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BIRCWH Scholars

The Tulane BIRCWH program has recruited a total of 25 scholars since its inception in 2002. Together, these individuals form a dynamic and diverse group of young researchers from a variety of backgrounds.

Tulane BIRCWH Publications on PubMed

Current BIRCWH III Scholars:

Project: Sex Differences in Parasympathetic Stress Markers Across Childhood

Sarah A. O. Gray, PhDSarah A.O. Gray, PhD
Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology
Tulane University's School of Science and Engineering

Her research focus is on early childhood. Her research examines relational and contextual risk and protective factors that contribute to young children’s psychosocial and educational adjustment.  She is particularly interested in studying the contexts of poverty, violence exposure, early care-giving relationships, and schools, and in elucidating mechanisms of change in interventions for young girls and boys and their caregivers. Her BIRCWH research centers around maternal and child health, with specific interests in moderators and mediators in the biological embedding of early stress and trauma and a focus on parasympathetic cardiovascular and relationship-based pathways in girls and boys. Learn more about Sarah's recently awarded NARSAD Award

Project: Identifying Differences by Sex and Race to Improve Medication Adherence and Hypertension

LaKeisha Williams, PharmD, MSPHLaKeisha Williams, PharmD, MSPH
​Faculty, Clinical Researcher
​College of Pharmacy at Xavier University

As a faculty member at Xavier University, Dr. Williams has served as an instructor, preceptor and mentor to introductory and advanced level pharmacy students. She has two clinical practice sites at the Louisiana State University (LSUHSC) Ambulatory Care Clinics, serving as a clinical preceptor for third and fourth year pharmacy students and as a clinical pharmacist providing medication therapy management services to patients, and pharmacotherapeutic recommendations to healthcare professionals of an interprofessional team. As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Williams’s research explores gender and racial/ethnic determinants and intervention to improve medication adherence, with a focus on vulnerable and underserved populations with chronic cardiovascular health conditions.

Project: The Role of Acute Cardiovascular Disease and Sex Differences in Lassa Fever

John S. Schieffelin, MDJohn S. Schieffelin, MD
Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics
Tulane University School of Medicine

Dr. Schieffelin completed his MD as well as an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency training at Tulane University. He is also trained in adult and pediatric infectious disease through a combined Louisiana State University-Tulane University fellowship program. His research focuses on the pathophysiology and immunology of viral hemorrhagic fevers. He is particularly interested in studying the clinical course of diseases such as Lassa fever and Ebola virus disease to identify interventional targets to improve supportive care in females and males. His BIRCWH research focuses on cardiovascular and gender differences in Lassa fever disease. This work seeks to identify markers as well as the severity of cardiovascular disease among patients with acute Lassa fever. His research is investigating the role of cardiovascular factors play a role in the increased prevalence and mortality seen among women.

Jylana Sheats, PhDJylana Sheats, PhD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Jaylan teaches in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences. Within the broader fields of nutrition and physical activity, her research focuses on the examination of individual, social, contextual, environmental (built, food), and policy-related determinants of obesity and chronic disease among racial/ethnic and vulnerable populations. Her recent efforts address health disparities through theoretically grounded, evidenced-based interventions. As a BIRCWH Scholar, her research focuses on the efficacy of novel, culturally-informed, communication technologies to improve food-related behaviors among African American women and men.

BIRCWH Associates

BIRCWH associates are the past scholars that remain connected to the Tulane BIRCWH program even when they are not financially supported by the program. The associates provide valuable feedback to the steering committee and mentors regarding the program effectiveness.  In addition, BIRCWH associates provide much desired ‘peer mentoring’ of new scholars. 

Lydia Bazzano Lydia Bazzano, MD (BIRCWH training 2005-2007)
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Her clinical research focuses on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors among men and women, with an emphasis on the role of cardio-metabolic factors, including diet, obesity, lipids and glucose, in the development of vascular disease among men and women, with an emphasis on the role of cardio-metabolic factors, including diet, obesity, lipids and glucose, in the development of vascular disease and its consequences.  Since 2010 Dr. Bazzano has been working with the Bogalusa Heart Study and currently serves as the chair of the Bogalusa Heart Study Program steering committee and as principal investigator of NIH/NIA R01AG041200 investigating the role of vascular aging and differences in cognitive and physical performance among men and women in the Bogalusa Heart Study cohort. Bazzano currently serves as the Tulane BIRCWH WHRL director.

