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College of Nursing

ACORN Center

Faculty and Staff

Core Faculty

Dr. Cynthia Corbett

Cynthia L. Corbett, PhD, RN, FAAN

Dr. Corbett’s research activities focus on strategies to improve health outcomes for adults with chronic conditions. Her research involves both self-management and health system interventions. She is currently collecting preliminary data about the feasibility of using virtual home assistants to promote older adults’ abilities to manage chronic conditions and to age in place.

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Robin Dawson, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC  

Dr. Dawson’s research focuses on communication processes in vulnerable and underserved populations, and how those processes may contribute to health disparities. Her research interests include rural health, childhood asthma, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and healthcare for individuals with limited English proficiency.

lori donelle

Lori Donelle, PhD, RN, FCAN

Dr. Lorie Donelle is the Emily Myrtle Smith Endowed Professor of Nursing within the college. Her research addresses health promotion specific to issues of health & digital health literacy(s), social justice, and digital health. Dr. Donelle's research investigates technology enabled models of homecare and the relationships between health information technologies and client/clinician health practices.

Dr. Sara Donevant

Sara B. Donevant, PhD, RN, CCRN

Dr. Donevant’s research includes mobile health apps for patients with chronic health conditions. She is currently an investigator on two funded research projects: Development and Usability Testing of STORY + App to Improve Treatment Adherence to Endocrine Therapy, and Healthcare Professionals’ Perception of mHealth Features that Promote Positive Patient Outcomes.

Carolyn Harmon, PhD, DNP, RN, NI-BC

Dr. Harmon’s primary research interests include improving health systems, outcomes, and patient safety. Her current research foci are informatics and healthcare innovations such as AI, data science, and unintended consequences of healthcare technology. Dr. Harmon’s research foci frequently pairs technology or innovations with healthcare workforce initiatives such as cognitive load and well-being. Due to her unique viewpoint from earning both a PhD and a DNP, Dr. Harmon’s scholarship connects knowledge discovery, translational science, and evidence-based practice.


Donna Kazemi, PhD, RN, CNE, FIAAN

Dr. Kazemi’s research program focuses on the development and use of innovative digital mheath interventions for the assessment, treatment and prevention of addictive behaviors among vulnerable populations such as adolescents, young adults, college students, military personnel, and underserved ethnic minority populations. She has led multiple funded interdisciplinary research projects to develop and test digital intervention modalities to address and prevent substance use disorders (SUD) among underserved populations.

gayenell magwood

Gayenell Magwood, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN

Dr. Gayenell Magwood’s research focus includes community based participatory research and community engagement, cardiometabolic risk and prevention, cancer control and prevention, as well as health equity, health disparities, and biobehavioral research.

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Jennifer May, PhD, RN, ANP-BC

Dr. May’s research focuses on advancing health for LGBTQ+ older adults.  Her research interests include health disparities, social determinants of health, health and data equity, and health policy.

Malissa Mulkey

Malissa Mulkey, PhD, APRN, CCNS, CCRN, CNRN

Dr. Mulkey’s research program focuses on strategies to improve cognitive outcomes for older adults who experience critical illness. Her research involves developing objective measures for early detection using EEG and strategies that prevent and minimize ICU associated cognitive impairment illness in older adults. Dr. Mulkey has presented her foundation and industry supported work nationally and internationally.

Dr. Phyllis Raynor

Phyllis A. Raynor, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Dr. Raynor is an early career public health nurse scientist focusing on research, prevention, public advocacy, and health promotion initiatives for families affected by substance use disorders (SUD). Dr. Raynor is currently working on using smart phone technology to improve parenting skills as well as substance use treatment outcomes in parents with opioid and alcohol addiction who have young children.

carolyn su-ling

Carolyn Sue-Ling, PhD, RN, MPA

Dr. Sue-Ling’s research addresses cardiac risk predictors influencing early rehospitalization for management of acute heart failure among older adults with an emphasis on older women after an index heart failure hospitalization. Her ongoing research will focus on a derived model that identified relationships between patients’ hemodynamic, clinical, and social factors and early heart failure rehospitalization.

