Faculty Scholars

Faculty Scholar Mary Ellen Wright, Ph.D. at  Clemson University, Clemson South Carolina

Mary Ellen Wright, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
School of Nursing
College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Clemson University

Contact: mewrig@clemson.edu


Who is Dr. Wright?

Mary Ellen Wright, Ph.D., APRN, CPNP, earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree from Duke University, and her master of science degree in nursing from the Catholic University of America, in the specialty of nursing of the developing family and obstetric/gynecologic nurse practitioner. Dr. Wright is also a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, having earned a post-graduate certificate from the University of Florida. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Wright’s most recent appointment is as an assistant professor at Clemson University School of Nursing. Dr. Wright also has an appointment as a nurse scientist in women’s and children’s health for mission health system in Western North Carolina, and served in this capacity full-time prior to coming to Clemson. Dr. Wright was the faculty administrator for the Davie Campus and interim undergraduate director of nursing at Florida Atlantic University Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Her research has focused on maternal and infant health particularly in the field of perinatal substance exposure, interpersonal violence, child maltreatment and social support in the newborn period. Dr. Wright has had multiple grant funded projects from Duke Endowment Foundation, Helen Powers Foundation, Mattel Foundation, and AHRA/Toshiba Foundation. Dr. Wright’s collaboration with Greenville Health System and Clemson University is directed toward the experiences of families affected by perinatal substance exposure and creating environments of caring that maximize the health of the mother and infant/child.

How Dr. Wright’s research is transforming health care

The recent epidemic of opioid use in the United States and the legalization of marijuana has resurrected consciousness of substance use both illicit and licit. Babies’ exposure to substances not only occurs by maternal prescribed or un-prescribed substance use during pregnancy, but also during the early newborn period through pharmacologic treatment for the prevention of serious consequences of infant withdrawal. Exposure to substances during pregnancy and early childhood development is an area of research that is vital to understanding how these substances or combination of substances impact the maternal-infant bond, the brain development of the child, safe and effective pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments and strategies to create a caring environment that encourages family disclosure and engagement in services. Although attention is given to the high rates of opioids, Dr. Wright is conducting research on the poly-substance exposures of infants and children to better inform families and health care professionals of potential risks to the health of the mother and infant. Substance use typically carries a stigma for families and engagement of families in available services requires sensitivity to the emotional challenge of disclosure and consequences for the family. A key part of the research trajectory of Dr. Wright’s research is the engagement of families to inform the research that includes methods, interpretation of findings and sharing of results. The collaboration of researchers, clinicians and families in the development of Dr. Wright’s body of research will facilitate the prioritization of efforts and resources to promote family-centered care for perinatal substance exposure.

News and media related to Dr. Wright’s research


Health Research Expertise Keywords

Perinatal Substance Exposure, Social Support, Stigma, Vulnerable Populations, Child Development, Maternal-Infant Dyad Care, Caring Theory, Poly-Substance Use, Toxicology To Detect Substances, Genetic Predictors for Infant Response to Substances, Non-Pharmacologic Measures For Infant Withdrawal