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STAHR Scholars

Current Scholars

María J. Marquine, PhD
Elizabeth Vásquez, DrPH, MPH
Home Mentors: Deborah Gustafson, PhD & Mark Kuniholm, PhD

Elizabeth Vásquez is an Associate Professor at the University at Albany School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She earned her MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and her Dr.PH. from New York Medical College, School of Public Health. Her research interest in studying physical activity and health disparities evolved from her research experience seeing its influence on older adults diagnosed with arthritis and osteoporosis. These experiences have profoundly shaped her research questions and have shaped her passion for understanding the health of aging populations. Her professional transition to studying older people living with HIV began with her observations that research on these populations was scant and not greatly explored. 

Dr. Vásquez has a strong interest in expanding scientific knowledge of race and ethnic differences in physical activity and sedentary behavior among people living with HIV. Her three interconnected research themes are: (1) Examining physical activity prevalence and its relationship with adverse and positive health outcomes in older adults living with HIV. (2) Examining the individual-level indicators and the ecological impact of social context which contributes to differential health outcomes in older adults living with HIV, in particular Latinos. (3) Exploring new ways to assess psychosocial and health behaviors among older adults of diverse ethnic background in epidemiological studies. In addition, she is a mentee with the Program to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (PRIDE). Vásquez is also an affiliated investigator with the Study of Latinos (SOL) and part of the Physical Activity Writing Group and the Aging Writing Group for this project. She is an alumna of the National Institute of Aging Butler-Williams Scholars Program.

María J. Marquine, PhD Caitlin Northcutt Pope, PhD
Home Mentors: Pariya Fazeli Wheeler, PhD & Motau Zhu, PhD

Dr. Pope is a postdoctoral research scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She obtained a PhD in Lifespan Developmental Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She also has a MA in General Psychology, BA in Psychology, and a BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In 2016 Dr. Pope was a recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) for her dissertation work on investigating driving behaviors and transportation options in conjunction with health outcomes for those aging with HIV in central Alabama.  

Dr. Pope’s research focuses on the behavioral, cognitive, and psychosocial antecedents of preventable unintentional mobility-related injuries and everyday functioning in vulnerable populations of road users, namely adolescents navigating the learning-to-drive process and older adults living and aging with HIV.  In the context of those aging with HIV, better understanding of the cognitive, emotional, and environmental mechanisms will provide a greater understanding of how to improve safe community mobility and everyday functioning, health-related outcomes, quality of life, and successful aging for those living with HIV. 

María J. Marquine, PhD Jessica Montoya, PhD
UCSD Mentors: David Moore, PhD & Alison Moore, PhD

Dr. Montoya is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego. She is currently supported by the T-32 grant: Training in Research on Addictions in Interdisciplinary NeuroAIDS (TRAIN). Dr. Montoya received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Behavioral Medicine from the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, and she received her B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University.

During her doctoral and postdoctoral research training at the UC San Diego HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program (HNRP), Dr. Montoya’s research has focused on 1) characterizing substance use across the adult age continuum and its impact on health and everyday functioning, 2) evaluating mobile health interventions aimed at promoting health behaviors, such as medication adherence, among complex, challenging patient populations, and 3) identifying plasma-based biomarkers associated with vascular dysfunction and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. As part of her involvement in the STAHR program, Dr. Montoya is working with Drs. David J. Moore and Alison Moore to examine substance use behaviors among older persons living with HIV and its impact on health outcomes.  

María J. Marquine, PhDJosué Pérez-Santiago, PhD
Home Mentor: Valerie Wojna, MD

Josué Pérez-Santiago received a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. He obtained his PhD in the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Program at UCSD, where he investigated the gut microbiome in acute and early HIV infection and its association with the pathogenesis of HIV. In his postdoctoral appointment, he transitioned to NeuroAIDS at the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center at UCSD, in which he evaluated the association of cell-free mitochondrial DNA and mitochondrial genetic defects with neurological damage and neurocognitive decline in HIV infection and methamphetamine use. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center. His work focuses on understanding the role of the gut microbiome in aging-related conditions, such as neurocognitive decline, metabolic syndrome, and cancer in HIV infection.

