Island University’s Division of Research & Innovation Awards COVID-19 Grants

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As the COVID-19 virus continues to impact communities around the nation, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi researchers play an important role in bringing their expertise and skills to bear on understanding these challenges, testing possible interventions, and offering potential solutions. Seven faculty projects were recently awarded $2,500 each as part of the COVID-19 Just-in-Time internal funding program sponsored by the Division of Research & Innovation (R&I).

“The impacts of COVID-19 are far-reaching and include not only the obvious effects on human health, but also include educational repercussions, behavioral and social norms, the economy, and exacerbating social, racial, and ethnic disparities, among others,” said Dr. Ahmed Mahdy, R&I Vice President. “I’m proud to report that all those within R&I have been flexible in delivering its services during the pandemic and innovative in promoting our mission.”

The awardees include:

Leticia R. Bajuyo
Associate Professor of Art

Finding inspiration from the impacts of the COVID-19 virus, Bajuyo plans to use the funding to complete four works of art. The artworks – part of a project titled Visualizing Social Distance Connections while Social Distancing, capture and express the complications of the current pandemic, and are a conceptual response to social distancing, according to Bajuyo. The first piece of the series was originally created for online display.  With this financial support, the complete series will be displayed in cities across the nation, including Mobile, Alabama; Dallas, Texas; Laramie, Wyoming; and Ada, Oklahoma.

Dr. Daniel Bartholomay
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Dr. Sining Kong
Assistant Professor of Communication

Studying how the virus has impacted quality of life for people of color, research by Bartholomay and Kong is titled Coronavirus and Racial Discrimination: A Resume Audit Study. The study will work to better understand potential prejudice and discrimination caused by COVID-19 and evaluate whether mortality salience – being reminded of death – has influenced racist attitudes and behaviors. The team notes that despite claims of entering a post-racial society, racism remains a pervasive social problem that negatively impacts the quality of life for people of color.

Dr. Marge Benham-Hutchins
Associate Professor of Nursing

Undertaking one of the more troubling results of the COVID-19 pandemic, Benham-Hutchins’ research will help understand how visitor restrictions and patient isolation procedures influence how providers, patients, and family members communicate and share important patient information during hospitalization. This study will build on her ongoing program of research that focuses on how communication patterns influence patient outcomes and patient, family, and caregiver needs, and how provider behaviors and institutional policies inhibit or support patient, family, and caregiver access to health information during hospitalization. Benham-Hutchins’ study, titled No Visitors Allowed: Patient, Family, and Provider Communication during a Public Health Emergency, will result in a peer-reviewed article, forming the foundation for a research proposal for submission for continued internal and external research funding.

Dr. Heather DeGrande
Assistant Professor of Nursing

Concerned with the lives of those battling the virus on the frontlines, DeGrande will examine the human experience of working nurses attending graduate school during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has had educational repercussions, she says, and understanding the accounts of working nurses is important to planning future educational interventions and for future similar situations (natural disasters, pandemics, etc.). Retaining working nurses in graduate school is a challenge external to crisis. Understanding the experience during a crisis, as in the COVID-19 pandemic, will also prove societally important to the nursing shortage but also to the call by the Institute of Medicine for nurses to attain higher education.

Dr. Tammy McGarity
Assistant Professor and Doctor in Nursing Practice Program Coordinator
Dr. Sara A. Baldwin
Associate Professor of Nursing and
Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Reinforcing the importance of the healthcare professional’s readiness and education, McGarity and Baldwin’s study, titled Nurses’ Practice Readiness and Competency during a Public Health Crisis and Pandemic, will survey nurses’ practice readiness during a pandemic and assess their competency preparedness for public health emergencies in the wake of COVID-19. According to McGarity, the research will inform educators of the translational and interventional implications of current nursing education on the care being delivered during the pandemic.

Dr. D. Palaniappan (Pal)
Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics
Dr. S.M.  Mallikarjunaiah (Malli)
Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Pal and Malli will seek to provide simple, handy models for epidemic spreading that depend only on selective parameters that generally characterize an infectious disease such as COVID-19, the infection rate and mortality over a period of time, for instance. The investigators will show that the model they are presenting has the same, or even higher, predictive power than that of one of the most widely used techniques in epidemiology, the SIR model. The investigators plan to publish a research article and submit a proposal on deterministic models.

Dr. Kateryna Wowk 
Director of Texas OneGulf, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

The objective of the study by Wowk is to systematically assess municipal and business impacts from COVID-19 via telephone survey in four rural Coastal Bend counties: Aransas, Bee, Refugio, and San Patricio. Rural communities lack capacity to gather and assess data in a systematic way that can then be used to demonstrate need, she notes. Without comparable and documented data, these communities are less competitive in pursuing federal, state, and philanthropic grants and other funding support. Goals of the study are to identify economic impacts to small business in rural communities; assess readiness to re-open; assess economic impacts to municipalities in rural counties; document impacts and match outstanding need to COVID-19 or other funding opportunities in a tailored strategy for communities; and assess potential for regional-scale projects for funding across the four counties.