BCBSNC seed grants support health, wellness research across campus

Wake Forest University’s associate provost of research has announced the faculty recipients of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) seed grants to support research on health and wellbeing.

“The research being supported with these grants has sustainability potential and will have a great impact on many people’s lives,” said Bruce King, associate provost of research at the university.

Last year, BCBSNC partnered with Wake Forest University to create a model for health and wellbeing that included seed money for faculty research in these areas. Four grants, for $50,000 each, were awarded to Mark Jensen, School of Divinity; Mark Hall, School of Law; Jeff Katula, Health and Exercise Science; and Christine Soriano, Theater and Dance.

Additionally, the initial BCBSNC gift supports the transformation of Reynolds Gym into a comprehensive center for wellbeing, has funded a new director of wellbeing position and will support Wake Forest’s approach to wellbeing across eight dimensions – physical, emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, financial, occupational, and environmental – under the Thrive umbrella.

The seed money will support the following research projects:



  • Jensen’s project will look at how existing community health and food source assets, including informal and small scale faith-based efforts, can be strategically aligned and leveraged to have maximal impact to improve health outcomes for those for whom “food security” is an episodic or recurring challenge. The project also seeks to tap the knowledge and understand the experience of those who seek and utilize various emergency food sources.


  • The aim of Hall’s grant is to develop and disseminate balanced and well-vetted information that helps to inform public policy deliberations over whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and how to reform and improve North Carolina Medicaid which provides health coverage for the poor. National health care reform allows states to expand their Medicaid program to cover all people near poverty, but N.C. lawmakers say they will not consider expansion until they can improve the existing program.
Jeff Katula


  • Katula said the primary objective of his application is to test the feasibility of establishing a diabetes prevention program administered by North Carolina county health departments and led by community health workers. The goal is for the research results to help improve routine clinical practice and inform policy in representative healthcare settings with an ultimate goal of creating a sustainable diabetes prevention program that increases access, reduces health disparities and inequities, and reduces the burden of diabetes in the state.


  • For Soriano, the grant will give her the opportunity to expand on a 2012 pilot research study that looked at the effects of an improvisational movement intervention class on patients with Parkinson’s Disease. She will be able to expand her improvisational teaching method by simultaneously testing the ability to train other teachers and testing the efficacy of the intervention as it is taught by others. This information will provide data to design a larger grant that could compare the effects of improvisational movement on the body and brain to other forms of exercise.

King noted the high quality and diversity of the proposals and pointed out that a number of applications were also being funded as internal Pilot Research Grants at $10,000. They include:

  • Steve Giles, communication, and Paul Pauca, computer science, to develop a mobile phone messaging intervention for smoking cessation using machine learning and social support.
  • Steve Folmer, anthropology, for a pilot research project to develop an effective methodology to measure how cultural sensitivity affects psychiatric therapy on college campuses.
  • Kristen Beavers, health and exercise science, to conduct a pilot project that will look at the identification of weight loss strategies that minimize bone loss and subsequent fracture risk in overweight and obese, older adults.