Pilot Projects

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Featured Investigators

Current investigators 

Pradeep Alur, MDPradeep Alur.jpg

Professor, Pediatrics

Association between Weight for Length and Severity of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

Project began April 2019

Premature infants born at less than 30 weeks of gestation are at high risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia. In a large cohort of children who are overweight/obese with and without asthma, a significant correlation was noted between obesity and abnormal pulmonary functions. Through his pilot project, Dr. Alur is exploring whether weight for length measurements are associated with higher respiratory severity scores among premature infants. Additionally, he will also explore whether there is a correlation between total calories and/or protein with weight for length status.

Honors and Awards

  • UMMC - Intradepartmental Discovery Support Program (IDSP); Association between Choleostasis and Hypoglycemia in Preterm Infants
  • Edison Award for Intellectual Property Disclosure


  • Alur, P. Sex-Differences Neonatal Nutrition and Metabolism; Invited Speaker, SVS Medical College, India; December 9, 2019.
  • Alur, P. Anemia at Birth; 39th Neocon Conference; Hyderabad, India; December 15, 2019.
  • Alur P, Kalikkot R, Meeks M, Hart K, Johnson M, Desai J, Presley S, Hussain N. The Transition Phase of Nutrition: A Pragmatic Approach in ELBW Infants. Southern Society for Clinical Investigation - Southern Regional Meeting 2020; New Orleans, LA; February 14, 2020.
  • Fish JL, Yow S, Frost S, Stegall A, Famuyide M, Alur P. Barriers to Accurate Length Measurement in the NICU. Southern Society for Clinical Investigation - Southern Regional Meeting 2020. New Orleans, LA; February 13, 2020
  • Alur, Pradeep; Meeks, Madaleine; Johnson, Marla; Kalikkot Thekkeveedu, Renjithkumar; Desai, Jagdish; Presley, Sara; Hussain, Naveed. “Sex Differences in The Transition Phase of Nutrition in ELBW Infants”. Short oral presentation accepted for Fetal Growth conference, Berlin, Germany. October 9-11, 2019


Vishnu Garla, MDVishnu Garla.jpg

Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine

Effect of GLP-1 Receptor Agonists (glp-1) on Trabecular Bone Mineral Density and Visceral Adiposity in Postmenopausal Patients

Project began December 2019
Osteoporotic fractures occur in 1/3rd women over the age of 50 and are responsible for 609,000 DALY’s (Disability adjusted loss in years). Type 2 Diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is estimated to affect 25% of adults in the United states, and they experience a 20%-30%increased risk of osteoporotic fractures as compared to non-diabetics. In addition, to the increased co-prevalence of osteoporosis and T2DM conventional methods of diagnosing osteoporosis (measuring bone mineral density on a DEXA scan), often underestimate the fracture risk in T2DM as the bone mineral density is normal. Trabecular bone score is a non-invasive measure of bone microarchitecture. This has been shown to more accurately assess fracture risk in T2DM, than measurement of bone mineral density. Due to the increased co-prevalence of these two disorders, the effect of pharmacological agents used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus on bone metabolism has assumed importance. GLP-1 receptor agonists which have been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus have been shown to improve trabecular bone mass in animal studies.
Within his proposal, Dr. Garla hypothesizes that GLP-1 receptor agonists increase trabecular bone score by decreasing visceral fat, reduce the secretion of inflammatory mediators. This, decreases in secretion of inflammatory mediators leads to a decrease in bone resorption. He also hypothesizes that GLP-1 receptor agonists would decrease levels of sclerostin which is a potent inhibitor of bone formation. This, in turn would increase the levels of osteocalcin which is responsible for bone formation. He plans to conduct a non- randomized controlled trial by enrolling 24 post-menopausal patients over 55 years with a history of type 2 diabetes mellitus who are to be started on a GLP-1 receptor agonist with matched controls from the UMMC endocrine clinics. 

