Former School of Nursing graduate student Kavita Radhakrishnan, whose research at UMass Amherst was supported by a visionary fellowship established by Dr. Michael Hluchyj (B.S. ’76, Electrical Engineering) and Mrs. Theresa Hluchyj (B.S., School of Nursing), has accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Texas School of Nursing in Austin. She has a background as both a telecommunications engineer and a registered nurse, a combination which inspired her to do research in telehealth technology, meaning the delivery of health-related services and information through telecommunications devices. This past year, after getting her doctorate at UMass Amherst, Radhakrishnan pursued post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Her research at Penn studied patient-relevant data that could inform prioritization of homecare interventions for heart failure patients using remote monitoring technology. She recently had an article on that research accepted by the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

Dr. Radhakrishnan’s post-doctoral work at Penn and her faculty appointment at Texas complete a cycle of opportunity, cutting-edge research, and academic success as foreseen by the Hluchyjs when they created their graduate fellowship in 2008. They wanted to support graduate researchers who would use engineering techniques to create technological healthcare reforms. Ultimately, the fellowship launches careers for academic difference-makers, while simultaneously solving clinical healthcare issues that are among the most crucial problems faced by our society.

In fact, a correspondence between Radhakrishnan and the Hluchyjs demonstrates how well the fellowship is fulfilling its purposes. “Once again, I am very grateful for your support,” Radhakrishnan said in a note to the Hluchyjs, “which was so crucial in helping me get here.”

As the Hluchyjs responded to Radhakrishnan’s thank-you note, “Congratulations on your faculty appointment at the University of Texas, Austin School of Nursing! When we decided to provide support for a UMass School of Nursing first-year graduate fellowship, you were exactly the kind of candidate that we had in mind. Specifically, someone early in her career who would continue on in her studies to a Ph.D. degree and then join the faculty of a first-class university nursing program. We could not be more pleased with and proud of your accomplishments.” 

The Hluchyj Fellowship supports two graduate students per year, one each from the the College of Engineering and School of Nursing, so they can do interdisciplinary research in the area of clinical healthcare. The fellowship provides annual stipends of $25,000 each.

“Fellows will work on research projects from both disciplines,” the fellowship stipulates, “seeking solutions to real problems in the clinical setting using engineering-based approaches.”

Radhakrishnan’s advisors while at UMass Amherst demonstrated the teamwork between the College of Engineering and the School of Nursing triggered by the Hluchyj Fellowship. She was mentored by Professor Jenna Marquard of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, as well as Professors Cynthia Jacelon and Joan Rochefromthe School of Nursing.

Dr. and Mrs. Hluchyj, who live in Wellesley, Massachusetts, funded the fellowships with key healthcare issues in mind. “We are excited to be funding these new fellowships to support cross-disciplinary research in clinical healthcare,” said Theresa Hluchyj in 2008. “Quality healthcare ranks among the most important issues our society faces, and the collaborative research initiatives between nursing and engineering at UMass Amherst can make a real difference.”

Radhakrishnan’sarticle, as accepted by the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, is another example of making “a real difference.” It is entitled “Association of Comorbidities With Home Care Service Utilization of Patients With Heart Failure While Receiving Telehealth.” The purpose is to examine the association of the comorbidity characteristics of heart failure patients with nursing utilization along with withdrawal from telehealth service during an episode of telehome care. The method of Radhakrishnan’s research was a descriptive, correlational study design using retrospective chart review. The sample comprised Medicare patients admitted to a New England home care agency who had heart failure as a diagnosis and had used telehealth from 2008 to 2010.

This article and Radhakrishnan’s other accomplishments, climaxing with her high-level faculty appointment, are yet further proof of the wisdom exhibited by the Hluchyjs when they established their fellowship. It’s win-win for everyone involved. (July 2012)