Posted on Jul 25, 2018

Nursing Professor Heads to Panama as Fulbright Research Scholar

Nursing Professor Heads to Panama as Fulbright Research Scholar

USF College of Nursing Associate Professor Constance Visovsky is set to begin a six-month Fulbright Research Global Scholar project where she will set up a collaborative breast cancer registry in Panama to help identify risk factors for racially diverse Panamanian women.

Dr. Visovsky, PhD, RN, ACNP, FAAN, leaves on August 1 for the international research project.

She is separating the trip into three, two-month segments. She said she chose to utilize the program’s flex option, because splitting the schedule up will allow her local research assistant to work on the project in between visits.

Dr. Visovsky said she chose to augment the breast cancer registry in the Central American country because her expertise is in breast cancer symptom management and she has close ties to Panama, having traveled there numerous times as part of the college’s global nursing program.

“I think it’s a good project that will benefit the country,” she said. “There is very little research done by health care providers in Panama, so they really don’t have a way of understanding breast cancer as a disease, or the risk factors for breast cancer across the country.”

Dr. Visovsky’s project aims to collaborate with the Gorges Memorial Institute for Health Studies in Panama City, where the country’s existing registry for reportable diseases is housed. Unfortunately, the registry provides only very basic information on the incidence and prevalence of breast cancer among women in Panama.

She plans to bring the Breast Cancer Collaborative Registry (BCCR) to Panama in order to expand on the existing one. The BCCR was developed by the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Visovsky said she was one of the consultants on the BCCR, so is very familiar with it.

As part of the registry’s lengthy questionnaire, researchers will ask breast cancer patients wide-ranging questions, collecting data on demographics, medical and family details, physical activity, sleep, cancer treatments and surgeries, dietary factors, smoking and alcohol use, and other lifestyle information.

The ultimate goal is to help characterize and identify risk factors influencing breast cancer development, progression and treatment for Panamanian women through the expanded registry.

The Fulbright Global Scholar Award allows U.S. academics and professionals to engage in multi-country, trans-regional projects. The program is a prestigious academic exchange program, designed to expand and strengthen the relationships between the people of the United States and citizens around the world.

As part of the scholar award, Dr. Visovsky will receive $30,000 for travel and living expenses, as well as research costs.

Dr. Visovsky will among 86 Fulbright scholars in her cohort awarded grants to either do research or teach in multiple disciplines, including economics, music, and history.

There are two other health-related scholars traveling this year, including a physician headed to Guatemala to do lymphoma research and a nurse is going to Paraguay to teach and do research, she said.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing