People of SU / Science / Technology and Health

Prestigious Award

Written by Mike Thee

September 23, 2013

7 nursing students practicing in a nursing lab

Steven Palazzo of the College of Nursing receives a highly competitive grant.

Steven Palazzo, PhD, MN, RN, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, is one of just 12 nursing educators from across the United States to win a highly competitive grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholars program. The award is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. Palazzo will receive a three-year, $350,000 award to promote his academic career and support his research. 

"Being selected as one of only 12 faculty across the nation to receive this prestigious award is an exceptional honor, and an acknowledgement of Dr. Palazzo's contributions through his partnership with the Hope Heart Institute, and his potential for leadership in nursing and health education," said Janiece DeSocio, interim dean of the College of Nursing. 

"I am honored to be selected for this prestigious award," said Palazzo. "(The grant) will fund an innovative research program aimed at one of the country's greatest health care challenges-cardiovascular disease." 

The RWJF grant will allow Palazzo to expand and evaluate Teen Take Heart, a program he has developed in partnership with the Hope Heart Institute to promote science education and health behavior change for teenagers in underserved communities. 

"Almost one-quarter of Washington State teenagers are obese or overweight," Palazzo explained. "Teen Take Heart seeks to engage them and encourage them to change behaviors that place them at increased risk of cardiovascular disease." 

Palazzo added that economically depressed communities in the state lack funding to support in-class activities that decrease risk factors for cardiovascular disease. "One of the research goals is to expand our understanding of how to initiate and sustain behavior change in economically and ethnically diverse populations."  

Teen Take Heart incorporates anatomy, physiology, disease pathology, nutrition, exercise and research into engaging and interactive learning sessions to promote heart-healthy lifestyle choices. For his research project, Palazzo will use a series of interactive in-class instructional and hands-on, kit-based modules to improve knowledge and increase awareness of how behaviors and attitudes affect cardiovascular health. As an added benefit, the program introduces teens to options for healthcare careers that rely on science. 

Professors Kathy Camacho-Carr (College of Nursing) and Jeffrey Anderson (College of Education) will be working closely with Palazzo to advance his leadership and research skills. Palazzo will also be receiving national mentorship from Martha Hill, dean of the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University and past president of the American Heart Association. 

Palazzo's selection for the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program carries additional significance. By supporting junior nurse faculty, the program is helping to curb a shortage of nurse educators that could undermine the health and healthcare of all Americans. 

According to the foundation, the Affordable Care Act is vastly increasing the number of people who can access health care in the United States, and as the number of patients increases, so too does the demand for skilled nurses as well as faculty to educate them.  

Many schools of nursing are currently turning away qualified applicants because they do not have the faculty to teach them. The RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program is helping more junior faculty succeed in, and commit to, academic careers. 

Palazzo joined Seattle University College of Nursing in 2011. His other noteworthy achievements include recognition as the Sauvage Fellow with the Hope Heart Institute, and Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy Fellow for Sigma Theta Tau International. 

To read about the nurse faculty scholars program: