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Faculty-student partnership closes gap in HIV literature

Junior honors student Sarah Sheerin studied HAART medications and published an article with Dr. Theresa Capriotti. Sarah presented a poster on the topic at Undergraduate Scholars Day April 26th.


A gap in the literature surrounding older adults facing HIV infection led to a fruitful partnership for Teri Capriotti, DO, MSN, CRNP, RN, clinical associate professor and junior honors student Sarah Sheerin. Together they published "HAART Medications: Clinical Implications for the Older Adult" in the May 2012 issue of The Clinical Advisor, a journal for primary care providers, family physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants. Their efforts throughout the academic year furnished an overview of the topic for providers and a valuable education on the research and publishing process.

Sarah, a Lancaster, Pa. native, approached Dr. Capriotti in September 2011 seeking a project for honors credit in pathophysiology which is the study of the functional changes associated with disease. Dr. Capriotti agreed to work with her on this topic because of the scarcity of information related to a growing population, older adults with HIV.  Sarah explains the motivation of her mentor, “She had the idea of writing a comprehensive article for NPs addressing an area of healthcare that is becoming increasing more important: adjusting practice to meet the needs of the large number of older adults in our changing society.” Sarah notes, “As pharmacological interventions advance, HIV infection has become a ‘chronic’ condition that patients can live with and manage into older age, and it is important for NPs and physicians to be aware of the common co-morbidities and medications this group is taking and how they interact with HAART medications to treat HIV infection.” HAART stands for highly active antiretroviral therapy, meaning taking a combination of three or more anti-HIV drugs. 

Dr. Capriotti enjoyed mentoring Sarah through it, “She saw all the ups and downs of publishing.” They completed their work in December, then Dr. Capriotti sought appropriate journals, including The Clinical Advisor. Her artwork --a schematic of the life cycle of the HIV virus as it replicates within a CD4 cell--is featured in the article. Both faculty and student are proud that the journal editors saw the value of the topic and developed it into a continuing education credit piece.

“I enjoyed the research process, piecing together information to create a compilation of usable facts, considerations, and recommendations for NP practice. Working with Dr. Capriotti was incredible, and she walked me through the process of publication from literature review to editing to sending the final drafts to multiple journals,” Sarah reflects. Not only did they publish but they also shared their work as a poster presentation "HAART Medications: Clinical Implications for the Older Adult Patient" for the College of Nursing’s 2nd Annual Undergraduate Scholars Day on April 26th.

Sarah isn’t stopping there. While she is working as a nurse technician on Georgetown University Hospital's maternity floor this summer, she is giving more thought to her next area of inquiry. “I never imagined being interested in research but this experience has fueled a desire in me to continue, and next fall I will be working with Dr. Sharts-Hopko on an independent study research project.” She hopes in the future to work with populations that interest her such as women, lower-income, vulnerable or non-English-speaking populations, and/or critical care patients. As Sarah continues to brainstorm her ideas, she leans towards an evidence-based project with a focus on treatment standards, goals, and recommendations for patients for a vulnerable, non-English-speaking, low-income population in terms of education, discharge planning and maternal-infant outcomes. Her endeavors with Dr. Capriotti lit a spark. Sarah now shares her enthusiasm, “I found this experience to be extremely informative and rewarding.”

Hear Sarah talk about her work during Undergraduate Scholars Day.