URI nursing professor Dahianna Lopez appointed to National Cooperative Highway Research Program Panel

KINGSTON, R.I. — Nov. 16 , 2023 — Dahianna Lopez, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Rhode Island, has been named to a national panel to address issues surrounding the nation’s highways, ranging from initial design to upkeep. 

A collaborative and consensus-based body, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Panel operates under the Transportation Research Board, a part of the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The National Academies’ objective for the research is to develop a guide to help state transportation departments identify and implement nontraditional measures related to transportation performance with tactical strategies or methods for data collection and analysis. Topics for nontraditional measures may include accessibility, equity, health and resilience. 

Panelists such as Lopez are responsible for translating challenges into precise research objectives. The panel’s tasks include initiating and conducting the investigative process and monitoring the milestones. The goal is to develop research outcomes that can be used by government officials and those in the highway industry. 

“I focus on traumatic injuries with transportation whether that would be car crashes, or pedestrians getting hit by a car,” said Lopez, who has been doing this work for 10 years.

A registered nurse, Lopez uses the data she collects to inform policymakers and other stakeholders about the issues so that they can develop solutions to prevent  transportation-related traumatic injuries, deaths, and to help save people’s lives. 

“Health is mostly determined by the environment around humans such as: education, transportation, employment, and housing.” Lopez said. “Transportation is a major social determinant of health.” 

Those appointed to the panel represent endorsements from some of the nation’s top highway safety and health experts. The panel includes a diverse blend of professionals, championing geographical, gender, and ethnic inclusivity. 

Lopez has extensive public health and transportation safety experience. As the single health  representative and the only nurse on the panel, she brings experience and expertise in injury prevention across various cities to the group. She was nominated by another expert in transportation and safety systems. Lopez has a long and distinguished record of advocacy and research in these disciplines.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program was established in 1962 under the Transportation Research Board, with the goal of promoting research about conflicts related to highways. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is a key partner. The program is funded by state highway and transportation departments.

“It’s a board that brings together the top researchers in the country to move research forward in an innovative way,” Lopez said.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program conducts research in problem areas that affect highway planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the nation’s highways. The initiative continually seeks insights from experts across various disciplines to ensure a holistic approach to transportation challenges.

A recognized expert in public health, transportation safety and injury prevention, she has researched bicycle accidents and those resulting in pedestrian injuries in San Francisco and Boston. More recently in Providence, she conducted research on opioid overdoses in motor vehicles..

She received her Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University. She received two masters’ degrees in nursing and public health from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Benjamin Smith, a senior sports media and public relations major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Communications and Marketing, wrote this press release.