TWU Nursing Faculty Member Receives $534,000 NIH Grant

November 5, 2018, Houston, TX – Texas Woman's University College of Nursing Professor Pinky Shani, Ph.D., has been awarded a $534,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for her proposed research on “Caring for Caregivers with Mind-Body Exercise,” the first-ever study related to the practice of Qigong for caregivers. This grant also marks the first time in more than a decade that the TWU College of Nursing has received funding from NIH.

photo of Pinky Budhrani-Shani

For the past eight years, Shani has been working with cancer patients using integrated medicine and therapies to ease the pain and anxiety of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was during this time that she began to see a need to also treat the often-neglected caregivers.

“When I worked with cancer patients, there was a caregiver present at appointments. These family members or friends spent about 40 hours a week as a caregiver driving to and from and attending doctor’s appointments, picking up groceries and medicines, cleaning and providing general care to the patient. This was in addition to jobs they held outside of the home and also trying to take care of themselves. Being a caregiver was a full-time job and that can be extremely stressful,” says Shani. “Seeing how much these caregivers gave every day is what made me decide to focus on this unique and often-overlooked population.”

Shani’s study will focus on a cohort of 54 caregivers over the next three years. One third of the group receiving Qigong, a form of exercise that combines movement, breathing and meditation, in a community-based atmosphere through face-to-face at the participating tai chi academy. A second group will be provided with videos of the Qigong program so that they may practice the self-care methods from the comfort of their own home. Each of these groups will be expected to participate in Qigong exercises once a week for 12 weeks. The remaining third of the participants will act as the control group.

“It was important to me to be able to offer the Qigong in two different ways. Many may find it difficult to drive to or fit a specific class time into their already busy schedule, while others may benefit from being a part of a group of other caregivers,” says Budhrani-Shani. “Once the subjects complete the program, we’ll be analyzing a battery of outcomes including depression, sleep disturbances, pain and physical function such as grip strength and balance.”

For TWU’s College of Nursing, it has been more than ten years since a faculty member has received an NIH grant. The significance of being the first one in recent history is not lost on Shani. “I believe this is setting a pathway for others, including our students, to realize that nurses can compete for big grants. We sometimes tend to be overlooked for our capacity,” she says.

Shani acknowledges that her mentor and her TWU colleagues played a role in helping her to secure the grant. “Dr. Peter Wayne, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, is a co-investigator on the grant and has been a great support throughout the process of writing and submitting the grant,” she says. “I also have great resources here at TWU. The Office of Research team, Dr. Donna Scott Tilley and Ms. Tracy Lindsay, have been there throughout the whole submission process and have offered great support. My associate dean, Dr. Ainslie Nibert, was also extremely helpful in pointing me in the right direction for research.”

Shani will now have the opportunity to pay her colleagues support forward as she now begins a search to hire a doctoral student to help with the research. She also plans on using post-graduate students to help with documentation and hopes they, too, will gain a new perspective on the value of nursing research.

“It’s exciting. I’m thrilled to receive the NIH award and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcomes of intervention through a video-based protocol,” she says. “Hopefully, I can make a difference in caregivers lives and thus, in the lives of cancer patients.”


About TWU Houston

TWU Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center is located in the heart of the largest medical center in the world, the Texas Medical Center, and offers undergraduate nursing degrees and advanced degrees in several health science programs. TWU Houston is one of three campuses of Texas Woman’s University. TWU is the largest public university in the nation primarily for women and has an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students on campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston. Since 1901, TWU has produced more than 88,000 graduates in fields vital to the growth and quality of life in Texas and the nation, including nursing, health care, education and business.


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Page last updated 2:47 PM, November 12, 2018