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PhD Student Wins Prestigious Award to Research Congenital Heart Defects in Infants

Pitt Nursing PhD student Jessica Davis knew as a teenager what she wanted to do with her life.

“When I was 18-years-old, I decided to devote my life to the mission of saving babies in critical care,” she said.

Davis has been fulfilling that mission at the University of Pittsburgh as a predoctoral student at the School of Nursing and was recently honored with a $24,000 grant through the Rockefeller University Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing (HRCRN) Scholars.

“I was absolutely overjoyed when I received the award letter,” she said. “With the support from the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award, I will be able to execute this project and continue to fulfill my mission.”

Davis’ project entitled Neonatal Diet Type and Association with Adverse Feeding Outcomes and Gut Microbiome Composition in Neonates with Critical Congenital Heart Defects will be the first to investigate whether there is a dose-dependent relationship between the amount of maternal/parental milk fed to a newborn with a congenital heart defect, their gut microbiome composition, and their incidence of feeding intolerance, intestinal colitis, and malnutrition.

“One out of every 100 babies in the United States are born with a congenital heart defect, and these adverse outcomes directly impact their quality of life and survival,” she said. “This research may lead to innovative strategies to optimize their outcomes.”

HRCRN Scholars will fund the project from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2024.