JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Dr. Lei Zhang, a professor and associate dean for research and scholarship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s (UMMC) School of Nursing, received two grants that will help fund violence research.

In the span of five days, Zhang was awarded two grants: $5.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Mississippi Violence Injury Prevention Program, and $2 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to help prevent domestic violence against women.

“Each grant will enhance the other,” said Zhang. “Gun violence and intimate partner violence are deeply interconnected. IPV perpetrators often use firearms to emotionally abuse and coercively control victims.”

Mississippi had the highest firearm mortality rate in the nation in 2020, and Jackson’s homicide rate was three times higher than the rest of the state and 15 times higher than the nation in 2021. Mississippi also has the highest prevalence of IPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Substance use is a risk factor for both gun violence and IPV, so I feel we need to tackle them together,” said Zhang.