Clinical and Health Psychology

Ennis Featured Speaker at Symposium

Dr. Nicole Ennis is a featured speaker at the UF Graduate School Symposium. As a part of Graduate Student Appreciation Week, this event will take place on Monday, April 2 in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. The theme of the symposium provides the space for faculty and postdoctoral associates of color, in various disciplines and levels in their career, to share how they model “C.L.A.S.S.” (character, leadership, advocacy, scholarship and service) in their research. The inauguration of the symposium will be carried out by keynote speaker, Dr. Juan Gilbert, Banks Preeminence Chair in Human-Centered Computing and Chair of the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. Dr. Gilbert was also the driving force in bringing the Bouchet Society to the University of Florida.

Bauer Receives Faculty Doctoral Mentoring Award

Dr. Russell Bauer is one of five UF faculty members recognized with a Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award for 2017-2018. Dr. Bauer previously won this award in the 2003-2004 competition. The UF Graduate School’s annual Faculty Doctoral Mentoring Award encourages and rewards excellence, innovation, and effectiveness in mentoring doctoral and master of fine arts students through their final dissertation or thesis project. Nominations for the award come from current graduate students, graduate alumni, faculty members, graduate coordinators, department chairs, school directors, college deans, and higher-level administrators. Current and past winners of this mentoring award may be found here.


Environmental and Global Health

Austin-Datta Awarded CDC Science Ambassador Fellowship

One Health PhD student Rebecca Austin-Datta was recently awarded a fellowship sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Science Ambassador Program. This fellowship is highly competitive, with 174 applications submitted from 34 states and five countries in this cycle alone. Austin-Datta is one of 30 applicants who was offered a position in the 2018 fellowship class.

The fellowship is an educational program for teachers and educational leaders interested in increasing awareness about public health sciences in middle and high school classrooms. Austin-Datta will complete a five day interactive summer course at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as a one year distance-based professional development opportunity. For more information about the fellowship, please click here.

Moore Tackles Small Ruminant Plague in Uganda

One Health PhD student Emi Moore recently traveled to the East African country of Uganda. She spent two weeks conducting interviews in the Kotido and Amudat districts to support an ongoing project under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Moore was offered the opportunity to join the project by her faculty advisor Dr. Sarah McKune, who serves as the social science and gender expert on a larger research team for the project. The project focuses on eradicating peste des petits ruminants (PPR), or small ruminant plague which is a highly infectious viral disease of sheep and goats. This disease threatens rural communities in over 70 countries. By gaining insight into the social dynamics and forming bonds with community members during this trip, Moore and the team hope to develop a vaccination model that will be able to break viral transmission after two years of vaccination, and can be adapted for other vaccinations.



Yaghjyan and Mai Win UFHCC Pilot Award

Assistant Professor in Epidemiology Lusine Yaghjyan, MD, MPH, PhD, and Associate Professor in Epidemiology Volker Mai, PhD, MPH, were recently awarded a $42,000 collaborative, multiple PI, pilot grant from the UF Health Cancer Center (UFHCC) Cancer Therapeutics and Host Response Program Collaborative Team. Dr. Yaghjyan’s research focuses on biological pathways from high breast density to breast tumors, and Dr. Mai’s research focuses on the role of microbiota in disease etiology and prevention. Drs. Yaghjyan’s and Mai’s April 2016 paper explored a possibility of establishing microbiota–based targets for prevention and treatment of certain cancers. Through this new one-year, UFHCC-funded project, entitled “Correlations between breast microbiota and tissue methylation pattern,” Drs. Yaghjyan and Mai are collaborating again to measure breast microbiota in normal breast tissue samples and linking specific bacterial signatures to genome methylation profiles. The department is excited to see where this research takes them and UF. 

(left to right: Dr. Lusine Yaghjyan, Dr. Volker Mai)

Chen Receives UF Informatics Institute Award

Epidemiology PhD student Zhaoyi Chen received the 2018 UF Informatics Institute (UFII) Graduate Student Fellowship for his proposal, entitled “Level Analysis of Rheumatoid Diseases via Multi-Domain Machine Learning.” Using big data, Chen will develop prediction models for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other rheumatoid diseases (RD). He will develop an algorithm to distinguish between patients with RA and RD by integrating multi-domain data, including individuals’ demographic information, clinical comorbidities, and certain environmental indicators. By examining how other rheumatoid conditions cluster in RA patients, Chen will create a “temporal relationship map” of comorbidities and their relationships with diseases on the RA/RD spectrum. Chen is mentored by Associate Professor Mattia Prosperi, MEng, PhD.

