Aleeca F. Bell, PhD, RN, CNM

  • Associate Professor

Dr. Aleeca F. Bell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science in the College of Nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Bell aims to align her values, service and teaching with her scholarly expertise in order to have a meaningful impact on the missions of her Department, College, University, and professional organizations. Dr. Bell chairs the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women to promote the professional, educational, and career development of women at UIC. Dr. Bell aims to creatively guide students in their academic endeavors, encourage active learning, convey respect towards each student, be up-to-date on course content and the applicable state of science, foster leadership skills, encourage an interchange of ideas, and promote a love for learning. Dr. Bell's bio-behavioral program of research focuses on promoting optimal early mother-infant synchrony. Addressing a major gap in the state of the science is her research on whether environmental factors during sensitive perinatal developmental windows epigenetically modify the oxytocin system and maternal-infant behaviors in vulnerable mother-infant dyads. Dr. Bell's research is currently investigating the epigenetic effect of a multi-sensory infant massage to improve oxytocin function and mother-infant synchrony. In this effort, she collaborates across disciplines including nursing, psychology, psychiatry, behavioral neuroscience, and molecular biology.

Current Area of Teaching

Evidence-Based Practice 
Nursing Leadership in Complex Health Systems 
Genetic/Genomic Research Methodologies

Selected Honors & Awards
  • 2018 Scholarship to attend the Faculty Summer Institute, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago 
  • 2015-2017 Internal Research Support Program Award, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago ($20,000) 
  • 2016 Teaching Scholar, Center for the Advancement of Teaching-Learning Communities, University of Illinois at Chicago 
  • 2013-2015 Capacity Building Award, Ulster University, Northern Ireland ($30,000 shared with Co-PI) 
  • 2012-2014 Center for Clinical and Translational Science NIH KL2 Scholar Award 
  • 2012-2014 Fetzer Institute Award ($150,000 shared with Co-PI) 
  • 2009-2011 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Irving B. Harris Foundation, University of Illinois at Chicago 
  • 2010 Dean’s Award, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago 
  • 2007-2009 National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH F31 NR009912 Training Award 
  • 2007-2008 Midwest Nursing Research Society/Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science Dissertation Award ($2500) 
  • 2008 Mercy Hospital and Medical Center OB/GYN Education Fund Research Award ($1000) 
  • 2005 Irving B. Harris Scholarship, Women Children and Family Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago
Selected Publications

Peer-reviewed publications since 2008 (* denotes data-based) 

Bell, A. F., Andersson, E., Goding, K., & Vonderheid, S. C. (2018) The birth experience and maternal caregiving attitudes and behavior: A systematic review. Sexual and Reproductive HealthCare. 16(June), 67-77. doi: 

*Griffith, T. T., Bell, A. F., White-Traut, R., Medoff-Cooper, B., & Rankin, K. (2018) Relationship between duration of tube feeding and success of oral feeding in preterm infants. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, Epub ahead of print doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2018.06.002. PMID: 30040913 

Griffith, T. T., Bell, A. F., Vincent, C., White-Traut, R., Medoff-Cooper, B., & Rankin, K. (2018) Oral feeding success: A concept analysis. Advanced Neonatal Care, Epub ahead of print doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000540. PMID: 30028735 

Rungnapa, R., Rutherford, J., & Bell, A. F. (2018). A systematic review of placental biomarkers predicting small for gestational age infants. Biological Research for Nursing, 20(3), 272-283. doi: 10.1177/1099800418760997. PMID: 29490471 

*Maeder, A. B., Vonderheid, S. C., Park, C. G., Bell, A. F., McFarlin, B. L., Vincent, C., & Carter, C. S. (2017). Titration of intravenous oxytocin infusion for post-dates induction of labor across body mass index groups. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. 46(4), 494-507. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2017.02.006 PMID: 28528810 (Received the 2018 Best of JOGGN Award) 

Bell, A. F. & Andersson, E. (2016). The birth experience and women’s postpartum depression: A systematic review. Midwifery, 39, 112-123. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2016.04.014. PMID: 27321728 

*Bell, A. F., Carter, C. S., Steer C. D., Golding J., Davis J. M., Steffen A. D., Rubin L. H., Lillard T. S., Gregory S. P., Harris J. C., & Connelly J. J. (2015). Interaction between oxytocin receptor DNA methylation and genotype is associated with risk of postpartum depression in women without depression in pregnancy. Frontiers in Genetics, 6, article 243, 1-10. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2015.00243. PMID: 26257770 

*Bell, A. F., Carter C. S., Davis, J. M., Golding, J., Adejumo, O., Pyra, M., Connelly, J. J., & Rubin, L. H. (2015) Childbirth and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety: A prospective birth cohort study. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 19(2), 219-227. PMID: 26202722 

Bell, A. F., Erickson, E. N., & Carter, C. S. (2014). Beyond labor: The role of natural and synthetic oxytocin in the transition to motherhood. Journal Midwifery & Women’s Health, 59(1), 35-42. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12101. PMID: 24472136 

Dahlen, H. G., Kennedy Powell, H., Anderson, C. M., Bell, A. F., Clark, A., Foureur, M., Ohm, J. E., Shearman, A. M., Taylor, J. Y., Wright, M. L., & Downe, S. (2013). The EPIIC hypothesis: Intrapartum effects on the neonatal epigenome and consequent health outcomes. Medical Hypotheses. 80(5) 656-662. doi:pii: S0306-9877(13)00040-6. 10.1016/j.mehy.2013.01.017. PMID: 23414680 

*Bell, A. F., White-Traut, R. C., & Rankin, K. (2013). Fetal exposure to synthetic oxytocin and relationship to prefeeding cues within one hour postbirth. Early Human Development, 89, 137-143. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2012.09.017. PMID: 23084698 

*Bell, A. F., White-Traut, R. C., Wang, E., & Schwertz, D. (2012). Maternal and umbilical artery cortisol levels at birth: Relationships with epidural analgesia and newborn alertness. Biologic Research for Nursing, 14(3), 269-276. doi: 10.1177/1099800411413460. PMID: 21719528 

*Bell, A. F., White-Traut, R. C., & Medoff-Cooper, B. (2010). Neonatal neurobehavioral organization after exposure to maternal epidural analgesia in labor. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 39, 178-190. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2010.01100.x PMID: 20409118 

*White-Traut, R. C., Watanabe, K., Pournajafi-Nazarloo, H., Schwertz, D., Bell, A. F., & Carter, S. (2009). Detection of salivary oxytocin levels in lactating women. Developmental Psychobiology, 51, 367-373. doi:10.1002/dev.20376. PMCID: PMC2767206 

Bell, A. F., Lucas, R., & White-Traut, R. C. (2008). Concept clarification of neonatal neurobehavioral organization. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 61(5), 570-581. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04561.x PMCID: PMC2573022

Current Research
  • Oxytocin as an underlying mechanism of mother-infant synchrony 
  • An early behavioral intervention to improve mother-infant synchrony 
  • Epigenetic markers of perinatal depression and maternal behavior 
  • Influence of the maternal birth experience on maternal mood/anxiety and caregiving behavior 
  • Influence of Pitocin and epidural analgesia on newborn behavior