Honors and Awards

  • Clinical Trialist, Clinical Trials and Research Center (CRTU), University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Fellow of American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (FACE)
  • Fellow of Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research

Review Panels

Year 4:

  • Internal
    • Infusion Committee, February 27, 2020
  •  External
    • Professional practice committee, ASBMR, February 6, 2020
    • Board Review Committee, AACE, April 21, 2020


Crystal Lim.jpg

Crystal Lim, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychiatry

Formative Research to Develop a Pediatric Obesity Primary Care Research Practice Network

Project began August 2020
Pediatric overweight and obesity impacts more than one in three children in the U.S.. Nationwide Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in youth. Overweight and obesity in childhood have significant negative impacts on physical and psychological health and places a substantial burden on the health care system due to increased morbidity, mortality, and health care costs. There is a critical need for research focused on children who are overweight and obese in Mississippi to supplement current medical care and prevent the development of chronic health conditions.
Dr. Lim utilizes a mixed methods approach to fill these gaps in research and infrastructure. Parent surveys will be conducted with 100 parents/caregivers of youth 2 to 17 years of age who are overweight or obese. Her survey will assess interest in receiving evidence based pediatric obesity prevention and treatment in primary care settings, as well as perceived barriers and facilitators to participating in pediatric obesity focused clinical trials research. Pediatric primary care providers (n = 36) will participate in focus groups to examine knowledge of pediatric overweight and obesity expert prevention and treatment recommendations, as well as needs and interest for an obesity specific practice network and pediatric obesity clinical trials research. Results will inform the development and implementation of pediatric obesity clinical trials in primary care settings, as well as the creation of a research practice network.

Honors and Awards

  • Co-PI on NIH - ECHO Grant titled, "Mississippi Pediatric Clinical Trials Network 2" 
  • Co-PI on NIH - Jackson Heart Study, Community Engagement Center Grant titled, "Telehealth Diabetes Prevention Intervention for the Next Generation of African American Youth (TELE-GEN)"


  • Presented virtual seminar at Mississippi Psychological Association convention
  • Presented virtual seminar at MCCTR Community-Engaged Research Summer Institute
  • Presented virtual seminar at the National School-Based Health Care Convention 


Stephanie McCoy

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and NutritionStephanie_Mccoy9.jpg

Physical Activity and Cardiometabolic Health in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Project began November 2019
While it is established that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is typically associated with middle or old age, atherosclerosis often initiates in early childhood when deposits of cholesterol form fatty streaks in the intima of large arteries. This early initiation of the atherosclerotic process has been linked to cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity.
Dr. McCoy's project proposes to examine the associations between modifiable lifestyle behaviors and cardiometabolic health in youth with ASD, as well as determine the feasibility of using novel, non-invasive means to measure cardiometabolic health. Therefore, we propose the following aims: Aim 1: Examine the associations between lifestyle factors (body fatness, physical activity, and sedentary behavior with cardiometabolic health in children with ASD; Aim 2: Examine the feasibility of using applanation tonometry coupled with cuff oscillometry to measure arterial stiffness in children with ASD; and Aim 2b: Examine the feasibility of using the ActivPAL accelerometer to measure PA and sedentary behavior in children with ASD.

Honors and Awards 

  • Recipient of the Aubrey Keith Lucas and Ella Ginn Lucas Endowment for Faculty Excellence Award


Past investigators

Caroline Compretta, PhDCaroline Compretta.jpg

Assistant Professor, Preventive Medicine

Mapping Informal and Formal Food Outlets to Address Obesity and Food Insecurity

August 2019 - June 2020

Dr. Compretta's project focuses on exploring previously unexamined informal food outlets in addition to more traditional, formal food outlets to systematically describe food access issues and obesity risk in West Jackson, Mississippi, an urban food desert. Her project seeks to accomplish the following aims: (1) characterize formal and informal food sources in an African American urban population in the Deep South with a high risk for obesity, and (2) identify food source usage patterns and selection factors in the target community. Her project employs a mixed methods convergent parallel study design that includes both GIS techniques, surveys, inventories, and qualitative focus groups and interviews within a community-engaged research framework. The overall objective of the proposed project is to characterize and evaluate food resources in a high-risk neighborhood to shed light on previously unidentified informal food venues and their relationships to food access, choice, and obesity risk. The data produced from this exploratory project will create an evidence-based foundation for developing larger studies and interventional strategies that address the individual and structural barriers that limit healthy food availability and access in the target community. The project will also increase knowledge regarding how best to design future interventional studies to increase healthy food access and behaviors and decrease obesity risk.

