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2009.11.23 > For Immediate Release
contact: Wendy Townley - University Relations
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: wtownley@unomaha.edu

Doctoral Student Earns Prestigious, Historic NIH Grant

Omaha - A doctoral student studying the gait functions of individuals with age-related diseases and disabilities recently made history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).

Sara Myers, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science from UNO, has been awarded an $86,000 research training award from the National Institutes of Health. Myers, who works in the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility on the UNO campus, is the first doctoral student from a UNO research laboratory ever to receive a National Institutes of Health grant.

Myers’ research examines how patients experience pain and cramping while walking because of reduced blood flow throughout their circulatory system – known as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Adults as young as 40 suffer from this condition, and up to 30 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer from this disease.

For her research, Myers has participants of all ages walk for three minutes in UNO’s gait lab, located inside the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility. The participants then wear a cuff around their lower legs for three minutes. When the tightened cuff is removed, the participants then attempt to walk in the wake of reduced blood flow to their legs.

For the past two years Myers has studied such circulation issues. The grant will allow her research to continue until her expected graduation from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in August 2010.

Myers, a native of Hampton, Neb., is working under the mentorship of Dr. Nick Stergiou, director of the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility. Her research often takes her to Omaha’s VA Medical Center near 42nd and Center Streets, as many of her patients are veterans.

“This award for Sara is incredible,” Dr. Stergiou said. “Less than 1 percent of researchers across the country ever receive funding from the National Institutes of Health.” Dr. Stergiou added that PAD is a major health problem in the United States, in most cases a direct result of obesity and inactivity.

Sports fans may recognize Myers’ name, as she played varsity basketball for the Mavericks during her undergraduate studies (2001-2005) at UNO. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science stemmed from her time on the court, but her doctoral research of PAD grew from the desire to examine and influence a broader population.

The National Institutes of Health grant not only sees sizable potential in Myers’ research, but views UNO as the ideal environment for this type of study, Dr. Stergiou said. “The best scientists in the field decide to endorse research of the highest significance,” Dr. Stergiou said.

Editor’s note: Reporters are invited to interview Sara Myers and Dr. Nick Stergiou while they conduct research in the gait lab, located inside the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building on the UNO campus. Contact Wendy Townley to coordinate an interview: wtownley@unomaha.edu or (402) 554-2762.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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