ID-Epi Training Program Fellows

Current Post-Doctorate Fellows

Julie Myers, M.D. (Mentor: Dr. Scott Hammer) was appointed as a postdoctoral trainee in July 2009 and is currently embarking upon her second year of support. Previous experiences prior to coming to Columbia include working

for Dr. Thomas R. Frieden while he was Health Commissioner for New York City. Dr. Myers is engaged in multiple research projects: internationally, she is pursuing clinical research on HIV resistance and treatment outcomes; domestically, she is investigating linkage to HIV care in New York City. Specifically, she is reviewing demographic and clinical factors associated with transmitted drug resistance in a cohort of patients on antiretroviral treatment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and examining predictors of antiretroviral treatment failure in HIV-infected children and adults in La Romana, Dominican Republic. An abstract of part of this work was accepted for presentation at the 2010 International AIDS Society Meeting in Vienna, Austria. Additionally, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she is using data from the CDC-sponsored Medical Monitoring Project to investigate factors associated with delayed linkage to HIV care in NYC.

Christie Younghae Jeon, Sc.D., M.P.H. (Mentor: Dr. Elaine Larson) was appointed to the Training Grant in July 2010 as a postdoctoral trainee. Dr. Jeon is a recent graduate from Harvard University School of Public Health with a Doctorate of Science in Epidemiology. She is interested in how metabolic diseases affect the risk of infections including drug-resistant forms, as well as how chronic infections affect susceptibility to metabolic or vascular diseases. Her interests lie in the mechanisms of the causal relationships, the methods for causal inference, as well as the social consequences of the interactions of diseases. Previously, Dr. Jeon investigated the associations between diabetes and tuberculosis as well as the impact of fluoroquinolone monotherapy on TB outcomes, which have lead to multiple publications. Under the mentorship of Dr. Elaine Larson, she will be investigating the impact of glycemic control on drug-resistant hospital infections. She will also work with Dr. Moise Desvarieux on the interactions of periodontal infections and vascular diseases.

Aran Cunningham Nichol, M.D. (Mentor: Dr. Scott Hammer) was recently appointed to the Training Grant in July 2010 as a postdoctoral trainee after completing one year of training in infectious diseases at Columbia University. Dr. Nichol’s experience providing outpatient HIV care to individuals in Washington Heights and the Bronx has instantiated her commitment to community-based HIV prevention and treatment programs. She is currently pursuing three interrelated research projects in HIV prevention. First, she is working with Dr. Beryl Koblin at the New York Blood Center on a project studying determinants of and changes in self-efficacy for condom use and sexual negotiation among high-risk non-injection drug using women in New York City; second, with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on an assessment of the HIV prevention practices of substance abuse treatment centers in New York City, and finally, with Dr. Elaine Abrams on the EPIC study, which is evaluating ways to prevent HIV transmission among serodiscordant couples.

Current Pre-Doctorate Fellows

Carolyn Herzig, M.S. (Mentor: Dr. Elaine Larson) was appointed as a predoctoral fellow in 2009 and just began her second year in the doctoral program in the Department of Epidemiology. She has completed coursework which includes Principles of Epidemiology, Introduction to Biostatistical Methods, History of Epidemiology, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology II: Design and Conduct of Observational Epidemiology, Applications of Epidemiologic Research Methods, Analysis of Categorical Data, and Infectious Disease Epidemiology. In addition, Carolyn is considering evaluation of the transmission of Staphylococcus aureus with a particular focus on antimicrobial resistance as a possible topic for her dissertation.

Eduard Eduardo, MPH, MPhil (Mentor: Dr. Crystal Fuller)
was recently appointed as a predoctoral fellow in September 2010. Eduardo’s professional goal is to become an independent investigator capable of designing and executing rigorous scientific research studies that provide evidence-based and policy-relevant insights aimed at improving the public health infrastructure in resource-limited settings. Eduardo is currently completing his dissertation entitled Programmatic and Individual-level Factors Associated with CD4 Count at HAART Initiation and Survival among Treatment-naïve Patients Initiating HAART in Limited-resource Countries. This work will entail the application of advanced statistical methods such as 1) multi- level analysis to account for correlation in the data and to adjust for confounding at multiple levels of organization, 2) multiple imputation techniques to estimate missing CD4 count values, and 3) the Frangakis and Rubin techniques to adjust survival estimates. While on the training grant, he plans to gain the gain expertise in the application of advanced statistical methods to address the complexity and potential biases of his research.

