Eight Gillings School students win research awards; their work benefits people in NC

March 9, 2019

Eight of 20 graduate students selected by the UNC Graduate School to receive prestigious Impact and Horizon awards are doctoral students or recent alumni of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The awardees are Leah Chapman and Anna Kahkoska (nutrition), Liang Chi and Karen Setty (environmental sciences and engineering), Danielle Gartner and Dana Pasquale (epidemiology), and Alex Gertner and Paul Shafer (health policy and management).

Theirs and other student achievements will be honored at the 21st annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, to be held Thursday, April 4, at 4 p.m. in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. Research poster presentations and a reception will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Leah Chapman

Leah Chapman

Liang Chi

Liang Chi

Danielle Gartner

Danielle Gartner

Alex Gertner

Alex Gertner

Anna Kahkoska

Anna Kahkoska

Dana Pasquale

Dana Pasquale

Karen Setty

Karen Setty

Paul Shafer

Paul Shafer

The longstanding Impact Award, made possible through the generous support of the Graduate Education Advancement Board, recognizes discoveries with direct impact on North Carolina in the present time.

Chapman, Chi, Gartner, Kahkoska, Pasquale and Shafer won six of this year’s 15 Impact awards.

The Horizon Award, first presented in 2017, recognizes discoveries with future potential to benefit North Carolina and beyond.

Gertner and Setty won two of this year’s five Horizon awards.

Leah Chapman studied ways of “Helping Rural Residents Find and Purchase Healthier Food.”

“Leah is committed to health food access for all North Carolinians,” said Chapman’s adviser, Alice Ammerman, DrPH, Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor of nutrition and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, “and her project shows promise in this area, as well as providing economic development opportunities for retailers in rural communities.”

Liang Chi’s project was titled “Intestinal Bacteria’s Possible Power in Fighting Effects of Arsenic Exposure.”

Kun Lu, PhD,  associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering and Chi’s adviser, noted that “Liang’s research addresses key knowledge gaps in understanding mechanisms underlying human diseases caused by environmental contaminants, primarily arsenic.”

Danielle Gartner conducted research on “Documenting Hysterectomy Rates Toward More Equitable Treatment for Women.”

“Danielle has a particular interest in reproductive health among Native American women, an understudied group with pronounced health inequities,” said Gartner’s adviser, Whitney Robinson, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology. “She has consistently expressed that she wants her work to have direct and positive impacts on people and the communities in which they live.”

Alex Gertner’s research explored “Expanding Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.”

His adviser, Marisa Domino, PhD, professor of health policy and management, said that Gertner’s dissertation research “will provide important new evidence to improve the quality of care for people with opioid use disorders.”

Anna Kahkoska’s research involved “Identifying Key Subgroups, Challenges to Help Young People with Type 1 Diabetes.”

“Anna’s research represents a shift in the current clinical care model of Type 1 diabetes,” said Kahkoska’s adviser, Elizabeth Mayer Davis, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and chair of nutrition. “[This work] will be maximally impactful among youth with Type 1 diabetes in North Carolina, where there are especially higher rates of overweight and obesity.”

“Investigating Networks, Data to Reduce HIV Infections” was the title of 2018 alumna Dana Pasquale’s winning submission.

“I fully expect that Dana’s work will have a very significant impact on people living with HIV infection in North Carolina, as well as those at significant risk for acquiring HIV,” said Pasquale’s adviser, Bill Miller, MD, PhD, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School.

Karen Setty’s research question was “Does Proactive Risk Management Planning Improve Drinking Water Quality, Safety?”

The project drew praise from her adviser, Jamie Bartram, PhD, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering and director of The Water Institute at UNC.

“Karen’s efforts will accelerate progress in water safety,” Bartram said. “I believe her work will influence policy and practice in North Carolina, nationally and internationally.”

“Determining the Role of Innovation in Increasing HPV Vaccination Rates” was Paul Shafer’s research topic.

“Paul’s research is policy-relevant and focuses on making sure all North Carolinians benefit from innovations in health care,” said Shafer’s adviser, Justin Trogdon, PhD.  Trogdon is associate professor of health policy and management at the Gillings School.

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor at the Gillings School, said she was pleased that so many public health students were recognized for their research.

“As a school that aims to develop real-world solutions for some of the world’s greatest health threats and challenges,” Rimer said, “I am delighted that eight of our students will receive Impact and Horizon awards to recognize the impact of their work for North Carolinians.”

Read more about research projects by these and other winning students on The Graduate School website.


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Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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