Skip Navigation and Go To Content

Top 20 in NIH Funding

Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston sees steep rise in research rankings

Dr. Maja Djukic, Dr. Constance Johnson, Dr. Diane Santa Maria, Dr. Stacey Crane, Dr. Daphne Hernandez, Dr. Carolyn Pickering, and Dr. Janet Van Cleave
Dr. Maja Djukic, Dr. Constance Johnson, Dr. Diane Santa Maria, Dr. Stacey Crane, Dr. Daphne Hernandez, Dr. Carolyn Pickering, and Dr. Janet Van Cleave

Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston ranks No. 1 in Texas and No. 18 nationally among nursing schools that received research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2023, according to the annual rankings released today by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR).

The school’s ranking rose 20 positions from No. 38 year over year, with $5,310,454 in grants funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR) and other NIH institutes.

“Faculty at the school of nursing research a wide variety of topics with a common goal of improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations,” said Associate Dean for Research Constance Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN. “I am proud to lead a group of stellar nurse scientists who are improving the lives of patients, families, and populations in our local communities and far beyond.”

The newly released BRIMR rankings counted research projects that were actively funded in 2023. However, those totals did not include some additional grants awarded in the last half of the year.

“When Dr. Johnson joined Cizik School of Nursing in 2016, she was charged with leveraging the talent and resources at UTHealth Houston and within the Texas Medical Center to help our Department of Research realize its great potential,” said Dean Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, PHNA-BC, ACRN, FAAN. “She and Assistant Dean for Research Maja Djukic have led the charge to achieve this goal by mentoring early-stage faculty and recruiting top-notch nurse scientists. We are seeing the results reflected in the number, volume, and quality of publicly and privately funded research projects, and we anticipate even greater NIH funding levels in the years to come.”

Below are brief synopses of projects that received NIH funding in 2023, as well as newer projects that will be included in 2024 totals:

  • Santa Maria wrapped up a five-year NINR R01 project with two supplements that focused on assessing a nurse case management intervention for preventing and treating HIV among youth experiencing homelessness. She is also the principal investigator for an ongoing National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health pilot study of a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for youth in temporary shelters. In September 2023, she received an additional R01 grant from NINR to fund expanded testing of a mobile health intervention aimed at HIV prevention among youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Professor Chao Hsing Yeh, PhD, RN, FAAN, received grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for studies on auricular point acupressure as a nonpharmaceutical pain relief option. Johnson became principal investigator on those grants after Yeh’s untimely death in April 2023. Recently, Professor Jennifer Kawi, PhD, FNP-BC, FAAN, who served as Yeh’s multiple primary investigator, joined Cizik School of Nursing from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. 
  • Associate Professor Janet Van Cleave joined Cizik School of Nursing in September 2023 and received an R01 grant the same week she arrived. Her NCI award aims to study the implementation and effectiveness of a patient-reported symptom (PRO) tool for head and neck cancers in rural and urban populations. 
  • Assistant Professor Stacey Crane’s three-year K23 grant funds the continued development of the Smart Pediatric Oncology Tracker of Symptoms (SPOTS), a web-based interface designed to make it easier for kids with cancer and their parents to report symptoms in real time. 
  • Associate Professor Daphne Hernandez, PhD, MSEd, FAAHB, received two NIH awards in late 2023 – an R03 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to create a better tool for assessing food insecurity in Hispanic households, and an R01 award from the NINR to explore the association between the level of eviction risk and ongoing mental distress now that pandemic housing policies have ended. Both will be reflected in 2024 NIH research funding totals. 

Other additions to Cizik School of Nursing’s Department of Research in the Fall 2023 semester include Professor Carolyn Pickering, PhD, RN. Pickering is a noted expert in dementia family caregiving and brought with her more than $13 million in funding from the NIA.

Learn more about currently funded research projects at Cizik School of Nursing.

Sherri Deatherage Green


In this story


Stacey Crane, PhD, RN, CPON

Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, FAAN

Daphne C Hernandez, PhD, MSEd, FAAHB

Constance M Johnson, PhD, MS, RN, FAAN

Carolyn E Pickering, PhD, RN

Diane M Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, ACRN, PHNA-BC, FSAHM, FAAN

Janet Van Cleave, PhD, RN, FAAN

site var = son