Funded Researchers


Dr. Ellen Brown


Ellen Leslie Brown, EdD, MS, RN, FAAN

Erica Wertheim Zohar Endowed Chair in Community Mental Health

Dr. Ellen Brown’s long-standing program of research focuses on the emotional health and well-being of community-dwelling older adults; the mental welfare of those who provide their care; and support for the choice of older adults to age in place. She has received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and most recently, the National Institutes of Health.

In September 2020, The National Institute on Aging awarded $1.6 million to Dr. Brown, her FIU based research team, and researchers from the University of Alabama to design touch-screen technology to improve communication between dementia patients and their caregivers. The 5-year R01 project title is “Integration of Health Information Technology and Promotion of Personhood in Family-Centered Dementia Care.” The new interface will be customizable and grounded in evidence on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices and touchscreen-use by persons with dementia. The AAC will be developed to compensate for the persons’ communication deficits by using photographs, graphics and text to promote engagement of the person with dementia, promote personhood, and offer providers access to real-time, tracked behavioral trends that support early detection, intervention, and monitoring of community dwelling older adults. Dr. Nicole Ruggiano, Associate Professor at the University of Alabama is the Co-PI for this project. Full details about the clinical trial can be found here. (

The project builds on Dr. Brown’s and the team’s earlier work developing “Care Heroes,” a multi-function app designed to support caregivers and improve dementia care coordination including communication between healthcare providers and caregivers. Dr. Brown and her colleagues previously received a Florida State appropriation and federal funding (AHRQ R21 HS026571) to develop and test Care Heroes.

Dr. Brown’ scholarly work has been presented nationally and internationally and she is the author of more than 60 articles appearing in multiple high impact journals. Dr. Brown is an elected member of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN). The nursing intervention developed by Dr. Brown and colleagues, “Training in the Assessment of Depression” (TRIAD), established efficacious and effective, received national recognition from the AANs’ Raise the Voice Edge Runner Program. Dr. Brown is a founding editorial board member of the journal Research in Gerontological Nursing and an editorial board member of the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Curriculum Vitae


Dr. Trudy Gaillard


Trudy Gaillard, PhD, RN, CDE, FAHA

Dr. Gaillard is a health disparities subject matter expert whose research has informed the science of aging and health equity by expanding knowledge of aging, minority health, and management of conditions that disproportionately affect minorities such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment. Dr. Gaillard joined FIU in 2018 and is a mentor to junior faculty seeking careers in health disparities research, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases management, cognitive impairment, and aging.

A tenured associate professor in the Undergraduate Nursing Department, Dr. Gaillard is the principal investigator of a $2.9 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and Florida Registry for Aging Studies (Award#: R24AG067951). This tri-institutional award (FIU, University of Central Florida, University of Florida) seeks to increase the recruitment and retention of culturally diverse older adults into aging research by leveraging intergenerational influences among family members, increasing awareness of and willingness to participate in aging research; and implementing a statewide registry of older adults educated and ready to participate in aging research.

Prior to joining FIU, Dr. Gaillard was program director for the Prevention of Diabetes in African Americans Program and was a program coordinator for the Community Diabetes Partnership at The Ohio State University from 1994 to 2014. During this time, she became an assistant professor of medicine research in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Internal Medicine at the university. Dr. Gaillard taught courses in diabetes self-management education and the importance of lifestyle management in the prevention of type-2 diabetes at the College of Nursing and the College of Medicine. She also held a position as an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati, teaching in the graduate and Ph.D. nursing programs (2016-2018).

Dr. Gaillard received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; a Master of Health Sciences from New Jersey City University; and a Master of Science in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Gaillard developed a concentration and special focus on glucose metabolism and exercise science through her Ph.D. in Exercise Science from The Ohio State University.

Curriculum Vitae


Jean Hannan Headshot


Jean Hannan, PhD, ARNP

Dr. Hannan is a member of the American Academy of Nursing whose program of research focuses on improving health outcomes of minority mothers and their infants leading to lower healthcare costs. Dr. Hannan has been a Principal Investigator on a grant funded by the National Institutes of Health examining an intervention to improve healthcare access for low-income mothers and their infants. Dr. Hannan has also served as a Co-Investigator on a Canadian Institute of Health-funded grant for a multi-international study examining ethno-cultural infant feeding practices with HIV+ mothers.

