Interview With Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN

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This month's ACC CV Team Newsletter features an interview with Jean C. McSweeney, PhD, RN, associate dean for research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, AR. In this interview, McSweeney discusses her multiple professional roles and plans for the future. She also talks about her most influential mentors and hobbies outside of cardiology.

What are your professional responsibilities?
As associate dean for research in the College of Nursing (CON), I am responsible for overseeing all aspects of faculty research. I mentor nursing faculty in all aspects of laying the foundation to build a program of research. I assist each individual and team with devising a research plan, developing a research proposal, assisting with selecting funding agencies and implementing funded grants. I also assist with developing opportunities for CON researchers to interact with researchers from other colleges to promote team science. University duties include representing CON on all research-related committees, such as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Research Committee – which I have chaired for the past three years – and Research Strategic Planning Committee. I also serve as the Core leader for our Translational Research Institute's research registry.

As co-director of the Nursing PhD Program, my duties are comprehensive and include recruiting, advising, teaching and mentoring students. Administratively, I serve as chair of the PhD Council and PhD Advisory Board.

As a senior scientist, I have served as the principal investigator on numerous studies funded by the American Nurses Foundation, American Heart Association (AHA), and the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institute of Health (NIH). I continue to serve as a co-investigator on several grants funded by NIH and by the Veteran's Administration. Furthermore, I have served on the Cardiovascular Stroke and Nursing Council and Reach Committee at AHA, as well as currently serve as the vice-chair for the Prevention Strategically Focused Research Network and as a grant reviewer. Locally, I serve as the chair of the AHA Central Arkansas Board of Directors, and have served on both the Advisory Board of the National Institute of Nursing Research and Advisory Board of the NIH Council of Councils for the director of NIH.

What is your educational background?
My first nursing degree was form a diploma school, Akron City Hospital, in Akron, OH. During this program, I also attended Akron University to help me obtain my BSN. However, being a military wife, it took longer than expected due to frequent moves and no online programs. I completed my BSN in 1980 at Cameron University in Lawton, OK. I commuted from Lawton, OK, to Arlington, TX, and completed my master's in nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1983. In 1986, I moved to Austin, TX, and completed my PhD in 1990 at the University of Texas at Austin.

What are your research interests?
My program of study has focused on women and cardiovascular disease. Initially, I was interested in studying how women were able to successfully modify health behaviors after having experienced a myocardial infarction (MI). This initial study was a qualitative design, and I interviewed women within six months after MI. During the course of this study, I became acutely aware that women were reporting extreme difficulty receiving a diagnosis of coronary heart disease and even MI. They also reported experiencing atypical symptoms. Being a critical care nurse for many years and working in cardiovascular ICU and heart transplantation, I knew that women has less than optimal outcomes after MI. This set me on my path to study women and heart disease for 20 years. After several qualitative studies that focused on elucidating women's early warning prodromal and acute symptoms of MI, I developed an instrument – the McSweeney Acute and Prodromal Myocardial Infarction Symptom Survey (MAPMISS). I used the MAPMISS in three R01-funded studies and examined differences in symptoms reported by white, black and Hispanic women in retrospective studies, and then in a study to determine if symptoms could predict which women would experience a cardiac event. My research team published the first major study of women's symptoms in 2004. The MAPMISS has now been translated into more than 15 languages.

Other non-cardiac research interests primarily focus on mental health of veterans. I have been actively involved in research with veterans for more than 15 years. I also serve as a qualitative methods expert on a variety of grants and am very interested in health disparities.

What are your future plans?
As I approach retirement, I have focused my efforts on serving as a co-investigator as part of my mentoring role of both faculty and PhD nursing students. I am working with several young investigators interested in health disparities and literacy in women of color focusing on prevention of cardiovascular disease. I also am working with another junior faculty member to revise the MAPMISs and test its use in OB/GYN offices to assess for early symptoms and associated risk factors for cardiovascular disease. I also am very interested in continuing my work with the ARresearch Registry, which works throughout Arkansas to sign up volunteers to participate in research studies. This registry currently has registrants in every county of the state and equals or surpasses the racial and ethnic breakdown of the population in Arkansas. This is accessed by funded researchers and promotes accrual and diversity of participants in research studies.

What do you enjoy doing outside of cardiology?
On a personal level, I am very interested in outdoor activities. My favorite pastime is water skiing and boating on the beautiful lakes in Arkansas with my husband and friends. I also love bird watching and nature. I am very concerned about our environment and the impact of pollution of all kinds, especially as it impacts health of both humans and animals. I love gardening and growing fresh vegetables and flowers. Furthermore, I belong to a book club and am an avid reader. I am from a large family and enjoy my siblings, children and grandchildren. One of the most important things we share is our love of all sports teams in Cleveland, OH. If there is a game, we are texting about it and cheering them on. Maybe in my life time the Browns or Indians will win the Super Bowl or World Series!

Who have been your most influential mentors?
Janet M. Allan, MD, and Cornelia K. Beck, PhD, were both were instrumental in assisting me to develop my research expertise.

Is there any selected academic published research you would like to share?
I was first author on Preventing and Experiencing Ischemic Heart Disease as a Woman: State of the Science, published in Circulation in 2016.

What is your message for CV Team members who are interested in getting involved with the ACC?
The ACC is an excellent organization and instrumental in guiding cardiovascular disease research and practice. I would highly recommend involvement in this organization to build collaborations for research.

This article was authored by Heba Sadaka, MSN, RN, CNE, and Elizabeth Lee, PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE.