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SMU Researcher Profiles

Samuel Merritt University is proud to have many distinguished scholars on its faculty who conduct research to advance their scientific fields. Their expertise covers a variety of subjects, including: limb movement and the nervous system; genetics and genomics; adverse perinatal outcomes; HIV/AIDS; traumatic brain injury; work-related musculoskeletal injuries; children with autism; complications of type 2 diabetes; and multiple sclerosis.

These faculty members are available to speak with the media on issues related to their areas of research or professional specialties. Please contact the Office of the President at officeofthepresident@samuelmerritt.edu or 510.869.1528 to arrange an interview.


Ben Boyd

Benjamin Boyd, DPTSc, PT, OCS

Position: Assistant Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Physical Therapy

Dr. Boyd’s research interests include the mechanosensitivity of the nervous system during limb movement and function through the use of neurodynamic testing. This includes examination of the biomechanical properties of the nervous system through ultrasound imaging and physiological responses to peripheral nerve movement through electromyographic, symptomatic and range of motion examinations. In particular, he is interested in the effects of nerve injury on nerve mobility, sensitivity and limb function. Recent studies have included the impact of peripheral neuropathy and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus on lower extremity mechanosensitivity. His current research focuses on the alterations in muscle tone, symptom reproduction and limitations in mobility produced by specific limb movements in the upper and lower extremity in an effort to establish the response of the healthy and injured nervous system to movement.

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Patricia Brennan

Patricia Brennan, PhD, RN, MS, DFNAP

Position: Associate Professor
Samuel Merritt University
School of Nursing

Dr. Brennan recently completed an NIH appointment as Faculty Champion for Genetics and Genomics and currently serves on the Editorial Board of the NIH National Genome Research Institute’s Genetics and Genomics Competency Center, an inter-disciplinary project developed and maintained to assist in the development of model curricula for integration of genetics and genomics into clinical practice and academic training.

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Loretta Camarano

Loretta B. Camarano, PhD, MA, RNC

Position: Assistant Professor
Samuel Merritt University
School of Nursing, San Mateo Learning Center
Position: Director of Quality, Education and Compliance
Fertility Physicians of Northern California, San Jose,CA

Dr. Camarano’s research examines factors that predict adverse perinatal outcomes such as low birth weight (LBW) and preterm delivery (PTD) in singleton pregnancies conceived by women with a history of infertility and treatment with in-vitro fertilization. Data analysis methods include logistic regression models and mediation analysis using SPSS 15 and SAS. Findings suggest that woman with a history of infertility treatment are at greater risk for low birth-weight (controlling for maternal age and multiple gestation). Children born to nulliparous women are also at greater risk for low birth weight.

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Cecily Cosby

Cecily Cosby, PhD, FNP-C/PA-C, DFAAPA

Position: Professor and Director, DNP Program
Samuel Merritt University
School of Nursing

During her career, Dr. Cosby’s research interests have been in the areas of HIV/AIDS, sexual assault and intimate partner violence, as well as the violence, social discrimination and health disparities related to gender non-conformity.

Dr. Cosby’s current research interests developed from her work with UCSF and the California Department of Corrections where she cared for incarcerated transgender patients beginning in 2008. Her prior clinical experiences and research in the area of HIV and AIDS between 1987 and 2000 contribute to her commitment to improving access to trans-sensitive health care, patient outcomes and quality of life.

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Gordon Muir Giles

Gordon Muir Giles, PhD, DipCOT, OTR/L, FAOTA

Position: Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Occupational Therapy

Dr. Giles’ research interests are in neurological rehabilitation—particularly training characteristics of persons with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)—and the management of behavior disorder in populations with acquired neurological impairment. He is currently involved in the analysis of the Multiple Errands Test, a performance-based measure of executive functioning (publication accepted in American Journal of Occupational Therapy). Dr. Giles is also conducting a research study into emotional contagion among persons with TBI, preparing a report on factors associated with the use of case management services in a TBI population in the UK, and is examining the antecedents of aggressive incidents in a mixed neurological population.

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Carisa Harris-Adamson

Carisa Harris-Adamson, PhD, PT

Position: Assistant Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Physical Therapy

Dr. Harris-Adamson’s primary research interests are in the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal injuries. Her research thus far has had two approaches. The first is a biomechanical approach where interventions are developed and studied to assess their impact on exposure levels to the physical risk factors associated with work-related musculoskeletal injuries, such as force, repetition, and posture. She has looked at an alternative tool for cake decorators that reduced muscle activity and overall grip force required for decorating cakes. Additionally, she has researched pallet jack handles and the impact of hand-handle interface on comfort, energy expenditure, muscle activity and joint compressive forces.

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Michelle Decoux Hampton

Michelle Decoux Hampton, PhD, RN

Position: Associate Professor
Samuel Merritt University
School of Nursing

Dr. Hampton’s research experience has been primarily focused on phenomena associated with the experience of severe mental illness. Her previous work has included investigations of racial disparities in mental health care, understanding health service utilization decisions among mental health consumers, and medical comorbidity. Since participating in postdoctoral research with the Nursing Research Center on HIV/AIDS Health Disparities at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Hampton has added HIV risk and prevention to her research interests and future plans include the development of strategies to prevent HIV transmission in individuals with severe mental illness, particularly those with co-occurring substance use disorders.

