2023

Student Perspectives: Epidemiology

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Investigating a Cancer Disparity

Danica Anukam

PhD Student, Epidemiology


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Coming from a family of healthcare providers, I became interested in public health research at an early age. I was especially drawn to cancer epidemiology, because despite all the efforts to eradicate or curtail cancer, it continues to dominate our lives, touching all of us in some way.

My cancer epidemiology research will be centered on the lifestyle factors of African American/Black men who develop prostate cancer, and the extent to which health disparities affect incidence and survival in this population. Research has shown that Black men suffer disproportionately from prostate cancer compared to non-Hispanic White men — a disparity that is larger than for any other cancer. Risk factors for prostate cancer in Black men are neither well-documented nor understood. I hope my research will offer some clarity on these risk factors, as well as effective interventions for prevention.

My FSPH experience has provided me the resources and knowledge to implement my research interests. The faculty, staff, and my classmates have made my experience remarkable. My adviser, Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, chair of the Department of Epidemiology, has provided me with unwavering support and mentorship and has remained a source of inspiration in my pursuit of cancer epidemiology.

Alleviating the Burden of Dementia

Ryo Ikesu

PhD Student, Epidemiology


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As a medical student in Japan, I believed the way for individuals to improve their health was by seeking care at medical facilities. My perspective changed once I began working as a physician and witnessed the influence of social factors on patients’ health. For instance, I encountered a patient who experienced recurring heart failure exacerbations due to low income and subsequent poor nutrition. I also became aware of the significant differences in healthcare services between rural and urban areas. Since then, my goal has been to untangle the impact of social factors and healthcare delivery on people’s health.

Currently, I am conducting research at FSPH focusing on dementia, a condition that is rapidly increasing worldwide due to aging populations, but has no curative treatment. Social factors such as access to education and loneliness have been suggested to affect dementia incidence. Additionally, healthcare services play a crucial role in maintaining the quality of life for people with dementia. With the invaluable guidance of my mentors and inspiring interactions with peers, I am committed to generating evidence on the relationship between social factors, healthcare services, and dementia. By doing so, I aspire to make meaningful contributions toward alleviating the burden of dementia in society.

Promoting Perinatal Health

Nehaa Khadka

PhD ’23, Epidemiology


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My doctoral research at UCLA Fielding focused on evaluating oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) delivery for pregnant and breastfeeding populations in South Africa, driven by my passion for perinatal health and reducing health inequities. Collaborating closely with Drs. Dvora Joseph Davey and Pamina Gorbach of FSPH’s Department of Epidemiology, I had the opportunity to clean and analyze longitudinal data from the PrEP in Pregnancy and Postpartum (PrEP-PP) cohort study.

Adolescent girls and young women face a disproportionate burden of HIV, with high incidence rates during pregnancy and postpartum in South Africa. Daily oral PrEP is effective in preventing HIV transmission, but its provision for pregnant populations became part of standard care only in 2020, despite being available since 2015. Implementation science studies of PrEP into antenatal and postnatal care have the potential to inform clinical care and national policy decisions regarding HIV prevention for women and infants.

I am continuing my work in perinatal health as a post-doctoral fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s Department of Research & Evaluation, shifting my research focus to the local context. By conducting research within a large integrated healthcare system, my goal is to reduce disparities in care and improve health outcomes for pregnant individuals and their infants in Southern California.

Decolonizing Global Health

Sydney Merrit

MPH ’23, Epidemiology


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In the summer of 2022, I had the incredible opportunity to live and work in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as part of the UCLA-DRC Health Research and Training Program. For an epidemiologist-in-training who happened to speak French, it was an ideal opportunity to work alongside local experts and giants in the field of infectious disease research. The day-to-day experience in Kinshasa was unpredictable — one day we’d be attending a conference on routine immunization access; the next, our office would become ground zero for data management, with handwritten registers of survey participants.

Before joining FSPH, I had a background in microbiology and immunology, with a passion for travel and an ultimate goal to work in global health. After graduation, I am returning to Kinshasa to work with the UCLA-DRC team full time. This work is important to me not only from a scientific perspective, but also through the lens of decolonizing the field of global health. Unlike historical global health work, which was almost exclusively conducted by and for the benefit of visiting researchers, in the UCLA-DRC group we work with and learn from the communities directly impacted by our research. I am beyond excited for this opportunity, and look forward to my future in the field.

