Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research
Infectious diseases are responsible for millions of deaths each year, especially in the developing world. Our program has expertise in a variety of infectious diseases including those that are sexually transmitted diseases, air-borne and vector-borne. There are two NIH training grants that support students. We have close collaborations with the Division of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine, the Department of Geography, the Carolina Population Center, FHI, the North Carolina Department of Health, and many triangle-based research organizations.
- Epid 751 (Fall, 3 credits): Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases
- Epid 755 (Spring, 3 credits): Introduction to Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Epid 894 (Spring, 1 credit): Infectious Disease Epidemiology Journal Club
- Epid 753 (Fall, 3 credits) Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases at the Level of the Community
- Epid 756 (Spring, 3 credits) Control of Infectious Diseases in Developing Countries
- Epid 757 (Fall, 3 credits) Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries
- Epid 764 (Spring, 1-2 credits) Hospital Epidemiology
- Epid 799 (Spring, 3 credits) Advanced Methods in Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Epid 799 (Spring, 2-3 credits) Vaccine epidemiology
(* indicates primary advisors for ID epidemiology PhD students)
Dr. Allison Aiello is a professor of epidemiology and leads the social epidemiology program. Aiello’s research investigates socioeconomic and race/ethnic disparities in infectious diseases, the relationship between infection and chronic diseases, and prevention of respiratory infections in the community setting.
Dr. Ralph Baric, professor of epidemiology and microbiology and immunology, is an internationally recognized expert on noroviruses and SARS coronavirus. His group has been interested in aspects of host and viral genetics and how they relate to understanding pathogenesis and developing control tools. Baric’s research also focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms governing emerging virus cross species transmission and pathogenesis in humans and identifying the viral and host determinants which influence susceptibility to infectious diseases.
Dr. Myron Cohen, is J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and Public Health at UNC. Cohen’s research focuses on the transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV, with emphasis on the role played by STD co-infections. In 2005, Dr. Cohen received an NIH MERIT Award for ongoing support of this work. Much of his research has been conducted in resource-constrained countries, especially in Malawi and the People’s Republic of China. Cohen serves as the chair of the scientific advisory board of the China CIPRA at the China CDC and as co-director of an NIH Ellison Fellowship Program at the National STD Center in Nanjing China.
Dr. Stephen Cole, professor, is interested in study designs and analyses that accurately estimate parameters of central interest to population-health scientists, such as the risk. These study designs include randomized experiments, pseudoexperiments (i.e., observational studies), and thought-experiments (e.g., simulation studies). Substantively, Cole is interested in infectious diseases, primarily HIV, and cancer. He is principal investigator on a NIH-funded R01 to develop quantitative methods in HIV, co-founder of the UNC Causal Inference Research Group, chair of the CNICS epidemiology and biostatistics core, associate director of the UNC CFAR biostatistics core, and investigator on the UNC WIHS cohort site. He is also editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology, chartered member of the NIH AIDS and Clinical Epidemiology study section, and 2015 winner of the American College of Epidemiology Award for Outstanding Contributions to Epidemiology.
Dr. Michael Emch is a professor and chair, Department of Geography, professor of epidemiology, and fellow at the Carolina Population Center. His specialty is in health geography/spatial epidemiology and his research uses geographic information systems (GIS), satellite remote sensing, and spatial modeling techniques. Emch leads the Spatial Health Research Group, which conducts research that explores spatio-temporal patterns of disease, primarily infectious diseases of the developing world. He uses diverse statistical and spatial analytical methods are informed by theory from the fields of health geography, epidemiology, ecology, and others. These theories and methods are used to examine various topics such as the role of population-environment drivers in pathogen evolution, how social connectivity contributes to disease incidence, and using environmental indicators to predict disease outbreaks.
Dr. Emily W. Gower, nominated associate professor of epidemiology, focuses her research on improving surgical outcomes following treatment for chronic sequelae of infectious diseases. The majority of her work focuses on improving trichiasis surgery outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently the principal investigator on a large NIH-sponsored clinical trial that is recruiting approximately 4,000 people in southern Ethiopia. The trial is examining outcomes from 2 surgical methods used to correct in-turned eyelashes. Dr. Gower works closely with the international trachoma community, and takes a lead role in guiding trichiasis surgery implementation and monitoring globally. She recently co-lead a World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored global meeting of trichiasis surgery experts focused on providing global recommendations for best practices. She has also co-chaired the trichiasis surgery outcomes group for the International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC). Dr. Gower also has a keen interest in utilizing large databases to assess medical outcomes.
Dr. Steven Meshnick*, professor of epidemiology, and microbiology and immunology, is the program leader of the infectious diseases research program. He has been working in Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Thailand and Cambodia. He has published over 300 papers and is principal investigator of four NIH grants. The major focus of his laboratory is the molecular epidemiology of vector-borne diseases. His group works on the pathogenesis of malaria during pregnancy and molecular methods for surveillance of malaria and drug-resistant malaria. They are using next-generation sequencing methods to understand malaria diversity, immunity and evolution. In addition, the group has been studying the prevention of tick-borne disease with permethrin-treated clothing and how the tick’s microbiome affect its ability to transmit disease.
