T32 Multidisciplinary Research Training to Reduce Inequalities in Cardiovascular Health (METRIC)

The “Multidisciplinary Research Training to Reduce Inequalities in Cardiovascular Health (METRIC)” utilizes a multidisciplinary approach and a mentor-based model to train diverse pre-doctoral and post-doctoral candidates in the study of broadly defined inequalities in cardiovascular health and health care, based on factors such as race/ethnicity, sex/gender, socioeconomic status, geographical residence, among others. The program is designed to prepare outstanding candidates for a successful research career that will ultimately help reduce health disparities in cardiovascular disease. 

METRIC LogoThe METRIC T32 training grant is housed in the Department of Epidemiology, and draws faculty with diverse expertise and at various career stages from all Emory Schools (School of Public Health, School of Medicine and School of Nursing) and Morehouse School of Medicine. The Program Director is Dr. Viola Vaccarino in the Department of Epidemiology. The Program Co-Director is Dr. Arshed Quyyumi in the Department of Medicine.

The program combines training in graduate degree programs in the School of Public Health with multidisciplinary research experiences working with top investigators in cardiovascular sciences from diverse disciplines, from basic sciences to epidemiology, cardiology, interventions, and health policy.

Training of pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows will include multidisciplinary mentoring along with coursework, inter-departmental seminars, hands-on research, and career development. Training will emphasize public health relevance, prevention and translation from basic sciences to epidemiology, clinical research, health policy and implementation, with the ultimate goal of reducing inequalities in health and health care. A maximum of 5 pre-doctoral and 5 post-doctoral trainees will be in the program at any time point, each supported for an average of two years.

METRIC T32 sept 2022 News

METRIC T32 Cycle 2, Year 7

The METRIC T32 was funded for a second cycle, years 6 through 10, beginning July 1, 2021. The new funding allowed us to grow the program to 5 slots for PhD students and 5 slots for postdoctoral fellows each year.

Program Director: Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD
Program Co‐Director for MD Postdoctoral Training: Arshed Quyyumi, MD
Program Co‐Director for PhD Postdoctoral Training: Tené Lewis, PhD
Program Co‐Director for Predoctoral Training: Shakira Suglia, PhD

Executive Committee:
Drs. Viola Vaccarino, Arshed Quyyumi, Tené Lewis, Shakira Suglia, Alvaro Alonso, Herman Taylor

Internal Advisory Board:
Drs. David Guidot (SOM), Carmen Marsit (RSPH), Gianluca Tosini (MSM)

External Advisory Board:
Drs. Michelle Albert (UCSF), Philip Greenland (Northwestern U), Neil Schneiderman (U Miami), Karen Matthews (U Pittsburgh)

Program Coordinator:
Lucy Shallenberger, MPH

Program Faculty:
35 core faculty from a variety of departments and schools, who serve as primary mentors

Fellows Appointed to Date:
11 predocs, 18 postdocs

By our METRIC Fellows:

  • 107 research publications
  • 6 predoctoral fellowship grants
  • 1 K award
  • 6 research‐intensive faculty positions
  • 7 other primarily research/public health positions

METRIC List of New Positions and New Grant Awards

2021 Livingston Award Winners - Congratulations Phenesse!

2021 Livingston Award Winners

METRIC T32—Cycle 2

Our METRIC T32 has been funded for a second cycle, years 6 through 10, beginning July 1, 2021. The new funding will allow us to grow the program to 5 slots for PhD students and 5 slots for postdoctoral fellows each year. The administrative structure of the program has undergone some restructuring as outlined below.

  • Program Director: Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD
  • Program Co-Director for MD Postdoctoral Training: Arshed Quyyumi, MD
  • Program Co-Director for PhD Postdoctoral Training: Tené Lewis, PhD
  • Program Co-Director for Predoctoral Training: Shakira Suglia, PhD
  • Executive Committee: Drs. Viola Vaccarino, Arshed Quyyumi, Tené Lewis, Shakira Suglia, Alvaro Alonso, Herman Taylor
  • Internal Advisory Board: Drs. David Guidot (SOM-Pulmonary), Carmen Marsit (RSPH-EHS), Gianluca Tosini (MSM)
  • External Advisory Board: Drs. Michelle Albert (UCSF), Philip Greenland (Northwestern U), Neil Schneiderman (U Miami), Karen Matthews (U Pittsburgh)
  • Program Coordinator: Lucy Shallenberger, MPH
  • Program Faculty: 35 core faculty from a variety of departments and schools, who will serve as primary mentors.

An updated list of all core faculty, their affiliations and research interests will be distributed to our fellows.

Congratulations and Best Wishes to METRIC Fellows and Alumni who Have Accepted New Faculty Positions

Naser Titu, PhD

Naser Titu, PhD, current METRIC postdoc (2020-2021), has accepted a tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of Memphis, beginning September 1, 2021. He will continue work on the cardiometabolic health benefits of mineral contents in drinking water, and is working on a K23 application to examine this question in a rural longitudinal cohort study in the Appalachian-Mississippi Delta Region (the NHLBI-funded RURAL study).

Telisa Spikes, PhD

Telisa Spikes, PhD, current METRIC postdoc (2019-2021), has accepted a tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, beginning July 1st, 2021. She will continue her work on stress and cardiovascular risk in young and early middle age AfricanAmerican women with a focus on the development of culturally-tailored interventions to mitigate the adverse effects of stress on the cardiovascular system in this high-risk group of women.

Danielle Crookes

Danielle Crookes, PhD, current METRIC postdoc (2019-2021), will be starting as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Health Sciences in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. This past fall, she was also awarded funding through the NIH Loan Repayment Program from NHLBI for her project entitled “Sociopolitical stressors and the cardiovascular risk factors of Latinos in the US”. Her mentor is Shakira Suglia.

