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Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell Honored with Research Award

Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell

In recognition of her body of work, Professor Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, PhD, RN, FAAN, coordinator of Undergraduate Research, received the Research Award on October 22 at the virtual Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania. She is a national and international expert in child internet safety, and is a pioneering scientist identifying the interrelationships among various forms of cyber-aggression, including cyber-bullying and sexting, and has studied sleep texting in children and adolescents. She was nominated for the award by Professor Helene Moriarty, PhD, RN, FAAN, Diane L. & Robert F. Moritz Jr. Endowed Chair in Nursing Research.

Dr. Dowdell has made major contributions quantifying the health risks facing vulnerable children and providing leadership to address vital, compelling issues in child health. Among her accomplishments, she has made innovative insights investigating infant abductions and writing policies for hospital safety of newborns that were distributed nationally and internationally by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. To date, more than 1 million copies have been distributed to hospitals, birthing centers, law enforcement, and healthcare specialists. This groundbreaking work led to the creation of safety standards to prevent infant abductions, adding layers of safety for children, their families, and health care systems.

Of note, Dr. Dowdell realized that nursing needed to focus on risk-taking behaviors related to the Internet as well as online and offline victimization. She incorporates nursing science into the larger pool of interdisciplinary research by updating the profile of high-risk youth and highlighting the significance of the interrelationships among physical, sexual and emotional factors and electronic aggression when on the Internet. She is considered an expert in the use of social media by teens and the health risks posed by their online behaviors. This expertise has been built through her participation in interdisciplinary studies and her leadership in the design of grant-funded research focused on vulnerable populations. From 2008 to 2010, Dr. Dowdell was Co-Principal Investigator on a study funded for $1,000,000. by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, entitled “A Multi-prong Approach to Child Internet Safety.” From 2011 to 2014, she was Principal Investigator on a study funded for $313,983 by the same agency for the study, “Self-Exploitation and Electronic Aggression: High Risk Internet Behaviors in Adolescents.” Very few nurse scientists have received funding in this area of study, and Dr. Dowdell provided an important pediatric nursing perspective on internet safety.

Dr. Dowdell has shared her expertise with countless colleagues and students, has grown the number of undergraduate researchers exponentially and mentored many undergraduate students in funded and unfunded studies that addressed a broad range of health issues across the lifespan.

Dr. Dowdell’s research has been widely disseminated in scholarly journals as well as the media, and her work has been incorporated into forensic nurse program curricula. Her paper, “Social networking patterns of adolescents, young adults, and offenders,” was the most viewed online article for AJN in 2011. 

She continues to serve on many boards and is the recipient of numerous research and teaching accolades and awards.