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Rolando Lazaro

Rolando Lazaro PhD, PT, GCS

Position: Associate Professor and co-chair, DPT
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Physical Therapy

In March, 2013, Rolando Lazaro was selected for a Fulbright award to teach advanced courses in physical therapy and to study community-based rehabilitation techniques in the Philippines. Lazaro will teach master’s level courses in global health, disability prevention and physical rehabilitation in the College of Allied Medical Professions at the University of the Philippines (UP). Click here to read the press release.

Dr. Rolando Lazaro is currently conducting research studies to determine if aging adults with neuromuscular conditions may benefit from exercising with the aid of a device that partially supports their body weight. The approach, called lower body positive pressure (LBPP) can be achieved by using a specialized treadmill that has a chamber that inflates with air, lifting the person up. He is investigating whether walking using this device will improve a person’s strength, balance and mobility.

Dr. Lazaro is also involved in research on physical therapy interventions that may improve balance, mobility and function of people with Parkinson’s disease. He is currently studying the changes in walking characteristics of older adults that may indicate the beginning stages of this condition.

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Christina Lewis

Christina Lewis, PhD

Position: Assistant Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Basic Sciences

Dr. Lewis' research seeks to understand how airway epithelial biology mediates and regulates the susceptibility and pathogenesis of asthma. Her research has employed both human disease studies as well as murine model systems of asthma, and has utilized genomic approaches to describe the underlying cellular and molecular events of the inflammatory process in allergic airway disease.

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Jennifer McAdam

Jennifer L. McAdam, PhD, RN

Position: Assistant Professor
Samuel Merritt University
School of Nursing

Dr. McAdam’s research interest is focused on end-of-life/palliative care in the intensive care unit (ICU). She focuses mainly on the experiences of family members who lose a loved one in the ICU. She is currently working on two research studies. In the first, she is assessing the current state of bereavement care and practices in adult ICU’s in the United States. In the second, she is comparing ICU family members who received bereavement follow up care to those who did not by comparing their symptoms of anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, grief, and their satisfaction with ICU care and bereavement care.

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Guy McCormack

Guy L. McCormack, PhD, OTRL, FAOTA

Position: Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Occupational Therapy

Dr. McCormack is currently conducting research on the use of EEG Neurofeedback Training on variables of attention and social responsiveness on children with autism. He is also studying the effects of computer assisted remediation (Brain HQ—Posit Science) on memory, attention and cognition in older adults. Previous research consisted of using neuroscience evidence to manage pain syndromes and to investigate the efficacy of complementary therapies to manage stress and anxiety in persons undergoing cancer treatments.

Dr. McCormack is currently Co-Chair of Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee for the Occupational Therapy Association of California. He has presented papers and workshops widely at state, national and international conferences.

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Richard Rocco

Richard M. Rocco, PhD

Position: Associate Professor
Samuel Merritt University
School of Pharmacy

The main focus of Dr. Rocco’s research is on the discovery of the mechanisms behind the complications of type 2 diabetes. These well-known but poorly understood complications include peripheral neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy and microvascular disorders. Research is directed toward understanding the mechanisms that lead from protein glycation to the formation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). One AGE in particular, carboxymethyl lysine (CML) is a dysfunctional protein that has been shown to induce apoptosis in cell cultures. CML plasma and tissue levels are elevated in patients with various types and stages of diabetic complications compared to controls. Experimental data from the SMU laboratory have confirmed the work of others that has shown that the drug pyridoxamine inhibits the formation of CML. We have extended these observations by showing that hydroxyl free radicals are required for the formation of CML and that pyridoxamine acts through direct inhibition of the formation of these free radicals. A paper describing this work is in preparation and will be submitted for publication.

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Kate Shade

Kate Shade, PhD, RN

Position: Assistant Professor
School of Nursing
Samuel Merritt University

Kate Shade has primarily conducted qualitative research, investigating the development of a father role and identity among youth involved in the juvenile justice system. She is currently working on a project with youth in custody, researching the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral interventions in reducing recidivism. Dr. Shade is also working with Dr. Michelle Hampton, on ways to reduce risk for HIV infection among adults with severe mental illness and co-occurring substance use.

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Gail Widener

Gail Widener, PhD, PT

Position: Associate Professor
Samuel Merritt University
Department of Physical Therapy

The goal of Dr. Widener’s current investigation is to extend her research on balance-based torso-weighting (BBTW), a novel therapeutic intervention, to determine which changes in the kinetic and kinematic variables of gait and upright standing occur in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) when weighted. In addition she will investigate sensory and motor impairments in people with MS that are most predictive of successful BBTW therapy. Dr. Widener collaborates with the inventor of BBTW, Cynthia Gibson-Horn, PT and with Diane Allen, PhD, PT who has a joint appointment to the Graduate Program in Physical Therapy at the University of California San Francisco and San Francisco State University.

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