PhD Students, Candidates and Alumni

Amanda Irish, PhD student in UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Amanda Irish, DVM, MPH

Graduation Date: 2021

Education: UC Davis (BS, Genetics); UC Davis (DVM); UC Berkeley (MPH, Infectious Disease and Vaccinology)

Research interests: Prior to my MPH, I was a practicing small animal veterinarian for four years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my main research interests fall within the One Health initiative – focusing on the intersection of human, animal and environmental health – especially as applied to zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. During my MPH, I gained an interest in health disparities and in GIS, and hope to incorporate these into future research. Outside interests include travel, art, reading, running, hiking, and of course, spending time with my cat and dogs.

Dan Kelly, PhD student at UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Dan Kelly, MD, MPH

Graduation Date: 2022

Education: Princeton University (AB Chemistry); Albert Einstein College of Medicine (MD); UC Berkeley, (MPH)

Research Interest: My interest is in the study of the epidemiology and natural history of EVD survivorship and unreported infections in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am interested in research capacity building to support the development of individuals and degree-granting programs in countries where viral hemorrhagic diseases and health inequities are endemic.

Michelle DeVost, MPH

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: California State University, Northridge (BS, Mathematics, Pure Mathematics and Classical Applied Mathematics concentrations); UCLA (MPH, Biostatistics)

Research Interest: My professional research experience ranges from statistical consulting for model development and biomarker validation in nursing to investigating sexual health behaviors and biomedical HIV prevention among sexual and gender minority communities. As a doctoral student, I am particularly interested in the principles of study design, statistical methods for clinical trials, applying mathematical modeling to public health research and leveraging electronic medical records data to investigate barriers to effective intervention implementation and to dynamically monitor and enhance population health.

Jean Digitale, MPH, RN

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: University of Pennsylvania (BS, Nursing); Columbia University (MPH)

Research Focus: My research interests include epidemiologic methods, electronic health record data, and pediatric hospital medicine. Prior to coming to UCSF, I worked as a pediatric RN for a decade, primarily in intensive care. I recently received an NIH F31 grant for my dissertation project, which aims to apply machine learning to predict the earliest safe extubation time for children in the pediatric intensive care unit. My goal is to create a clinician decision support tool which will improve quality, safety, and value of care.

Alice Guan, PhD student in UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Alice Guan, MPH

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: UC Santa Cruz (BS, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; BA, Philosophy – Religious Thought); San Francisco State University (MPH, Community Health Education)

Research Interests: Health policy and social epidemiology; evaluating effects of social and economic policies on health behaviors and outcomes across the life course.

Sepehr Hashemi, PhD student in UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Sepehr Hashemi

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: UC Davis (BS in Genetics with emphasis on genomics); Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Research interests: Predicting common surgical outcomes and complications, maxillofacial transplantation platforms, palliative therapy of oral cancer complications, and molecular assessment of treatment-specific complications in breast and prostate cancers

Erika Meza, PhD student at UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Erika Meza, MPH

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: Loyola Marymount (BS, Applied Mathematics); Columbia University (MPH, Environmental Health)

Research interests: My research interests lie in social epidemiology and understanding how interactions between environmental, social and psychosocial factors promote or suppress the onset of disease. My interest in social epidemiology began while collaborating on an air pollution study in New York City and learning about the impact of neighborhood characteristics on health disparities. As a doctoral student, I am interested in epidemiologic research design and statistical methods that can be used to identify significant factors and interactions affecting minority health and inform the development of effective community-based interventions.

Sarah Raifman

Sarah Raifman, MS

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: Brown University (AB, Development Studies), Harvard University (MS, Global Health and Population)

Research Interests: sexual and reproductive health, health policy and social epidemiology. I work at a UCSF research program called Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), where I focus on evaluating the consequences of abortion restrictions on health and wellbeing, measuring the morbidity and mortality due to unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion, and exploring new models for family planning and abortion service provision. I am interested in conducting innovative policy-relevant research to expand access to quality reproductive health services.

Marta San Luciano Palenzuela, PhD student at UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Marta San Luciano Palenzuela, MD

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: University of Navarre, Spain (MD), Boston University (Residency, Neurology), Beth Israel Medical Center (Fellowship, Movement Disorders), Albert Einstein College of Medicine (MS Clinical Research Methods)

Research Interests: I am a clinical neurologist with specialty training in movement disorders, and my research interests are broadly in clinical and genetic epidemiology of Parkinson's disease, dystonia and other movement disorders and neurodegenerative illnesses, as well as in outcomes research in neurology and neuromodulation surgeries. My current research focuses on identifying predictors of favorable motor outcomes following deep brain stimulation surgery in isolated dystonia, a disabling movement disorder. While this type of surgery can improve symptoms in many patients, there is great variability in results and a great proportion of non-responders exist. Genetic etiologies of dystonia and different phenotypes may underline some of the differences. By means of the doctoral program, I hope to improve my understanding of research methodology to be able to identify such predictors in an innovative way and improve clinical care for this population.