(left to right: Zhaoyi Chen, Dr. Mattia Prosperi)


Health Services Research, Management and Policy

Deshmukh Featured in Article on HPV and Oral Cancer

Assistant Professor Ashish Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer for a story published March 6 on men being at greater risk for developing oral cancer caused by HPV. Dr. Deshmukh explained that not only do men acquire the virus more readily than women, it also persists longer in the body. The story has been picked up by multiple other news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune. Read more


Occupational Therapy

Struckmeyer Assumes Leadership Position in OT

The Florida Occupational Therapy Educational Consortium (FLOTEC) has elected Linda Struckmeyer, PhD, OTR/L, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, as its new chairperson. The mission of FLOTEC is To Promote, Encourage, and Foster Quality Fieldwork Education in collaboration with Fieldwork Educators for the benefit of all Occupational Therapy Students in the State of Florida.FLOTEC is an organization dedicated to the development, implementation, and support of quality fieldwork education for OT and OTA students. The partnership between education and practice provides leadership for fieldwork education programs and clinical faculty development. Dr. Struckmeyer will serve a two-year term starting this summer.

I-MAP Team Partners with CIMAR to Ride in UF’s Autonomous Vehicle

Dr. Sherrilene Classen, Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy and Director of the Institute of Mobility, Activity, and Participation (I-MAP) and Dr. Carl Crane, Director of the Center for Intelligent Machines and Robotics (CIMAR), have partnered to investigate the impact of autonomous vehicles on the driving behaviors of older adults. Recently the I-MAP team rode through the Oak Hammock retirement community in the University of Florida’s autonomous vehicle, the NaviGATOR. This self-driving vehicle uses GPS and multiple sensors, cameras, lidar and radar to navigate pre-determined routes. The I-MAP team is currently working on a project with the American Automotive Association to synthesize the literature and rate the importance, support, potential benefit and usability of vehicle automation technologies. Riding in the NaviGATOR provided the team with first-hand experience using vehicle technologies they are exploring in their research.


Physical Therapy

Klimczak Awarded NCH scholarship

Albert Klimczak, a first-year DPT student, has received a $1,000 Health Careers Scholarship from NCH Healthcare System Auxiliary. The purpose and intent of these scholarships is to encourage, support and reward students who have an interest in pursuing medical and health care studies. The scholarship will be used toward Klimczak’s course expenses, such as tuition, lab fees or books. 

13th Annual Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium

The T32 Neuromuscular Plasticity Training Program and T32 BREATHE Training Program hosted the 13th Annual Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium on March 16 at the Reitz Union and University House. Guest speakers included world-renowned experts Marcas M. Bamman, PhD, FACSM; Phillip Popovich, PhD; and Paul Hodges, ScD, PhD, BPhty. Over 50 students presented their research posters and six students were granted travel awards — two postdoctoral students, Dr. Arash Tadjalli and Dr. Adrienn Varga, and four graduate students, Aaron Morton, Kavya Kamalamma, Rachel Nosacka, and Abigail Schmitt.

(pictured: Dr. Lila Wollman, BREATHE T32 trainee, presenting her research at the Symposium poster session to PHHP dean, Dr. Michael Perri.)


Public Health

Accepted Student Visit Day

On Friday, March 23, over 50 faculty, alumni, staff and current students came together to host students who have been admitted to the MPH program. Throughout the day, accepted students and parents had the opportunity to meet current students, future deans and faculty, take a tour of the Health Science Center, and learn about becoming part of the Gator Family.

(pictured at top: PHHP Dean, Dr. Michael Perri, welcoming accepted students and parents and providing an overview of the college and MPH program)

A Challenging Walk

MPH Program Director Dr. Cindy Prins took part in Challenge Walk MS from March 2-4 in Savannah, Georgia. The walk, a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is a three day event where participants walk 21.5 miles on day 1, 18.5 miles on day 2, and 10 miles on day 3. This was Dr. Prins’ third time participating in Challenge Walk MS and the experience was rewarding. “The intensity of this event means that the people who participate have some close connection to MS, whether they have it themselves or have a loved one who suffers from the disease,” says Prins, who walks for her sister. “It’s especially inspiring to see walkers and volunteers who have MS take part in this to whatever extent they’re able.” Through her fundraising efforts Dr. Prins raised over $1,500 for the MS Society.

(pictured: Dr. Prins, second from left, poses with her Challenge Walk friends in downtown Savannah)


Rehabilitation Science

Corti Lead Author of Gene Therapy Study

UF Health researchers have found a gene therapy that treats respiratory problems in early-onset Pompe disease, and it was shown to be safe during its first human trial. Manuela Corti, PhD, a UF Health pediatrics researcher and RSD alumna, is the lead author of the study.

