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Clemson University School of Health Research

Clemson University School of Health Research

Better Together

Clemson University School of Health Research

That’s the hallmark of a bold partnership between Clemson University and health care systems that has created the Clemson University School of Health Research (CUSHR), a multidisciplinary unit of Clemson that facilitates health research and scholarship. Since 2013, the CUSHR has been a key entity for health-related scholarship and collaboration, with more than 160 Clemson faculty engaged in health research impacting the community with local and national impact. Clemson has collaborated with Furman University, the Greenwood Genetic Center, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), Prisma Health, and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. Through these partnerships, Clemson brings a wealth of research and educational expertise, and the health care systems offer the clinical opportunities students and researchers need to put their ideas into action. The result? Breakthroughs in health care delivery, access and affordability that make a difference in the doctor’s office, the operating room, and beyond. Clemson University’s strategic plan has an emphasis on six innovation clusters, one of which is health innovation. The work by CUSHR researchers is critical to meeting the health innovation goals of Clemson’s strategic plan, and CUSHR is proud to support health-related scholarship at Clemson and with our partners.


    CUSHR in the News

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    Clemson-Prisma Partnerships

    The Clemson University School of Health Research (CUSHR) has developed strategic partnerships with health care systems that give our faculty and students opportunities to engage in applied research, professional learning, and immersion experiences. One of CUSHR’s important strategic partners is Prisma Health, formerly called Greenville Health System, which named Clemson its primary health care research partner in 2013. Prisma Health and other partners are key to CUSHR’s efforts to affect positive change in health care, understanding that our efforts are better together.

    Partnership Highlights

    Through the Clemson University School of Health Research (CUSHR), faculty members at Clemson and clinicians at Prisma Health–Upstate partner on a wide array of health research projects and educational initiatives. From apps that improve hospital communication to care strategies for drug-dependent newborns to the creation of infection-resistant surgical screws, Clemson and Prisma Health partners are engaged in projects that build our reputation as a health research powerhouse and enhance our ability to garner external research funding. But most importantly, these projects pave the way for health care transformation and cutting-edge medical advances that make a difference in the everyday lives of patients. Highlighted in this section are examples of the ways Clemson researchers and Prisma Health clinicians are making an impact.

    • GreenMD — Optimizing Medical Device Design

      Green MD at Clemson University, Clemson South CarolinaOperated by Clemson’s Laboratory for Retrieval Research and Reprocessing of Medical Devices (RE-MED), GreenMD is an engineering research and training program focused on optimizing medical device designs for reprocessing and reuse and promoting medical device sustainability.

      Reprocessing involves cleaning, sterilizing and packaging medical devices for reuse during sequential treatments on multiple patients. It helps health care providers enhance patient care by controlling supply costs and maintaining safety and quality control. Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of health care cost related to medical devices, including their disposal as biohazardous waste, can be saved through well-executed reprocessing programs.

      Clemson’s bioengineering department, which houses RE-MED, has shown leadership in this field through faculty members involved in the analysis of medical devices that have functioned in patients. The working group includes faculty members in bioengineering, biological sciences, and the College of Business (MBA), as well as various other collaborators throughout the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. This program has been developed in close collaboration with Steris Isomedix Services, a leader in medical device sterilization, and Stryker Sustainability Solutions, a leading third-party provider of reprocessing and remanufacturing services and recycling initiatives. 

      GreenMD also encompasses the Medical Device Recycling and Reprocessing Certificate Program curriculum offered through the Clemson bioengineering department. This unique program increases the marketability of students who seek employment in the medical device industry as they will become specialists in a new paradigm in health care.

    • Aging with Comfort and Dignity


      • Cheryl Dye, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
      • James Davis, M.D., Geriatric Medicine, Prisma Health–Upstate

      Cheryl Dye, a professor of public health sciences at Clemson, has spent the past 17 years studying the health of aging adults, and is investigating how she can help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease stay at home as long as possible by supporting their caregivers. 

      Dye partners with Prisma Health–Upstate’s Memory Health Program, which provides comprehensive evaluations of a person’s memory health and, when needed, specialized care for the patient and plans of care for caregivers. James Davis, director of the Prisma Health–Upstate Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, leads the Memory Health Program. 

      Dye thinks the stress of taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) is often responsible for spouses of those with dementia having a six times greater risk of developing ADRD themselves, compared to spouses of those without dementia. It can be especially difficult for male caregivers, if they are not comfortable asking for help or if they do not have experience in taking care of others. 

      Dye and her colleagues at the Memory Health Program provide caregivers stress relief activities and education on how to take care of their loved ones. 

      Today, 5 million people in the U.S. have ADRD, and by 2050 that number is expected to increase to 16 million. The cost for caring for people with ADRD is estimated at $214 billion in 2014, increasing to $1.2 trillion by mid-century – a figure that could negatively impact the economy and the finances of millions of families. 

      There is currently no cure for ADRD, but Dye and her Prisma Health partners teach that there are things that can be done to reduce risk. 

      “What you do in your 40s and 50s will determine how well you’re going to age in your 60s and above,” explains Dye. “Exercise, healthy eating habits, not smoking, and managing hypertension and diabetes are essential for maintaining brain health through old age.” 

