STAHR Scholars


María J. Marquine, PhDAnna Rubtsova, PhD, MA, MSc

Dr. Rubtsova is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education 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 Data Manager for Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). Dr. Rubtsova’s published research focuses on various psychosocial aspects of HIV/AIDS among women, including sexual risk behaviors and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake and adherence. Her current research interests include successful aging with HIV and she has recently been awarded CFAR-03 grant to investigate psychosocial correlates of successful aging among older women living with HIV.


María J. Marquine, PhD Annie Nguyen, PhD, MPH

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.


María J. Marquine, PhD Erin Sundermann, 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 returned to UCSD as an Assistant Project Scientist in October of 2016. She currently works with Dr. Mark Bondi in cognitive aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) research and with Dr. David Moore in NeuroAIDS research at the HIV Neurocognitive Research Center.  Her current research focus with Dr. Bondi is the application of empirical, neuropsychological methods to more accurately diagnose mild cognitive impairment and "preclinical" AD in nondemented older adults.  Dr. Sundermann aims to extend some of these empirical, neuropsychological methods to HIV populations in order to tease apart HIV-infected individuals that are in the AD trajectory from those with HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment.


María J. Marquine, PhD Samir Sabbag, MD

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.


María J. Marquine, PhD
Elizabeth Vásquez, DrPH, MPH

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, PhDCaitlin Northcutt Pope, 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, PhDJessica Montoya, 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, PhD Josué Pérez-Santiago, PhD

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.