Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Meet The Researcher | Clinical Investigation and Translational Science (M.S.) | May 13, 2016
Dr. Maria Danet Lapiz Bluhm describes
herself as a lifelong learner.
With a Bachelor
of Science Honours degree from Australia, a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing
from the Philippines, a doctorate degree from England, she just completed her fourth degree.
Dr. Bluhm, a recent graduate in the
Master's of Science in Clinical Investigation program, explained
that she was excited to get a degree from the United States.
“This is my
fourth degree in a fourth continent, I’m not sure if I want to do another one
but it would have to be in Africa,” she joked.
first came to UT Health Science Center San Antonio as a postdoctoral fellow in
Dr. David Morilak’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology.
“I did studies on the mechanisms
associated with the effects of stress on neurotransmitter systems and mental
health disorders,” she said. “It was
exciting but but there was something missing----I wanted to translate my
scientific knowledge using animal models to patient-oriented research.”
Her love for
working with patients and a career development funding from the Clinical
Translational Science Award (CSTSA) program under the UT Health Science Center
at San Antonio’s
Institute for Integration of Medicine and Science (IIMS) led
her to pursue the Master’s of Science in Clinical Investigation.
In her dissertation,
Dr. Bluhm looked at ways to improve saliva collection methods for biomarker
research. As a stress researcher, she explained the advantage of using saliva
when measuring hormones related to stress.
collection itself can increase stress hormone levels which is why I prefer to
use saliva. It is easier to collect, cheaper, and people can collect it in
their own environments at any time
rather than in the lab,” she said.
Dr. Bluhm explained the two common methods
for saliva collection: passive drool and swab.
“In the passive
drool, the participant pools the saliva in the floor of the mouth and collects
it through a straw to a container. This
method allows visualization of the saliva collected, which assures both the
participant and the researcher that sample was collected. However, some
participants think this method is messy and non-discrete, which may affect research
participation. The swab method collects
saliva by putting an absorbent cotton swab material inside the mouth, which is
more discrete. Unfortunately, the researcher would not know if saliva was
collected until after the swab is centrifuged. This has been associated with
missing data for key time points of the study design.”
explained that because of the problems associated with both methods, she tested
a proposed hybrid method where participants pool saliva in the floor of the
mouth and use swab to collect it.
show this hybrid method which we call “pool-swab” is as reliable as the passive
drool in terms of saliva volume collected. The participants prefer pool-swab as
the method of collection for saliva compared to passive drool,” she said.
Dr. Bluhm is
currently funded by the
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars Program to determine cognitive and neuronal markers for
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in active duty military members with PTSD,
a study affiliated with the
STRONG STAR Consortium.
relevant biomarkers of the disorder could help us understand the condition and
develop novel treatments or interventions to prevent it,” she said.
In addition to her research, Dr.
Bluhm also teaches nursing research in the
School of Nursing for undergraduate
and graduate students.
showing students that research is important for the nursing profession and
evidence based practice….it gets them to think about current practices and if
there are evidence for them, locate evidence and help evidence-based practices
into the bedside. I love seeing students engage in research.”
This article is part of the "Meet The Researcher" series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
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