Ava Puccio, RN, PhD

  • Associate Professor
  • Co-Director, Neurotrauma Clinical Trials Center

Ava M. Puccio, RN, PhD, is an associate professor with tenure in the Department of Neurological Surgery and also 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 assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery in 2010 and 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. She was promoted associate professor with tenure in 2022.

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

Specialized Areas of Interest

Traumatic brain injury research; biomarkers.

Board Certifications

RN License: Pennsylvania

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Mercy
UPMC Presbyterian

Professional Organization Membership

Eastern Nursing Research Society
International Initiative for Traumatic Brain Injury Research
National Neurotrauma Society
Neurocritical Care Society
Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Women in Neurotrauma Research

Professional Activities

Guest Lecturer, Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan, University of Pittsburgh
Copeland Foundation Grant Committee, University of Pittsburgh
Biomarker Working Group, TRACK-TBI, University of California, San Francisco
Working Group, Genetic Associations in Neurotrauma (GAIN) Consortium
Biomarker Working Group, International TBI Research (InTIBIR)
Executive and Steering Committee, TRACK-TBI, University of California, San Francisco

Education & Training

  • BS, Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, 1988
  • BSN, Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 1994
  • MSN, Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 2000
  • PhD, Nursing/Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, 2008

Honors & Awards

  • Cold Spring Harbor Scholarship, 2012
  • Ruth Perkins Kuehn Nursing Research Award, 2011
  • Cameos of Caring Nursing Scholarship, 2007
  • Society of Critical Care Nursing Section Award, 2006

Research Activities

Dr. Puccio’s 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. She and was awarded a K99/R00 NINR grant in 2014, entitled “Transcriptomics in Traumatic Brain Injury: Relationship to Brain Oxygenation and Outcomes.”

With over 25 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 very involved in the Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in TBI (TRACK-TBI) consortium and was awarded a Department of Defense grant as PI of the Biospecimen Repository which collects, catalogues and stores cerebrospinal fluid, blood, serum DNA and RNA samples obtained from mild, moderate and severe TBI patients at 17 clinical sites. 

Analyses from these samples has provided additional validation to the recent FDA-approval of the use of two biomarkers, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1) obtained within 12 hours of a suspected TBI in determining the need for a brain CT scan, and is the central PI of the biorepository for a FDA-pivotal trial with Abbott Laboratories which results are pending. The success of this biorepository has also spring-boarded opportunities to acquire additional ongoing grant support through the DoD as the biorepository for the biomarkers in the “Brain Oxygenation Optimization Study Trial” (Bio-BOOST), as well as the TRACK-TBI Geriatric Initiative (NIH funded) to further define the elderly TBI cohort and TRACK Precision Medicine, an initiative for personalized care in TBI.

Media Appearances