Mary E. Lough, a critical care clinical specialist working on her doctorate at the University of California at San F r a n c i s c o (UCSF), is the winner of the Isabel Hampton Robb Scholarship, NEF's highest award.
After years of implementing researchbased practice in the ICU, she developed a burning desire to do research herself into delirium in critically ill patients. Upon completion of two years of coursework at UCSF, she was selected for an intense two-month fellowship in genetics at the NIH Summer Genetics Institute. This was a pivotal experience for her. She studied the science of human genetics, acquired genetics-based laboratory skills, explored genetic conditions that had a delirium component and identified genes based upon micronutrient biochemical deficiencies that occur in the critically ill: specifically thiamine deficiency. She spent the next 18 months at UCSF taking biochemistry and genetics classes.
For the last two years, Melissa has worked for the U.S. Navy in Newport RI as a Nurse Practitioner, first as a contractor in the Deployment Health Clinic, serving Active Duty soldiers returning from war torn Iraq and Afghanistan. More recently Melissa has taken on a permanent position with the Navy as a Family Nurse Practitioner in the Primary Care Clinic of Naval Healthcare New England in Newport, RI.
Her research will examine whether thiamine-related factors and genetic factors in the critically ill are associated with changes in intracellular thiamine stores.
The Robb funds will pay for the genotyping of candidate genes related to thiamine transport and metabolism in critically ill delirious adult patients.
For 20 years, Ms. Lough has been coeditor and co-author of two best-selling textbooks, both in their 5th editions, published by Elsevier: Critical Care Nursing: Diagnosis and Management and Priorities in Critical Care Nursing; for which she has written a chapter on genetics. She believes it is vital for nurses to understand the potential impact of genes on individual responses to illness and be able to explain to patients and families the interactions between environment and genetic heritage.