Hyunhwa Lee, Ph.D., MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC
Associate Professor with Tenure
Dr. Hyunhwa “Henna” Lee specializes in cognitive health, including topics such as brain injury and sleep disruption. As an Associate Professor with Tenure, Dr. Lee mentors and chairs both Ph.D. and DNP nursing students for their scholarly projects and also works with undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines, including medicine, psychology, health science, life science, and computer science. Additionally, she teaches both undergraduate and graduate students for evidence-based practice and research in nursing, informatics, and quality improvement as well as nursing theories and family health promotion.
Hyunhwa “Henna” Lee studies biobehavioral mechanisms for recovery from chronic mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or concussion, using peripheral epigenetic markers and digital biomarkers for post-injury symptoms, such as cognitive declines, psychosocial problems, and problems with walking and physical balance and eye movement.
Among the classes Dr. Lee has taught include Biobehavioral Approaches in Nursing in Nursing Research in the PhD track, Advanced Health Assessment and Nursing Theory and Research in the MSN track, and Nursing Care of the Adult Medical-Surgical Patient, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology for Nursing II, and Nutrition and Development Across the Lifespan in the BSN track.
Graduating with honors, Dr. Lee earned both her BSN and MSN in Nursing from Yonsei University, South Korea in 2000 and 2003, respectively. In 2007, she would go on to complete her Post-Master’s on the University of Michigan’s Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Track and receive her PhD in Nursing by 2010.
Research or Scholarship
With the focus on epigenetic regulation in persistent functional changes, Dr. Lee and her transdisciplinary team—Brain Injury Translational Research (BITR)—has identified long-term (>5 years) cognitive, psychosocial, and sensorimotor impairments after mTBI, along with higher methylation and altered microRNA expressions in blood plasma that are associated with organismal injury and axonal degeneration. With a newly-developed mobile walking movement app, her team also reported greater walking body sways in chronic mTBI, compared to controls. Dr. Lee also found reduced accuracy of saccades in chronic mTBI, using the EyeLink 1000 Plus, a video-based eye-tracking system in her lab.
With a recent grant by the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, she successfully launched a 2-week home-based cognitive-physical exercise intervention to facilitate mTBI recovery among diverse and underserved populations. After the intervention, the chronic mTBI group had significant improvements in cognitive function, psychomotor speed, and processing speed measured by a computerized neurocognitive test (CNS-VS). Those with mTBI history as well as early life adversity (e.g., abuse, loss of a parent, victim of violence, etc.) show great improvement also in overall post-mTBI symptoms, perceived cognitive function, sleep, well-being, and social activities after completing the exercise intervention.
Awards, recognitions, or group affiliations
Dr. Lee is currently actively engaged in the new UNLV Sports Research Innovation Initiatives as a core member of the Brain Health pillar of excellence. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2017 UNLV SON Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, the 2018 1st Place Award in Clinical Research from UMC, the 2019 2020-2023 UNLV Faculty Top Tier Doctoral Graduate Research Assistantship Program, and most recently the 2022 UNLV School of Nursing Silvestri Travel Awards. She has also received various scholarships and fellowships from her respective universities.