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JU College of Health Sciences wins $141,659 federal grant to help rural veterans with respiratory/swallow disorders

​Jacksonville University’s College of Health Sciences has added to recent grant awards by receiving $141,659 from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help in the care of rural veterans with respiratory and swallow disorders.
Continuing to build on its scientific and clinical initiatives, the JU College of Health Sciences will act as a research partner with the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville in the project, which is titled “Rural Veterans TeleRehabilitation Initiative – Respiration, Eating and Swallowing Program (RVTRI-RESP).”
Gloria McKee-Lopez.jpgIn part, it involves using in-home monitoring, including video links, to aid veterans with swallow/respiratory dysfunction who otherwise might face long travel distances to receive proper care, said Dr. Christine Sapienza, associate dean of the JU CHS and professor of communication sciences and disorders.
Dr. Gloria McKee-Lopez, associate dean of the School of Nursing who will serve as principal investigator for JU, said she was excited to partner with the Malcom Randall center and grant consultant Sapienza, who specializes in speech-language pathology, to optimize the care of veterans in the RVTRI-RESP project.
“Our interdisciplinary efforts are timely, as nursing and speech pathology share common interests in providing innovative solutions to improve patient care outcomes for the rural health veteran population we will be serving,” Sapienza said.

Chris SapienzaSMALL.jpgThe project, funded through the Office of Rural Health in the VA’s Veterans Health Administration, is important because rural veterans with swallow/respiratory problems can be underserved. Travel time and distance to get specialty care can combine with anxiety and depression and impaired physical functioning to create barriers, Sapienza noted.
In-home video telehealth monitoring helps with early detection and intervention, which can greatly decrease office and emergency room visits and hospital stay lengths, decrease veterans’ travel time and expenses, increase patient compliance and give care-providers clinically relevant information in real time – all of which can lead to a better quality of life for veterans, she said.
“This project represents the connections established between our research partners in the VA health care system in Gainesville and the interdisciplinary richness of nursing, speech pathology, respiratory physiology and rehabilitation medicine,” Sapienza said. “The grant focus is contemporary and necessary to ensure that rural health patients have access to the assessment and intervention protocols we are developing as a group. We look forward to our continuing partnership and academic growth with the VA healthcare system.”

The funding comes on the heels of an $870,000 U.S. Department of Health grant to recruit hundreds more student veterans to JU’s Nursing program, and a $190,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the role of coughing in protecting the airways of patients with swallowing disorders.

Helping the CHS faculty with their writing efforts is a three-year grant from the Riverside Hospital Foundation that underwrites a majority of a full-time grant writer’s salary, a position dedicated  to the development of the CHS and its programs. The Riverside Hospital Foundation was a catalyst in helping JU grow its existing health care programming to form the  College of Health Sciences.  Its vision to fund the dedicated grant writer position enabled the CHS to pursue timely funding  opportunities.

For more information on the JU College of Health Sciences, visit
Media contact: Phillip Milano, Director of News and Publications, Jacksonville University,, (904) 256-7042.

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