faculty profile

Melanie Lutenbacher   PhD, APRN, FAAN

Research Associate Professor


Dr. Lutenbacher's career began as a public health nurse and later as a pediatric/family nurse practitioner in Texas, California, Kentucky, Tennessee and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her experiences led to her focus on vulnerable young families from an interdisciplinary perspective. As a maternal-child health researcher, she has conducted translational, clinical and health systems projects utilizing a variety of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Dr. Lutenbacher has held a variety of clinical, administrative and research positions. She is actively involved in numerous local, regional and international advisory panels, boards and steering committees committed to improving maternal and child health. She has received multiple awards recognizing her research and mentoring expertise. In 2009 Dr. Lutenbacher was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing in recognition of her contributions to maternal and child health, particularly her contributions related to home visitation.


  • PhD, University of Kentucky
  • MSN, California State University-Long Beach (FNP)
  • BSN, The University of Texas at Austin

Current Research/Scholarly Interests

  • Community and home-based interventions to prevent or reduce known risks associated with preterm births, at-risk parenting, family violence and infant mortality
  • Family-centered systems of care for high-risk families (e.g., abuse/violence, children with special healthcare needs, poverty)
  • Maternal psychosocial predictors of abusive or at-risk parenting including depressive symptoms, stress, and self esteem
  • Program efficacy and implementation fidelity
  • Program evaluation

Academic Interests

Dr. Lutenbacher currently teaches in the DNP and PhD programs. Her teaching efforts focus on legal and ethical issues related to advanced nursing practice and research and measurement issues in research. She also mentors graduate students and faculty from a variety of disciplines on different aspects of the research process and program development and evaluation.


Evaluating the Maternal Infant Outreach Worker (MIHOW): A 'Promising Approach.' Sinclair, W. - PI (Catholic Charities, Nashville, TN). Funder: State of Tennessee, Division of Family Health and Wellness. 2013 - 2016, Lutenbacher, PI - VUSN evaluation subcontract: Evaluating the feasibility and efficacy of the MIHOW program in a sample of Hispanic women via a randomized clinical trial. (Federal MIECHV - Promising Approaches Project)

Evaluating Nurses for Newborns: A 'Promising Approach.' Wilkins, L - PI. Funder: State of Tennessee, Division of Family Health and Wellness. 2013 - 2016, Consultant - Fidelity Evaluator.

Family to Family - Assessing challenges of TN families served by TN-CSS. Westlake, C. - PI. Funder: State of Tennessee, Division of Family Health and Wellness. 2012 - 2016, Consultant.

Perspectives of Black women on breastfeeding support from pediatric providers. Lutenbacher, M. and Karp, S. - Co-PI's. Funder: Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. 2013 - 2014.

Lutenbacher, M. and Hamilton, J. Planning the evaluation of a community-based prenatal intervention: Best Baby Shower. Lutenbacher, M/Hamilton, J. - coPIs. Funder: Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Partnership Development Grant. 2014-2015.

Building evaluation capacity for evidence based interventions. Beaver, V. - PI. Funder: SAMHSA and Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. 2012 - 2013, Consultant.

Supporting evidence-based home visitation to prevent child maltreatment in South Carolina. ($2.9 million) Williams, S. - PI (South Carolina Children's Trust) Funder: HHS: Administration for Children and Families. 2009 - 2013, Grant evaluator/researcher -PI-subcontract.

Reducing preterm births through the Tennessee Connection for Better Birth Outcomes: A randomized clinical trial. Lutenbacher, M., and Temple, P. - Co-PI's. Funder: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation. 2006 - 2013. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00502697

The Tennessee Family-to-Family Health Information Center. Westlake, C. - PI (TN Disability Coalition) Funder: HRSA - Maternal Child Health Bureau. 2002-2010. Grant Evaluator/researcher -PI-subcontract. ($160,000 - subcontract).

Representative Publications


Lutenbacher, M., Karp, S., & Moore, E. R. (2016). Reflections of black women who choose to breastfeed: Influences, challenges and supports. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 20(2): 231-239. DOI: 10.1007/s10995-015-1822-4

Howe-Heyman, A. & Lutenbacher, M. (2016). The Baby-Friendly-Hospital-Initiative as an intervention to improve breastfeeding rates: A review of the literature. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 61(1):77-102. DOI:10.1111/jmwh.12376

Karp, S., Wallston, K.A., Lutenbacher, M. (2015). Evaluation of the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale in Mothers of Infants. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 24(11): 3471-3481. DOI: 10.1007/s10826-015-0149-z

Smith, K., Lutenbacher, M., McClure, N. (2015). Leveraging Resources to Improve Clinical Outcomes and Teach Transitional Care through Development of Academic-Clinical Partnerships. Nurse Educator. 40(6): 303-307. DOI: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000166

Young, C. C., Dietrich, M. S., & Lutenbacher, M. (2014). Brooding and reflection as explanatory of depressive symptoms in adolescents experiencing stressful life events. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35 (3), 175-180.

