Pilot and Supplement Investigators

UHAND seeks to engage, mentor, and support Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) at both UH and MD Anderson. We focus on enhancing the skills of ESIs who are interested in tobacco use, diet, and physical activity research but may not have training in health disparities or community-engaged research.

 

ESIs lead UHAND Pilot Projects and are encouraged to attend UHAND curriculum and training activities, connect with community mentors, and participate in Outreach Program activities to deepen their knowledge and understanding of cancer disparities research and facilitate community interactions.

 

UHAND Directors, Drs. Reitzel and McNeill, personally mentor ESIs who are affiliated with the UHAND Program and assist with critiquing manuscripts and planning grant submissions. Pilot Project Investigators can present their research during seminars and receive feedback from UHAND scholars-in-training and experienced faculty.

 

ESIs also participate in career and research development opportunities at both UH and MDA.

Pilot and Supplement Investigators

Daphne Hernandez, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston. Her research is centered around the association between poverty, stress, and physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan that contribute to health disparities. A significant portion of her work has specifically focused on food insecurity and obesity. She has a particular interest in Hispanic families.

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Dr. Rosenda Murillo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences at the University of Houston. Her research is focused on understanding and reducing physical activity disparities in underserved populations. Much of her research has focused on understanding the pathways through which psychosocial and cultural factors contribute to physical activity, and how physical activity contributes to health and well-being among Latino adults. Her research also includes examining how built and social environment contribute to health behavior among Latino adults.

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Dr. Chiara Acquati is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston (UH) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at UT MD Anderson Department of Health Disparities Research. Her research program focuses on the role of psychosocial factors and the social environment on health and well-being in the context of cancer survivorship. Specifically, Dr. Acquati examines relationship processes that affect the psychosocial adjustment and quality of life for patients and their informal caregivers with an emphasis on generating translational results to inform the development of interventions that capitalize on these processes and mechanisms to promote patient and caregiver’s outcomes. The goal is to enhance symptom management and coordination of care to sustain patients and caregivers’ adjustment across the cancer control continuum.

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Dr. Xinli Liu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Houston College of Pharmacy. The overall goal of her research is to discover new and efficacious anticancer drugs and develop novel molecularly targeted drug delivery systems to prevent or treat cancer metastases and overcome multidrug resistance. Dr. Liu is a co-investigator of a UHAND Pilot Project that will focus on developing a highly effective, low-toxic, easily compliable chemoprevention agent for preventing breast cancer development in mouse models.

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Dalnim Cho, PhD, is an Instructor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her research focuses on cancer survivorship such as stress, coping, quality of life, and health behaviors in cancer survivors. She is also interested in cancer prevention, promoting health behaviors in the public focusing on multiple levels of influence.

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Dr. Markofski is an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston. The overarching theme of her research is that many of the chronic diseases that are attributed to aging are not due to aging itself, but rather to an age-associated decrease in physical activity. This decrease in physical activity results in changes to the immune system and skeletal muscle that negatively impact health. Dr. Markofski is a co-investigaator on the Watchful Living pilot project (Pilot project 2). She has also submitted a diversity administrated supplement to the P20 to examine the effects of the Watchful Living lifestyle intervention on physical fitness and cardiometabolic risk factors. 

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Dr. Guang Peng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at The University of Texas at MD Anderson. The overall goal of her research laboratory is to understand the causes and consequences of genomic instability and the impact of genomic instability on immune phenotype cancer development. More specifically, by understanding and targeting the DNA repair network, her research aims to address two key questions: (1) Can we identify genetic alterations in the DNA repair network that drive tumor evolution, particularly during the transition from premalignant lesions to cancer? (2) Can we identify targeted prevention/therapeutic strategies by modulating the DNA repair network and immune phenotype?

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Dr. Connors is an Assistant Professor of Health and Behavioral Science at the University of Houston-Downtown. Her research focuses on cancer treatment and care in minority populations. She works on a Synergy Grant with Dr. Reitzel entitled, “A Patient-Centered Approach to Exploring Breast Reconstruction in African American Women,” and is also a co-investigator of a UHAND administrative supplement entitled “The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Cancer Care and Health-Related Quality of Life of Racial and Ethnic Minority Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer” that will investigate the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has on the cancer care received by minority women with breast cancer. She enjoys cooking, attending cultural events, and volunteering for local breast cancer organizations.