By Marlena E. Bermel

Midwife and Researcher

College of Nursing Assistant Professor Sharon Ruyak Awarded Grant

Midwives are known for caring for the health of mothers and their babies in a clinical setting. Did you know they are also at the forefront of health care research?

Every year, the Sigma Theta Tau International honor society and the Western Institute of Research provide grants to encourage qualified nurses to contribute to the advancement of nursing through research.

Sharon Ruyak, PhD, RN, a certified nurse-midwife and assistant professor in The University of New Mexico College of Nursing, was awarded one of these grants to further her work to address the effects of chronic stress and adverse outcomes on pregnant mothers and their babies.

Ruyak's research focuses on the effect of opioids and alcohol on the developing fetus and the pivotal role of the placenta as a signaling interface between mother and child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that opioid and alcohol use by women who are pregnant can have adverse effects for both mother and baby.

"Given the public health impact of substance use disorders during pregnancy, it is critical to investigate the mechanisms that underpin alterations in fetal development resulting in adverse perinatal outcomes," Ruyak says.

She expects outcomes of her research will help to advance understanding of the mechanisms by which prenatal opioid and alcohol exposure affect health across the lifespan.