Diane Cook, Ph.D.
Dr. Diane Cook is a Regents Professor and Huie-Rogers Chair in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University (WSU), founding director of the WSU Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems (CASAS), and co-director of the WSU Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the National Academy of Inventors. Diane’s work is featured in BBC, IEEE The Institute, IEEE Spectrum, Smithsonian, The White House Fact Sheet, Scientific American, the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, HGTV, and ABC News. Her research aims to create smart environments that automate health monitoring and intervention, evaluated via the CASAS Smart Home in a Box installed in over 160 sites across 9 countries. Her research currently focuses on developing machine learning methods that map a human behaviorome as a foundation for constructing a digital twin. She also conducts multidisciplinary research to leverage digital twin technologies for automatically assessing, extending, and enhancing a person’s functional independence.
Dr. Dustin Duncan is a social and spatial epidemiologist, studying how neighborhood characteristics and mobility across geographic contexts influence population health and health disparities. His intersectional research focuses on Black gay, bisexual, and other sexual minority men and transgender women of color. His research has a strong domestic focus—including in New York City, Chicago, and the Deep South (e.g., New Orleans)—and his recent work spans the globe, such as in West Africa, especially with Columbia University’s International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs. In addition to HIV epidemiology and sleep epidemiology, his current interests include characterizing the COVID-19 epidemic locally, nationally and globally, especially among marginalized populations. Notably, his group completed the Neighborhoods and Networks (N2) COVID Study, in which they surveyed 226 Black sexual minority men and Black transgender women in Chicago from April 2020 to July 2020 on various aspects of COVID-19. Methodologically, his research utilizes an ecologically intensive, geospatial lens to apply advanced geographic information systems, web-based and real-time geospatial technologies, and geospatial modeling techniques. Working in collaborations with scholars around the world, he has authored nearly 200 high-impact scientific articles, book chapters, and books; his research has appeared in major media outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV Prevention Trials Network, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Verizon Foundation, and Aetna Foundation. He currently leads four NIH-funded R01 studies, as well as studies funded by other sources, and he mentors K and other awards of junior scientists. Dr. Duncan has received several early-career and distinguished scientific contribution, mentoring, and leadership awards, including from the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science. In 2020, he received the Mentor of the Year award from Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. He has mentored numerous early-stage scientists, doctoral students, and postdoctoral researchers who have gone on to attain positions at academic institutions and successfully compete for research funding, including NIH R01-level funding. He thus has a strong perspective on how to ensure junior researchers launch successful research careers. His mentoring and early-career faculty career development and advancement work areas of focus include the role of positionality in mentoring relationships, leadership development, and wellness and burnout prevention, with particular emphasis on underrepresented faculty.
Genevieve Fridlund Dunton, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Genevieve Dunton is a professor of population and public health sciences and psychology at the University of Southern California (USC). She earned a doctorate in health psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master of Public Health from USC. She received postdoctoral training in physical activity, nutrition, and cancer prevention from the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Dunton’s research examines health behaviors related to chronic disease risk in children and adults, with a focus on physical activity and nutrition. She is the Director of the USC REACH (Real-Time Eating Activity and Children’s Health) Lab, whose goals are to develop, test, and apply real-time data capture methodologies and applications, using smartphones and wearable sensors, to better understand the effects of psychological, social, and environmental factors on eating and physical activity (http://reach.usc.edu/). She is the principal investigator on numerous studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, author of more than 170 peer-reviewed publications, and past chair of the American Public Health Association Physical Activity Section. Dr. Dunton also is past chair of the National Physical Activity Plan Public Health Sector Committee and a past member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Implementation of Physical Activity Surveillance Strategies.
César Escobar-Viera, M.D., Ph.D. (He/Him)
Dr. César Escobar-Viera is an assistant professor of psychiatry and the director of the Program for Internet Delivered Interventions on LGBTQA+ Mental Health (PRIDE iM) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He completed his medical education and psychiatry residence at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción, in his home country of Paraguay, where he also practiced general psychiatry for 10 years and served as medical director of the only public psychiatric hospital in the country. He earned his M.P.H. and Ph.D. in health services research from the University of Florida. Dr. Escobar-Viera’s research seeks to (1) understand the role of social media usage and experiences on mental health among queer youth and emerging adults, and (2) develop and test digital mental health interventions to reduce the risk of depression among queer youth. He is the recipient of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities–funded Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) to examine longitudinal associations between social media behaviors and interactions and depression among queer young adults. He is also the principal investigator of a Pilot Award funded by the National Institute of Mental Health–funded ETUDES Center (P50) to develop and test the acceptability of chatbot-based interventions for reducing loneliness and depression risk among rural queer youth.
