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. Sylvia Becker-Dreps is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Family Medicine. She directs the UNC Program in Nicaragua and is Associate Director of the Office of Global Health Education in the UNC School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and prevention of childhood diarrhea and emerging infections, such as Zika and SARS-CoV-2. She has evaluated the impact of rotavirus immunization programs in Nicaragua and the United States and has conducted studies to understand why rotavirus vaccines have lower effectiveness in low-resource settings. She is now working to understand how infants develop immunity to norovirus and sapovirus, to inform future pediatric vaccine development.
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. Andrew Edmonds, an assistant professor of epidemiology, is an infectious disease epidemiologist with expertise in the use of observational clinical cohort data, in concert with innovative, appropriate methodological approaches, to answer high priority research questions. He has over 15 years of experience researching adults and children living with, affected by, and at risk for HIV, both in sub-Saharan Africa and in the United States, and is a co-investigator and the analytic director for the MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study at UNC. Dr. Edmonds has also been involved with the International epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) since 2008, first through his work with UNC’s HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is the Central Africa regional representative for the IeDEA Pediatric Working Group and the CIPHER Global Cohort Collaboration.
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. Jonathan Juliano is an Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and in the Department of Epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He is also a preceptor in UNC’s Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Dr. Juliano got his B.Sc. with Distinction from University of Toronto with a double major in Microbiology and History and a MSPH at the UNC School of Public Health working with Dr. Mark Sobsey on methods to isolate Cryptosporium parvum from surface and waste water. After completion of his MSPH, he attended the UNC School of Medicine and received his MD in 2001. He then completed his combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. He returned home to Chapel Hill for his infectious disease fellowship in 2005. His fellowship mentor was Dr. Steven Meshnick in the Department of Epidemiology, who help start Dr. Juliano’s career in malaria research. Since joining faculty in 2009, Dr. Juliano has worked extensively on the molecular epidemiology and spatial epidemiology of malaria in Africa and Asia. He conducts field studies in multiple African countries, including Malawi, Tanzania, the DRC and Cameroon, in order to assess important aspects related to the evolution of antimalarial resistance and vaccine antigen diversity. Since joining the faculty at UNC, Dr. Juliano has been very active in the education of medical students, graduate students, residents and fellows. He runs a molecular parasitology and genetics laboratory in the Michael Hooker Research Building at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, in which he works with students at all levels.
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. Emily Sickbert-Bennett is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Medicine-Infectious Diseases. She is the Director of Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship at the University of North Carolina Medical Center. Dr. Sickbert-Bennett’s research focuses on infectious disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, prevention of healthcare-associated infections, the role of the environment in healthcare- associated infections, hand hygiene and masking as an infection prevention strategy.
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. 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,*, professor of epidemiology, studies HIV and its intersection with reproductive health, and (separately) with chronic diseases. Substantively, his research investigates the intersection of HIV with reproductive health. This work has elucidated relationships between pregnancy and response to antiretroviral therapy, clarified methodology for studying the potential impact of hormonal contraception on acquisition of HIV. He is currently a PI of the STAR Cohort of reproductive-age HIV-positive and -negative women, and a co-investigator on the MACS-WIHS Combined Cohort Study. He also studies issues related to COVID-19, and the intersection of HIV and chronic disease. Methodologically, Dr. Westreich’s research focuses on methods in causal inference, and epidemiologic methods for implementation science.