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Mary Jo V Pugh, PhD, EdM, MA – Research Career Scientist

Mary Jo V Pugh, PhD, EdM, MA
VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Salt Lake City, UT
Salt Lake City, UT 


Mary Jo Pugh PhD, RN, is a retired Air Force nurse and Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Epidemiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She is an investigator at the Informatics, Decision-Enhancement and Analytic Sciences Center of Innovation (IDEAS COIN) and the VA Salt Lake City where she leads the COIN focus area that aims to identify and mitigate health risks in Veterans across periods of vulnerability.

Integrating her training as a Veteran, a nurse, and a developmental psychologist, she developed a research program to examine the long-term sequelae and outcomes of military exposures. Early in her career she focused on outcomes associated with suboptimal quality of care in older Veterans. Over the past decade she has targeted her work using VA data to identify phenotypes in populations with complex comorbidity such as those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and complex multi-symptom illness. Dr. Pugh's current work related to TBI includes longitudinal observational and prospective studies to identify the emergence of distinct neurodegenerative conditions such as cognitive impairment and epilepsy, and clusters of multimorbidity that may have similar or networked biological underpinnings. The longitudinal observational studies of approximately one million Veterans currently link Department of Defense (DoD) combat theatre and health system data with VA health system data and will further link with DoD serum repository data. These studies aim to understand which individuals are at highest risk of neurodegeneration, mental health conditions, and deficits in functional outcomes after mild TBI. They also investigate the possibility of using personalized medicine to address treatment choices. The next steps of this line of inquiry will use deep learning models to identify optimal treatment pathways for specific phenotypes to inform treatment guidelines for mild TBI in the context of multimorbidity, and to examine bidirectional relationships between health of Veteran and caregiver.

Dr. Pugh is the author or co-author of over one hundred and eighty peer reviewed publications and book chapters, and numerous presentations at national and international scientific meetings. Her work is funded by VA Health Services Research and Development in addition to VA Rehabilitation Research and Development, the Department of Defense, and the National Institutes of Health. She regularly serves as a reviewer for national funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and VA, where she chairs the HSR&D career development panel. She also serves as a peer reviewer for scientific publications submitted to prominent scientific journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, Neurology, Medical Care, Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, Brain Injury, Epilepsia, Epilepsy and Behavior and many others.

Dr. Pugh received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Nursing from the College of Saint Scholastica after which she entered the Air Force. Upon her medical retirement she earned a master's degree in education from Boston University and masters and doctoral degrees in Psychology at the Catholic University of America.

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