Aline Gubrium, Ph.D. (She/Her)
Dr. Aline Gubrium is a professor of health promotion and policy at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has extensive experience in innovative research methodologies that focus on narrative, participatory, visual, and community-based approaches. She is a medical anthropologist with expertise in reproductive and sexual health inequities, specifically focused on racially and ethnically minoritized communities and families. Her research lies at the intersection of ethnography, critical narrative intervention, and action and assesses the potential of narrative processes, like body mapping and digital storytelling, as a mechanism for group-based intervention and community-based action. She also focuses on the potential of the products of these processes, such as digital stories, to shift stigmatizing and shaming conversations and policies aimed at marginalized communities. She currently serves as MPI on the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities-funded R01 grant, “MOCHA Moving Forward: A CBPR Investigation of Chronic Disease Prevention in Older, Low-Income African-American Men,” which takes a community-based participatory research approach to evaluate the effectiveness of a narratively enhanced intervention in lowering stress and risk of chronic diseases among men of color.
Mr. Albert Hubert is the lead facilitator of Stories Matter and the Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) Program. He joined MOCHA in 2011 and has been actively involved since that time. MOCHA saved his life. He began as a participant, volunteered to do community outreach, got trained to be a MOCHA Mentor, and then he was offered a regular staff position. When the NIH research project began, he was offered a position as one of three trained community interviewers. As part of the community-based participatory research process, he was involved in the analysis, write-up, and dissemination of the results of the exploratory phase of the research. These themes were then incorporated into a new version of the MOCHA curriculum, a version that emphasized personal storytelling and narrative exchanges—a process in which he was deeply involved. With the new “Stories Matter” version of MOCHA, he became the lead facilitator in running the new 12-week program.
Chandra (Shawn-dra) L. Jackson, Ph.D., M.S.
Dr. Chandra L. Jackson is an Earl Stadtman Investigator who leads the Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Research Group in the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences with a joint appointment in the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Dr. Jackson investigates physical and social environmental factors that impact disparities in sleep health and subsequent risk of cardiometabolic dysfunction. Her research has been presented at national and international scientific conferences and published in both academic journals—such as Lancet, JAMA Internal Medicine, the American Journal of Epidemiology, and SLEEP—and major media outlets, such as the U.S. News & World Report and The New York Times. She has earned merit-based awards, including the Charlotte Silverman Award for outstanding commitment to public health, policy, and community outreach at Johns Hopkins; an Outstanding Fellows Award at Harvard; and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She earned a Master’s degree in epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and she was an Alonzo Smythe Yerby postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health before becoming a research associate in the Harvard Catalyst Clinical and Translational Science Center.
Hillard Kaplan, Ph.D.
Dr. Hillard Kaplan obtained his Ph.D. in anthropology at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. He has conducted research with hunter–gatherers and populations practicing a mixed economy of foraging and farming over the last 3 decades. This research has focused on diet, food sharing, intergenerational resource transfers, population demography, and the evolution of the human life course. Kaplan currently co-directs the Tsimane Health and Life History Project, a biomedical research program that combines scientific investigation with community participation and medical care. Topics of investigation include metabolic disorders, immune function, and cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s disease. Important findings from this research are that heart disease and diabetes are much less prevalent among subsistence peoples who are physically active and consume little in the way of processed foods. Dr. Kaplan is currently funded by the National Institute on Aging to study brain aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease and served as a member of Committee on Population at the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine.
Ethan Mereish, Ph.D.
Dr. Ethan Mereish is an associate professor in the Department of Health Studies at American University and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University. His NIH-funded research focuses on understanding the effects of social, psychological, and cultural determinants of substance use, suicide, and other health outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and young adults and racial/ethnic minorities as well as factors that promote their resilience. Dr. Mereish is also a licensed psychologist in the District of Columbia.