Samaah Sullivan, PhD

Samaah Sullivan, PhD, previous METRIC postdoc (2016-2018), has accepted a position as a tenuretrack Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the School of Public Health of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston (UTHealth), in the Dallas Campus, with start date August 2021. Dr. Sullivan is a recipient of a NIH K01 award, and will continue her research on cardiovascular disease in women and sex/gender differences with her mentor, Dr. Vaccarino, and her other collaborators at Emory, while also beginning new collaborations at UTHealth.

Congratulations  to our Current METRIC Predocs for Recent Milestones and Funding for Dissertation Research

Zerleen Quader

Zerleen Quader, current METRIC predoc, was awarded an AHA predoctoral fellowship, and her NIH F31 application received a fundable score (7th percentile). They were both titled “Examining the role of school characteristics in childhood obesity, physical activity, and health promotion.” Because of her new funding, this will be Zerleen’s last year on the METRIC program.

Ye Ji Kim

Ye Ji Kim, current METRIC predoc, has entered candidacy for her dissertation proposal entitled “Understanding health services utilization and health mechanism among U.S. immigrant children and adolescents” and is now in Candidacy as of May 3rd. She also resubmitted her dissertation project in April for an F31-Diversity grant. Her dissertation committee includes Shakira Suglia (Chair), Michael Kramer, M. Doug Livingston, and E. Kathleen Adams.

Phenesse Dunlap

Phenesse Dunlap, current METRIC predoc, successfully defended her dissertation proposal in April 2021, entitled “An Evaluation of Primary and Secondary CVD Prevention Strategies for Socially Vulnerable Populations Across Life Stages” and submitted a NIA Dissertation Award in February 2021. Her dissertation committee includes Kelli Komro (Chair), Amit Shah, Regine Haardoerfer, and Melvin Livingston.

Izraelle (Izzy) McKinnon

Izraelle (Izzy) McKinnon, current METRIC predoc, is making strives on her dissertation work, entitled “Residential and Activity Space Racial Composition and Cardiovascular Risk in Black Women.“ Izzy also got a new first-author paper accepted in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, entitled “Everyday Discrimination and Mental Stress-Induced Myocardial Ischemia.”

Congratulations to METRIC Postdocs who Successfully Completed the Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) Program

Kasra Moazzami

Kasra Moazzami, MD, (METRIC postdoc, 2018-2020) successfully completed the MSCR program this Spring. Currently, Kasra is continuing his cardiology fellowship clinical training at Emory. In February he submitted a K23 application, entitled “Acute Mental Stress and Cognitive Decline in Coronary Artery Disease.”


Mariana Garcia, MD, (METRIC postdoc, 2019-2021) successfully completed the MSCR program this Spring. Mariana is completing her second year on the METRIC T32 and on July 1st she will continue her cardiology fellowship clinical training at Emory. Mariana has another achievement to share: She will give birth to her second child soon!

Mariana Garcia received an award for Best Clinical Oral Presentation at the Emory Cardiology Research Day

Mariana Garcia received an award for Best Clinical Oral Presentation at the Emory Cardiology Research Day.


Alumna Samaah Sullivan was a podium speaker and a poster presenter at the annual meeting of the NIH-sponsored Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program, December 2019



The METRIC team had a busy schedule at the AHA Scientific Sessions, November 2019


11/16 - 11/18/2019

Kasra Moazzami, MD, cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology, recognized with Best Presentation Award at the Department of Medicine Research Day

Dr. Kasra Moazzami's  oral presentation entitled "Activation of the Rostromedial Prefrontal Cortex during Mental Stress and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease" was awarded as the Best Presentation at the Department of Medicine Research Day .



Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD received the R. Wayne Alexander Research Mentoring Award for 2018-2019



Shakia Hardy, PhD, and Kasra Moazzami, MD,  received the Scott Grundy Fellowship Award for Excellence in Metabolism Research at AHA 2019

Drs. Shakia Hardy and Kasra Moazzami were recognized with the Scott Grundy Fellowship Award for Excellence in Metabolism Research at the American Heart Association's EPI|Lifestyle 2019 Scientific Sessions in Houston, TX .



Bruno Lima selected as a finalist for the Samuel A. Levine Young Clinical Investigator Award

Dr. Bruno Lima was honored as a finalist for the AHA Council on Clinical Cardiology's annual award for young investigators at the 2018 Scientific Sessions. Bruno's presentation was titled: "Transient Endothelial Dysfunction Induced By Mental Stress Predicts Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events In Patients With Coronary Artery Disease"



Read more about the award here >

Matt Topel publishes findings on blood pressure guidelines in Hypertension journal

METRIC graduate, Dr. Matthew Topel, and other Emory researchers published finidngs on the effects of new blood pressure guidelines on reproductive-aged women and pregnant women.


Article quoting Matt >

Link to full journal article in Hypertension >

Miriam Van Dyke & Dr. Tené Lewis selected for Gilliam Fellowship

Congratulations to METRIC graduate Miriam Van Dyke and her mentor, Dr. Tené Lewis, for receiving a Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This award will provide up to three years of support for stipend, training allowance, and mentor development activities.

July 26, 2018

Read More >

View Miriam's PhD student highlight video from the Laney Graduate School >

View latest METRIC papers on PubMed


View More >>

Please continue to submit your papers to PubMed Central and make sure T32HL130025 is included as funding. https://www.nihms.nih.gov/db/sub.cgi

Current Trainees (2023 - 2024)

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Zachary Martin, PhD

Zachary Martin PhD

Zachary has received extensive training in human cardiovascular physiology. After completing a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.S. in Exercise Physiology, he went on to complete a Ph.D. focused on integrative cardiovascular physiology from The University of Texas at Arlington. His dissertation investigated elevated cardiovascular disease risk in Black females and the impact of psychosocial stress and novel preventive strategies. Zac joined the METRIC program in September 2022 to train more intensively in psychosocial determinants of health, which will directly serve his long-term goal of leading collaborative studies that address critical knowledge gaps contributing to persistent disparities in cardiovascular health and function among various populations.