Honors and Awards

  • Awarded and Co-PI of the NIH grant titled: "Project SCORE: Student-Centered Outcomes Research Experience"
  • Awarded and PI of the NIH grant titled, "Mississippi CEAL Team: Community-Engaged Research Alliance (MS CEAL) Against COVID-19 in Disproportionately Affected Communities"
  • Awarded School of Population Health, UMMC, Innovative Children’s Healthcare Delivery: A Simulation Study (William Hillegass, PI)
  • Awarded NIH, Mapping Formal and Informal Food Outlets to Address Obesity and Food Insecurity                                              
  • Named Co-Leader of the MCCTR Community and Outreach Core
  • Awarded the Trailblazer Teaching Award from the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Awarded the Silver Research Award from the University of Mississippi Medical Center


  • Compretta, C. Building Connections & Knowledge Through Community-Engaged Research, UMMC School of Nursing, DNP Program; Jackson, MS; October 10, 2019
  • Compretta, C. Examining the Social Determinants of Diabetes and Obesity through Community-Engaged Research; UMMC School of Population Health Meeting w/ Novo Nordisk; Jackson, MS; February 19, 2020
  • Barnard M, Sparkmon W, Compretta C, Dehon E, Gordy X, Meyer E, Notebaert A, Roth A, Stray S, Taylor J, Thompson S, Sullivan D, Rockhold R. A novel competency assessment model for use with STEM teachers utilizing flipped classroom pedagogical techniques. Mississippi Academy of Sciences; Biloxi, MS; February 1, 2020
  • Rockhold R, Barnard M, Crumby A, McInnis D, Notebaert A, Dehon E, Sullivan D, Compretta C, Stray S, Taylor J, Thompson S, Gordy X, Meyer ER. Assessment of High School Teachers’ Competencies in the Management of Flipped Classroom Lessons on Healthcare Disparities. MS IdEA Conference; Jackson, MS; August 2019


Hannah Copeland, MDHannah Copeland.jpg

Assistant Professor, Surgery

Adipose Tissue Effects on Cardiac Surgery Outcomes (ATECO)

August 2018 - May 2020

Obesity is a well-established risk factor for multiple cardiovascular disease including: coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes. At least, 35% of Mississippi residents are obese according to the Centers for Disease Control. The goal of Dr. Copeland’s study is to describe and test the predictive power of a more informative definition of obesity using a prospective trial of all consecutive patients aged 18-80 undergoing elective and urgent cardiac surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Subjects will have obesity described via biometric measurements (waist and hip circumferences), functional status will be assessed, and adipose tissue biomarker profiles. The primary endpoint will be clinical outcomes of cardiac surgery in the immediate post-operative period (within the first 30 days after surgery) and long-term (within in the first year after surgery). The secondary outcomes include: in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay, hospital length of stay, 30-day, 1-year survival and rate of re-admission. Also included will be length of time on respiratory support (prolonged ventilation greater than 24 hours), new onset acute renal failure, superficial wound infection, sternal wound infection, stroke, atrial fibrillation and disposition on discharge (discharged to home, home with home health, transfer to a rehab or nursing facility).

Honors and Awards

  • Clinical Trialist, Clincial Trails and Research Center (CRTU), University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Fellow of American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (FACE)
  • Fellow of Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research


  • Keeping It Going Long-Term Success After Heart Transplantation; American Transplant Congress; Seattle, WA, June 3, 2018
  • Heart donor diagnostic testing and optimization: are we all on the same page?; Society of Thoracic Surgeons, San Diego, CA, January 29, 2019
  • Is There a Difference in Heart Transplant Survival with Different Cardiac Preservation Solutions?, Acadmeic Surgical Congress, Houston, TX, 2/5/19-2/7/19
  • Heparin-Sparing Anticoagulation Strategies are Viable Options for Patients on Veno-venous ECMO. Acadmeic Surgical Congress, Houston, TX, 2/5/19-2/7/19
  • Mediastinal Pancreatic Pseudocyst: A Rare Cause of New Onset Dysphagia; Southeastern Surgical Congress, Charlotte, NC, 2/23/19-2/26/19
  • Donor Patients on Vasoactive Medications Does Not Impact Survival for Heart Transplant Recipients Based on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Database; American College of Cardiology, New Orleans, LA, 3/16/19-3/18/19
  • LVAD’s and RVAD’s: The Right Patient at the Right Time? American College of Cardiology; New Orleans, LA; 3/16/2019
  • Thyroid Hormone Improves Heart Transplant Recipient Survival. International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation; Orlando, FL; 4/3/19-4/6/2019
  • Donor and recipient racial mismatch impacts thoracic organ transplant survival. International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation; Orlando, FL; 4/3/19-4/6/2019
  • Approach to the Extended Criteria (Marginal Heart Donor) International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation; Orlando, FL; 4/2/2019
  • Carter KT, Kutcher ME, O'Brien R, Creswell LL, Kogon BE, Baran DA, Copeland H. Impact of the Mechanism of Traumatic Donor Death on Heart Recipient Outcomes; Academic Surgical Congress; Orlando, FL, 2/6/2020
  • Cockrell H, Carter KT, O'Brien R, Baran DA, Copeland JG, Copeland H. Heterotopic Heart Transplantation: A Review of Patient Outcomes; Academic Surgical Congress; Orlando, FL, 2/6/2020
  • Shaw T, Lirette S, Carter KT, Cockrell H, Ghanamah MS, Kogon BE, Copeland H Does Pediatric Heart Transplant Survival Differ with Various Cardiac Preservation Solutions?; Academic Surgical Congress; Orlando, FL, 2/5/2020
  • Carter KT, O'Brient R, Larson S, Creswell LL, Kogon BE, Baron DA, Copeland H  Decreased Survival with Bridge to Heart Transplant with VA ECMO. Mechanical Circulatory Support Meeting, Houston, TX, 2/14/2020