    • Preparing Tomorrow's Bioengineers

      Preparing Tomorrow's Bioengineers at Clemson University, Clemson South Carolina


      • John DesJardins, Ph.D., Bioengineering, Clemson
      • Eugene Langan III, M.D., Vascular Surgery, Prisma Health–Upstate

      In Greenville Health System operating rooms, Clemson undergraduate design teams shadow surgeons to identify surgical tools and devices that could be made better, safer or more effective. The teams then design and develop novel solutions, and many move their creations forward to actual products that will enhance health care nationwide.

      “Having this kind of access to doctors and health care facilities is an amazing opportunity for our students,” says John DesJardins, associate professor of bioengineering at Clemson. “The experience our students get through this Prisma Health–Upstate partnership produces exceptional thinkers, leaders and entrepreneurs. They leave here knowing what it takes to solve problems and to get their solutions to market.”

      The bioengineering student teams have won several national awards, and recently the Clemson-Prisma Health–Upstate design partnership received grants totaling $250,000 from the National Institutes of Health and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to expand their medical device design programs.

      “This Clemson-Prisma Health–Upstate collaboration is vital to creating the tools and devices necessary to address real-world health care needs,” says Eugene Langan, chair of the Prisma Health–Upstate Department of Surgery. “The discoveries made through our unique doctor-designer relationship will produce innovative solutions that improve patient care in our community and beyond.”

    • Improving Care and Cutting Cost Through Technology


      • Kevin Taaffe, Ph.D., Industrial Engineering, Clemson
      • Lawrence Fredendall, Ph.D., Management, Clemson
      • Gilbert Ritchie, Ph.D., Anesthesiology, GHS
      • Wendell James III, M.D., Anesthesiology, GHS

      Today, health care professionals are charged with a tremendous challenge – to reduce costs and continue to provide high-quality patient care. Partners at Clemson and GHS are developing new technology that will improve communication between hospital staff and help drive their decisions. The result: better care, greater efficiency.

      The technology, now being delivered in a smartphone app, tracks each patient from pre-op through the operating room to post-op, so that each area knows what’s happening in the other. The goal is to enhance cooperation and coordination between staff within and across perioperative departments.

      “This is hugely important in running an OR because one delay can create a domino effect that can impact an entire day’s surgery schedule. Our objective is to not waste time or resources if we can prevent it,” says Wendell James, medical director of perioperative services and chair of the GHS anesthesiology department.

      The app also reminds staff of the tasks that must be done at each step and checks off each as they are accomplished.

      “This is what helps in decision-making,” explains Kevin Taaffe, industrial engineering professor and principal investigator of this project. “The app reminds staff what they need to do, what is left to be done, and if they are causing a delay in the process.”

      The project proposes to create a framework using a combination of mobile technology, learning systems, data analytics, education and training. The smart app will also be used as teaching and training tools to provide instruction on workflow management techniques across a variety of fields, including business, engineering, science and health care.

    • Prenatal Care — in Community


      • Moonseong Heo, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
      • Amy Crockett, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, GHS

      Does group prenatal care positively affect expectant mothers and their babies? Chen, Clemson assistant professor of public health sciences, and Picklesimer, maternal fetal specialist at GHS, are working together to explore that very question.

      The duo is investigating the biomedical, behavioral and psychosocial outcomes by race of pregnant women who participate in Centering Pregnancy, an innovative model of group prenatal care, and comparing them to women involved in traditional, individual prenatal care. At the same time, they are finding out if women’s stress, activation and engagement will explain the potential benefits of group prenatal care on outcomes and health disparities. 

      Picklesimer and her team will also implement the Centering Pregnancy group prenatal care model with providers across the state, while Chen and her colleagues evaluate the participants’ health outcomes.

      If the results from their collaboration show that Centering Pregnancy care participation creates better maternal and infant health outcomes and lower pre-term birth rates than conventional, individual prenatal care, it will inform best practices for prenatal care, both in terms of quality and cost.

    • Palliative Care for Narcotic-Dependent Newborns

      neonatal abstinence study highlight


      • Rachel Mayo, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
      • Lori Dickes, Ph.D., Strom Thurmond Institute, Clemson
      • Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, Clemson
      • Jennifer Hudson, M.D., Pediatrics, GHS

      Babies aren’t supposed to be born addicted to drugs. But over the past 15 years, narcotic use among women during pregnancy has increased dramatically – and so has the number of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), the group of medical issues newborns experience while withdrawing from in-utero drug exposure. Such symptoms include apnea, seizures, irritability, sleeplessness, skin abrasions and weight loss.

      In traditional NAS care models, providers manage babies’ NAS symptoms in the neonatal intensive care unit and observe them to see if symptoms warrant the use of the medical therapy medications, waiting that could mean days of discomfort and separation from their parents.

      Jennifer Hudson, medical director for newborn services at the GHS Children’s Hospital, envisioned a different way to treat NAS babies, and has put that treatment into place over the past eight years.