abbas tavakoli

Abbas S. Tavakoli, DrPH, MPH, ME

Dr Abbas Tavakoli currently work as Professor with college of Nursing at the University of South Carolina. He has worked with office of research College of Nursing since 1992. He has taught Statistics courses for undergraduate and graduate programs since 2004. He has served as a data manager, biostatistician, and research team member for seven previous NIH-funded R01 grants and many smaller grants that have required data management, display and analysis plans. He has assisted principal investigators to collect, manage, analyze, and present high quality data. 

lori vick

Lori Lynn Vick, PhD, RN

Dr. Vick is a Clinical Assistant Professor. Her research interests are related to improving self-management and health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. She participated in the Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE) Georgia Cancer Center - Augusta University, and received a PRIDE-NHLBI Certificate in July 2018. Dr. Vick is specifically interested in promoting medication adherence among people with Sickle Cell Disease.

Kristen Weaver-Toedtman

Kristen Weaver-Toedtman, PhD, CRNP

Dr. Kristen Weaver-Toedtman is an Assistant Professor. Her research investigates biopsychosocial influences on the brain-gut connection in individuals with chronic abdominal pain and other chronic conditions. She is interested in how the intersection of these factors influence health outcomes, and incorporates omics and other discovery methodologies in these research endeavors. 

P. Wright

Pamela J. Wright, PhD, MS, MEd, RN, CEN

Dr. Wright’s program of research involves therapeutic management of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the most common endocrinopathy among women. Her foci are behavioral health change, specifically for physical activity, and the biochemical effects of exercise among women with PCOS. Dr. Wright advocates for incorporating fitness assessment, physical activity as a vital sign, and physical activity prescriptions in clinical practice.

Associate Faculty 

Kathryn Bernheisel, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC

Dr. Bernheisel’s research interests include health innovation; virtual reality, augmented reality and AI use in healthcare and teaching; population health; emerging technology in healthcare; and the use of technology to support healthcare in underserved areas. She has clinical experience working as a Nurse Practitioner with vulnerable patients, including work with homeless and migrant populations both in clinic and shelter settings. She also has clinical experience in Emergency Medicine, Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine.

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Shaun Owens, PhD, MPH

Owens’ research interests are health and cancer communications with diverse populations, technology for health promotion and informed decision making in aging adults, and smart and connected health. Owens serves as Co-PI on a Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation project which is testing the efficacy of a computer-based decision aid to promote shared lung cancer screening decisions. In addition, Owens is co-investigator on a Department of Defense funded study to explore the effects of prostate cancer treatment on long-term work ability.


Jan Kubas, DNP, APRN, NP, BC

Dr. Kubas has previous teaching experience with the Department of the Army in Critical Care Nursing.

Kimberly Taylor

Kimberly A. Taylor, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CNOR

Dr. Kimberly Taylor is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s College of Nursing. She served almost 30 years as a Registered Nurse advancing from staff nurse to Chief Nursing Officer in the United States Navy prior to joining the faculty at USC. Her research interests include patient and provider communication, patient experience and safety, emotional intelligence, and strategic communication.

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Dezhi Wu, PhD

Dr. Dezhi Wu is an associate professor at the Department of Integrated Information Technology. Her primary research interest focuses on human-computer interaction that applies to artificial intelligence, health IT/health informatics, cybersecurity, and cyberlearning domains. Her research explores the design, implementation, and evaluation of novel user interfaces and applications for transformative user experiences to bridge the gaps between users and today’s evolving smart technologies.

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Sudha Xirasagar, MBBS, PhD

Dr. Sudha Xirasagar is a professor at the department of Health Services Policy and Management in the Arnold School of Public Health. Her research and teaching interests include: colorectal cancer screening and cancer prevention outcomes, colorectal cancer screening and treatment; stroke care and outcomes, racial disparities in care and outcomes, global health services research on health systems strengthening, costs, provider behavior, and clinical outcomes.

Affiliate Faculty





Khushi Patel, BS

Khushi is a research assistant at the ACORN Center as well as a successful recent graduate of the University of South Carolina and ACORN Center Student Scholar. 

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