Special: NINR Celebrates 20th Anniversary — An Interview with Institute Director, Dr. Patricia A. Grady
NIH Reporter Bill Schmalfeldt interviews NINR Director, Dr. Patricia A. Grady, about the 20th anniversary of the institute.
Schmalfeldt: November 10, 1985 — P.L. 99-158, the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 became law, overriding a presidential veto. Among other provisions, the law authorized the National Center for Nursing Research at NIH. They're now known as the National Institute of Nursing Research. The NINR now one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health — part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. I'm Bill Schmalfeldt with the National Institutes of Health Radio News Service. As we mark the NINR's 20th anniversary, I'm here with the woman who has been the institute's director for more than half of those 20 years, Doctor Patricia A. Grady. I'll start by saying, "Happy Anniversary" and "Congratulations."
Grady: Thank you very much. We're pleased to have reached 20 years of age. It is a good place to be. We've had many accomplishments and we're looking forward to a future of many more things that we can accomplish.
Schmalfeldt: Well, maybe we could start out by defining the term "nursing research." How does that differ from what the average person might think of when they consider the generic field of "nursing"?
Grady: Nursing research is research that addresses, primarily, patient problems. Most of what we fund is clinical research in nature and it really addresses such issues as symptom management, quality of life, changing lifestyles into healthy lifestyles, and we're also the lead institute at NIH on "end of life" issues. "Health disparities" is another important part of what we do and has been since nearly the beginning of the institute.
Schmalfeldt: Now in the 20 years of the institute's history, there's got to be a wealth of success stories you could share with us. What are some of the scientific advances that have come out of the NINR in these 20 years?
Grady: We're especially proud of several advances that we've made, primarily because they are advances in making life better for hard-to-reach populations such as the elderly, children, vulnerable populations. Some really good examples of those include the addition of coping skills training for teenagers with diabetes, which enables them to better manage their diabetic condition and yet live normal, healthy lives as teenagers. We have tested a program successfully with inner city African-American males — a hard-to-reach population, which has resulted in reducing hypertension in that group, which is preferentially predisposed to developing hypertension. We have also tested a program which is a clinical trial with the elderly who have heart failure. This is one of the most difficult-to-reach groups because the highest rate of re-hospitalization in the elderly tends to be for heart failure or issues related to it. And this program has resulted in a decrease in re-hospitalization for the elderly and a much greater quality of life — not to mention that it has saved a considerable amount of money for the health care system.
Schmalfeldt: How is the Institute going to mark the 20th Anniversary? What kind of milestone would this be for the NINR?
Grady: It'll be a year-long celebration, so we started it with a kickoff — a scientific symposium really focusing on a number of the success stories that we've had. And we will have a series of symposia panels throughout the year highlighting these successes, both locally in the Washington area, and across the country at the various regional meetings. We are also working with the Clinical Center to celebrate research in nursing, and we are focusing on a number of our "scientific stars" and particularly our pioneers, too — our so-called "living legends." So we're focusing on the kinds of things that they did to make the institute possible.
Schmalfeldt: So, 20 years are in the books now, but as they say, "it's only the beginning." What does the future hold for the area of Nursing Research?
Grady: The future looks particularly bright. The issues that we are dealing with as a society are really related to the same kinds of issues that we deal with as an institute, and that we deal with in the field of nursing — issues of the aging population, issues of chronic illness, the issues where we really do shine, in areas for which there are no cures and there are very few treatments. We have studies that can improve quality of life and address these issues. So, we really are in a position to be able to make life better for the American public. Also, the studies that we fund have large behavioral components, so we're able to address such issues as changing lifestyles. We have a really exciting era of genetics and identifying genes for a variety of disorders. Most disorders, it turns out, are complex disorders. So it really isn't as simple as identifying the gene and fixing it and curing the person. There are many other issues involved and many of these are related to behaviors — healthy or unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, weight control, diet, things of that sort. So, nursing science is very good at identifying people at risk and being able to test out interventions successfully for changing those patterns.
Schmalfeldt: So Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa are listening right now. Perhaps they have a child or a grandchild or a niece or a nephew who may have scientific aptitude. What do you say to those folks, how to get their kids interested in nursing research as a career?
Grady: I would say that they should just start today. An interest in science, a curious mind, an interest in inquiry — most children are very interested in how does the world work, how does anything work? So that's really the basis for starting a career in science. If you include "health" in there, then you have "science" and "health" together, and then add "people" in and "science, health and people" together form the basis for a fabulous career called "nursing research."
Schmalfeldt: Your website is ninr.nih.gov. Lots of great information there for folks interested in what you do at the National Institute of Nursing Research. Dr. Patricia A. Grady, institute director, thanks so much for your time today, and once again, "Happy Anniversary."
Grady: Thank you so much, Bill.
Schmalfeldt: From the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Patricia A. Grady
Topic: Nursing Research