Maggie Wang, MD

 Maggie Wang, MD

Maggie is a cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology. Prior to coming to Emory, she studied integrative biology and nutritional sciences at the University of California Berkeley, earned her medical degree from the University of California Davis School of Medicine, and completed her internal medicine residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Her research interests are in heart failure and heart transplantation. As part of the METRIC program, Maggie will be investigating the relationship between mental stress reactivity and heart failure outcomes, particularly amongst women and underserved populations.

Nicole Fields

Nicole Fields

Nicole is in the final stages of her dissertation research as a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her MPH in Health Behavior and Society from the University of Kentucky. Her dissertation focused on the association between psychological distress and adiposity primarily in Black women and how psychosocial factors such as interpersonal racism and social relationships affect mental and physical health. She is also interested in studying how resiliency factors may counteract stress and serve as potential intervention strategies to improve cardiometabolic health in marginalized populations.

Nishant Vatsa, MD


Nishant was born and raised in the Northeast - moving from Buffalo to Boston, then finally to New Jersey. Between completing his undergraduate education and residency in internal medicine at Emory, he obtained his medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Nishant's current research interests are in vascular biology and cardiac imaging. As part of the T32 program, he plans to complete an Master of Science in Clinical Research to help him pursue a career as an academic cardiologist.

Alexander C. Razavi, MD, PhD, MPH


Alex is a cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology who started the METRIC program in July 2023. After a BA in Biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University, he completed his MD along with a PhD in Epidemiology and MPH in Health Systems Management at Tulane University School of Medicine and Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Alex completed his internal medicine residency at Emory and is a trainee within the ABIM research pathway. Alex's research interests include the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk assessment, particularly focused on the identification of coronary artery calcium on cardiac computed tomography as well as the study of lipids. As part of the METRIC program, Alex will be investigating the biopsychosocial correlates of both atherosclerotic resilience and premature atherosclerosis within the Risk Underlying Rural Areas Longitudinal Cohort Study.

Pre-Doctoral Fellows

Melissa Chapnick

Melissa Chapnick

Melissa Chapnick is a PhD student in the Nutrition and Health Sciences Program. She is interested in the role of early life nutrition on adult chronic disease risk, and works with Dr. Aryeh Stein and investigators from the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama. Prior to her doctoral training, Melissa was a research manager at Washington University in St. Louis where she supported several maternal and infant nutrition studies in Haiti, Ecuador, and Kenya. Ms. Chapnick is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and a Master of Public Health from Saint Louis University.

Jorge Gonzalez Mejia

Jorge Gonzalez Mejia

Jorge is a second-year PhD student in Epidemiology. He earned his BA in Psychology and an MPH in Research in Practice at the University of Virginia. Prior to joining the doctoral program, Jorge worked as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Virginia Center for Public Health Genomics. His research interests lie at the intersection of immigrant health, type 2 diabetes, and cardiometabolic outcomes across the lifespan. As a METRIC trainee, he aims to examine intergenerational psychosocial risk factors of immigrant populations and the role of potential mediators in reducing the risk of diabetes related outcomes.

Rachel Parker

Rachel Parker

Rachel Parker is a fourth-year PhD student in Biostatistics. She obtained her BS in Applied Mathematics from the University of Central Arkansas and her MPH with a concentration in Biostatistics from Boston University. After completing her MPH, she worked as a Data Analyst for the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs as part of the Cardiology Consortium Research Team. Her research interests include the assessment of reproducibility and reliability of imaging biomarkers, latent class analysis, and latent growth modeling of longitudinal data.

Kaylin White


Kaylin is a third-year PhD student in Epidemiology. She earned her BS in Biology from Spelman College and an MS from University of Michigan. Prior to joining the doctoral program at Emory, she conducted research investigating connections between sleep disturbances and adverse maternal and child health outcomes. She also worked as a clinical research coordinator for a healthcare technology company. Her present research interests include the measurement and assessment of sleep health, social determinants of health, and maternal and child health outcomes. As a METRIC trainee, she aims to study how sleep may mediate the relationship between social determinants (e.g. socio-economic status, racial/ethnic identity, and neighborhood characteristics) and adverse health outcomes.

Khadijah Abdallah


Khadijah Abdallah is a third-year PhD student in Epidemiology. She has a BS in Public Health and an MPH in Epidemiology from The George Washington University. After completing her degrees, she worked as a research analyst in the Health Disparities Unit at the National Human Genome Research Institute. She is a social epidemiologist primarily focusing on underrepresented populations, especially chronic disease populations. Her research interests include examining the role that psychosocial exposures play in health outcomes, including mental health and wellbeing, and cardiovascular risk across the lifespan, with special interests in the intersection of these factors and how they impact health outcomes.


Former Trainees

Post-Doctoral Graduates

Shivang Desai, MD (2021-2023)

Shivang Desai, MD

Shivang studied biochemistry and molecular biology at Brown University before completing his M.D. training at the New York University School of Medicine. Since moving to Emory to complete residency training in internal medicine, his research interests have grown to include the study of biomarkers as predictive tools in cardiovascular health and prevention. As part of the METRIC program, he intends to examine how biomarkers can be used to better predict cardiovascular disease and to mitigate differences in outcomes between populations with different socioeconomic background.

Rebecca Jones, PhD (2021-2023)

Rebecca Jones, PhD

Rebecca received an MPH and a PhD in Nutrition and Health Sciences from RSPH. Her dissertation examined dietary change among foreign-born adults to the US. Her current research interests center around the characterization of obesogenic environment within and across national borders that address diet- and weight-related cardiovascular health disparities. Within METRIC she is particularly interested in further training in the genetics and epidemiology of the key cardiovascular health outcomes that directly result from her exposures of interest (diet and weight status).

