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2022 APNA Award for Excellence in Research

Mercy Mumba, PhD, RN, CMSRN

“I am invigorated by building the evidence to support the clinical practice of PMH nursing. This is my calling – advancing research to innovate and support our approaches and interventions at the bedside,” says Mercy Mumba.

Working as a research assistant inspired Mumba’s energetic passion to conduct research to better understand substance use disorders (SUD), addictive behaviors, and their comorbid mental health conditions. She worked briefly in an inpatient setting before dedicating her career to research, completing her PhD in 2016.

Today, Mumba is an Associate Professor and the Founding Director of the Center for Substance Use Research and Related Conditions in the Capstone College of Nursing at the University of Alabama, with a joint appointment with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Her research seeks to learn more about the impact of the social determinants of health and the role of health disparities in preventing, treating, and managing SUD.

From 2019 to 2021, she led the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study, “A Mindfulness and Peer Mentoring Program to Improve Adherence to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorders (OUD).” The results were published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services (Mumba et al, 2022) and in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (Mumba et al., 2020).

Building on that research, Mumba further secured NIH funding for her current study. She seeks to determine the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention that utilizes peer mentors in addition to professional substance use therapists to improve use of MAT for OUD. With this study she also hopes to reduce relapse rates in a sample of individuals with OUD who are also on MAT versus a twelve-step program.

Mercy’s program of research seeks to help PMH nurses in the identification of individuals who are more reactive to stress, and who may need treatment that incorporates stress reduction. Mercy’s program of research also focuses on the integration of care models among treatment facilities, clinicians, community-based support services, peer mentors, professional counselors, and patients – to create a supportive ecosystem for treating and preventing SUD.

As a result, Mumba established the first ever peer support apprenticeship in Alabama to train mental health and substance use peer support specialists to work with SUD patients in collaboration with the state department of mental health. To date, eighty people have completed peer support training program, with an additional thirty enrolled to begin the program this fall. Grant funding for this effort is in place until 2024 and will ultimately allow for 250 peer support specialists to be trained to work within the state of Alabama in support of patients with SUD.

In total, she leads seven different funded studies – including three clinical trials looking at CBT and motivational interviewing, and one study to test a mindfulness-based relapsed prevention protocol, and a different study to examine the effectiveness of individual placement and support among individuals with OUD– while also teaching at the University of Alabama.

Mumba urges students to be open to many career possibilities. She advises,

“Don’t be afraid to try several things to find where your passion, gifts, and talent lie. Just dive in – even if it’s a very different trajectory than your peers. There are so many different options for careers in PMH nursing. Branch out and try something new.”

Mumba demonstrates this spirit herself through an annual outreach effort. Each summer, she takes a group of nursing students to her home country of Zambia to set up mobile clinics in rural areas and provide free healthcare services to vulnerable populations. This passion project is her way of giving back to the communities where she grew up. Her work with local organizations included providing menstrual hygiene and toiletries to thousands of girls in rural Zambia. Her service efforts in Africa have supported more than 5,000 people.

Mumba also works collaboratively with the University of Zambia School of Nursing and Lusaka Apex Medical University to provide consultative services related to uptake and implementation of evidence-based nursing in both nursing school curricula and practice settings there. By increasing the number of doctoral prepared nurses in Africa, she hopes to improve patient outcomes through the implementation of new person-centered health care systems and processes.