Dr. Dean Makes Appearance in Discovery Special

Natalie Dean, PhD, AM, appeared in a special this past month, The Vaccine: Conquering COVID, which aired on the Discovery and Science channels. She was joined by other experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, to discuss the incredible race for a COVID vaccine. More details on the special and those featured in it can be found here.

(pictured: Dr. Dean)

Submitted by Melissa Stabel

Biostatistics Retreat Held Virtually

The Department of Biostatistics’ faculty members met virtually on Friday, February 12, 2021 for the department’s annual faculty retreat. Attended by all faculty and select staff members, this annual retreat allows for discussion and strategic planning in regards to items such as faculty development, course offerings, graduate programs, etc. Facilitated by Peihua Qiu, PhD, MS, all attendees were encouraged to contribute to the conversation in an open dialogue format. Dr. Qiu took the opportunity and gave a brief history of the department, highlighting many accomplishments during his almost 8 years as founding chair, encouraging continued growth and new ideas. At the end of the day, several action items were generated from the day‘s discussions. These items will take priority over the next few months and will help to improve many aspects of the department.

(pictured: Biostatistics Faculty and Staff)

Submitted by Melissa Stabel


Environmental & Global Health

Drs. Bisesi and Martyniuk Receive NIH Grant

Joseph Bisesi, PhD, MS, and Chris Martyniuk, PhD, MS, have received a grant to study the effects of brominated flame retardants on thyroid hormone synthesis negative feedback loops.

Environmental chemical exposures can disrupt hormones in the body, causing adverse health outcomes. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are chemicals that are used as flame retardants on clothing and furniture. These chemicals are persistent environmental contaminants and can be detected in human blood and urine.  One major target of exposure is the thyroid hormone system in animals and humans, but the mechanisms are unclear as to how these chemicals induce hyper or hypothyroidism in animal models and humans. This NIH sponsored project focuses on a specific thyroid receptor called thyroid receptor beta 2 which is involved in regulating thyroid production in the central nervous system.

(pictured from left: Dr. Bisesi, Dr. Martyniuk)

Submitted by Brynn Dalton



Epidemiology Students Sweep
Public Health Awards at PHHP Research Day

PHHP’s 34th Annual Research Day was held for the first time in a virtual format on February 11, 2021. Of the 32 abstracts submitted in the Public Health category, 19 were authored by Epidemiology PhD and MSE students. Epidemiology students also took home all three awards in the Public Health category! First-year PhD student Anna Wang (Substance Use group) won third place; first-year PhD student Nicole Fitzgerald (Modeling and Analysis group) and third-year PhD student Sara Nutley (Health and Wellness group) tied for first place. Congratulations to the winners and to all 19 Epidemiology students who presented at Research Day!

(pictured from left: Ms. Fitzgerald, Ms. Nutley, Ms. Wang)

Submitted by Abigail Hummel

Yaghjyan Receives Florida DOH Grant

Lusine Yaghjyan, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in Epidemiology, received funding from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program to develop a centralized data center and biospecimen infrastructure to support breast cancer prevention research in Florida. This three-year collaborative project with Moffitt Cancer Center and University of Miami will build a comprehensive research infrastructure with standardized collection of epidemiologic data and urine, stool, and breast tissue samples for future breast cancer prevention research. The unique resources assembled through this initiative have the potential to yield valuable new findings with rapid impact for breast cancer prevention in Florida and beyond.

(pictured: Dr. Yaghjyan)

Submitted by Abigail Hummel


Health Services Research, Management and Policy

Dr. Hong Examines Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Individuals Receiving Bariatric Surgery

A research team led by Young-Rock Hong, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy, analyzed the cardiometabolic risk factors among individuals who had undergone bariatric surgery, those eligible but had not received bariatric surgery, and medically classified normal-weight adults. Despite significantly lower weight among 'normal weight' adults compared to those receiving bariatric surgery, significant differences were not observed between the two groups for cardiometabolic measures, suggesting substantial normalization of cardio metabolic risk after bariatric surgery among US adults. Read the publication here.

Submitted by Lance Jackson

Dr. Mainous’ Study Suggests Single Provider Patients Prescribed Unnecessary Tests

Having a personal physician has a number of health benefits and carries a particular trust between a patient and their health care provider. Although there are many pros, there may be a hidden concern associated with seeing one primary care physician. Arch Mainous, PhD, MA, along with a UF research team, performed a study to discover the link between single provider care and unnecessary medical testing. This study is the first to explore whether continuity of care will lead patients to accept low value or harmful care based on recommendations from their primary care provider. The ultimate goal is to ensure that health care providers are giving the best quality care for their patients. The article can be read in it's entirety here.

Submitted by Lance Jackson


Occupational Therapy 

Department of Occupational Therapy’s
SmartDriver Rehab Services Welcomes 
New Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist

Dan Allison joined UFOT in February. Mr. Allison holds a BS in Supervision from Purdue University, and a MS in Occupational Therapy (with emphasis on disabled driver rehabilitation) from Western Michigan University.

Mr. Allison retired from Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where he worked as a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. Prior to that, he was a research associate at the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability at Mississippi State University, performing driver rehabilitation, and also assisted with wheeled mobility evaluations. 

Mr. Allison is a past president of The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists, former member of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America committee on wheelchair transportation, and maintains his membership in NMEDA. 