Veronica Frajzyngier, M.P.H. (Mentor: Dr. Crystal Fuller)
was appointed as a predoctoral trainee in September 2006. Prior to this, Vera worked at National Development and Research Institutes where she was responsible for the data analysis and direction of several qualitative and quantitative studies exploring the relationship of young drug users' social and risk networks to their risk of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection. This past year Vera has served as a teaching assistant for the Master’s Thesis course, and she continues to work part-time at EngenderHealth on an HIV prevention project focusing on most-at-risk populations in Ethiopia, and a research study examining determinants of fistula repair outcomes. Vera's primary area of interest is social and behavioral factors contributing to infectious disease risk, and she has been exploring the utility of dyad-level sexual network data for assessing STI transmission and acquisition. Vera entered her fifth year of support on the training grant in September 2010 and is currently preparing her doctoral dissertation.

Past Fellows

Allison Aiello, M.P.H., Ph.D.: During her period of support, Dr. Aiello was involved in randomized trials and cross-over studies comparing the benefit of alcohol-based hand hygiene products versus traditional hand washing methods among hospital personnel at New York Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. In addition, she also worked in community settings investigating risk of increasing antibiotic resistance associated with the use of antimicrobial hygiene products within the home environment. Her research led to several peer-reviewed publications. After obtaining her doctoral degree in 2003, Dr. Aiello was accepted into the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars program at the University of Michigan. In Fall 2005, she began a position as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health where she remains today. She has continued her research on antimicrobial resistance in the community setting and has begun to pave a new interdisciplinary research agenda examining the relationship between infection and chronic diseases as well as identifying life-course determinants of infection.
 
Sarah Braunstein, M.P.H., Ph.D. Dr. Braunstein completed her doctorate in May of 2009 and is currently the Assistant Director of HIV Surveillance, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. While supported on the training grant, her research involved assisting with the coordination of a cross-sectional study in Kigali, Rwanda. The goal of this project was to measure HIV incidence in high-risk populations in and around the capital city of Kigali. Blood specimens were collected to distinguish incident HIV infections from older established infections in order to estimate the rate of new infections in specific sub-populations that would benefit from HIV prevention interventions. In addition, the project aimed to characterize high-risk populations in Rwanda by identifying predictors of incident HIV infection.

Delivette Castor, MPH, PhD: Dr. Castor completed her PhD in Epidemiology in 2006 and went on to become a Clinical Scholar at The Rockefeller University.  As a pre-doctoral fellow, Dr. Castor was part of a team investigating predictors of successful treatment outcomes and viral resistance among patients with late stage HIV disease.  She was supported by the training grant from 2001-2006 during which she had the opportunity to participate on several analyses, international meeting presentations, and manuscript development. Her dissertation lead to three peer-reviewed publications, and monograph. Dr. Castor currently works as the Technical Advisor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Bureau for Global Health at USAID.

Blayne Cutler, M.D., M.S. is the Director of the HIV Prevention Program at the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in the NYC DOHMH. The primary goal of Dr. Cutler’s work is to maximize the prevention of new HIV infections in New York City using evidence-based, cost effective strategies. To that end, the prevention program analyzes epidemiologic data characterizing the burden of HIV in New York City to deploy federal, state and local dollars for maximal public health impact. The program is charged with evaluating promising new interventions, including pre-exposure prophylaxis, HIV vaccines and 'test and treat' models. As the individual responsible for funding, coordinating and evaluating these activities throughout New York City, Dr. Cutler is in a position to bridge the best available public health research with real-world programmatic implementation.

