PhD Students, Candidates and Alumni

Ekland Abdiwahab, MPH

Ekland Abdiwahab, MPH

Graduation Date: 2020

Education: University of California, Davis (BS, Microbiology); University of Minnesota School of Public Health (MPH, Community Health Promotion, Health Disparities Interdisciplinary Concentration)

Research Interests: The focus of my research is broadly on social stressors across the life course. In particular, I am interested in elucidating the relation between early life factors (e.g. adverse experiences), residential segregation, and cancer risk in order to determine the most effect intervention strategies to reduce the cancer burden in Black populations. In addition to advanced epi and biostatics methods, I am also interested in gaining skills in geospatial analyses.

Vignesh Arasu, MD

Vignesh Arasu, MD

Graduation Date: 2020

Education: Harvey Mudd College (BS Neuroscience), UCSF (MD, Residency/Fellowship Radiology)

Research interests: I am a clinical radiologist specializing in cancer imaging, and my research interests are broadly in breast cancer imaging and imaging utilization. Most of my research focuses on developing precision imaging models in breast cancer. I work on two multicenter trials in this regard, the WISDOM study (personalized breast screening) and ISPY-2 study (personalized breast cancer treatment), where UCSF serves as the lead site. These trials integrate mammography or breast MRI as “biomarkers" of risk or treatment response to guide clinical decisions. Through the doctoral program, I hope to gain a deep understanding of research methodology to be able to push my work to be as innovative and impactful as possible. I am also interested in understanding techniques such as “big data” mining, genetic epidemiology, and NLP/machine learning.

Rae Wannier, PhD student at UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

S. Rae Wannier, MPH

Graduation Date: 2020

Education: Reed College (BA, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology); Yale University (MPH, Epidemology of Microbial Diseases)

Research interests: parasitic diseases, statistics, methods in epidemiology



Chloe Eng

Chloe Eng, MSPH

Graduation Date: 2021

Education: Northeastern University (BS, Health Science); Emory University (MSPH, Epidemiology)

Research interests: social epidemiology methods and the relationship between life course socioeconomic exposures and aging; health disparities in a variety of contexts, including neighborhood access to childhood education and community physical activity; nutrition patterns; and social determinants of blood pressure in South African young adults; social factors as risk factors for chronic disease; aging populations

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 course, spending time with my cat and dogs.

Francois Rerolle, PhD student at UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Francois Rerolle, MS

Graduation Date: 2021

Education: Ecole Polytechnique, France (MS, Engineering); Stanford University (MS, Environmental Engineering)

Research Interests: Epidemiology of infectious diseases and their socio-economic impacts in less-developed countries; spatial epidemiology 

Kristina Van Dang, MPH

Kristina Van Dang, MPH

Graduation Date: 2021

Education: University of California, Berkeley (BA, Economics; BA, Molecular and Cell Biology); Emory University (MPH, Epidemiology)

Research Focus: My research outlined how to combine data and evidence in methods for meta-analysis of observational studies in epidemiology (MOOSE). I applied these guidelines to how iron indicators can be used to estimate risk of colorectal cancer, and understand how public health systems improve health outcomes during disasters. Additionally, I studied how health incentives can be offered to increase follow-up HIV testing in Zambia. I’m interested in how health can be improved through innovative data structures.

Adrienne Epstein

Adrienne Epstein, MS

Graduation Date: 2022

Education: Macalester College (BA, Biology); Harvard University (MS Global Health and Population)

Research interests: My broad research interests include the application of spatial methods to improve surveillance for vector-borne diseases. I became interested in malaria while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea. Although I worked as a teacher, health was a major issue in my community, and much of my work entailed malaria education. For my Master's thesis, I investigated barriers pregnant women face to receiving proper malaria treatment in Guinea. As a doctoral student, I hope to expand my skillset to achieve a greater impact in improving health outcomes in malaria-vulnerable populations.

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.

Crystal Langlais, PhD student in UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Crystal Langlais, MPH

Graduation Date: 2022

Education: Eastern Washington University (BS Biology); University of Arizona, (MPH)

Research Interests: My professional research experience is centered around pediatric acute illness and injury. In my doctoral training, I am shifting my focus to genetic and early life exposures associated with chronic disease onset, particularly in relation to cancers and cardiovascular disease. I am especially interested in how modifiable risk factors associated with chronic diseases interact with genetic factors to influence disease onset and how these relationships result in different disease trajectories across populations.

Sandeep Brar, PhD student at UCSF Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Sandeep Brar, MD

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: University of Calgary (BSc, Biochemistry and Cellular, Molecular & Microbial Biology); University of Calgary (MD); University of Alberta (internal medicine residency); University of Toronto (nephrology residency, kidney and kidney-pancreas transplantation fellowship)

Research interests: Observational studies and clinical trials involving patients with renal dysfunction or a renal transplant; research methodology and clinical trial design in order to improve outcomes for patients with renal disease

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, PhD student at UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Jean Digitale, MPH, RN

Graduation Date: 2023

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

Research Focus: My research interests include epidemiologic methods, pediatric hospital medicine and pediatric infectious disease. My primary research experience thus far has been in evaluation of social programs for adolescent girls in Zambia. Additionally, I have worked as a pediatric RN since 2008, primarily in intensive care, and aim to incorporate my nursing expertise into my research.

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: The intersection of immigration/migration and health. More broadly, I’m interested in racial health disparities, social epidemiology and the research-to-policy pipeline. My primarily research experience has been focused on smoking cessation interventions for Asian American male smokers. My doctoral training will focus on the use of spatial methods to better understand health disparities in urban immigrant populations. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the establishment of targeted interventions and research-driven policy.

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

Zara Izadi, phd candidate at UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Zara Izadi

Graduation Date: 2023

Education: Robert Gordon University, School of Pharmacy (MPharm, Hons); University of California, San Francisco (MAS, Training in Clinical Research)

Research Interests: Patient-reported outcomes, psychometric evaluations, quality improvement and cost-effectiveness. My research has focused on measurement properties of patient-reported outcomes in rheumatology and differences among racial/ethnic groups. Prior to my MAS, I worked as a clinical pharmacist and as a medical advisor in industry. As a doctoral student, I am interested in epidemiologic and statistical methods that can be applied to disease registry data to inform policy and implementation of quality improvement measures.

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.

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.