Matt Schorr
June 29, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. A research team at Meharry Medical College (MMC) has been approved for a $1.4 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study Diabetes Medical Nutrition Therapy in Southeastern African-American Women.

“The disproportionate burden of diabetes among African Americans has persisted for far too many years,” Stephania T. Miller-Hughes, PhD, MS, MSCI, Associated Professor in MMC’s Department of Surgery and Principal Investigator for the study, explained. “There is a lot of evidence that suggests that the morbidity and mortality burden is higher in African American women, particularly those that live in the Southeastern region of the United States.”

One reason for this may be unique dietary self-care challenges that result from living in a region where dietary intake patterns may conflict with diabetes medical nutrition therapy guidelines. Diabetes medical nutrition therapy is a method of dietary self-care support that is recommended by the American Diabetes Association for all persons with diabetes. However, guidelines do not include specific strategies for motivating people to engage in recommended diabetes self-care behaviors.

“My previous work and that of others shows that integrating recommended dietary self-care activities is one of the biggest challenges that African American women face in managing their diabetes and is, therefore, an area where strategies are needed to support their efforts,” Dr. Miller-Hughes said. “Some of my more recent work shows that little or no motivation to engage in recommended dietary self-care contributes to these dietary self-care challenges.”

The study will enroll 240 African American women with Type 2 Diabetes and test whether adding motivational support to evidence-based medical nutrition therapy will lead to better diabetes outcomes than medical nutrition therapy alone.

Since the American Diabetes Association encourages tailoring medical nutrition therapy for different racial/ethnic groups, the findings from this study may serve as a model for tailoring and informing standards for diabetes care. From a research translation standpoint, the most important outcome would be the identification of an effective, sustainable strategy that could be implemented in real-world settings. Clearly, the most important outcome of all would be reducing the diabetes burden among a group that has suffered for way too long.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Nakela Cook, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with MMC to share the results.”

Dr. Miller-Hughes’ study was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

Dr. Miller-Hughes’ award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit   


About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.