María J. Marquine, PhDAlexis Bender, PhD
UCSD Mentor: David Moore, PhD
Home Mentor: Molly Perkins, PhD

Dr. Bender is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Bender received her PhD in Sociology with a concentration in family, health, and the life course and an interdisciplinary certificate in gerontology from Georgia State University. Dr. Bender's dissertation research investigated the experiences of married couples following traumatic spinal cord injury. Following her graduate work, Dr. Bender worked with the Army Public Health Center in Maryland conducting mixed methods research and evaluation of social and behavioral health among active duty soldiers and their families (e.g. behavioral health access, suicide, violence). Overall, her research is guided by the life course perspective and focuses on aging with disability and chronic diseases, including HIV and substance use disorders. She is interested in how relationships (linked lives) with formal and informal support providers influence physical and mental health outcomes. She recently completed a pilot project examining social support and healthcare needs of older adults in medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

María J. Marquine, PhDMichelle Odlum, EdD
UCSD Mentors: Raeanne Moore, PhD & Alison Moore, MD
Home Mentor: Michael Yin, MD

Dr. Odlum is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the School of Nursing. She holds a Bachelor's in Nursing from Syracuse University and graduate degrees in Public Health and Education from Columbia University. Dr. Odlum is a named HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) Domestic Scholar and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections Scholars.

Dr. Odlum's program of research centers on the development of technology-enhanced interventions for improved health outcomes in populations aging with HIV. Accordingly, she intends to explore the complex needs of older adults living with HIV to understand and address the biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors that impact health and quality of life outcomes. She is interested in designing interventions to support symptom self-management. Her current research, includes an NIH funded fatigue self-management pilot intervention, successfully implemented, in a population of Latinos 50 and over aging with HIV. Dr. Odlum's work also includes the development of narrower HIV and aging-related comorbidity phenotypes with greater clinical validity for intervention efficacy. Her published research includes the analysis of clinical data and has identified key differences in comorbidity-related outcomes for HIV infected and uninfected populations.

María J. Marquine, PhDJane O'Halloran, MD/PhD
UCSD Mentors: Scott Letendre, MD & Mariana Cherner, PhD
Home Mentor: Beau Ances, MD/PhD

Dr. O'Halloran  is an Assistant Professor in Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine. She studied medicine at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Dr. O'Halloran completed Specialist Registrar training in Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine in Ireland, where she also did her PhD thesis with Dr. Patrick Mallon at University College Dublin on mechanisms contributing to increased cardiovascular disease in HIV infection. She subsequently went on to do a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Washington University in St Louis. Dr. O'Halloran joined the faculty of Washington University in St Louis in July 2019. Her research focuses on co-morbidities associated with HIV infection, with particular emphasis on the impact of antiretroviral therapy on cardiovascular, metabolic and neurocognitive co-morbidities.

María J. Marquine, PhDStephanie Shiau, PhD, MPH
UCSD Mentors: Robert Heaton, PhD & Christine Fennema-Notestine, PhD
Home Mentor: Michael Yin, MD

Dr. Stephanie Shiau is an Instructor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health. She received a PhD and an MPH in Epidemiology from Columbia University and a BA in Public Health Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. After graduate school, she completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University. She holds a Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential.

Dr. Shiau's interdisciplinary research program focuses on the effects of HIV and its treatment over the life course, seeking to identify modifiable factors that influence trajectories of HIV-associated non-AIDS (HANA) conditions in children, adolescents, and adults living with HIV and affected by HIV. Her work integrates epidemiologic tools, imaging assessments, and laboratory biomarkers, including assays to measure epigenetic markers. Dr. Shiau has established collaborations to study the relationships between epigenetic age, inflammation, cognitive impairment, and frailty in young and older adults living with HIV, as well as substance use in older adults living with HIV.

Ankita Garg, MSc, PhD
UCSD Mentors: Scott Letendre, MD & Jenny Iudicello, PhD
Home Mentor: Timothy Heckman, PhD & Lisa Renzi-Hammond, PhD

Dr. Garg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia. She obtained her PhD in Medical Microbiology from Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, India. Her Masters is in Microbiology. During her Doctoral training, her research program focused on understanding molecular mechanisms and immune pathogenesis of drug resistant tuberculosis. In her postdoc, Dr. Garg initially worked on the role of natural killer cells and regulatory T-cells in human tuberculosis. Later, at UCSD, Dr. Garg worked on immune dysfunction in HIV-infected individuals with virologic suppression. 

