Cindy Anderson, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of North Dakota, will be moving into her new office at the Northern Plains Behavioral Research Center (NPBRC) with the monetary momentum that comes with being a prestigious grant recipient.
She recently was one of only 15 junior university faculty members nationwide to receive an inaugural Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar award. The three-year, $350,000 award took effect Sept. 1.
The award supports Anderson’s research on vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in the rural Northern Plains. In addition to consumption of vitamin D-fortified foods, one of the main ways of obtaining the vitamin is through exposure to sunlight. However, sunlight in the Northern Plains is seasonally limited, contributing to an increased likelihood of vitamin deficiency.
Anderson, a nurse practitioner and vascular physiologist, is trying to identify how vitamin D deficiency affects blood vessel development and function in the placenta, the organ that provides oxygen and nourishment to the developing fetus during pregnancy. It may affect fetal metabolic development and future cardiovascular risk. She hopes her findings will be used to develop low-cost, accessible nutritional and pharmacologic interventions aimed at promoting optimal placental vascular development and reducing cardiovascular risk for mothers.
“When a baby has the chance to develop in a healthy environment, the reduced risk for cardiovascular disease over the lifetimes of mothers and their children has the potential to contribute to the health of generations,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s faculty mentors are Glenda Lindseth, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing, and Gerald Combs, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center.
“This award says a lot about her, Combs said. “We are very proud to call her a colleague and are delighted at her success.”
A native of Massachusetts, Anderson already has been recognized for her teaching excellence while at UND. She was selected as the 2005 American Nurse Foundation/Midwest Nursing Research Society Scholar, and most recently she received the New Faculty Scholar Award from UND and the 2008 Harriet Werley New Investigator Award from the Midwest Nursing Research Society.
She also co-authored a recently published textbook titled Pathophysiology: Functional Alterations in Human Health. The textbook offers a unique conceptual approach that facilitates learning by first teaching general mechanisms of disease or alterations in human function and then demonstrating how to apply these processes to specific conditions. In November, she had the honor of joining another of her faculty mentors, Joey Benoit, dean of The Graduate School, in a presentation for UND’s prestigious Faculty Lecture Series.
Anderson began her career at UND as a clinical instructor in 1992. She had previously served eight years as a registered nurse officer in the U.S. Air Force. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Salem (Mass.) State College in 1980. She earned a master’s in parent/child nursing from UND in 1991, and got her Ph.D. in physiology from UND in 2003.
The goal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program is to develop the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing through career development awards for outstanding junior nursing faculty such as Anderson.
“To be able to have some funded research where I can include some nursing students and help with their training, that is a real goal of mine and I am really excited for that,” Anderson said. “I’ve done a lot on nickels and dimes; it is wonderful to have the funding needed to complete this important project”.