventional interventions.

In Karen’s words: “Dr. Giscombé and I have a mutual interest in examining psychiatric mental illness and the use of complementary and alternative medical modalities to improve psychological and physical health outcomes. She provides invaluable expertise and resources in the area of integrative health, mixed methods and disparities research. Dr. Giscombé has provided unwavering support for me as I develop my dissertation work surrounding perinatal anxiety and the use of mind-body therapies. Her amazing insight, tremendous intellect and outstanding ability to envision the greater impact of the work we do all speak to her visionary acumen. The opportunity to work with Dr. Giscombé truly has been an amazing experience. She is an exemplary model of what it means to be a stellar nurse researcher and I am privileged to have her as my mentor and academic chair.“


Dr. Eric Hodges and Mr. Michael Schultz

From Dr. Hodges: “Michael Schultz entered the PhD program with interests in the relationship between nutritional intake and accompanying psychophysiologic consequences. Dr. Eric Hodges’ research interests overlapped with his focus on behavioral nutrition and obesity risk in early childhood. Early meetings between Michael and Eric proved intellectually stimulating for both of them and that has continued. Michael remains interested in nutritional intake and how it shapes and is shaped by physiologic signals, conscious awareness of these signals, and nutritional behavior in adults. Their mutual interest in behavioral nutrition has led to contacts with potential collaborators in the departments of psychiatry and nutrition. Michael has worked on Dr. Hodges’ grant submissions and will be a part of Dr. Hodges’ research team on a study involving integration and time synchronization of physiologic and behavioral data (captured through video) for maternal-infant dyads. These experiences will in turn inform Michael’s own dissertation work. Dr. Hodges states “Michael is a deep thinker, adept at considering multiple aspects of the decision-making process when it comes to research. I like to think that our conversations about our respective work push us both in new directions with an aim toward both innovation and excellence. It’s a great pleasure to work with him.”

In Michael’s words: We all have great ideas. In fact, we have many of them; that’s what compels us to do research. Here’s the challenge: choosing one of those ideas and developing it for the purposes of doctoral training and a program of research. Having a mentor whose interests broadly overlap with those of the mentee is critical to developing that focus. Although Dr. Hodges and I study different populations and different problems, we’re both interested in obesity, eating behaviors, and biobehavioral methods. This broad overlap facilitates a mutually beneficial mentor-mentee relationship: Dr. Hodges enriches my work with his expertise and interdisciplinary connections, while I am able to make contributions to his work. My match with Dr. Hodges continues to be central to my development as a nurse scientist.


Dr. Shawn Kneipp and Ms. Lindsey Horrell

Lindsey Horrell came to the University of North Carolina as a BSN-PhD student with the clear goal of conducting research to address the social determinants of health – largely through enhancing chronic disease prevention and management among vulnerable populations.  Dr. Shawn Kneipp, whose program of research centers on the social, political and economic determinants that influence health outcomes of disadvantaged populations, provided a sound content-related match to Lindsey’s research and professional interests. To further align their interests, and provide Lindsey the opportunity to gain “real life” experience in the Principal Investigator (PI)/Lead Scientist role that she will assume following program completion,  Dr. Kneipp invited her to join her CDC-funded study focused on assessing the health and economic outcomes of extending the Chronic Disease Self-management Program to middle-aged, lower-income employees.  After several weeks of working together on this project, Lindsey and Dr. Kneipp identified a gap in the literature regarding evidence-based recruitment techniques to draw this lower-income population to self-management courses.  Thus, Lindsey was able to include innovative research questions and novel measures in the study baseline survey that will provide data for her dissertation.  Through her work with Dr. Kneipp, Lindsey has begun building a unique program of research focused on the development of health communication techniques to enhance chronic disease management in vulnerable populations.