Alexis Okoh, MD (2021-2022)

Alexis Okoh, MD

Born and raised in Ghana, Alexis trained as a physician in Turkey and will join the Emory cardiology fellowship program and the METRIC T32 on July 1st. His main research interests include heart failure in Black patients, racial disparities in cardiovascular disease outcomes, and structural and congenital heart diseases. His long-term goals are investigating the link between structural social inequities and other factors that place individual patients at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases. 

Alison Cammack, PhD (2021-2022)

Alison Cammack, PhD

Allison received her MPH and PhD from the Department of Epidemiology at RSPH. She is interested in the intra and inter-generational impact of early life adversity and in strategies to mitigate cardiometabolic risk. A major goal for her upcoming year in METRIC is to revise and resubmit a K99/R00 proposal to study trauma informed approaches to improving diet and reducing obesity risk in Latino/a children whose mothers experienced early life adversity. She will also continue her work on the Boricua Youth Study with Dr. Suglia and hopes to gain more exposure to intervention research.

Abu Mohammed Naser Titu (2020-2021)

Abu Mohammed Naser Titu

Dr. Naser has started the METRIC fellowship in September 2020. Naser is interested in exploring the links between environmental exposures and cardiovascular diseases. As part of the METRIC fellowship, Naser is interested in evaluating how drinking water quality (e.g., mineralogical, chemical, toxicological) and quantity influence cardiovascular health in the US population. Dr. Naser is interested in submitting an ancillary grant with the RURAL study to explore his research question in the Appalachian and Mississippi deltas. He's also interested in exploring whether mineral fortification of drinking water can reduce cardiovascular disease risks in the US population and abroad.
Dr. Naser has several years of experience as a research investigator with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b). He was engaged in public health surveillance, outbreak investigations, and implementation of several RCTs, including the WASH Benefits trial. He then moved to Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, and completed a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences in 2018.

Danielle Crookes (2019-2021)

Danielle Crookes

Dr. Danielle Crookes is a post-doctoral fellow who began the METRIC program in 2019. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA), an MPH from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and her DrPH in Epidemiology from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (New York, NY). Dr. Crookes’ dissertation examined anti-immigrant climate, both exclusionary government policies and anti-immigrant public sentiment, and cardiovascular disease risk factors among Latino adults in the US. Her current research interests center around the social and political factors that shape the health of Black and Latino immigrants and subsequent US-born generations in the United States. She is particularly interested in how exposure to these factors may be stressors for immigrants and their families and may have an impact on their cardiometabolic health.

Mariana Garcia (2019-2021)

Mariana Garcia

Dr. Mariana Garcia is a cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology who started the METRIC program in July 2019. She obtained her MD from Tecnologico de Monterrey. This was followed by a postdoc at Mayo Clinic in the area of women’s health and cardiovascular diseases. She then completed her Internal Medicine residency training at the University of Connecticut in the Clinician-Educator track where she received advanced training in educational methodologies. Her current research interests include sex-specific differences in the presentation and development of cardiovascular disease, including the role of mental stress and other psychosocial determinants of myocardial infarction with non-obstructing coronary arteries.

Telisa Spikes(2019-2021)

Telisa Spikes

Dr. Telisa Spikes is a first year post-doctoral fellow in the METRIC program. She holds a BSN in Nursing from Georgia Baptist College of Nursing at Mercer University, a MSN from Kennesaw State University, and a doctoral degree in nursing from Emory University. Her dissertation examined antecedent factors of racial and gendered stress, social support, depressive symptoms and how they impact hypertension illness beliefs, resilient coping, and hypertension medication adherence among hypertensive reproductive age African American women. Her main research interests are focused on understanding the roles of psychosocial factors, adverse social stressors, and coping behavior in hypertensive African Americans. Dr. Spikes dissertation work was supported by an NIH NINR F31 predoctoral fellowship grant. Dr. Spikes was nominated and awarded as a 2017-2019 Jonas Health Scholar for her dissertation research.

Kasra Moazzami (2018-2020)

Kasra Moazaami

Dr. Kasra Moazzami is a cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology who started in the METRIC program in July 2018. He obtained his MD from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. During his medical training, he also completed a MPH. Afterward, Kasra was a postdoc at the Massachusetts General Hospital and then went on for residency training at Rutgers University. Prior to joining our program, Kasra studied the brain correlates of atrial fibrillation and performed a broad spectrum of population-based and outcomes research. His current research interests include brain influences on cardiometabolic risk and health disparities, and the role of various biomarkers in predicting cardiovascular outcomes.

Kasra's publications

An Young (2018-2020)

An Young

Dr. An Young is a cardiology fellow in the Emory Division of Cardiology who started in the METRIC program in July 2018. She received her undergraduate degree in English/Creative Writing and a MPH from the University of Georgia and her medical degree from Mercer School of Medicine. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Emory University. Prior to medical school, An worked for two years at the CDC in Atlanta as an epidemiology fellow within the Division for Quarantine and Migration. Her research interests include understanding the importance of certain non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors that can contribute to disparities in the cardiovascular health among different populations such as race and gender and to identify vascular markers that help to explain the differing pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases in women.

Kristen Brown (2017-2018)

Kristen Brown

Dr. Kristen Brown is a second year post-doctoral fellow in the METRIC program. She received her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Michigan and joined our program immediately after, in July 2017. Her interests are on gene-environment influences on cardiovascular health, especially the role of social and psychological factors on inflammatory-related gene expression. Currently, her interests have expanding to encompass social determinants of health more broadly, the influence of psychosocial stress on biological mediators of CVD risk, and implementation sciences. 

