Scholars-in-Training Profiles

UHAND Program scholars-in-training are undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows committed to diverse career paths with the common mission of advancing cancer equity.

The first cohort of scholars-in-training began their program in the summer of 2018.

Cohort 2

Postdoctoral Fellow

Ivan H.C. Wu, Ph.D.

Dr. Ivan Wu is a trained clinical psychologist who has experience as both a practitioner and researcher. He completed his pre-doctoral internship at the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque, and received a Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Clinical Psychology. In graduate school, he studied psychosocial mental health risk (e.g., racial discrimination, sexual harassment, mental health stigma) and protective factors (e.g., counseling use, mindfulness) among racial/ethnic minorities. As a postdoc in the Department of Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, he continues this line of research within a cancer prevention and control context examining environmental, interpersonal, and lifestyle (e.g., sleep, physical activity) predictors of cancer risk among racial/ethnic minority populations.

Postdoctoral Mentor Dr. Lorna H. McNeill

Graduate Scholars

Journa Cobite

Journa Cobite is a first-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She is interested in exploring both genetic determinants that underlie obesity-promoting behaviors as well as exploring social and environmental risk and protective factors of tobacco use, particularly among Black and ethnic minority groups. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, binge-watching shows, and providing makeup artistry services.

Research and Degree Program Mentor Dr. Ezemenari Obasi

Niloofar Tavakoli

Niloofar Tavakoli is a second-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She is interested in cancer-related disparities that exist for ethnic minority individuals, particularly among Latinx individuals who are battling comorbid behavioral challenges such as tobacco use and experiencing psychological inflexibility. Niloofar enjoys working out, cooking new recipes, and traveling to tropical destinations.

Research and Degree Program Mentor Dr. Virmarie Correa-Fernandez

Danielle H. Llaneza

Danielle H. Llaneza is a first-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She is interested in investigating the biological and psychological mechanisms that maintain chronic diseases in adult, minority populations. Specifically, she is interested in using a biopsychosocial framework to examine lifestyle behaviors that may influence a person’s risk of developing cancer. In her free time, Danielle enjoys reading, spending time with family, and traveling.

Research and Degree Program Mentor Dr. Virmarie Correa-Fernandez

Undergraduate Scholars

Karina Serrano

Karina Serrano is a senior, majoring in Public Health with a minor in Health Communications. She aspires to become a public health professional with a focus in epidemiology. Cancer diagnoses in her family have driven her to conduct research that helps decrease the prevalence of cancer within minority groups. She has been playing volleyball for over ten years and enjoys finding new places to eat.

Research Mentor Dr. Chakema Carmack

Matthew Taing

Matthew Taing is a Senior, majoring in Human Nutrition and Foods with minors in Biology and Psychology. He is primarily interested in research involving tobacco use and tobacco-related cancers in vulnerable populations. Matthew aspires to become an MD/PhD, particularly an addiction psychiatrist, to pursue a career at the intersection of mental health and substance use research and intervention. In his free time, he enjoys powerlifting, cooking, and spending time with his family and friends.

Research Mentor Dr. Lorraine Reitzel

Stephanie Ramirez

Stephanie Ramirez is a senior, majoring in Biology with a minor in Health. She aspires to be a scientist working for MD Anderson and a public health advocate for cancer disparities in low-income communities. She seeks to apply an interdisciplinary approach to her research through her participation in the UHAND Program. In her spare time, Stephanie loves spending time with her two dogs, discovering Houston’s food culture, and learning new skills.

Research Mentor Dr. Chiara Acquati

Cohort 1

Graduate Scholars

Sahar Eshtehardi

Sahar Eshtehardi is a second-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She is interested in the biobehavioral mechanisms that influence health outcomes in adolescents and young adults with chronic medical conditions, particularly the biological precursors of co-morbid mental and physical illness. Specifically, she is interested in

examining factors of treatment adherence and health-related quality of life of youth and families who manage chronic illnesses. Sahar enjoys volunteering at her local animal shelter, plant-based cooking, and practicing hot yoga.

Research Mentor Dr. Joya Chandra

Degree Program Mentor Dr. Lorraine Reitzel

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Krystal Christopher

Krystal Christopher is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She is interested in investigating social determinants of health, such as exposure to neighborhood violence, and the relationship to chronic stress as it pertains to the development of preventable risk factors, particularly in African Americans. She enjoys cooking, travelling, and spending time with family and friends.

Research and Degree Program Mentor Dr. Ezemenari Obasi

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Ashley Taylor

Ashley Taylor is a second-year doctoral student in the Health Psychology track of the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. She aspires to create and foster early intervention and wellness programs aimed at addressing risk factors that are associated with obesity-related cancer and reducing cancer-related health disparities, particularly within African American and Hispanic populations. She also enjoys spending time with her family, long outdoor runs, and reading.

Research Mentor Dr. Tracey A. Ledoux

Degree Program Mentor Dr. Lorraine Reitzel

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Undergraduate Scholars

Shreya Desai

Shreya Desai is a senior, double majoring in Psychology and Biology. Her history of volunteering with a non-profit has driven her to seek a career as a health professional. She hopes to work with underserved populations and to conduct research examining social disparities. She is passionate about soccer and loves to travel in her spare time.

Research Mentor Dr. Rosenda Murillo

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Paulina Linares Abrego

Paulina Linares Abrego is a senior, majoring in Psychology (Biology minor). She aspires to become a neurologist, utilizing her knowledge of cancer disparities to provide exceptional patient care and reduce disparities. In her spare time, she likes to design posters and work on various art projects.

Research Mentor Dr. Jason D. Robinson

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Sean Reuven

Sean Reuven is a senior, majoring in Public Health (English minor). He is driven to become a medical doctor, specifically addressing cancer disparities in African American men and women through achieving equitable breast, lung, and prostate cancer screenings. He enjoys playing and watching basketball and writing poetry and fiction in his spare time.

Research Mentor Dr. Lorraine Reitzel

Basant Gamal

Basant Gamal is a senior, majoring in Biochemical and Biophysical Science, with a minor in Medicine and Society. She aspires to become a scientist, working in the field of cancer prevention in minorities and hopes to be able to educate local communities on her research. She enjoys reading and creating in a variety of mediums, including building benches, sewing, and painting.

Research Mentor Dr. Tracey A. Ledoux

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Sara Flores

Sara Flores is a senior, majoring in Health with a minor in Human Development & Family Studies. She aspires to become a Public Health professional. Her experiences as a Latina raised in rural South Texas have greatly influenced her dedication to health equity. Through her work, she seeks to advocate for under-represented communities and to address the social determinants correlated with health inequities so that good health may be attainable for all. In her spare time, Sara enjoys to make and admire art, go to concerts, and explore the city.

Research Mentor
Dr. Karen Basen-Engquist

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Former Scholars

Chisom Odoh, PhD, MPH

Dr. Chisom Odoh (former UHAND postdoctoral fellow) completed the UHAND program in July 2019 and is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services at the University of North Texas! 

Postdoctoral Mentor Dr. Lorraine R. Reitzel

Christine Smith

Christine Smith graduated in August 2019 with a B.S. in Public Health and a minor in Biology. She was with the UHAND program from May 2018 to August 2019. Christine is looking to pursue an MPH in Epidemiology in the future in order to work as an Epidemiologist for the CDC.

Research Mentor Dr. Ezemenari Obasi

UHAND is currently not accepting applications for UHAND Scholars at this time.

The UHAND Partnership is funded by the National Cancer Institute (P20CA221696 and P20CA221697).

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