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NINR Celebrates 15th Anniversary

The recent symposium marking the 15th anniversary of the National Institute of Nursing Research confirmed the contributions nursing research is already making to the nation's health. Nursing research is a relatively new scientific field, and NINR's job is to see that it develops and flourishes within the mainstream of NIH science. This is happening, according to speakers at a symposium titled "Advancing Health Through Science: Building Knowledge for Patient Care," and impressive progress continues.

NIH acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, who opened the day's symposium, said that research supported by NINR "makes a real difference in people's lives. It combines biological and behavioral research, and it combines humanism and research."

Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, acting NIH director, launches the NINR symposium.

Originally, NINR's symposium had been scheduled for Sept. 20, but the events of Sept. 11 led to its postponement. Kirschstein said, "Many people are working hard to find meaning, inspiration and comfort at this difficult time in our nation's history. The counseling that nurses provide to patients and the American public is extremely important." To underscore the contributions of nursing research, she focused on such key areas as health promotion and disease prevention, managing symptoms, and improving quality of life and quality of care.

Dr. Patricia Grady, the present NINR director, and Dr. Ada Sue Hinshaw, the former director, shared the podium for a discussion of the first 15 years. Hinshaw, now dean of the University of Michigan School of Nursing, took over the NINR helm from acting director Dr. Doris Merritt. Highlighting events that created and maintained the institute during her 7-year stewardship, Hinshaw described the strong support both on Capitol Hill and within NIH. "This provided encouragement and bolstered NINR scientific activities in the early years," she said. "Nursing research was primarily behavioral and descriptive in nature before we came to NIH. Our studies then began to address therapeutic actions, and we emphasized interdisciplinary collaborations. We were successful in making scientific progress in these directions."

Grady, the second director of NINR, picked up the story of the more recent years by emphasizing new scientific directions and studies that built upon the early work. "We had a vision that we could demonstrate the essential nature of our science in every institute and center across the campus — that we could tie the science more closely to NIH programs," she said. NINR began partnering with others at NIH, and took the lead in trans-NIH initiatives, including end of life, self-management of chronic illness, and caregiving research. Highlighting a particular challenge, Grady said, "We must also deal with the infrastructure issues — preparing future nurse researchers and creating training opportunities, ones that will be attractive to minorities. This is critical to continue our work to increase the number of minority nurse researchers and to reduce health disparities in our country."

Dr. Patricia Grady, NINR director, cuts the celebratory cake.

The symposium featured NINR-funded scientists discussing studies of symptom management and health promotion. Symptom management presentations included helping family caregivers, improving quality of life following organ transplantation, determining the role of gender in easing pain, and reducing end-of-life symptoms and stresses. In the area of health promotion, researchers discussed lead awareness campaigns, prevention and care of high blood pressure in African American young men, helping youth maintain control of their diabetes, and assisting Spanish speakers in self-management of their chronic diseases. A poster session highlighting the work of 48 postdoctoral students was a feature throughout the day.

In closing remarks, Grady focused on three major themes for the next 15 years. "We must consider the impact of our science — linking our research to the outcomes of care and to national health trends," she said. "We must also strengthen the research trajectory — to refine what it means to be a career scientist, from early and mid-career to senior mentor. And finally, we must influence policies based on solid nursing research evidence — to improve the health of the American people."

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