(pictured: Mr. Allison)

Submitted by Betsy Westra

UFOT Contributes to Improving DEI Matters

In February, in celebration of Black History Month, UFOT faculty and staff joined a presentation entitled “Implicit Bias and Microaggression: Impact on learners, physicians and patients” by Donna Parker, MD (Associate Dean of the Office for Diversity & Health Equity, College of Medicine at UF). Following the presentation, UFOT held a session titled “DEI Conversations” where we discussed the implications of the presentation on OT in general and OTD students in particular. In March, faculty members and students in our department contributed to PHHP-DEI week by leading two workshops and presenting six posters.  More information on DEI Week can be found here.

Submitted by Betsy Westra


Physical Therapy 

AOPT Funds Musculoskeletal Pain Study Lead by Drs. Alappattu and Bishop

Congratulations to principal investigators Meryl Alappattu, DPT, PhD, research assistant professor, and Mark Bishop, PT, PhD, FAPTA, associate professor and director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, for receiving funding from the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy.

Alongside co-investigator Nichole Stetten, PhD, MPH, CPH, research assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, the grant will support their study titled, “Underserved and undertreated: musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction following gender affirmation surgery,” which is in alignment with the AOPT diversity, equity and inclusion strategic initiative.

Congratulations Drs. Alappattu, Bishop, and Stetten!

(pictured from left: Dr. Alappattu and Dr. Bishop)

Submitted by Jaclyn Scott

Bricker Receives
Elks Club Scholarship

Daphne Bricker, a first-year UF DPT student, is the recipient of the 2020 Ben Brown Physical and Occupational Therapy Scholarship created by the Florida State Elks Association.

Daphne was selected from a pool of applicants enrolled in physical and occupational therapy programs in public colleges or universities across the state of Florida. She will receive $10,000 for two years for a total of $20,000 to support her pursuit of a DPT degree. The full article can be read here.

Congratulations, Daphne!

(pictured: Ms, Bricker)

Submitted by Jaclyn Scott


Rehabilitation Science 

Sajjadi Successfully Defends
Doctoral Dissertation

Elaheh Sajjadi, Msc, PT, successfully defended her doctoral dissertation titled “Spontaneous Compensatory and Induced Respiratory Plasticity in People with Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis” on March 16.

During her doctoral degree, Elaheh has been awarded the best basic science award for her poster at the Northeast Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Consortium (NEALS) Meeting and won first place for the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition, which is a University-wide event. Additionally, Ela has played an integral role in the labs of her co-mentors, Gordon Mitchell, PhD, professor, and Barbara Smith PT, PhD, assistant professor.

Congratulations, Ela!

(pictured: Ms. Sajjadi)

Submitted by Jaclyn Scott

Recap: Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium

On Friday, March 19, the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science PhD Program hosted its first virtual Neuromuscular Plasticity Symposium on ForagerOne, an online symposium program.

Over 230 guests tuned in to learn from Drs. Monica Perez, Henriette van Praag and Rachelle Crosbie as they shared their research on rehabilitation science.

The virtual poster session, which arranged 56 presenters, generated fantastic engagement within the online program. Throughout the poster session, attendees viewed presenters’ research nearly 8,000 times, and entered a total of 844 comments on their posters.

To round out the symposium, eight graduate students and two post-doctoral students received $400 awards to support their research.

A full recap of the symposium can be read here.

Submitted by Jaclyn Scott


Social & Behavioral Sciences

SBS Welcomes Dr. Pearl

SBS is pleased to welcome Rebecca Pearl, PhD, as an assistant professor. Dr. Rebecca Pearl is housed in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from Yale University and completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was an assistant professor in Psychiatry and Director of Research at the Penn Center for Weight and Eating Disorders before joining the faculty at UF. Her research investigates the health impact of visible stigma (primarily due to weight) and strategies to reduce stigma through clinical and structural interventions. Welcome to SBS, Dr. Pearl!

(pictured: Dr. Pearl)

Submitted by Dr. Lindsey King

Dr. Wood Receives Leadership and
Service Advocate of the Year Award

Congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Wood, clinical assistant professor in SBS and the Department of Environmental and Global Health, for receiving the “UF Leadership and Service Advocate of the Year Award for Faculty/Staff”, which recognizes UF faculty or staff who have gone above and beyond in promoting UF students to pursue service and leadership opportunities. In addition to research and coursework, Dr. Wood has played a major role in directing and guiding students to perform community advocacy that supports our local community throughout the pandemic. These opportunities allow for students to explore new roles and develop into refined and exceptional future public health professionals.

(pictured: Dr. Wood)

Submitted by Dr. Lindsey King


Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences 

Undergraduate Communication Sciences & Disorders Student Accepted to the
University Scholars Program

Jillian Zuwala, a junior in the Communication Sciences & Disorders undergraduate program, was recently accepted to the University Scholars Program alongside her research mentor, Yonghee Oh, Ph.D. Her research in Oh’s Auditory Computation and Psychophysics lab focuses on the interaction of pitch and timbre cues in an auditory streaming segregation task, and to what extent listeners with various hearing capabilities utilize these cues. She plans to continue exploring this phenomenon in her senior honors thesis later this year.

(pictured: Ms. Zuwala)

Submitted by Aaron McEnery