David Ferris, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Ferris
conducted research on antiretroviral adherence and monitoring of HIV through the evaluation of patients participating in studies at the Columbia AIDS Clinical Trials Unit as a postdoctoral trainee. In July 2003, Dr. Ferris spent six months in Durban, South Africa as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Natal's Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. There, he worked under the supervision of an international mentor, Professor Umesh Lalloo, MB, ChB, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at King Edward VIII Hospital (KEH), the academic teaching hospital of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. While working at the international AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at the KEH AIDS Clinic, he conducted a cross-sectional study of self-reported adherence rates, virologic outcomes, and barriers to optimal adherence in 80 HIV-positive patients receiving their first potent antiretroviral regimen at the KEH AIDS Clinic. The study was carried out in three phases: a qualitative phase, a quantitative phase, and a data analysis phase. The first objective of this study was to design a questionnaire capable of capturing self-reported adherence rates and potential barriers to adherence in the study population. The second goal was to compare self-reported adherence rates with virologic outcomes. The final objective of the study was to employ the survey instrument to identify barriers to optimal adherence and virologic success. These data formed the basis of his master’s thesis. Dr. Ferris is currently an Attending Physician, Division of Infectious Diseases and AIDS Program, Department of Medicine, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
 
E. Yoko Furuya, M.D., M.S. Dr. Furuya is Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Control and Director of Antibiotic Stewardship at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at P&S. As a post-doctoral trainee, Dr. Furuya was involved with the Infection Control Lauder Project - Collaboration between Biomedical Informatics, Infection Control, and Infectious Diseases to create a custom designed automated surveillance system to track resistant organisms, nosocomial infection rates, and outbreaks. As a part of this project, antibiotic management was targeted and guidelines were created for the empiric use of antibiotics. As part of the antibiotic management project, outcomes such as antibiotic utilization/costs, antibiotic resistance, and patient outcomes were tracked and evaluated pre- and post-implementation of the guidelines. Dr. Furuya has contributed to several peer-reviewed publications and scientific meeting presentations.

Soniya Gandhi, M.D., M.P.H. During her time as a post-doctoral trainee, Dr. Gandhi primarily worked on a research project (which also became the focus of her master's thesis) utilizing data from 248 HIV care and treatment facilities in sub-Saharan Africa that are supported by the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at the Mailman School of Public Health. The primary objective of the study was to identify modifiable program-level factors that impact baseline CD4 counts, in an effort to enroll patients into care earlier and initiate antiretroviral therapy at higher CD4 counts, leading to improved clinical outcomes. Previously, Dr. Gandhi had the opportunity to work in conjunction with the NY Blood Center to help create a behavioral risk survey to better identify the population of high-risk, HIV negative women in NY. In May, 2009 Dr. Gandhi completed her coursework for a Master's in Public Health with an epidemiology concentration; she currently works as an Internist at Montefiore Medical Center.

Rachel Gordon, M.D., MPH is an Assistant Professor in Clinical Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology.  Her research interests include the molecular epidemiology of Staphylococcal colonization and disease, Staphylococcal pathogenesis, and bacterial infections in drug users.  In a past project, she described two major S. aureus clonal types colonizing and infecting AIDS patients in a drug rehabilitation facility. This research demonstrated instability of the mec element, which is responsible for methicillin-resistance.  She recently completed a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial of mupirocin vs. placebo to see if nasal carriage and infection with S. aureus could be reduced.  Currently, Dr. Gordon is investigating the molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis of S. epidermidis in ventricular assist device-related infections. Dr. Gordon directs the Microbiology & Infectious Diseases course at P&S and recently received the Distinguished Teacher Award.

Jason Kessler, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Kessler completed his last year as a postdoctoral fellow in spring 2010 and earned a Master’s Degree of Public Health within the Epidemiology Division of the Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Kessler recently began an appointment as a Research Fellow and Hospitalist at New York University this summer. While supported by the Training Grant, he conducted his thesis work within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH)’s Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, participating in the design, data collection and analysis of a study evaluating the impact of utilization of a blood-based diagnostic test (QuantiFERON-Gold) for latent TB infection [LTBI] within the NYC DOHMH public clinics on treatment outcomes. He also worked on an observational study of extremely-resistant gram-negative healthcare associated infections at CUMC and presented data from this work at two national conferences.

