Ava Puccio, RN, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery & Nursing
Co-Director, Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center

Ava Puccio




Ava M. Puccio, RN, PhD is co-director of the Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center in collaboration with David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD. Dr. Puccio received her bachelor of science degree in neuroscience in 1988 and bachelor degree in nursing in 1994, both from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1995, she joined the Department of Neurological Surgery as a nurse coordinator on the National Acute Brain Injury Study: Hypothermia (NABIS:H) study and also the coordinator for the Brain Trauma Research Center.

Throughout her years of employment as a nurse coordinator, she pursued part-time advanced schooling to graduate with a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000 and as a university scholar (top 2% of class) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing with a doctoral degree, emphasis in neuroscience in 2008. Her dissertation, “Effect of short periods of normobaric hyperoxia on local brain tissue oxygenation and cerebrospinal fluid oxidative stress markers in severe traumatic brain injury” was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma in 2009.

Dr. Puccio was appointed associate scientist at the Safar Center for Resuscitative Research at the University of Pittsburgh upon completion of her doctorate degree. This was a reflection of her past and continuing collaborations with Patrick Kochanek, MD, C. Edward Dixon, PhD, and Hulya Bayir, MD, as well as multiple critical care medicine fellows.

Dr. Puccio was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010 and was granted tenure-track in 2013. Dr. Puccio received her adjunct faculty position with The School of Nursing, Department of Acute/Tertiary Care in 2010 with collaborations with Yvette Conley, PhD and Richard Henker, RN, PhD.

Her research has focused on improving outcomes in traumatic brain injury patients, with clinical venues of controlled normothermia, mechanisms of brain oxygenations and exploring genetic variances and expression on outcome.

With 20 years of clinical trial design, involvement and management, several traumatic brain and spine injury research studies have been completed and are ongoing. Many cutting-edge biomarker and high definition fiber tracking imaging and additional observational research studies are being conducted. Dr. Puccio is a member of the Neurocritical Care Society, Society of Critical Care Medicine, National Neurotrauma Society and currently serves as the secretary/treasurer for the Women in Neurotrauma Research (WiNTR).

Dr. Puccio's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Dr. Puccio’s specialized areas of interest are exploring secondary injury mechanisms following traumatic brain injury to improve neurological outcomes in mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injury patients. Focused mechanisms include use of controlled normothermia and hypothermia, brain oxygenation, genetic expression and variances and clinical studies of pharmacotherapy in TBI patients.

Board Certifications

RN License: Pennsylvania

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Mercy
UPMC Presbyterian

Professional Organization Membership

Eastern Nursing Research Society
National Neurotrauma Society
Neurocritical Care Society
Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Women in Neurotrauma Research (WINTR)

Honors and Awards

Ruth Perkins Kuehn Nursing Research Award, 2011
Cold Spring Harbor Scholarship, 2012

Research Activities

Dr. Puccio is the primary investigator on a NIH/NINR funded K99/R00 training grant entitled ‘Transcriptomics in Traumatic Brain Injury: Relationship to Brain Oxygenation and Outcomes’. This funded grant is in year three and is a career plan to develop research skills and training in the area of genomics, with a focus on brain oxygenation in severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI).