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Roberson chosen Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar

Dr. Donna Roberson
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Sept. 24, 2009)   —   Dr. Donna Roberson, assistant professor in East Carolina University’s College of Nursing, has been awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to study ways to prevent HIV infection in women who have been in jail.

Roberson is one of 15 nurse educators across the country to receive the three-year $350,000 Nurse Faculty Scholar Award. It is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as leaders in academic nursing. Roberson’s research project will begin this month and last through 2012.  

For her research, Roberson will develop an educational tool designed to help women detained or incarcerated in jail avoid contracting HIV upon release. Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is spread most often through sexual contact, contaminated needles or syringes shared by drug abusers, infected blood or blood products, or infected women who pass it on to their babies at birth or through breast feeding. Roberson’s goal is to eventually develop a standard prevention education protocol for use in jail settings.

“The generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will enable me to test sexual health educational tools targeted at women in jail, a population that receives little attention from health researchers but is at high risk of contracting HIV,” she said.

ECU's Dr. Martha Engelke, associate dean for research and scholarship in the College of Nursing, and Dr. Eric Bailey, professor of anthropology and public health, will serve as Roberson’s research mentors in the program.

“Incarcerated women often have a history of high-risk sexual behaviors that increase their risk for HIV infection,” Engelke said. “Professor Roberson’s study will shed light on effective ways to teach women serving short-term jail sentences and detentions how to protect themselves after they are released.”

Roberson is an alumna of ECU, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1986 and a master’s degree in nursing in 1993. She received a doctorate in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2007. Roberson joined the College of Nursing in 1995 and served as a family nurse practitioner at ECU’s Student Health Services from 2001 to 2005.  

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Nurse Faculty Scholar Award aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by developing the next generation of academic nursing leaders. Participants receive salary and research support as well as the chance to participate in mentoring activities, leadership training and networking with colleagues in nursing and other fields while continuing to teach and provide institutional, professional and community service in their universities.

The program is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered through the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. For more information, visit

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we've brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit




Contact: Crystal Baity | 252-744-3764