Her research focuses on infectious and non-infectious co-morbidities associated with HIV infection, with particular emphasis on HIV-M tuberculosis co-infection and neurocognitive co-morbidities, respectively. 


Asante Kamkwalala, PhD
UCSD Mentors: Ron Ellis, MD & Erin Sundermann, PhD
Home Mentor: Leah Rubin, PhD

Dr. Kamkwalala is a researcher focusing on clinical cognitive neuroscience, and currently holds a position as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurology, Division of Neurovirology and Neuroimmunological Infections at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She obtained her PhD in Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience in 2019 from the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, in Nashville, TN, and holds a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She also recently was awarded a Young Investigator Scholarship to participate in the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) 2020.

Her research interest focuses on the neurobehavioral consequences of aging with chronic HIV infection, particularly the effects of traumatic experiences and stress. Her post-baccalaureate research work centered on behavioral outcomes of civilian PTSD symptoms in low-income, chronically stressed predominantly African-American urban populations. Her doctoral research focused on cognitive aging, and the dysfunctional neurotransmitter systems that may contribute to the accelerated pattern of cognitive aging in HIV-infected adults, supported by funding through the Vanderbilt Clinical and Translational Science award, as well as a pilot grant from the Vanderbilt Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Under the guidance of Dr. Leah H. Rubin, MPH, PHD, her current research focus bridges these two previous projects, investigating altered neurophysiological and cognitive correlates of stress exposure and PTSD in PLWH.

Avery Matthews, MD
UCSD Mentors: Steve Huege, MD, Sara Gianella, MD, and Maile Karris, MD

Dr. Matthews is currently a geriatric psychiatry fellow at the University of California, San Diego, where she has provided both inpatient and outpatient care to older adults. She received a master's degree in basic biomedical science and her medical degree from New York University. Prior to medical school, virology was her focus. She conducted research on coronavirus spike protein at the University of Pennsylvania. She studied herpesvirus at Columbia University, looking at HSV1 ICP27 modeling trigeminal root ganglion infection in mice and performing initial studies on the drug doxovir as a possible treatment. She examined toxin-encoding S. aureus bacteriophages at New York University. As a medical student, she rotated at the Daniel C. Leicht Center for outpatient HIV care at Gouverneur Hospital and in Bellevue Hospital's inpatient HIV service, and she attended an American Psychiatric Association workshop on HIV psychiatry. She plans to meld her clinical interests-- persons living with HIV and older adults with neurodegenerative diseases-- with her research interests in virology. Her proposed research hopes to determine whether herpesvirus central nervous systems infections contribute to HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder.

Upal Roy, PhD
UCSD Mentors: David Moore, PhD & Adam Fields, PhD
Home Mentor: Hugo Rodriguez, MD

Dr. Roy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. He received a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Goa University, India and obtained his postdoctoral training at Tulane University and University of Nebraska Medical Center on HIV drug resistance mechanisms and antiviral drug development research. His research interests include HIV-1 Infection, drug development and delivery, therapeutics, and nanomedicine. He has a long-standing interest in the biological characterization of the drug for its therapeutic potentials in HIV infection. In this regard, he has developed several unique humanized mouse models to reproduce the human immune system and also developed several delivery platforms for targeted drug delivery. His work has always been very multidisciplinary and collaborative. The ultimate goal of his research is to develop next-generation detection and therapy models for people living and aging with HIV-1 infection.

STAHR Alumni

María J. Marquine, PhDAnna Rubtsova, PhD, MA, MSc
UCSD Mentors: Colin Depp, PhD & Sara Gianella, MD
Home Mentor: Marcia Holstad, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN (Professor Emirita)

Dr. Rubtsova is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. She received both her PhD and MA in Sociology from Emory University. Her MSc in Social and Organizational Psychology from the London School of Economics (LSE) was funded by a competitive scholarship from the LSE, International Renaissance Foundation, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Dr Rubtsova is passionate about women's health and HIV treatment and prevention and serves as a Co-Investigator for MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study Atlanta Clinical Research Site. Dr. Rubtsova's current research focuses on the social determinants of health and psychosocial factors related to aging with HIV, and especially frailty and successful aging. 

