Dr. Zim Okoli receives Kentucky Nurse Researcher of the Year award

Posted: November 19, 2020

The University of Kentucky College of Nursing's Zim Okoli, PhD, MPH, MSN, RN, NCTTP, was recently awarded Outstanding Nurse Researcher of the Year for 2020 by the Kentucky Nurses Association.  

Dr. Okoli received esteemed honor for his outstanding research contributions to developing and evaluating tobacco treatment programs for marginalized populations, particularly individuals living with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. He is also being honored for his steadfast commitment to mentor the next generation of nurse scientists.

"Dr. Okoli has been transforming the lives of tobacco-dependent mentally ill populations in Kentucky through nursing research for well over a decade. He quietly leads by example to 'work for a healthier Kentucky' as well as to expand the scientific and research base for nursing practice," said Janie Heath, Dean and Warwick Professor of Nursing at UK's College of Nursing.  "His research focuses on improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations, paired with his mentorship and advocacy for advancing nursing science among minorities, and his commitment to strengthening the nursing workforce in Kentucky make him highly deserving of the KNA Nurse Researcher of the Year."

Dr. Okoli serves as the director of the College's BH WELL (Behavior Health and Wellness Environments for Living and Learning) research team, which focuses on improving the health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges such as mental health and substance abuse disorders. He is also an associate professor in the UK College of Nursing, a director for the Tobacco Treatment Services and Evidence-Based Practice at Eastern State Hospital, and the director of the Tobacco Treatment and Prevention Division of the College's BREATHE research program.

His contribution to nursing science include $6.3 million in funded research projects (as the primary investigator, co-primary investigator, or co-investigator), 91 publications (majority as the first author), and 93 presentations (majority as the first author and at the national and/or international level). 

When asked why he is passionate about his research, Dr. Okoli shared, "One in five people in the U.S. live with a mental or behavioral health challenge. This means that mental and behavioral health challenges affect each one of us either at home, school, or work. However, everyone with a mental or behavioral health challenge is able to achieve recovery if given the opportunity. My research is all about providing those with mental and behavioral health challenges the tools they need to achieve recovery."