According to Lindsey: “Matching with Dr. Kneipp has been the single most significant driver of my success in the PhD program.  As a research assistant on her CDC-funded study, I have gained valuable experience working with an interdisciplinary team, collecting, managing and analyzing data, and recruiting vulnerable populations.  Because our research interests are so closely aligned, I have had the opportunity to present, publish and teach with Dr. Kneipp and several of her colleagues in both public health and nursing.  I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to train under Dr. Kneipp, as working with her and her team continually energizes me and has helped me identify a program of research I look forward to building as an independent researcher.”

According to Dr. Kneipp:  “Lindsey’s ability – and willingness – to align the specific research questions she wanted to ask for her dissertation work with the launching of a new study I was conducting positioned her extremely well to be successful in the PhD program and beyond.  Her active engagement in my own research has been a catalyst for her being able to submit abstracts, manuscripts, and grants as a PhD student.  There is simply no substitute for the close mentored relationship a sound match can provide for ensuring students enter their careers as competent, confident independent nurse scientists.” 


Dr. Jennifer Leeman and Ms. Sallie Allgood

Sallie Allgood returned to UNC to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing after nearly 15 years’ experience working in a research laboratory.  She returned to school with the goal of advancing her research career through the opportunities a nursing degree would create to participate in clinic-based research. During the application process, she learned of the opportunity to start her  PhD studies while still an undergraduate and applied to become a Hillman Scholar. Sallie was matched with Dr. Jennifer Leeman to advise her undergraduate honor’s work and again to serve as her PhD advisor.  Dr. Leeman was a good match with Sallie’s desire to get hands-on experience conducting clinic-based research and serving as part of an interdisciplinary team. In the summer before she started her PhD studies, Sallie began working as research assistant on Dr. Leeman’s five-year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded study to test a cardiovascular disease prevention intervention in rural North Carolina.  The intervention is delivered by community health workers (CHWs), and the role of CHWs will be the focus of Sallie’s dissertation research. In addition to providing Sallie with experience conducting research and a foundation for her dissertation, Sallie’s work with Dr. Leeman has connected her with a state-level workgroup that is developing recommendations for training and certifying North Carolina’s CHW workforce.

In Sallie’s words: “Working with Dr. Leeman has been very rewarding. Being able to be integrated into an interdisciplinary research team and contribute on an active research project early in my PhD studies and has been invaluable. I am also grateful for the resources Dr. Leeman has connected me with and the guidance and preparation she has provided as I apply for grants and prepare for the dissertation phase of my degree. Being matched with such an involved and strong mentor is instrumental for success in the PhD program.”


Dr. Linda Beeber and Ms. Becky Salomon

Becky Salomon is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who entered the PhD program with an interest in farm therapy for mental health treatment. Dr. Linda Beeber is an expert in psychosocial interventions for depressive symptoms, making her a clear mentor match for Becky. Dr. Beeber has helped Becky develop a short-term research project analyzing the relationship of stressful life contexts, psychoneurological symptoms and maternal functioning in low income mothers. Through the advanced analytic skills and additional study of the biological connections between stress and symptoms, Becky will acquire the scientific skills to pursue her long term goal of developing a community-based farm therapy intervention to improve health through better understanding and focused utilization of the mind-body connection. Since starting the program in August 2015, Becky has been working with Dr. Beeber’s multidisciplinary research team has been working on an NIH/NICHD funded translational research project testing the feasibility of a technologically enhanced intervention to enhance communication between depressed mothers and their developmentally delayed infants and toddlers. Being engaged in the early phases of an R03 focused on interventions for mental health is an excellent opportunity for Becky to get hands-on research skills and experience to independently develop and test farm therapy interventions.

In Becky’s words: “Because Dr. Beeber and I share a core research interest of improving mental health for individuals, and because she has so many years of experience in nursing research, I found it easy to trust her guidance to move my own research forward, even when it meant stepping away from farm therapy for the time being. I am confident that working with Dr. Beeber will help me develop into an independent nurse scientist.”