Faculty Referenced in this Article

Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang
Zuo-Feng Zhang
Epidemiology
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Dr. Dvora Joseph Davey
Dvora Joseph Davey

Dr. Joseph Davey is an infectious disease epidemiologist with over 20 years' experience leading research on HIV/STI services for women and children.

Epidemiology
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Susan Cochran
Susan Cochran
Epidemiology
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DerSarkissian, Maral
Maral DerSarkissian
Epidemiology
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Alexandra Binder Headshot
Alexandra Binder
Epidemiology
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Amy Wohl
Epidemiology
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Dr. Shira Shafir
Shira Shafir
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Lawrence Ash
Epidemiology
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Paul Dluzniewski
Epidemiology
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Sander Greenland
Sander Greenland
Epidemiology
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Sung-Jae Lee
Sung-Jae Lee
Epidemiology
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Roch Nianogo
Roch A. Nianogo
Epidemiology
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Dr. Beate Ritz
Beate Ritz
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Haroutune Armenian
Haroutune Armenian
Epidemiology
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Peter Katona
Epidemiology
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Nicole Hoff
Epidemiology
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Dr. Brian Bradbury
Brian Bradbury
Epidemiology
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Paul Simon Headshot
Paul Simon
Epidemiology
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Dr. Liwei Chen
Liwei Chen

Professor in Epidemiology

Epidemiology
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Dr. Marjan Javanbakht
Marjan Javanbakht
Epidemiology
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Annette Regan
Epidemiology
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Pamina Gorbach
Pamina Gorbach
Epidemiology
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Noel Weiss
Epidemiology
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Jonathan Jacobs
Jonathan Jacobs
Epidemiology
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Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh
Epidemiology
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Robert Kim-Farley
Robert J. Kim-Farley

Robert J. Kim-Farley, MD, MPH, is a Professor-in-Residence with joint appointments in the Departments of Epidemiology and Community Health Sciences

Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Sheena G. Sullivan
Epidemiology
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Dr. Timothy Brewer
Timothy Brewer
Epidemiology
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Naomi Greene
Naomi Greene
Epidemiology
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Karin Michels
Karin B. Michels
Epidemiology
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Ondine S. von Ehrenstein
Community Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Teresa Ellen Seeman
Epidemiology
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Ximena Vergara
Ximena Vergara
Epidemiology
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Anne Coleman
Anne Coleman
Epidemiology
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Kelika Konda
Epidemiology
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Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Otoniel Martinez-Maza
Epidemiology
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Dr. Roger Detels
Roger Detels
Epidemiology
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Lisa V. Smith
Epidemiology
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Dr. Anne Rimoin
Anne Rimoin
Epidemiology
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Frank J. Sorvillo
Epidemiology
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Nina Harawa
Epidemiology
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Nathan Wong
Nathan D. Wong
Epidemiology
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Leeka I. Kheifets
Epidemiology
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Jian Yu Rao
Epidemiology
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Hashibe, Mia
Mia Hashibe
Epidemiology
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Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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Bailley, Julia
Julia Bailey
Epidemiology
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Aziz, Najib headshot_2023
Najib Aziz
Epidemiology
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Peter R. Kerndt
Epidemiology
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Jørn Olsen
Epidemiology
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Matthew Mimiaga
Matthew J. Mimiaga
Epidemiology
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Marissa J. Seamans
Marissa Seamans
Epidemiology
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Catherine Carpenter
Epidemiology
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Su Yong Jung
Su Yon Jung
Epidemiology
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Roberta Malmgren
Epidemiology
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Dr. Paul Hsu
Paul Hsu
Epidemiology
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Emily Beeler
Epidemiology
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Niklas Krause
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Vonthanak Saphonn
Epidemiology
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Akihiro Nishi Headshot
Akihiro Nishi
Epidemiology
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Jian Li
Jian Li
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Julia Heck
Julia Heck
Epidemiology
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Onyebuchi Arah headshot
Onyebuchi A. Arah
Epidemiology
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Ralph R. Frerichs, 12/25/21
Ralph R. Frerichs
Epidemiology
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Dallas Swendeman
Epidemiology
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Christie Jeon
Epidemiology
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Tony Kuo
Tony Kuo
Epidemiology
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Elizabeth Rose Mayeda photo
Elizabeth Rose Mayeda
Epidemiology
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