2012-13 Faculty Member of the Year Award: Patricia J. Neafsey

Professor Neafsey emigrated from Granby, Quebec before high school. She considered a major in computer science at Cornell, but decided computers needed to be more “usable” for her poor punch card typing skills. She joined the honors program in nutrition at Cornell and received her B.S. and M.S. in nutritional biochemistry. Following research stints at Penn and Yale, she obtained a teaching position at Albertus Magnus College and provided nutrition counseling services at two primary care practices in New Haven. Her interest in drug-nutrient interactions led her to pursue a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology at UConn followed by post-doctoral work at Tufts University. She was at Tufts when the UConn School of Nursing contacted her to help them develop a graduate pharmacotherapy course and an undergraduate curriculum that integrates pathophysiology, pharmacology, and nutrition over a series of courses. After one semester of teaching UConn nursing students, she was hooked!

Dr. Neafsey has mentored fourteen Honors students over the past fifteen years. The students have presented twenty-one papers/posters at state and national meetings and co-authored six research papers. They worked with Neafsey’s interdisciplinary research team on Donaghue Foundation and NIH funded research aimed at reducing adverse self-medication practices among older adults with hypertension. Following user-centered design methods with health literacy considerations, the team developed and tested the Personal Education Program (PEP), tablet-based software with separate interfaces for primary care practitioners to record the prescribed patient regimen and for older adults to report their symptoms and self-medication practices. The structured patient interview also included a tailored, interactive education component based on the specific adverse self-medication behaviors reported. An illustrated printout facilitated review at the primary care visit.

UConn licensed the PEP to AdhereTx Corp. in 2009. Part of the license fee will provide perpetual support for Honors research. The software was redesigned for scale (ActualMeds™) and is being implemented nation-wide for medication management and reconciliation. Last year, five nursing Honors students modified it for an online survey of UConn undergraduate self-medication practices. Results will inform a program aimed at incoming UConn students. The software is also being used by a nursing Honors student to survey the self-medication practices of adults with sickle cell disease.

“The School of Nursing has curious, creative, and caring students. They get all of it: holistic health, medication behaviors, diet. They know the challenges of identifying patient behaviors and promoting alternatives tailored to each individual. My greatest academic privilege has been to work with UConn nursing students!”