      In this palliative treatment model, babies receive medication at birth and go home after one week of hospitalization. Home-visiting nurses and outpatient physicians monitor the babies and mothers during medication weaning at home over a four-week period.

      Hudson has seen that newborns and families are thriving under this model, but only has anecdotal evidence to show its effectiveness. So she, along with Rachel Mayo, professor of public health sciences at Clemson, are beginning research to examine the safety, efficacy and economic impact of this palliative treatment model. The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services is funding the research with a $1.3 million grant.

      Mayo will study the health outcomes of babies who received palliative care under Hudson, and compare those outcomes with those of babies who received traditional care at hospitals around the state. Mayo will look at health factors as well as long-term developmental and family outcomes.

      “This research has the potential to impact two lives – both mom and baby – and that has great implications for whole families and communities,” Mayo said.

    Embedded Scholarship

    Embedded scholarship is a philosophical approach to transformative health research. Collaborative research occurs when clinicians and researchers have opportunities to work together, and their research is informed by the needs of the delivery system.

    Clemson’s top-tier health research faculty members are integrating, or embedding, themselves within Prisma Health–Upstate to experience and understand health care problems and delivery. These scholars work with clinicians and health care leaders to develop, create and analyze transformative solutions to the problems in close partnership.

    The embedded scholarship initiative includes both a competitive postdoctoral program and a Faculty Fellows program.

    • Faculty Fellows

      Clemson University engages senior level faculty members in transforming health care through CUSHR Faculty Fellowships. The Fellows serve as leaders in collaborative health research between Clemson and Prisma Health–Upstate. Each Faculty Fellow is strategically embedded in a Prisma Health–Upstate department, shifting their focus from their regular teaching duties to developing a comprehensive research agenda with their embedded Prisma Health department.

      As part of their fellowship, Faculty Fellows produce research to improve the health of the community with their clinical partners. Their research will also contribute to the rapidly expanding joint Clemson University and Prisma Health collaborative research agenda through publications and presentations.

      The CUSHR Faculty Fellows program is a step forward in our commitment to health services research, and the University’s commitment to health innovation.

    • Become a Fellow

      The Clemson University School of Health Research is looking for its next cohort of Faculty Fellows.

      Applications are due to by August 15, 2024. Download the application. Faculty members with inquiries should contact Thomas Britt at, with any questions.

    • Meet the Faculty Fellows

      In 2021, Hugo Sanabria, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was named as a  Clemson University School of Health Research Faculty Fellow. Read more.

      In 2020, Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor in the Clemson University Department of Psychology, was selected as a Clemson University School of Health Research and Prisma Health–Upstate Faculty Fellow. Read more.

      In 2019, Emil Alexov, a professor in the Clemson University Department of Physics and Astronomy, was selected as a Clemson University School of Health Research and Prisma Health–Upstate Faculty Fellow. Read more.

      In 2018, Thomas Britt, who serves as Trevillian Distinguished Professor of Psychology in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, and Dev Arya, professor of bio-organic and medicinal chemistry in the College of Science were selected as Clemson University School of Health Research and Prisma Health–Upstate Faculty Fellows. Read more.

      In 2017, Kristin Scott with the College of Business, Jeff Anker, with the College of Science and Goutam Koley, with the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, are the Clemson University School of Health Research (CUSHR) and Prisma Health–Upstate Faculty Fellows.

      In 2016, Julia Sharp, a professor of mathematical sciences, was appointed a faculty fellow.

      In 2015, Sarah Griffin, Ph.D., an associate professor in Clemson’s Department of Public Health Sciences, was appointed an embedded scholar at Prisma Health–Upstate.

      Frances Kennedy, Ph.D., Professor and director of the School of Accountancy and Finance, and Joel Williams, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Public Health Sciences Department, were appointed the inaugural faculty fellows.

    • Embedded Scholars

      Embedded research assistant professors and postdoctoral fellows are junior research faculty who integrate cutting-edge research methods and experience into Prisma Health–Upstate clinical departments. The postdoctoral fellows work with a Clemson faculty mentor and a Prisma Health clinical mentor to evaluate, analyze and create solutions to health care challenges. The Embedded Postdoctoral Fellows each focus on a specific research area.

    • Past Embedded Scholars

      • Corey Kalbaugh, Post-Baccalaureate

      • Zachary Klinefelter, Post-Doctorate

      • Sharon Holder, Reasearch Assistant Professor

      • Mirinda Gormley, Post-Doctorate

      • Joseph Singapogu, Research Assistant Professor

      • Robert Allen, Research Assistant Professor

      • Xi Pan, Post-Doctorate

      • Ransome Eke, Post-Doctorate

      • Talayeh Razzaghi, Post-Doctorate

      • Narges Hosseini, Post-Doctorate

      • Ali Hajiaghabozorgi, Post-Doctorate

      • Emily Heberlein, Post-Doctorate

      • Zac Conner, Post-Doctorate

      • Lauren Tyler, Post-Baccalaureate

      Chelsea LeNoble, Post-Doctorate

      • Susan O'Hara, Post-Doctorate

      • Chris Wilson, Post-Doctorate

      • Dotan Shvorin, Post-Doctorate

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