Meagen Rosenthal, PhDRosenthal

Professor, Pharmacy Administration
University of Mississippi (Oxford campus)   

Patient Perceptions of and Attitudes toward a Weight Management Program Offered by Community Pharmacies

July 2018 - September 2019

Dr. Rosenthal’s project aims to determine the weight management knowledge, and design, of a weight management program to be delivered in a community pharmacies in Mississippi. Patients’ perspectives will be obtained through five focus group interviews with 50 patients from four communities in northern and central Mississippi. The proposed study will provide a list of weight management program characteristics including kinds of advice and program design components that are currently unavailable in the weight management literature.

Honors and Awards

  • Awarded PVAS, American Association of Colloges of Pharmacy, Use of adaptive learning technology in a pharmacists’ patient care process course 

Peer Review Panels

  • External
    • American Journal of Bioinformatics Research Scientific & Academic Publishing, USA, September 30, 2019


Michelle Williams, PhD

Assistant Professor, Population Health Science
UMMCMichelle Williams

Survivor Heart: Improving Cardiovascular Outcomes in Breast Cancer Survivors

April 2019 - July 2020

More than 3 million women in the US are breast cancer survivors. African American breast cancer survivors have a disproportionately high burden of CVD mortality. The elevated CVD mortality rate among African American breast cancer survivors is due in part to multiple, modifiable CVD risk factors that are disproportionately high in this group, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity. A population-specific CVD risk reduction intervention that is delivered via telehealth technology may be an effective way to reduce the CVD risks of African American breast cancer survivors living in rural and medically underserved areas of Mississippi. The overall goal of Dr. Williams' study is to develop a CVD risk reduction telehealth intervention that is tailored for African American breast cancer survivors.

Honors and Awards

  • 2019 Travel Award Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science Annual Conference
  • Awarded American Association for Cancer Education, The North Mississippi Witness Project


  • Williams, M. See, Test, and Treat: Engaging Vulnerable Populations in Cancer Screening; 12th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; San Francisco, CA, September 21, 2019
  • Williams, M. See, Test, & Treat.; 2nd Annual Delta Clinical and Translational Science Health Disparities Conference., Jackson, MS, August 12, 2019

Review Panels

  • Internal
    • UMMC MCCTR Pilot Project Review Panel, July 2019


Brad Dufrene, PhD

Professor, Psychology dufrene.jpgUniversity of Southern Mississippi

Mechanisms of change in parenting programs to prevent childhood obesity 

January 2018 - Febrary 2020
Dr. Dufrene's project focuses on parental influences of children’s health.  He aims to test the effects of modified Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) on health measures of behaviors that tend to cause obesity, determine agents of change that may explain the PCIT’s influence on behaviors that tend to cause obesity, and evaluate the social validity of PCIT using rating scales completed by parents and interviews using qualitative analytic methods.
The overall goal of the project is to obtain a better understanding of why evidence-based parenting programs impact negative health behaviors related to obesity and disentangle the relationships among these potential mechanisms of change.

