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In a more perfect world, a new study being done by Nursing Professor Anne Keane might not have been necessary. The five-year study, which will explore many of the problems faced by survivors of house fires, will be funded by a grant totaling over $1 million from the National Institutes for Mental Health, a federal government agency. "It's really a lot of vulnerable people in society who we will be studying," Keane said this week, adding that primarily the victims of the fires are the poor and the elderly. The professor said that the study will involve meeting and interviewing 300 to 400 people who have survived such fires. She added that she will work with area fire departments and burn units to find potential subjects. After applying for the grant two years ago, funding was approved this past August, through the efforts of Representative William Gray (D-Pa.) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Keane explained. "I think that many of the grants were held because of the budget [crisis]," Keane explained. She added that hers was "a victim of that general process." Project director Mary Pickett said that "essentially it's the first study of its kind." Although there have been studies of fires in the past, they have all focused on major fires or disasters involving large numbers of people, according to Pickett. "There haven't been any studies of residential fires," Pickett said. "No one has ever actually focused on this as a problem." She added that this survey could have a tremendous impact on future rehabilitation of fire victims. "To all members of the family, the aftermath has tremendous impact," she said. She explained that "essentially the benefit [of the study] is to assist persons who experience this tragedy." The study, which will involve primarily master's and doctoral degree candidates, has already begun the pilot stage. "Right now we have nine pilot subjects," Pickett explained. She added that from initial interviews with these people, final revisions will be made to the process by which the subjects are questioned. The interviews will be conducted by professionals from the area, including nurses, social workers, and teachers. Keane explained that students will be involved in other ways, like "plugging in data," and participating in debriefing sessions. Each subject will be interviewed three times over a 13 to 15-month period and will be tracked during that period, she added. The grant is part of the school's Center for the Study of Serious Illness, an organization which is funded by large federal grants.

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