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Bassema Abu-Farsakh is a University of Kentucky College of Nursing (UK CON) PhD student and a graduate research assistant with the Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) research team. 



Abu-Farsakh’s research focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). This work is significant because of the prevalence of ACE’s in society. In Abu-Farsakh’s experience, individuals diagnosed with mental illness (MI) often reported being exposed to adverse childhood experiences. Health care providers usually ask patients about trauma. However, she found that evidence does not support using one scale over another among this population. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “61% of adults had at least one ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs. Preventing ACEs could reduce the number of adults with depression by as much as 44%” (Adverse childhood experiences (aces), 2019). Abu-Farsakh’s presentation “put a spotlight on the ACE instrument used to assess adverse childhood experiences.” Using the proper instrument is critical to assess adversities among people living with mental illnesses. 

Recently, Abu-Farsakh presented at Sigma's 33rd International Nursing Research Congress held July 21-25, 2022 in Edenburg, Scotland. This conference brought together nurse leaders, researchers, clinicians, and students from around the world who are focused on evidence-based research and practice. Abu-Farsakh presented The Psychometric Properties of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale Among Individuals with Mental Illnesses. This research was co-authored by Chizimuzo Okoli, (Ph.D., MPH, MSN, PMHNP-BC, APRN, NCTTP, FAAN) UK CON Professor and Executive Director of the BH WELL research team. 

Abu-Farsakh shares that she has always believed that nursing would be in her life’s path, but she did not originally consider psychiatric nursing as her passion. As a nurse, she found enjoyment working with individuals experiencing mental illness. “During my practice, I noticed how often people diagnosed with mental illness reported being abused as a child. Unfortunately, child abuse and maltreatment are associated significantly with poor mental health outcomes. Although adverse childhood experiences are often reported by patients, healthcare providers did not effectively assess these experiences and did not include that in their healthcare plan.” Abu- Farsakh knew that in order to create change in psychiatric nursing, she needed to expand her knowledge and skills. 

According to Abu-Farsakh, the University of Kentucky is teaching her to “become a nurse scholar and scientist who can advance the art, science, education, and practice of the nursing profession. UK is helping me in achieving my goals.” She also expressed gratitude for BH WELL. “Dr. Okoli is my biggest supporter. He supported me through the whole research process. He believed in my ideas and abilities. And, he connected me with different research groups and the BH WELL  team to improve my skills and enrich my experience.”

Dr. Okoli describes the value of Abu-Farsakh’s work: “Bassema’s research on Adverse Childhood Experiences is sorely needed! By understanding the patterns that exist in these adverse experiences, as researchers, we may be able to find ways to not only treat the sequalae, but to even prevent it from occurring. Bassema’s presentation at the International Nursing Research Congress demonstrates that this topic has global significance and is an area ripe for research, practice, and scholarship. I am confident that Bassema is going to make a difference in the lives of so many children and families through this research focus.”

Congratulations, Bassema!


For more information on the 33rd International Nursing Research Congress 2022, visit their website.

Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) was founded by six nurses in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana at what is now the Indiana University School of Nursing. “The name stems from Greek words storgé, thárros, and timé, meaning love, courage, and honor. Sigma is an international community of nurses, dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, teaching, learning, and service through the cultivation of communities of practice, education, and research. Their mission is to develop nurse leaders anywhere to improve healthcare everywhere.” To learn more, visit Sigma’s website.

The Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) research team exists to promote behavioral health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. 



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, November 5). Adverse childhood experiences (aces). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from