Awarded R01: The Role of Vascular Aging in Cognitive and Physical Function

Stacey Drury, MD, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2012-2014)
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics
Tulane University School of Medicine

Dr. Drury's translational research projects examine genetic/epigenetic interactions with negative early life experiences to define, at the neural and neural circuitry level, how early adversity shapes the developing brain. She has received research funding from the AACAP, APA, Harvard Center for the Developing Child, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), Louisiana Board of Regents, Hyundai, and the National Institutes of Health. Drury's clinical and translational research seeks to enhance the understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying the lasting impact of early adversity on health outcomes across the life span in girls and boys.

Awarded R01: Setting A Trajectory: Biological Markers of Early Stress and Child Development

Milton Hamblin, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2012-14)
Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology
Tulane University School of Medicine

Dr. Hamblin came to Tulane in 2012 after completing his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. Hamblin's research focuses on sex-related differences in vascular function and vascular remodeling-related pathophysiological diseases, including atherosclerosis, vascular lesion formation, and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Awarded Board of Regents Grant: Determining the Role of Rapid Estrogen Receptor - Alpha Signaling in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Emily Harville, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2008-10)
Associate Professor of Epidemiology
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Harville's research focuses on reproductive epidemiology.  Her research centers on pregnancy epidemiology, stress measurement and epidemiological methods. She is currently the Principal Investigator on 1 R01 grant investigating the Long-Term Burden of Maternal Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Birth Outcomes. Harville is also the PI on 1 U19 subproject, investigating the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on pregnant women and women of reproductive age.

Awarded R01: Long-Term Burden of Maternal Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Birth Outcomes

Shengxu Li, MD, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2013-2015)
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Li completed his medical training at Beijing Medical University, China, and his PhD study at the University of Cambridge, UK. His research focuses on the epidemiology of obesity, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and type-2 diabetes in girls and boys, women and men. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Li examined sex-specific cardiovascular risk factors measured during childhood for changes in subclinical cardiovascular structure/function in young adults.

Project PI: Tulane COBRE for Clinical and Translational Research in Cardiometabolic Disease - Longitudinal Change in Obesity During Childhood and Adult Cardiometabolic Risk

Lisa Molix

Lisa Molix, PhD (BIRCWH training 2011-13)
Associate Professor of Psychology 
Tulane School of Science and Engineering

She came to Tulane in 2007, immediately following the completion of her PhD at the University of Missouri. Dr. Molix's research focuses on examining an interdisciplinary model of intergroup stress that investigates the relationships between psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g. prejudice, empowerment, social identity, intergroup interactions) and cardiovascular health risk factors and outcomes in women and ethnic minorities.

Awarded R01: Pleiotropic Effects of Prorenin Receptor in Collecting Duct and Infrarenal RAS Activation

Minolfa C. Prieto, MD, PhD (BIRCWH training 2008-11)
Associate Professor of Physiology
Tulane University School of Medicine

She investigates the role of the intrarenal Renin-Angiotensin System in the development and progression of hypertension, as well as sex differences in the regulation of genes involved in the development of hypertension in response to high salt.

Qi Zhao

Qi Zhao, BMed, PhD
Research Assistant Professor of  Epidemiology

Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Zhao completed her medical training at Peking University Health Science Center, China, and her PhD in Epidemiology at Peking Union Medical College, China. Her research focuses on genetic and environmental risk factors and their interactions in the development of cardiovascular disease in women and men. As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Zhao investigated sex differences in the association between blood pressure response to the cold pressor test and hypertension incidence. Dr. Zhao has extended her research to effects of a broader range of psychosocial stress factors on human health. Dr. Zhao has also received American Heart Association research funding for investigating the gene-obesity interaction in the regulation of blood pressure in women and men.

Awarded R01: TRPV-1 Dependent Autonomic Control in Diabetes

Andrea Zsombok

Andrea Zsombok, PhD (BIRCWH training 2010-2012)
Associate Professor of Physiology and Medicine, Endocrinology Section
Tulane University School of Medicine

Dr. Zsombok's research focuses on the autonomic control of visceral organs during metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in rodents.  Her investigations employ electrophysiological, anatomical, retrograde tracer approaches in combination with in vivo brain injections in females and males.