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UCLA nurse researcher to give NINR’s coveted Director’s Lecture


Mary Woo, RN, DNSc, professor and researcher at the UCLA School of Nursing, has been selected to give the National Institute of Nursing Research’s third annual Director’s Lecture in May.

Woo said it was an honor and a surprise to be chosen to speak at the lecture, an event that brings the nation’s top nurse scientists to the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., to share their work and interests with a multidisciplinary audience.

“I have always considered myself to be a kind of unknown investigator who has the good fortune to work in an area of great interest to myself and to have extremely generous and wonderful research collaborators,” Woo said. “I have an enormous amount of respect for the incredible depth and extent of research expertise of the people at NINR. To have this evidence of their respect for my work is a great compliment.”

Woo will deliver a presentation called “It’s All in the Mind: Heart Failure and the Brain,” which summarizes her NINR-funded research on the potential connections between the brain and heart failure.

Woo was the first investigator to identify specific sites of brain injury in heart-failure patients associated with autonomic nervous-system dysfunction, depression, decreased cognition and sleep-disordered breathing, which are independent predictors for morbidity and mortality from heart failure.

“Injury to these brain regions has important implications for patient education and patient self-care strategies,” Woo said.

Woo is conducting studies evaluating potential causes for brain damage and is looking at sleep problems, vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency and abnormalities in cerebral blood flow. She and her colleagues also are looking at possible interventions, such as passive foot movement, to improve breathing during sleep, and at vitamin supplementation to protect the brain and promote neurogenesis.

Initiated as part of the yearlong observation of the institute’s first 25 years at the NIH, the annual lecture acknowledges nurse researchers’ expertise and contributions, Woo said.

“I believe that my research, as well as the research of many nurse investigators, contributes not only to nursing science but [also]to the health of the nation,” she said.

In 2012, Elaine Larson, RN, PhD, associate dean for research and professor of therapeutic and pharmaceutical research at the Columbia University School of Nursing, delivered the lecture titled “Infection Prevention: An Interdisciplinary Team Approach.”

For information on the lecture, visit TO watch a video of Woo talking about her research, visit


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Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer. Send letters to

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