Lutenbacher, M., Gabbe, P.T., Karp, S.M., Dietrich, M.S, Narrigan, D., Carpenter, L., Walsh, W. (2014). Does additional prenatal care in the home improve birth outcomes for women with a prior preterm delivery? A randomized clinical trial. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 18(5):1142-1154. DOI: 10.1007/s10995-013-1344-4.

Karp, S., Howe-Heyman, Abby, Dietrich, M., Lutenbacher, M. (2013). Breastfeeding initiation in the context of a home intervention to promote better birth outcomes. Breastfeeding Medicine, 8 (4): 381-387. DOI:10.1089/bfm.2012.0151

Lutenbacher, M., Karp, S., Dietrich, M., Sullivan, J. (2013). Are services to Tennessee children with special health care needs comparable with national achievement of MCHB Objectives? Public Health Nursing, 30 (1): 7-17. DOI: 10.1111/phn.12000.

Karp, S., & Lutenbacher, M. (2011). Infant feeding practices of young mothers. MCN The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 36 (2), 98-103.

Karp, S., Lutenbacher, M., & Dietrich, M. (2010). The associations of psychosocial factors and infant feeding beliefs and practices of young, first time, low-income mothers. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 33 (4), 268-287.

Temple, P., Lutenbacher, M., Vitale, J. (2008). Limited access to care and home health care. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 51(2): 371-384.

Lutenbacher, M., Karp, S., Ajero, G., Howe, D., & Williams, M. (2005). Crossing community sectors: Challenges faced by families of children with special health care needs. Journal of Family Nursing, 11 (2), 162-182.

Lutenbacher, M., Cohen, A, & Conner, N. (2004). Breaking the cycle of family violence: Understanding the perspective of battered women. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 18, 236 - 243.

Cooper, W.O., Lutenbacher, M., Faccia, K., & Hepworth, J. (2003). Planning of youth violence-prevention programs: development of a guiding measure. Public Health Nursing, 20 (6), 432-439.

Lutenbacher, M., Cohen, A., Mitzel, J. (2003). Do we really help? Perspectives of abused women. Public Health Nursing 20 (1), 56-64.

Lutenbacher, M. (2002). Relationships between psychosocial factors and abusive parenting attitudes in low-income single mothers. Nursing Research, 51(3), 158-167.

Lutenbacher, M., Cooper, W.O., & Faccia, K. (2002). Planning youth violence prevention efforts: Decision-making across community sectors. Journal of Adolescent Health 30 (5), 346-354.

Lutenbacher, M. (2001) Psychometric assessment of the Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory in a sample of low-income single mothers. Journal of Nursing Measurement 9 (3), 291-308.

Cooper, W.O., Lutenbacher, M., & Faccia, K. (2000) Components of effective youth violence prevention programs for 7- to 14-year olds. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 154 (11): 1134-1139.

Lutenbacher, M. (2000). Perceptions of health status and the relationship with abuse history and mental health in low-income single mothers. Journal of Family Nursing 6(4), 320-340.

Sachs, B., Hall, L.A., Lutenbacher, M., & Rayens, M. K. (1999). The physical health of rural mothers and their low birth weight children. Journal of Community Health Nursing 16(4), 209-222.

Sachs, B., Hall, L.A., Lutenbacher, M., & Rayens, M.K. (1999). Potential for abusive parenting by rural mothers with low birth weight children. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 31, 21-25.

Lutenbacher, M., & Hall, L.A. (1998). The effects of maternal psychosocial factors on parenting attitudes of low-income, single mothers with young children. Nursing Research 47, (1), 25-34.

Norman, L., & Lutenbacher, M. (1996). Process of continual improvement in a school of nursing. Nursing and Healthcare: Perspectives on Community, 17, 292-297.

Hall, L.A., Sachs, B., Rayens, M.K., & Lutenbacher, M. (1993). Childhood physical and sexual abuse- Their relationships with depressive symptoms in adulthood. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 25, 317-323. (Awarded Best of Image Award, 1995)

Professional Organizations

  • American Academy of Nursing
  • American Nurses' Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science
  • Sigma Theta Tau
  • Southern Nursing Research Society


  • Nurses for Newborns Tennessee, Miller Award, 2016
  • March of Dimes of Tennessee, Nurse of the Year Award for Nursing Research, 2013
  • Outstanding Nursing Alumni, University of Kentucky, College of Nursing, 2010
  • Fellow, American Academy of Nursing, 2009
  • Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Ingeborg Mauksch Faculty Mentor Award, 2009
  • Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Dean?s Award for Scholarly Achievement, 2001
  • Best of Image Award, Sigma Theta Tau International, 1995