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DNP nursing professor part of $1.3 million colorectal cancer study

January 25, 2013

Loyola University New Orleans School of Nursing professor Laurie Anne Ferguson, D.N.P., A.P.R.N., F.N.P.-C., is an integral part of a five-year, innovative colorectal cancer study funded by a $1.3 million grant from the American Cancer Society. Ferguson is part of a team studying how people understand basic health information and services, and how that understanding—or lack of understanding—relates to patients getting screened for colorectal cancer.

Even though screening for colorectal bleeding is associated with detecting and preventing colon cancer early, many patients delay or avoid life-saving tests due to misinformation or misunderstanding.

“When patients understand what their health care choices are, it’s like a newfound freedom to them,” Ferguson said. “Limited health literacy is the same risk factor as having a chronic disease. We buy cars with more knowledge about our choices than people do in health care.”

Ferguson, who teaches nurse practitioner students in the Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs at the Loyola School of Nursing, will help coordinate the research project at Varnado Family Practice in Greensburg, La., and other rural clinics in southern Louisiana.

During the study, the team will work with 800 patients from the rural clinics. Participating patients will receive a special test used to detect blood in the stool, which could indicate a health issue or even colorectal cancer. Patients will be compensated for their participation.

Ferguson and her team will assess various strategies to urge patients to complete screening tests. Those strategies range from personal contact methods to a plain-language automated reminder system. The team will also focus on how patients’ knowledge, beliefs and self-worth relate to initial and annual colorectal cancer screening.

“Ferguson and her colleagues are addressing prevention and screening strategies that will improve the health of Louisiana citizens and ultimately global populations. We are proud of the partnership and inter-professional team efforts represented in this grant to improve the health of the public,” said, Ann H. Cary, Ph.D., M.P.H, R.N., professor and director or the School of Nursing.

Other members on the team include, principal investigator Connie Arnold, Ph.D., co-principal investigator Terry Davis, Ph.D., and Dr. James Morris of the LSU Health Sciences Center - Shreveport. Alfred W. Rademaker, Ph.D., and Michael Wolf, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Northwestern University along with Dr. Dean Schillinger of the University of California San Francisco are also on the team.

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