Eduardo Santiago-Rodriguez, PhD student at UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Eduardo J. Santiago-Rodríguez

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: University of Puerto Rico, Bayamón (BS, Human Biology); University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus (MPH, Epidemiology)

Research interests: the role of social and environmental factors on cancer health disparities, especially those observed in racial and ethnic minorities; research methods; issues impeding minority groups from getting timely screening and adequate treatment

Kristen Azar, MSN/MPH

Graduation Date: 2024

Education: University of California, Berkeley (BA, English); Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (BS and MS Nursing) and Bloomberg School of Public Health (MPH)

Research interests: My research interests include chronic disease prevention and management in primary care settings and the impact of social determinants of health on risk, treatment and outcomes. I have worked as an investigator in Sutter Health’s research enterprise since 2012. Additionally, I have clinical expertise in the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic diseases.
 

Akansha Batra, MS

Graduation Date: 2024

Education: University of California, Los Angeles (MS in Health Policy and Management with emphasis on research); University of Delhi, Delhi (MA in Economics and BA Economic Honors.)

Research interests: Social Epidemiology, Health Disparities, and Policy Evaluation. My past research experience has been focused on health disparities driven by geographical location, access to care or gender differences. During my doctoral training, would like to understand how behavioral, social or economic interventions can address health disparities in different contexts. I am also interested in exploring the effects of policies on mental health. 
 

Yusuph Mavura, MS

Graduation Date: 2024

Education: Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (BS Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Georgia Institute of Technology (MS Bioinformatics)
 
Research interest: I am interested in genetic epidemiology and the etiology of complex diseases such as cancer and also health disparities. My previous research experience in genomics of Ovarian Cancer as well as research at the NIH working on Genome-wide Association study (GWAS) for a Chinese pancreatic cancer study encouraged me to pursue a PhD focusing on human statistical genetics. I am also interested in bioinformatics and big data analysis.

Eduardo Rodriguez Almaraz, MD, MAS

Graduation Date: 2024

Education: Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico (MD, General Medicine); University of California, San Francisco (MAS, Clinical Research)

Research interests: My broad research interests include the application of epidemiology methods to discover patterns (biological and social) that can be used to prevent and treat diseases. I developed interest in applying Artificial intelligence methods in the epidemiology and cancer domains to improve clinical outcomes such as overall survival and progression free survival while working in the Brain Tumor Center at UCSF. As a Master’s student I worked on the impact of cannabis in the quality of life of patients with central nervous system tumors which interested me in quality of life measure development. As a doctoral student, I aim to acquire further skills to contribute to the effort in neuro oncology of improve patient quality of care, quality of life and survival.

Caitlin Turner, MPH

Graduation Date: 2024

Education: University of California, Davis (BS, Psychology with an emphasis in mathematics); University of California, Berkeley (MPH, Epidemiology & Biostatistics)

Research interests: While working as an epidemiologist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, my interests centered around social determinants of health for trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary communities. During my doctoral training, I will leverage rigorous epidemiological and statistical methodologies to identify social determinants of health for these communities, while building my skillset in translational science to effectively address these health disparities.

Priscilla Espinosa Tamez, MD

Graduation Date: 2025

Education: Universidad de Monterrey (MD)
Research interests: research methods in implementation science; design, implementation, and evaluation of screening interventions; the intersection of chronic and infectious diseases. My previous research at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico has focused on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, and the evaluation of the feasibility of colorectal cancer screening in Mexico City.

 

Sirena Gutierrez, MPH

Graduation Date: 2025

Education: University of Texas at Austin (BSA, Biology; BA, Sociology); University of Texas Medical Branch (MPH, Epidemiology)

Research Interests: My research interests broadly focus on the intersection of behavioral, environmental, and social determinants of health in older adults. Other areas of research include health disparities among migrant populations. As a doctoral student, I want to leverage statistical and epidemiological methods to identify how biopsychosocial trajectories across a life course influence depression, cognitive and functional decline in older adults to help guide public policy and interventions.

Leah Koenig, MSPH

Graduation Date: 2025

Education: Wesleyan University (BA, Social Studies), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (MSPH)

Research interests: My research interests center on using social epidemiology to understand access and barriers to sexual and reproductive health services. At UCSF I work with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health on studies that focus on testing new models for abortion services. During my doctoral training, I hope to explore both clinical and population science perspectives to contribute to evidence-based programs and policies that optimize reproductive choice and wellbeing.  

Carolyn Smith Hughes, MS

Graduation Date: 2025

Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison (BS, Genetics, Life science communications), University of California, San Francisco (MS, Global Health Sciences)

Research interests: Maternal health, maternal mental health, health economics, health policy, healthcare systems. My interests are in the epidemiology and social determinants of severe maternal and postpartum complications and poor outcomes, especially in underserved populations.

Jingxuan Wang, MPhil

Graduation Date: 2025

Education: University of Hong Kong (BS, Statistics; MPhil, Statistics)

Research interests: High-dimensional statistics, Neuroimaging, Epidemiology of Aging