Shakia Hardy (2017-2019)

Shakia Hardy

Dr. Shakia Hardy is a second year post-doctoral fellow in the METRIC program. She holds a BA in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a MPH from the University of South Florida and a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her main research interests are towards understand how social, behavioral, and biological factors in early and mid-life influence the development of adverse cardiometabolic risk profiles. Her work to date has focused on race/ethnic and gender disparities in the development of elevated blood pressure and hypertension over the life course and the prevention of hypertension.  Dr. Hardy has received multiple awards to support her academic development including the Gates Millennium Scholarship and was a finalist for the American Heart Association’s Stamler Research Award for New Investigators.

Shakia's Publications

Heval Mohamed Kelli (2016-2018)

Heval Mohamed Kelli

Dr. Kelli received his MD degree from Morehouse School of Medicine and completed residency training in internal medicine at the Emory School of Medicine. He is a fellow in preventive cardiology in the Emory Division of Cardiology. He is a Kurd refugee who has received an impressive number of awards. His main interests are on the influences of poverty and food access on cardiovascular health, and the use of mobile health applications to improve screening, monitoring and control of cardiometabolic risk factors, especially in underserved populations. Heval was a participant in the 2017 AHA Ten-Day Seminar on Epidemiology and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in Lake Tahoe, CA. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Dr. Kelli has been featured in many major media outlets for his volunteer and outreach work for the immigrant and refugee community in the Atlanta area. Currently, Dr. Kelli is completing his cardiology fellowship clinical training at Emory.

Heval's Publications

Samaah Sullivan (2016-2018)

Samaah Sullivan

Dr. Sullivan received a PhD in Epidemiology from the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, where she also earned a MPH. Prior to her graduate training, Samaah received a BS in Biology and a BA in Anthropology from Indiana University. During her training in the METRIC program, her research focused on understanding mechanisms of biological embedding of psychosocial stress and social disadvantage that mediate disparities in cardiovascular disease, especially among women, along the full pathway from the environmental to the cellular level. Her research has covered aspects such as neighborhood environments and health; stress responses and physiological perturbations; inflammation; and stress related cellular response. Samaah joined the RSPH’s Department of Epidemiology at Emory University as an Instructor in July 2018. She also joined the 2018 cohort of the Emory Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (K12-BIRCWH) program and was awarded funding for two years in this program.

Samaah's Publications

Matthew Topel (2017-2018)

Matthew Topel

Dr. Topel received his MD degree from Emory School of Medicine, with a combined Master of Science in Clinical Research degree. He completed residency training in internal medicine at the Emory School of Medicine. His research interests are on population cardiovascular health and prevention, and the impact of disparities and social determinants on cardiovascular health and disease, with special interest on built environment. Matt was a participant in the 2017 AHA Ten-Day Seminar on Epidemiology and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in Lake Tahoe, CA. Matt is currently completing his cardiology fellowship clinical training at Emory.

Matt's Publications

Pre-Doctoral Graduates

Jasmine Aqua (2021-2023)

Jasmine Aqua

Jasmine is a PhD student in Epidemiology at Emory University, where she also earned her BA in English and her MPH in Global Epidemiology. Prior to joining the doctoral program, she worked as an epidemiologist for the Georgia Department of Public Health. Her research focuses on the intersection of social epidemiology and immigrant health. As a METRIC trainee, she is interested in studying how immigrant experiences (migration, acculturation, racial discrimination, etc.) impact cardiometabolic outcomes through a stress pathway.

Katie Campbell (2021-2023)

Katie Campbell

Katie is a rising third-year PhD student in Epidemiology at Emory University. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of Maryland, followed by a MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She then worked for three years as a research program coordinator for school-based health promotion studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the Growth and Nutrition division. As a METRIC trainee, Katie aims to examine spatiotemporal trends in cardiovascular disease and health equity, as well as risk factors for cardiovascular disease as they relate to maternal and child health.

Phenesse Dunlap (2019-2022)

Phenesse Dunlap

Phenesse Dunlap is a third-year PhD Student in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. She completed her BA in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by a MPH in Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina. Prior to her doctoral training, she worked at an academic research center coordinating a variety of community-based participatory CVD risk prevention projects. Phenesse is currently interested in examining the relationships between dimensions of social and economic disadvantage and the development of cardiometabolic risk.

Izraelle McKinnon (2019-2022)

Izraelle McKinnon

Izraelle McKinnon is a fourth-year PhD student in Epidemiology. She completed her BA in Human Biology with a focus on Health & Disease at Brown University and MPH at Emory University in Global Health. She spent three years as a middle and high school teacher in Fulton County, Atlanta, between completing her degrees. Her research interests are in racial/ethnic health disparities in cardiovascular health, focusing on neighborhood and psychosocial exposures and resilience factors.

Ye-Ji Kim (2018-2021)

Ye-Ji Kim

Ye-Ji is a first-year PhD student in Epidemiology. She has a BA in psychology and an MPH in epidemiology from Emory. Her research interests primarily focus on the relationships between exposures to trauma, neighborhood violence, justice system involvement, and psychosocial disparities on mental health, particularly PTSD, and cardiovascular health in underserved populations and racial/ethnic minorities.

Zerleen Quader (2018-2021)

Zerleen Quader

Zerleen is a second-year PhD student in Epidemiology. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Georgia, followed by a MPH in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. She then worked for three years as a research fellow and contractor in the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke. Her main research interests are in social epidemiology and child/adolescent obesity and cardio-metabolic health, including examining the role of social and behavioral risk factors in childhood health disparities and health behaviors, as well as research in disadvantaged or underserved populations. 

Meghan Angley (2019-2020)

Meghan Angley

Meghan is a fourth-year PhD student in epidemiology. She has a BS in Molecular Biology from the University of Illinois and an MPH in Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale University. After completing her MPH, she worked as a research analyst in the Division of Family and Child Health at the New York City Department of Health for two years. Her research interest is the cardiovascular health of women before, during and after pregnancy and her dissertation will explore this topic among women with systemic lupus erythematosus.