Curriculum Vitae


Tamu Thomas Headshot


Tami L. Thomas, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAANP, FAAN

Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Endowed Chair in Prevention and Family Health

Dr. Tami Thomas is an award-winning nurse scientist with a background in epidemiology. She is renowned as an advocate and authority in health promotion whose research findings serve as models for culturally appropriate patient education and care for underserved children and families.

Dr. Thomas’ illustrious body of research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities and the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Her research focuses on the HPV Vaccine, Rural Health and Health Disparities.

Her groundbreaking NIH-research on adolescent HPV vaccinations showed that health care providers could increase HPV vaccine uptake serving to reduce HPV-related cancers through a multi-faceted approach to educate patients by relating to their values and beliefs. As a highly respected thought leader in health promotion for underserved populations, Dr. Thomas is leading federally funded projects addressing the health care gap by increasing the role of nurse practitioners to serve rural communities as primary care providers and certified sexual assault nurse examiners.

Dr. Thomas’ scholarly work has been presented nationally and internationally, with the impact of her service resulting in her selection as one of only 15 nursing faculty for the second cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Nurse Faculty Scholar Program; selection as an Early Career Reviewer; and requests to contribute to prevention initiatives worldwide. Dr. Thomas is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Curriculum Vitae


Dr. Edgar Viera


Edgar Ramos Vieira, PT, MSc, PhD

I am a tenured associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Florida International University. I am also a researcher at the Miami Veteran Affairs (VA) Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), and I am the Editor-in-Chief of the Taylor & Francis Group journal “Physical & Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics”. I serve as a member of CDC’s Special Emphasis Panel for Injury Control Research Centers (R49) reviewing projects that include older adult falls prevention components. My expertise is in risk assessment and prevention of aging-related mobility impairments, fatigue, frailty and falls in older adults from different populations. I have a BSs and an MSc degree in physical therapy and a PhD in rehabilitation science. During my PhD, I studied patient transfer-related low back injuries in nurses. I then completed a post-doc in mixed-methods health research, and another one evaluating mobility impairments, fatigue and falls risk in older adults in long term care (LTC) facilities. My research program aims to help older adults to stay functionally independent by optimizing mobility, preventing frailty, falls and related injuries. I have experience in supervising graduate students, post-docs, and visiting professors. I have completed several projects on the identification of risk factors and in the implementation of frailty and falls assessment and prevention programs for older adults. I had projects funded by agencies such as the Florida Department of Health, the Administration for Community Living (ACL-HHS), the Department of Veteran Affairs, and NIH (co-I).

Curriculum Vitae


JoAnne Youngblut Headshot


JoAnne M. Youngblut, PhD, RN, FAAN

First Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Endowed Chair in Prevention and Family Health (2014-2020)

Dr. JoAnne Youngblut’s eminent career and leadership in nursing research eclipses 40 years. She has been the Principal Investigator on five large NIH research grants totaling nearly $9 million dollars, including four RO1 projects.

Dr. Youngblut is globally celebrated for her extensive program of research funded by the National Institutes of Health focused on how a child’s critical illness or death affects the health of family members and the quality of family relationships. She and Dr. Dorothy Brooten most recently led a groundbreaking study on the physical and mental health and functioning of Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and white parents, grandparents, and siblings through 13 months after an infant’s or child’s death in a neonatal or pediatric intensive care unit (NICU/PICU). The research was conducted in English and Spanish.

Dr. Youngblut’s study findings have resulted in more than 100 published articles in internationally respected interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journals such as the Pediatrics, Journal of Palliative Medicine, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and Journal of Nursing Scholarship, among many others. A Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Dr. Youngblut was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau’s International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame in July 2019, recognizing the importance of her body of work.

Dr. Youngblut has served as a reviewer of NIH research grant applications since 1993 and has received distinguished research awards from the Southern and Midwest Nursing Research Societies, and from the Florida and Ohio Nurses Associations.

Curriculum Vitae