Sheila A. Alexander

Associate Professor
Department Chair
Acute & Tertiary Care


Dr. Sheila Alexander is an accomplished nurse scientist in the field of genetic and genomic markers of acute brain injury and illness, educator to multidisciplinary health science students taking Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan, and mentor to a significant number of doctoral students (PhD) with research interests focused on biomarkers and brain function.

Dr. Alexander has a growing record of external grant funding supporting her research program. Her contributions have been recognized through induction as a fellow in the Academy for Critical Care Medicine and multiple research awards, including the Pennsylvania Nightingale Award for Nursing Research.

Her research focuses on identifying genetic, proteomic. and other ‘omic’ markers of brain recovery in the acutely ill patient. Her earliest work showed that patients with the Apolipoprotein E 4 allele had slower recovery from severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Since then she has made advancements to the understanding of the brain’s response to aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and individualized risk for secondary injury, as well as variable long-term outcomes. Her work in a general intensive care unit (ICU) population was the first to show sustained inflammatory markers as a biomarker of ICU delirium. Her expertise has been recognized internationally as she served as editor for the first American Association of Neuroscience Nurses Clinical Practice Guideline for Care of the Patient with Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, was editor and author of a book entitled “Evidence-Based Nursing Care for Stroke and Neurovascular Conditions”, and has been an invited author for a book chapter and several review manuscripts on the topics of genetics, genomics, and neurologic disease. Her current research is focused on 1) genetic and epigenetic changes that modify inflammation driving symptoms of ICU delirium and 2) developing a risk panel and genetic based treatment strategy for patients recovering from aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage. She serves as a faculty member for the Pitt School of Nursing T32 Training grant in genetics and genomics.

Doctoral students working with Dr. Alexander have tested interventions to improve outcomes after severe traumatic brain injury in human and animal models, genetic variants of recovery from aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and the impact of nursing education on increasing monitoring of ICU delirium to decrease its occurrence and improve patient outcomes.


At the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Alexander teaches the graduate Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan course for graduate nursing students (NUR 2004) and other health science students (EPIDEM 2004, HRS 2004). She utilizes real-world examples from her previous clinical experience and current research to help students connect course content to the clinical setting.


Dr. Alexander is a member of the MSN and PhD Councils within the School of Nursing. She has been a member of the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses Clinical Practice Guideline Editorial Board and wrote one of the first CPGs on the topic of Care of the Aneurysmal Subarachnoid hemorrhage patient. Dr. Alexander maintains active in several societies including the Eastern Nursing Research Society, Sigma Theta Tau International, the Society for Critical Care Medicine, the Neurocritical Care Society and the International Society for Nurses in Genetics. She is a past-president of the International Society of Nurses in Genetics and serves on several research-related committees for other organizations. Dr. Alexander is also a grant reviewer for the Veterans Administration Neurobiology C panel, the Department of Defense, the Society for Critical Care Medicine, the National Institute of Health/National Institute for Aging and other groups by request. She is on the editorial board for Biologic Research in Nursing and PLOS One.