Ilana Raskind (2017-2019)

Ilana Raskind

Ilana is a PhD candidate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. She has a BA in Religion from Vassar College and a MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. Her interests are in social and spatial determinants of food access and food insecurity in order to understand and address racial, socio-economic, and  geographic disparities in cardiometabolic diseases. Her dissertation explores how low-income African American mothers in Atlanta interact with their community food environments and how this spatial behavior is associated with dietary intake and weight status. She is passionate about the use of participatory research approaches, and the translation of research to practice. 

Ilana's Publications

Ryan Saelee (2016-2019)

Ryan Saelee

Ryan is a third-year PhD student in Epidemiology. He received a BA in Public Health and a MPH in Epidemiology/Biostatistics from the University of California, Berkeley. He then received a CDC fellowship in public health focused on the health status of American Indian/Alaskan Native tribes throughout California. His current research interests are in social epidemiology, specifically in psychosocial factors and sleep as determinants of cardiovascular disease disparities.  He is currently conducting research assessing sleep as a potential mediator in the relationship between the neighborhood social environment and obesity among adolescents.

Miriam Van Dyke (2016-2018)

Miriam Van Dyke

Miriam was supported by the T32 grant during her 2nd & 3rd year of the Epidemiology PhD program. Miriam received a BS in Nuclear Medicine Technology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a MPH at Emory University. Miriam’s research focuses on race, place, and class and how these factors intersect to impact heart health. During her time on the T32 grant, Miriam published research focused on discrimination, minimum wage policy, and historical trends in black-white disparities in heart disease death rates in the United States. Miriam will continue in the Epidemiology PhD program supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.

Miriam's Publications

Ali, Mohammed, MBChB, MSc, MBA, RSPH, Global Health - Cardiometabolic disease epidemiology, implementation sciences, global health

Alonso, Alvaro, MD, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - CVD Epidemiology, cardiac arrhythmias, neurodegenerative diseases

Bremner, J. Douglas, MD, Emory SOM, Psychiatry - Mental health, neurobiology of stress

Cooper, Hannah, PhD, RSPH, Behavioral Sciences - Social determinants of health, minority health, health inequities, community health, geospatial, multilevel analysis

Dickert, Neal, MD, PhD , Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - Cardiovascular medicine, bioethics, public health ethics

Druss, Ben, MD, MPH, RSPH, Health Policy - Mental health, health services, health policy

Dunbar, Sandra, RN, PhD, Emory SON - Health behaviors, psychosocial factors, intervention research

Gazmararian, Julie, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Social determinants of health, health behaviors, nutrition, obesity, health policy, community health, implementation sciences

Gooding, Holly, MD, MSc Emory SOM (Pediatrics) - research explores the preservation of cardiovascular health during the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Johnson, Dayna, MPH, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Sleep epidemiology, health disparities, social determinants of health, CVD epidemiology

Jones, Dean, PhD, Emory SOM, Pulmonary - Metabolism, nutrition, metabolomics, redox mechanisms

Kegler, Michelle, PhD, RSPH, Behavioral Sciences - Health behaviors, obesity, community-based participatory research, implementation sciences

Komro, Kelli RSPH, Behavioral Sciences & Epidemiology - Health promotion interventions through community and policy change; cluster-randomized trials to reduce high-risk behaviors and health disparities

Kramer, Michael, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Epidemiology methods, social determinants of health, geospatial analysis, multilevel analysis

Kulshreshtha, Ambar, MD, PhD, FAHA, FAAFP, RSPH, Epidemiology, Emory SOM, Medicine (Family Medicine) - health disparities and prevention of heart disease and Alzheimer’s dementia.

Lash, Timothy, MPH, DSc, RSPH, Epidemiology - Epidemiology methods, molecular epidemiology

Lewis, Tené, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Social determinants of health, CVD epidemiology, minority health, health inequities, women’s health, psychosocial factors

Lim, S. Sam, MD, Emory SOM, Rheumatology - Minority health, chronic inflammatory/autoimmune disorders

Lopez-Cepero, Andrea, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - population health researcher focusing on the prevention of cardiometabolic diseases among Latinx populations, particularly obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Marcus, Michelle RSPH, Epidemiology - Aging-related cognitive decline, healthy aging, environmental and life course epidemiology

Mehta, Puja, MD, FACC, FAHA, Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - women and cardiovascular disease, and diagnosis and treatment of coronary microvascular dysfunction and ischemic heart disease.

Morris, Alanna, PhD, Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - Social determinants of cv health, racial disparities, heart failure

Narayan, Venkat, MD, MPH, RSPH, Global Health - Cardiometabolic disease epidemiology, diabetes, global health policy

Ofotokun, Ighovwerha, MD, MSc, Emory SOM, Infectious Diseases & RSPH, Epidemiology - HIV co-morbidities including CVD

Patel, Shivani A., MPH, PhD,, RSPH, Global Health and Epidemiology - the role of ethnic background, contextual factors (such as historical undernutrition, urbanization, migration, geography), and early life disadvantage in influencing cardio-metabolic disease profiles.

Pearce, Brad, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - role of genetics, infections, immune interactions and behavioral factors in the etiology of complex disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and preterm birth.

