Professor Donna Hathaway of UTHSC Receives $2.5 Million Grant for Kidney Transplant Medication Research

Dr. Donna Hathaway

Donna K. Hathaway, PhD, RN, FAAN, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Advanced Practice and Doctoral Studies in the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $2,507,759 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The award will be used to support a project titled, “An RCT for Medication Adherence in Kidney Transplant Recipients.” The award will be distributed over a four-year period.

Medication non-adherence (medication not taken or taken incorrectly) is a $300 billion problem among organ transplant recipients in the United States. Though they have received the ‘gift of life,’ about 75 percent of people with a kidney transplant struggle to take transplant medicines on time every day for the life of the transplant. Without these critical medications, the kidney will not survive.

Along with Cynthia L. Russell, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Dr. Hathaway is testing an innovative intervention called SystemCHANGE, which has been shown to be effective with difficult-to-change behaviors like exercise.

With SystemCHANGE, patients are taught to modify daily routines and habits that impact taking medication. They will conduct small experiments focused on the modification of their daily routines and track their success with a graphic report from an electronic medication monitoring system. This approach moves away from traditional interventions that focus on increasing motivation and intention, and instead enhances the patient’s ability to monitor small environmental changes and determine the effectiveness of the changes. The study will also examine physiological outcomes and the cost effectiveness of improved medication adherence.

The hope is that by improving medication adherence, recipients will be able to keep their organs functioning longer and avoid the need for additional transplants. This, in turn, may mean that more kidneys will be available to those in need of this critical resource.