Research Day

5-Minute Lightning Round Presentations

Research Day Lightning-Round presentations from our students and faculty highlight their work, or the work they do together. Each of these five-minute presentations highlight their innovative thinking and concrete action to tackle some of the world’s most emerging and persistent public health challenges.

PhD student, Division of Health Policy & Management

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Health Justice in Long Term Services and Supports
Black, Hispanic, Latino, other older adults of color and indigenous people have experienced barriers due to systemic racism over their life course with negative implications for health outcomes. We explore how COVID-19 exacerbates these racial inequities across the spectrum of care settings – from home and communities-based services to nursing home settings, for at-risk older adults who are on Medicaid and dual-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Our work also examines factors associated with racial inequities in NH-related quality of life, and we provide recommendations for social and health justice-focused policy interventions.

Odichinma Akosionu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Division of Health Policy and Management. Her research area is in the economics of aging- investigating how systemic racism and racial inequities shape the experiences and health outcomes of older adults receiving long-term services and supports. She works as a graduate research assistant on a National Institute of Health-funded grant and a Minnesota state-funded project. Prior to this, Odichinma worked as a Human Services Program Consultant at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Odichinma also holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health.

PhD student, Division of Health Policy & Management

Evaluating Anti-racist Policies using Mathematical Models
Over the last few decades, we have gained a lot of insight into structural racism as a fundamental cause of racial health inequities. With the increasing societal effort to dismantling this oppressive system, we are at the point where we envision what anti-racist interventions look like and evaluate their potential health impacts. These are policy decisions and we can employ a decision-analytic framework to select the most optimal solutions. One approach we can use is mathematical modeling. This talk, Tongtan (Bert) Chantaratm will provide an introduction to this approach with one example of its application.

Tongtan (Bert) Chantarat is a PhD Candidate in Health Services Research, Policy, and Administration. The overarching objectives of his scholarship are to 1) advance the body of knowledge on how structural racism drives racial health inequities among workers and 2) develop and enhance methodological approaches used to evaluate the impacts of labor market policies on workers’ health. For his dissertation, he used a microsimulation to examine the linkage between occupational segregation, racialized occupational risk exposure, and hypertension inequity between Black and White healthcare workforce. His work has been funded by the Minnesota Population Center, the Midwest Center for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

PhD student, Division of Biostatistics

Uncovering Brain Signatures of Adolescent Depression and Suicidality
In the past decade resting state fMRI analysis has emerged as a promising avenue for identifying markers of mood disorders in the neural activity of adolescents. These distinctive brain patterns can shed light on the disease’s development and possible treatments; however, they are often subtle and difficult to detect with the sample sizes of traditional neuroimaging studies. In this presentation Dr. Mark Fiecas and Conner Falke will explain how they are using the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD), a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 9–10-year-olds across the United States, to overcome these issues and identify useful signatures of depression and suicidality in adolescents.

Conner Falke is a second year PhD student in the School of Public Health Division of Biostatistics. They received their BA in Mathematics and BS in Economics from the University of Kansas in 2019. Since summer of 2019 they have been a research assistant in the Research in Adolescent Depression (RAD) Lab at the University of Minnesota. Currently, their research interests include fMRI data analysis and statistical methods that address the challenges of collecting and analyzing psychiatric data.

Assistant professor, Division of Biostatistics

Uncovering Brain Signatures of Adolescent Depression and Suicidality
In the past decade resting state fMRI analysis has emerged as a promising avenue for identifying markers of mood disorders in the neural activity of adolescents. These distinctive brain patterns can shed light on the disease’s development and possible treatments; however, they are often subtle and difficult to detect with the sample sizes of traditional neuroimaging studies. In this presentation Dr. Mark Fiecas and Conner Falke will explain how they are using the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD), a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 9–10-year-olds across the United States, to overcome these issues and identify useful signatures of depression and suicidality in adolescents.

Mark Fiecas is an assistant professor in the Division of Biostatistics. The focus of his research is to understand the structure and function of the human brain through the use of imaging technology. His interdisciplinary research focuses on functional connectivity and imaging genetics; and from a methodological perspective, his primary interest is in time series analysis. Fiecas’ experience with neuroimaging research spans a broad range of areas, from studying the connectivity of the human brain to investigating genetic underpinnings of brain phenotypes.

PhD student, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health

How COVID-19 turned up the Volume on Motherhood
The COVID-19 pandemic made clear that once access to support systems designed to replace mothers’ unpaid work inside the home evaporated, mothers themselves were the back-up plan. In the wake of school closures, mothers found themselves balancing childcare and work responsibilities simultaneously. In this presentation, Junia Nogueira de Brito and Jessica Friedman discuss how their research investigated the differential impact of pandemic-related concerns (economic, caretaking, and health) that are driving increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress in mothers. This work is particularly timely because when we emerge from the pandemic, understanding the pandemic’s impact on psychological distress will help identify populations at risk of long-term damaging mental health consequences.