Quyyumi, Arshed, MD, Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - Vascular biology, vascular function, cardiovascular health disparities

Searles, Charles, MD, Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - Vascular biology, molecular biology

Shah, Amit, MD, MSCR, RSPH, Epidemiology - Cardiovascular epidemiology, psychosocial factors, mind-body relations

Stein, Aryeh, PhD, RSPH, Global Health - Nutrition, global health, cardiovascular epidemiology, bioethics

Suglia, Shakira, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Cardiovascular epidemiology, Latino health, health disparities, psychosocial factors, children/adolescent health

Sun, Yan, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - Genetics, epigenetics

Taylor, Herman, MD, Morehouse SOM - Social determinants of health, racial disparities, interventions and implementation sciences

Vaccarino, Viola, MD, PhD, RSPH, Epidemiology - CVD epidemiology, women’s health, psychosocial factors

Waller, Lance, PhD, RSPH, Biostat+Bioinformatics - Biostatistics/bioinformatics, geospatial analysis

Wilson, Peter, MD, Emory SOM, Medicine (Cardiology) - Cardiometabolic epidemiology, genetics

Core training elements (both pre-doctoral and post-doctoral trainees)

  • Mentored research using a team mentoring approach;
  • Didactic coursework tailored to trainees’ interests and background;
  • Participation in bi-weekly multidisciplinary seminars and research in progress meetings;
  • Participation in yearly research in progress symposium;
  • Grant writing (NRSA F1/F2 or K award).

Additional training

  • Pre-doctoral trainees: three multidisciplinary rotations, original data collection leading to a publishable dissertation in the area of cardiovascular health inequalities
  • Post-doctoral trainees: individualized didactic training and rotations; opportunity to obtain a MS in Clinical Research  including a year of course work followed by a publishable research project (2-years)

Criteria for appointment to the training program will include academic potential, previous experience, research interest in cardiovascular health inequalities, and compatibility with existing mentors. Only U.S. citizens and permanent U.S. residents are eligible for this program. For details on the stipend support provided, visit the National Institutes of Health website.

Pre-doctoral Fellows:

Will be considered among those accepted in the RSPH’s PhD programs

Program covers tuition and stipend while in the fellowship program.

Post-doctoral Fellows:

MDs from various backgrounds pursuing a research career in cardiovascular disease, or PhD graduates in epidemiology, behavioral sciences, environmental sciences, health policy, or other relevant disciplines.  Program covers stipend for up to two years.

Postdoctoral applicants should include a statement of research interests and proposed goals for the fellowship; curriculum vitae; and three letters of recommendation.

Send applications or inquiries to:

Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD
Wilton Looney Professor in Cardiovascular Research
Department of Epidemiology
Emory University Rollins School of Public Health 

Mental Stress-Induced Ischemia, Mechanisms and Prognosis (MIPS) (Contact: Arshed Quyyumi, Viola Vaccarino)

The overall objective of this program project grant is to generate novel data on the causal mechanisms of mental stress-induced myocardial ischemia (MSIMI), to identify vulnerable patient groups who are susceptible to MSIMI, and to determine the clinical importance of MSIMI in a diverse and contemporary patient population with stable coronary artery disease. Subprojects will assess brain imaging and vascular correlates of MSIMI to explore potential mechanisms underlying this phenomenon.

Mental Stress and Myocardial Ischemia after MI: Sex Differences and Mechanisms (MIMS2) (Contact: Viola Vaccarino)

The purpose of this ongoing project is to evaluate whether young women who have recently had a myocardial infarction (MI) are more susceptible to myocardial ischemia due to psychological stress relative to men of similar age; examine the mechanisms underlying ischemia due to psychological stress in women relative to men; and assess whether ischemia due to psychological stress is implicated in the worse prognosis of women with MI compared with men.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Ischemic Heart Disease Progression (Contact: Viola Vaccarino)

The purpose of this ongoing project is to examine the longitudinal association between PTSD and ischemic heart disease by doing a follow up study of twins in the Vietnam Era Twin Registry 10 years after a baseline visit that involved assessments of ischemic heart disease with positron emission tomography (PET) myocardial perfusion imaging and other measures of cardiovascular risk.

Emory Twin Study (Contact: Viola Vaccarino)

The major goal of this project is to assess the role of possible mechanisms underlying the association of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with cardiovascular disease using a twin design, and examining subclinical indicators of myocardial perfusion measured with positron emission tomography (PET), and biomarkers of immune and autonomic dysregulation. The data collection has been completed and data are available for specific analyses.

The Morehouse-Emory Cardiovascular (MECA) Center for Health Equity (Contact: Herman Taylor, Arshed Quyyumi)

The primary goals of the MECA collaborative are to: 1) identify psychological and social factors at the community and individual level that promote cardiovascular "resilience" among African-Americans in the metropolitan Atlanta area; and 2) identify the vascular and molecular correlations of resilience in this population pre- and post intervention.

Emory Cardiovascular Biobank (Contact: Arshed Quyyumi)

This prospective registry and biorepository was established to investigate the genetic basis of oxidative stress, vascular dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and stroke from patients undergoing cardiac catheterization at Emory University Hospital, Grady Memorial Hospital, and the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center.  The Biobank contains over 5000 blood specimens that are stored for DNA, RNA, proteomics, metabolomics, and biomarker assays.  In addition subjects provide data regarding demographics, medications, alcohol/drug use, family history of cardiovascular disease, physical and emotional health status, sleep quality, and prior medical history. Subjects are followed annually for future adverse CVD events including deaths, MI, admissions of acute coronary syndromes or heart failure, revascularization, strokes and PAD events.

Emory-Morehouse Partnership to Reduce Cardiovascular Health Disparities (META-Health) (Contact: Arshed Quyyumi, Viola Vaccarino)

The META Health study is the result of a collaborative partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine and Emory University. The purpose was to characterize racial/ethnic differences in obesity-related cardiovascular disease (CVD) through interdisciplinary and inter-related projects. Of particular interest in characterizing racial/ethnic disparities are maladaptive behaviors (sedentarity lifestyle and unhealthy diet); social environment; psychological stressors; vascular dysfunction (arterial stiffness and endothelial dysfunction) and pathobiological pathways (inflammation, oxidative stress and insulin resistance).  The design was operated in two stages: (1) a random-digit-dialing of African-American and White residents of metropolitan Atlanta, aged 30-65 years, stratified by county median income and (2) a clinical visit at both institutions on a subset. The psychosocial factors were centered race-based discrimination, financial hardship and general stress. The measurements performed during the clinical visit included blood pressure, anthropometry (standards and bioimpedance), vascular function, salivary cortisol, blood and urine biomarkers. Specimens, as well as DNA, were stored for future studies. Data collection is completed and is available for specific analyses.