In the recent study, patients were assigned to two dosing groups and treated with different amounts of the gene therapy. Neither group suffered any adverse reactions that were attributed to the therapy. Researchers will begin work next summer on a trial to test the gene therapy systemically by administering it intravenously. Corti said the National Institutes of Health has provided a three-year grant and patient enrollment should begin shortly. Read more


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Dixon Presents at Conference

SBS second year doctoral student Brittney Dixon was selected for an oral presentation at the 2018 McKnight Mid-Year Research and Writing Conference held on February 23-24 in Tampa, Florida. Dixon’s presentation was titled, “A Social Ecological Understanding of Rural-Urban Obesity: A Review of the Literature.” During this 15 minute oral presentation Dixon discussed her findings from a recently submitted manuscript/literature review that was co-authored by Dr. Esther V. Piervil, Abraham Eastman, and Dr. Kathryn M. Ross. She discussed the factors impacting obesity using the social-ecological model as the guiding framework in rural versus urban communities and offered recommendations for future interventions, programs, and policy development to address the rural-urban disparity in obesity. Dixon is mentored by Kathryn M. Ross, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Program and the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology.

Piervil Publishes Manuscript

SBS Fall 2017 graduate, Dr. Esther V. Piervil, along with Dr. Mary Ellen Young and Dr. Folakemi Odedina, recently published the first article in a four-part series investigating the caregiving experience and needs of prostate cancer caregivers in the Black community. The article, titled “The Role and Influence of Prostate Cancer Caregivers across the Care Continuum,” identifies major themes related to the role and influence of CaP caregivers in the Black community and outlines key implications for practice and research specific to this community across the continuum of care. The manuscript will appear in the public health journal, Health Promotion Practice (HPP). 

(left to right: Dr. Tzu-Jung Jen Wong, Fall graduate 2017, Dr. Mary Ellen Young, primary mentor, dissertation chair, and advisor, Dr. Esther V. Piervil, Fall graduate 2017)


Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

2018 Project Yucatan

Since 2003, the University of Florida has collaborated with the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan and the Asociacion Yucateca Pro-Deficiente Auditivo (a non-profit dedicated to the provision of hearing health care to the underserved children and families of the Yucatan peninsula) to identify and treat children with hearing loss. In this 16th year, the team of 14 students and four faculty in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology joined students and faculty from the UF College of Pharmacy and the University of Oklahoma to work with local professionals and volunteers in serving 877 children and adults in four communities over five days. This year, the speech pathology faculty and students conducted daily seminars for teachers and parents on providing a language rich environment for their children. The success of Project Yucatan remains the capacity to strengthen the efforts of local organizations while providing students with fruitful clinical practice.

First Annual Project Yucatan Symposium

On Friday, March 9, the inaugural International Project Yucatan Symposium was held on the campus of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan (UADY). Drs. Scott Griffiths, Kim Crass, Melissa Hall, Kristin Letlow, Kristi Barbee (of the University of Oklahoma), and Zacil Ha Vilchis Zapata (of UADY), along with Ms. Lori Ferraro and Mona Ryan (of the University of Oklahoma) presented papers in the Symposium. Topics ranged from genetic sources of congenital hearing loss among Mayan children, early identification techniques, team approaches to the management of hearing and balance difficulties, optimization of assistive devices, and facilitation of language development for the child with hearing impairment.



College of Medicine 2018 Celebration of Research Day

The UF College of Medicine's Celebration of Research was held on February 19 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. This event consisted of a keynote speech, a special guest seminar, and a poster session. In total, 96 posters were presented. Of those, several students and faculty members from the Department of Biostatistics participated and shared their research as part of the poster session:

• Yichen Chen, PhD Student: “Adjustment of Multi-Sample U-Statistics to Right Censored Data with Confounding Covariates”

• Tyler Grimes, PhD Student: “Differential Network Analysis for Based on Next Generation Sequencing Data”

• Zhiguang Huo, Assistant Professor: “Differential Variably Methylated Regions (dVMRs) Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease: A Genome-wide DNA Methylation Study in Postmortem Brains”

• Yeonil Kim, PhD Student: “An Efficient Resampling Method for Order-Restricted Gene-Trait Association Analysis”

(pictured: Yichen Chen)

BSO Networking Workshop

On February 20, the Biostatistics Student Organization (BSO) teamed up with the Career Resource Center (CRC), and hosted a networking workshop. The goal of the workshop was to gather graduate students from the health sciences and connect them with CRC and provide general knowledge in regards to the resources and services that are offered to students. Ashley Jacobs, Assistant Director for Career and Industry Engagement, was the invited speaker and she was able to provide career planning strategies as well as reiterate CRC services.