Gretchen E. Nelson, Ph.D., M.P.H. Dr. Neslon
completed her last year as a postdoctoral fellow in 2010 and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health within the Epidemiology Division of the Mailman School of Public Health. While supported by the Training Grant, Dr. Nelson worked with Dr. Denis Nash to analyze risk factors associated with loss to follow up in HIV care and treatment facilities in resource-limited settings. In 2009, as an extension of this work, she visited healthcare facilities supported by the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs in Kenya to evaluate the impact of a new defaulter tracing program. Dr. Nelson recently took a position in teaching for the TUI University.
 
Barbara Satkamp Taylor, M.D., M.S. Dr. Taylor was appointed as a postdoctoral trainee in July 2006 and continues to work on several projects related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Her Master’s Thesis Project entitled Risk Behaviors in MSM Responding to an Online Survey analyzed an existing dataset of HIV risk behavior among men who have sex with men (MSM), collected on-line. The study compared demographic characteristics and risk behavior of African-American, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic survey respondents and found significant differences in risk behavior between the two racial groups. This abstract was presented at the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston in February 2008, and Dr. Taylor received a Young Investigator Award for her contributions to the study. Dr. Taylor completed her traineeship in July 2008 and continues along the same line of research as an Instructor in Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Magdalena Sobieszczyk, M.D., M.P.H. is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Infectious Diseases Division at P&S. Her current research experience includes preventive HIV vaccines and investigating complications of antiretroviral therapy. She is a co-investigator for the New York HIV Vaccine Trials Unit at Columbia University and is involved in developing and chairing two protocols: HVTN 802, an observational study to offer long term follow-up and to evaluate the virologic, immunologic, and clinical course of infection in HIV-infected persons who participated in HIV vaccine trials; and HVTN 505, a phase 2 study of the DNA prime, rAd5 boost vaccine regimen to determine its safety and effect on post-HIV acquisition viral load. Other projects include investigating risk factors for and prevalence of chronic kidney disease in HIV infected patients attending the CUMC HIV clinic; describing the prevalence of multidrug resistant gram-negative infections in immunocompromised patients at CUMC; and describing the prevalence of and risk factors for metabolic syndrome among HIV infected women in the WIHS cohort and the Acute HIV infection cohort in South Africa.


Hong Van Tieu, M.D., M.S. Dr. Tieu worked on three international research projects based in Thailand while working on the training grant. The first project involved immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) among HIV/tuberculosis co-infected persons. The second project involved cardiovascular risk assessment in an HIV-infected cohort in Thailand. The third involved acceptability of male circumcision among Thai heterosexual men as an HIV/STD prevention method; this project became the focus of her master’s thesis. Dr. Tieu is currently an Associate Research Member at the New York Blood Center where she works as a co-investigator on an HIV prevention study entitled CIRCA and an Instructor in Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in the Division of Infectious Diseases.


Simon Tsiouris, M.D., M.P.H. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Tsiouris’ research focused on tuberculosis (TB) in resource-limited settings and TB/HIV co-infection. He worked closely with Dr. El-Sadr on the Gugulethu TB Project in Cape Town, supported by the Sequella Global Tuberculosis Foundation. The project's goal was to develop a site in South Africa for possible future tuberculosis vaccine research. Dr. Tsiouris designed and implemented a latent TB infection (LTBI) prevalence survey as well as the evaluation of a new whole blood interferon gamma release assay using TB-specific antigens for the diagnosis of TB and LTBI in a high HIV prevalence area. He then went on to work as a Senior Project Manager for TB/HIV projects at the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs at Columbia University where he provided technical assistance for the development and implementation of systems to improve the collaboration and integration of TB and HIV services in Rwanda, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania, including operational research on screening and diagnosis of TB in HIV-infected adults and children. He currently holds an appointment as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Division of Infectious Diseases, College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.