Honors and Awards

  • Recipient of grant from the Mississippi State Department of Health titled, "USM Teacher Training Institute: Evidence-based Instructional Practices for Education Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders"
  • The Medical Student Research Program, The Hearin Foundation


  • Can Parents Acquire PCIT Skills in a Group-Based Format, National Association of School Psychologists, Baltimore, MD, February 2020
  • It Takes A Village to Implement Group-Based PCIT, National Association of School Psychologists, Baltimore, MD


Donald "Trey" Clark, MDDonald Clark.jpg

Assistant Professor, Medicine

Remote Hypertension Management Using Home Blood Pressure Telemonitoring and a Standardized Treatment Protocol

August 2018 - March 2019
The burden of hypertensive heart disease has substantially shifted to the southeastern United States. The state of Mississippi has the highest cardiovascular mortality rate in the country, with more deaths attributable to hypertension than any other state. Dr. Clark’s funding supported a prospective pilot project evaluating hypertension management using home-based blood pressure telemonitoring and a standardized treatment protocol. This award provided the means to obtain preliminary data demonstrating the feasibility of remote hypertension management using telemedicine in a geographic area where improvement in cardiovascular health is most needed. The objective of this project was to establish a telehealth program for hypertension management at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and conduct a prospective pilot study among patients with hypertension.

Honors and Awards

  • Received AHA Career Develpment Grant titles: "Home Based Hypertension Management Using Remote Blood Pressure Telemonitoring
  • Published Digital Informed Consent in a Rural and Low-Income Population in JAMA Cardiology and had a Altmetric rating of 91st percentile for impact.
  • Recently names Director of Cardiovascular Diseases Fellowship Program in UMMC’s Department of Cardiology


  • Clark, Donald 3rd. American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions – Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Highlights Sessions, Top 3 Presentations That Will Impact FITs/Early Career Members Interested in Prevention; American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions 2019. New Orleans, LA, March 17, 2019
  • Clark, Donald 3rd. 2018 Cholesterol Guidelines: Key Topics in Primary Prevention; UMMC Primary Care Symposium; Jackson, MS; April 20, 2019
  • Clark, Donald 3rd. A Woman with Polycystic Kidney Disease: The Role of Precision Medicine in Hypertension Management; European Society of Hypertension Scientific Sessions, Milan, Italy, June 1, 2019.
  • Clark, Donald 3rd. Remote Hypertension Management Using Home Blood Pressure Telemonitoring in a Rural and Low-Income Population. Southeastern Regional Investigator Development Award (IDeA) Conference; Loisville, KY; December 1, 2019


David R. Dolbow, PhD, DPT, RKTDavid Dolbow

Assistant Professor, Kinesiotherapy
University of Southern Mississippi

Electrically Induced Cycling and Nutritional Counseling for Counteracting Obesity after SCI

May 2017 - June 2019

Dr. Dolbow's research focus is on the use of activity-based restorative therapies to reverse unhealthy body composition changes and the increased cardiometabolic disease risk that take place after spinal cord injury. Specifically, decreasing body fat, increasing skeletal muscle, improving vascular health and circulation, and improving blood lipid and and glucose profiles. Restoration of body composition to healthy proportions of muscle and fat and enhancing peripheral vascular health is important for improving mobility and decreasing cardiometabolic disease risk. 

Dr. Dolbow has developed a resistance-guided high intensity interval training functional electrical stimulation cycling protocol, which has been been shown in preliminary studies, to increase muscle mass in paralyzed legs, while improving cardiometabolic health markers in obese individuals with spinal cord injury. The research aim for Dr. Dolbow’s group was to determine preliminary efficacy of the new electrically induced cycling protocol combined with nutritional counseling in obese adults with chronic spinal cord injury.


  • Dolbow, DR. Novel Strategies for Battling Obesity and Cardiometabolic Disease Risk after Spinal Cord Injury. Medical Fitness Association Annual Meeting. Orlando, FL. November 10, 2017.
  • Dolbow, DR. 4th Euro-Global Physiotherapy Congress, Rome, Italy. Novel Strategies for Battling Obesity and Reducing Cardiometabolic Disease Risk in Those with Paralysis
  • Dolbow, DR. Center for Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Obesity, Cardiorenal and Metabolic Diseases Center and the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research (MCCTR) Joint Meeting. Electrically Induced Cycling and Nutritional Counseling for Counteracting Obesity after SCI. Jackson, MS. November 2017
  • Dolbow, DR. Emergency medicine hiding in clinic. Oral presentation at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Conference; September 2017; Jackson, MS.