Shlomit Radom-Aizik, Ph.D.
Dr. Shlomit Radom-Aizik, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California (UC), Irvine, and the executive director at UC Irvine Health Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center, is working to advance exercise medicine through clinical and laboratory research using genomic and epigenetic approaches and to promote and foster community partnerships to encourage physical activity across the lifespan. She completed her Ph.D. dissertation in the Functional Genomics Unit at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University, Israel, and received her Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on the intersection of functional genomics and exercise physiology with the goal of uncovering the molecular mechanisms of both acute and long-term health effects of exercise and training in health and disease. She currently is a principal investigator (PI) on two multiple-PI, National Institutes of Health–funded grants: (1) Transforming Exercise Testing and Physical Activity Assessment in Children: New Approaches to Advance Clinical Translational Research in Child Health and (2) a grant for the Pediatric Clinical Center in the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC), which is a nation-wide consortium to study molecular maps in response to exercise.
Rebecca Shlafer, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Rebecca Shlafer is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Her research focuses on understanding the developmental outcomes of children and families with multiple risk factors, with a particular focus on children with parents in prisons and the programs and policies that impact families affected by incarceration. She is the research director for the Minnesota Prison Doula Project, a community-based organization that provides group-based and one-on-one doula support to pregnant and postpartum people in prison. Her current work is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and aims to explore the facilitators and barriers to implementing enhanced perinatal programming to women in six state prisons. Her work has been featured by NBC News, The New York Times, Governing Magazine, and Minnesota Public Radio.
Naomi Simon, M.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Naomi Simon is a professor of psychiatry at New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine; vice chair for Research Faculty Development and Mentorship; director of the Anxiety, Stress and Prolonged Grief Program; and senior advisor to NYU’s Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic. She has over 20 years’ experience conducting clinical and translational research in anxiety, prolonged grief, and stress-related disorders. She is deputy editor of Depression and Anxiety. She completed her M.D. at Harvard Medical School, residency at Columbia University, consultation psychiatry fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Master’s degree in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Angelina Sutin, Ph.D.
Dr. Angelina Sutin is a professor of behavioral sciences and social medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine. Her research focuses on the role of psychological and social factors in cognitive health and the mechanisms through which these factors are associated with risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Much of her work addresses how personality traits and processes contribute to long-term health outcomes. She likewise examines how a sense of purpose in life confers protection and how feelings of loneliness undermine cognitive health across the lifespan. Her research integrates multiple methods, including longitudinal, measurement burst, meta-analysis, and the use of large public datasets, to identify factors and mechanisms that replicate across samples, time scales, sociodemographic groups (gender, age, race/ethnicity, SES), and culture. Her work is funded by the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Sutin has coauthored more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, and her work has been featured in the media, including in the Washington Post, NPR, NBC News, and the BBC.
Luis Arturo Valdez, Ph.D., M.P.H. (He/El)
Dr. Luis Arturo Valdez is an assistant professor of health promotion and policy at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst. He specializes in using community-engaged, multilevel perspectives and mixed-methods approaches to understand and address the impact of systemic processes that perpetuate racial and ethnic disparities in historically marginalized and minoritized populations. Currently, he is interested in understanding how individual-level experiences interact with macro-level characteristics and social networks to influence the health-related behaviors of Latinx men. Specifically, his research examines a range of health behaviors related to alcohol and substance misuse, chronic stress, healthy food choice, and physical activity, with an emphasis on developing and testing culturally and gender-responsive interventions.
Shannon N. Zenk, Ph.D., M.P.H., RN, FAAN
Dr. Shannon Zenk is the director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). She joined NINR in September 2020, following a 14-year career as a faculty member at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Nursing and the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy. Her background is in nursing and public health, and her research focuses on community environments as a social determinant of health and health inequities. She and her team have conducted pioneering research on food deserts in the United States. She was inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame in 2019.
Many thanks to the following NIH Institutes and Centers that nominated an exceptional pool of candidates to speak at this year’s festival. Selected presentations reflect just a portion of the exciting and innovative behavioral and social sciences research funded across NIH: National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS); National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH); National Cancer Institute (NCI); National Institute on Aging (NIA); National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS); National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB); National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD); National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS); National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)