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Nursing Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Army Nurse Scientist Combats Heart Disease Through Pacific-Islanders Prevention-Focused Research

By Staff Editor
Feb 26, 2014 - 11:41:22 AM

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( - TUCSON, Ariz. - As a member of the Army Nurse Corps since 2001,Lt. Col. Leilani Siaki, PhD, FNP-BC, is continuing her family's proud tradition of U.S. military service. But as a nurse-scientist and practitioner, she is battling another legacy that affects many families: a history of cardiovascular problems, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

"My main research focus is the prevention of metabolic syndrome - a precursor to cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said Dr. Siaki, who lost her mother to a stroke and has several cousins and brothers with diabetes. "My emphasis is on Pacific-Islanders like myself, and military beneficiaries. Diabetes is very prevalent in Pacific-Islanders and they tend to be sicker than the Caucasian population."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pacific-Islanders are three times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, and 30 percent more likely to be obese.

"I focus on prevention because it's at the grass-roots level where people can manage their own health," Dr. Siaki said. "I create evidence to support and inspire people to make better lifestyle choices and prevent some of the worst consequences of chronic disease." 

Dr. Siaki's research is an extension of her dissertation, "Perceived Risk for Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes among Samoans with Metabolic Syndrome," which she completed in 2009 while earning her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) through the University of Arizona College of Nursing.

"I wouldn't be where I am today without the education I received at the UA College of Nursing and the support of my family," she said. "All the classes are focused on preparing you to manage not just a research project, but an entire program of research. The quality of the outcomes is critical because you're dealing with people's lives. The health of others depends on your results."

Dr. Siaki is based at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. In addition to her research, she works as a nurse practitioner in the cardiology clinic a few days per month, and serves as a resource to the floor nurses at the bedside.

"When I see the light come on in someone's eyes after I've explained an idea in a way they can understand, whether it's a disease process to a patient, or scientific methods to a bedside nurse, or simply inspiring another nurse to advance their education, it's those wonderful moments that make me so proud to be a Wildcat Nurse."


Faculty at the University of Arizona College of Nursing envision, engage and innovate in education, research and practice to help people of all ages optimize health in the context of major life transitions, illnesses, injuries, symptoms and disabilities. Established in 1957, the college ranks among the top nursing programs in the United States. For more information about the college, please visit its website,

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