PHHP offers new funding program to help faculty reach their research goals

By Jill Pease

The University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions has launched a new funding mechanism to support faculty members in advancing their research. The PHHP Research Innovation Fund is designed to fund pilot testing or feasibility studies that will place faculty members, particularly early career researchers, in an optimal position to obtain research funding from outside agencies.

Unlike many other grant programs that may take months, or even a year, to respond with decisions on grant applications, the PHHP Research Innovation Fund makes decisions and provides funds of up to $25,000 per award within four weeks of submission. The program is organized around three major themes: artificial intelligence, direct clinical impact and general topics in public health and health professions.

All faculty members with primary appointments in PHHP may submit proposals to the PHHP Research Innovation Fund. Priority is given to early career faculty, but faculty of all ranks — assistant, associate and full — are eligible. Collaboration across PHHP departments is highly desired and collaboration with other colleges is encouraged. More information and application instructions are available on the PHHP Research website.

Young-Rock Hong, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of health services research, management and policy, and Deepthi Varma, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the department of epidemiology, are among the first recipients of PHHP Research Innovation Fund grants.

Dr. Young-Rock Hong in office
Dr. Young-Rock Hong. Photo by Jesse S. Jones.

The grant will support Hong’s development of a dataset to be used in studies of bariatric weight loss surgery and its impact on cancer risk and other health outcomes. Hong has conducted prior studies on the financial burden of obesity-associated cancer. He is now interested in studying the effectiveness of obesity treatment as a potential strategy for cancer prevention.

“With protected time and financial support, I will be able to collaborate with colleagues and researchers from UF’s departments of clinical and health psychology, biostatistics, epidemiology and surgery to collect and analyze longitudinal data on metabolic risk factors among patients who have had bariatric surgery,” Hong said. “We aim to examine the feasibility and potential of conducting longitudinal research on complex trajectories of BMI, obesity-related diseases and other relevant health outcomes for these patients. Establishing this extensive dataset will enhance the reliability of our research and put us in a favorable position for obtaining larger grant applications.”

Dr. Deepthi Varma in office.
Dr. Deepthi Varma. Photo by Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow.

Varma’s newly-funded pilot study will accelerate her research on the sexual and reproductive health concerns of Florida women living with HIV and using substances. She plans to conduct in-depth qualitative interviews with both women with HIV who use substances and with HIV care providers. These interviews will not only help her understand the most frequent sexual and reproductive health concerns among this group, but also help her build relationships with health care providers and organizations that serve this population.

“With new medications, men and women are living longer with HIV and it is extremely important that they are able to live their life to its full potential, which includes not only physical and mental health, but also sexual satisfaction and reproductive health care access,” Varma said. “By identifying the root causes of disparities, I believe I can develop interventions and policies to reduce inequalities and promote equitable access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health services for all women, including those living with HIV.”