María J. Marquine, PhDAnnie Nguyen, PhD, MPH
Home Mentor: Duke Han, PhD

Dr. Nguyen obtained her PhD in Public and Community Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin, her Master’s in Public Health from Dartmouth College, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, San Diego.  She was a participant of the 2015 National Institutes on Aging Butler-Williams Scholars Program and the 2015 RAND Summer Institute.  She currently holds several elected and appointed leadership positions in the Aging and Public Health Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American Academy of Health Behavior (AAHB).  Dr. Nguyen is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).  

Her research focuses on quality of life outcomes among older adults and particularly, older adults living with HIV.  She is interested in exploring the factors that modify the relationship between life stressors and quality of life, conceptualizations of successful aging, and the ways in which health behaviors fit into individual successful aging paradigms.  She is also interested in end-of-life and advance care planning for older adults living with HIV.  Dr. Nguyen’s research has been supported by various funding sources including the NIH and private foundations. She is currently the PI of a NIH/NIA K01 career development award.

María J. Marquine, PhDErin Sundermann, PhD
UCSD Mentors: Mark Bondi, PhD & David Moore, PhD

Dr. Sundermann is a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego. Her graduate training started at UCSD in a Psychology Master's program where she conducted research focused on olfactory function as an early indicator of incipient dementia.  She then went on to the University of Illinois at Chicago for her doctoral degree in cognitive neuroscience and a postdoctoral fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC.  During her doctoral training, her research program with Dr. Pauline Maki focused on estrogen-related genetic polymorphisms and their association with cognition and brain function in healthy populations and women with HIV. She was fortunate enough to have her doctoral work funded by a Scholar's Grant from the Mount Sinai Institute of NeuroAIDS Disparities (MSINAID) which also involved six weeks of didactic training in NeuroAIDS disparities in NYC. In her postdoc position, Dr. Sundermann worked with the Einstein Aging Study in the investigation of biomarkers and risk factors for cognitive aging and dementia, particularly sex-specific and genetic risk factors.

Dr. Sundermann is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at UCSD. Currently, her research program has two major themes: (1) characterizing sex differences in the trajectory diagnosis, risk factors and biomakers of Alzheimer's disease and (2) investigating the manifestation of Alzheimer's disease in the context of HIV. Along with her colleagues at the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center, she is part of a project that aims to develop empirical, neuropsychological methods to discriminate HIV-infected individuals that are on the AD trajectory from those with HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment.

María J. Marquine, PhDSamir Sabbag, MD
UCSD Mentor: Mariana Cherner, PhD
Home Mentors: Deborah Jones, PhD

Dr. Sabbag is a geriatric psychiatrist working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Behavioral Sciences of the University of Miami – Leonard Miller School of Medicine, who is board certified in both adult and geriatric psychiatry. He received his medical degree from Universidad del Norte in Colombia and did his psychiatry residency and geriatric psychiatry fellowship at the University of Miami.  Dr. Sabbag is currently involved in clinical, research, and educational endeavors. His clinical duties encompass the evaluation and management of older adults in the outpatient and inpatient settings, treating patients of various ethnicities, socioeconomic status, gender diversity, and with diverse mental and medical illnesses, including HIV. Dr. Sabbag performs comprehensive memory disorder evaluations and participates in multidisciplinary staffing conferences to determine patient diagnoses and treatments in neurodegenerative diseases.

His research interest involves the geriatric population, specifically in the area of functionality, and in the development of strategies that will enable older adults, especially those at risk such as ethnic minorities, cognitively impaired and HIV positive populations, to live independently in the community. He has worked in research involving older ethnically diverse LGBT adults, and in assessments of cognitive and functional capacity of adult patients with severe mental illness, HIV and cognitive impairments, through the use of technology. The main focus of his research has been on Hispanic geriatric populations, the LGBT community, HIV populations, and the effect that these may have in functional and cognitive impairment.  He has published various papers and book chapters, and presented findings from his research at important national and international meetings. He participates as Co-PI in dementia trials, both conducted by pharmaceutical industries and sponsored by the NIMH. He is also involved in education at the psychiatry residency training program and the University of Miami Medical School, where he dedicates part of his time as the Associate Program Director for the psychiatry residency program, Clerkship Director of third year medical students rotating through psychiatry, director of the Gender, Sexual Health and Orientation medical student special interest pathway, and faculty advisor for the medical student psychiatry interest group and academic societies.