Biopsychosocial Risk Factors of Heart Failure Using mHealth Technologies (Contact: Amit Shah)

The goal of this project is to perform a comprehensive analysis of the risk factors for heart failure readmission, including psychological, social, and physiologic. We will integrate mobile health technologies to detect changes in environment and health status over time.

Closed-loop Vagal Nerve Stimulation in Patients with Traumatic Stress Exposure (Contact: J. D. Bremner, Amit Shah)

Vagal nerve stimulation is a therapy for treatment resistant depression, but its effect on PTSD is unknown. This is a study of the brain effects of transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (vs. sham), as well as a comprehensive analysis of its effects on the autonomic nervous and immune systems in subjects with history of traumatic stress exposure.

Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study (Contact: Alvaro Alonso)

The ARIC study is a prospective cohort that recruited 15,792 men and women from four communities in the US in 1987-1989. The main goal of the ARIC study is to understand the determinants of atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke) in the general population. We are using data collected in the ARIC study to investigate the epidemiology and risk factors of atrial fibrillation.

Comparative effectiveness of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) in atrial fibrillation (Contact: Alvaro Alonso)

Using two large administrative healthcare databases (MarketScan, from Truven Health Analytics, and Clinformatics, from Optum), we are studying the risks and benefits of different treatments used in patients with atrial fibrillation.

Power Up for 30 (PU30) Baseline Survey - Statewide physical activity survey (Contact: Julie Gazmararian)

Statewide survey of all (n=1,320) elementary schools in Georgia, conducted October 2013 - September 2014. Used to provide 1) state-wide baseline 2) schools personalized feedback during training; and 3) comparison for formative evaluation. Respondents from each school were administrators, lead classroom teacher from each grade level, and PE teacher. Data collected included information about before, during and afterschool physical activity (PA) time and integration, PA professional development and resource usage, staff engagement, staff wellness, and community and family engagement. Data linked to DOE demographic information. A survey in 2015 was conducted to assess impact of intervention.

Fitnessgram (Contact: Julie Gazmararian)

One component of statewide standardized fitness assessment conducted on all students. Respondents were all students grades 4-12 in all Georgia elementary schools. Extensive data were collected physical fitness, including general fitness, cardiovascular fitness, BMI and percent body fat.

HealthMPowers Nutrition Survey (Contact: Julie Gazmararian)

Conducted May 2015; developed to provide 1) baseline of Georgia SNAP-Ed elementary school wellness policies, nutrition practices and environments 2) schools personalized reports containing data and recommendations. Respondents from schools included administrators, grade level chairs, lunchroom/nutrition managers. Survey link sent to 86 Georgia SNAP-Ed elementary schools by HMP Health Educators. Data included baseline information about school wellness policies, nutrition practices and environments, and staff suggestions for improvement to encourage student consumption of healthier foods and beverages. Linked to DOE data, PU30 survey and fitnessgram.

Empowering Healthy Active Schools (Contact: Julie Gazmararian)

Physical activity (PA) intervention in elementary schools provided to 29 schools (and 7 control schools).

Respondents were 4,000 intervention students; 1,000 control students. Data are available at the student level (compared to PU30 surveys which are at school level), fitnessgram, PA in classroom, student PA levels, student behavior and knowledge, school climate survey. Data linked to DOE data (including individual level education outcome data – e.g., test scores).

The Boricua Youth Study (BYS) Cardiovascular Health Study (Contact: Shakira Suglia)

This study seeks to examine the role of childhood adversity on cardio-metabolic health among a cohort of Puerto Rican young adults living in the South Bronx, NY and the San Juan metro area, Puerto Rico. We furthermore seek to identify modifying factors, such as social support and positive coping among others that may buffer the effects of toxic stress on cardiometabolic health among young adults.

Intergenerational Impact of Genetic and Psychological Factors on Blood Pressure (Contact: Yan Sun)

The goal of this study is to identify genomic and psychological components that can contribute to African American women and young children using an integrative genomic and epigenomic approach. Findings from our project can contribute to developing interventions, and thus promote health and prevent hypertension in children and their mothers who may have both genomic and psychological environmental risks.

Million Veterans Program (MVP) Genes and CVD Risk (Contact: Yan Sun)

As part of the MVP study, this project aims to identify genetic associations of common and rare variants with CVD risk factors such as cholesterols, triglycerides, body mass index, and CVD prevalence and incidence among 400,000 veterans.

Expectations of Discrimination and CVD risk in African-American Women (Contact:  Tené T. Lewis)

This project uses innovative methodologies from public health and psychology to determine whether, in what contexts, and how “expectations” of discrimination contribute to early CVD risk in a cohort of healthy African-American women over a 2-year follow up.  Early CVD risk is assessed via changes in carotid intima media thickening (IMT), a measure of atherosclerosis, and 48-hour ambulatory blood pressure (ABP), a measure of autonomic physiologic arousal and a potential mechanism linking expectations of racism to IMT.

Social Stressors and Atherosclerosis in African-American Women with Lupus (Contact: Tené T. Lewis)

This project is designed to examine the impact of social stressors (e.g. financial stress, discrimination, early adversity, inadequate social support) on two distinct inflammatory phenotypes (SLE-related vs. CVD-related) and atherosclerosis in African-American women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), relative to healthy African-American comparison women.