Dr. Sonia Napravnik, research assistant professor of epidemiology and medicine, and an epidemiologist with the UNC Center for AIDS Research and the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. Napravnik has primary expertise in the treatment and prevention of HIV-infection both domestically and internationally, including work in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Puerto Rico. Her ongoing research focuses on both intended and unintended effects of antiretroviral therapy especially drug resistance, improving HIV testing and medical care access, and applying newer epidemiologic methodologies to the study of HIV.
Dr. Brian Wells Pence*, associate professor, focuses on the links between mental health and HIV-related behaviors and health outcomes in the Southeastern US and in Africa. He is principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on three current or recent NIH grants, including a randomized clinical trial to assess whether depression treatment integrated into HIV clinical care in the US improves HIV medication adherence; a study to define the epidemiology of depression among HIV patients in Cameroon and pilot-test a nurse-delivered depression treatment intervention; and a study to define the impact of antidepressant treatment on HIV outcomes among HIV patients in the CNICS network of 8 large clinical sites across the US. With Kathryn Whetten, he recently co-authored the second edition of You’re the First One I’ve Told: The Faces of HIV in the Deep South (Rutgers University Press, 2013).
Dr. Audrey Pettifor*, associate professor of epidemiology and faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center, is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on determinants of HIV/STI infection in sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of identifying modifiable risk factors and developing novel interventions to prevent new HIV infections—particularly in young women. Pettifor has expertise on sexual behavior, HIV prevention, HIV testing, and structural interventions among adolescents and young adults in sub-Saharan Africa and has published extensively in the area of HIV and sexual behavior among youth in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Pettifor has worked in South Africa for close to 20 years and has also conducted research in Malawi, Madagascar, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Demographic Republic of Congo. She is co-chair the HPTN adolescent science committee and has published over 80 articles in peer reviewed journals, primarily on HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. She serves on the editorial boards of AIDS and Behavior and the Journal STD.
Dr. Kimberly Powers*, assistant professor of epidemiology, uses epidemiological, statistical, and mathematical modeling methods to study HIV transmission, with the overarching goal of informing HIV prevention strategies. Her work focuses on improving understanding of the behavioral and biological determinants of HIV transmission, developing efficient methods for detecting acute HIV infection, and using mathematical models to predict the impact of HIV transmission prevention strategies. Ongoing projects aim to inform measurement of HIV incidence and prevalence, as well as HIV treatment coverage and impact.
Dr. Jennifer Smith*, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology has conducted research over the past 20 years and has focused on epidemiological studies of infections and cancer. The focus of her research is on HPV infection and cervical cancer prevention worldwide via screening and prophylactic vaccines among women with limited access to care. She earned a doctorate degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Smith is director of Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition and has published over 210 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, of which over 170 are related to HPV infection and HPV-associated diseases, in areas that include cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancers. She is a mentor for the Cancer Control Education Program and also for the Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar program, an associate editor of Sexually Transmitted Infections and on the editorial board of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Dr. Lola Stamm, associate professor, is an expert on emerging and re-emerging bacterial pathogens. Her current research focuses on determining the role of the Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated innate immune response during bacterial infection and identifying immunomodulatory strategies to promote pathogen clearance and prevent disease.
Dr. James Thomas, associate professor, studies social forces affecting the distribution of HIV and STDs. His research includes the effects of high rates of incarceration on STD rates in North Carolina counties, and on census tracts in two particular counties of the state; the relationship between community characteristics and STD rates in Chicago neighborhoods; and the effects of HIV prevention agency networks on HIV prevention in North Carolina.
Dr. David Weber, professor of medicine, pediatrics, and epidemiology, serves as epidemiologist and research subject officer for the UNC General Clinical Research Center. He also serves as medical director of the UNC Health Care Department of Hospital Epidemiology and associate director of the NC Statewide Program in Infection Control and Epidemiology. His research interests include environmental pathogens (with Dr. Mark Sobsey), infections in child care (Dr. Jonathan Kotch), and healthcare-associated infections (with Dr. William Rutala).
Dr. Sharon Weir, research assistant professor of epidemiology, is a fellow at the Carolina Population Center. Her focus is HIV surveillance and monitoring and evaluation of HIV prevention programs in developing countries for most at risk populations. She works with the MEASURE Evaluation Project at the Carolina Population Center as a senior advisor on key populations, leads the UNC team under the PEPFAR funded Linkages Project, and leads the UNC team under the Gates-funded Monitoring, Evaluation and Surveillance of HIV (MESH) Consortium.
Dr. Daniel Westreich,*, assistant professor of epidemiology, studies HIV and its intersection with women’s reproductive health, and (separately) with chronic diseases. Projects including assessing the impact of the impact of hormonal contraception on risk of HIV acquisition and the impact of smoking on long-term outcomes of HIV treatment. Additional work examines the impact of HIV-related tuberculosis in adults, HPV-HIV co-infection, outcomes of antiretroviral therapy general. In addition, Dr. Westreich develops epidemiologic methodology to enable better translation of scientific results into public health policy, and methods for causal inference in observational data. He conducts research in both the United States and South Africa.