Junia Nogueira de Brito is a PhD candidate in Epidemiology and a pre-doctoral fellow in the Healthy Weight Promotion Applied Epidemiology Training Program in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. She is a dietitian and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from UniBH, Brazil. Junia also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Bellevue University and a Master of Public Health Nutrition degree from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include the evaluation of weight-related behaviors in the prevention of obesity and related diseases across the lifespan among socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

PhD student, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health

How COVID-19 turned up the Volume on Motherhood
The COVID-19 pandemic made clear that once access to support systems designed to replace mothers’ unpaid work inside the home evaporated, mothers themselves were the back-up plan. In the wake of school closures, mothers found themselves balancing childcare and work responsibilities simultaneously. In this presentation, Junia Nogueira de Brito and Jessica Friedman discuss how their research investigated the differential impact of pandemic-related concerns (economic, caretaking, and health) that are driving increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress in mothers. This work is particularly timely because when we emerge from the pandemic, understanding the pandemic’s impact on psychological distress will help identify populations at risk of long-term damaging mental health consequences.

Jessica Friedman is a PhD candidate in Epidemiology in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health. She holds an MPH in Community Health Promotion from the University of Minnesota and a MSc. in Environmental Policy from Roskilde University in Denmark. Her research is rooted in an interdisciplinary understanding of how policies, social structures, and gender norms shape health outcomes for women and children. As a PhD student living through the COVID-19 pandemic while supporting her family, she has first-hand experience with the unique stressors, adaptations, and consequences of the pandemic on families.

PhD Student, Division of Environmental Health Sciences

Foodborne Illness Outbreak Implications of Restaurant Grading Practices
The role of restaurant inspections as a mechanism to protect public health has become increasingly important as Americans turn more and more to eating foods away from home. Disclosing the results of these inspections to the public enables consumers to make informed decisions about where to eat. However, not every restaurant is required to post their inspections grade, and some do not receive a grade at all. In this presentation, Thuy Kim will describe her investigation into the foodborne illness outbreak implications of restaurant grading and posting of inspections results to the public.

Thuy Kim is a second-year PhD student focusing on foodborne illness and outbreak surveillance in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences. Her career in food safety began as a foodborne epidemiologist at the Alabama Department of Public Health and continued as a program analyst at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Thuy is working with her advisor, Dr. Craig Hedberg, to demonstrate the usefulness of restaurant inspection data for public health hazard surveillance.

Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health

Beyond Race: The Salience of Skin Tone for Black Pregnant Women and their Risk of Preterm Birth
In 2019, 1 in 7 infants born to Black women in the U.S. were born before the 37th week of pregnancy, a rate of preterm birth that is 50% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white and other women of color. This long-standing health disparity is rooted in racism. We hypothesize generational differences marked by changes in sociopolitical context that shape Black American’s exposure to and embodiment of racism and colorism. In this presentation Jaime Slaughter Acey will discuss how she and her team explored whether maternal skin color and maternal age interacted to influence rates of preterm birth among 1,410 Black women who gave birth at a delivery hospital located in the Detroit metro area between 2009 and 2012.

Jaime Slaughter Acey is an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, whose research focuses on systemic racism and skin color bias and how they intersect with other aspects of social identity (e.g., gender, social class, neighborhood) to create inequalities in health. Her extramurally funded research program seeks to integrate social science concepts (including Intersectionality Theory and Critical Race Theory) with epidemiologic methods in the exploration of systemic racism and racialization processes impact maternal and child health.

Assistant professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences

Self-Efficacy Drives Social Distancing Compliance, But What Drives Self-Efficacy?
Successful strategies for pandemic suppression require understanding what factors influence individuals’ adherence to restrictions such as stay at home orders. Non-household, non-work contacts can vary between individuals and are the contacts most likely to decrease as a consequence of severe restrictions. In this presentation, Gillian Tarr will share findings from the COVID-19 Preparedness & Response Study showing that self-efficacy, or confidence in one’s ability to engage in protective behaviors, correlates with lower numbers of outings and contacts. Building up this self-efficacy is a potential public health intervention. Tarr and her team have identified characteristics associated with high self-efficacy, as well as contexts associated with low self-efficacy where additional resources may need to be targeted.

Gillian Tarr is an assistant professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist with expertise in foodborne and other enteric infections. Her specific research interests include Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections, including its distribution, zoonotic transmission, virulence, and detection; and she interested in the attribution of enteric illness to clinically detected pathogens such as norovirus and C. difficile.

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