Building the future

...of global public health

Current Fellows

CRAIG HECK
CRAIG HECK

Craig Heck is a first-year student in the Epidemiology Ph.D. program. His research mentor is Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Professor of Epidemiology at CUIMC and Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA (Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa). Under Dr. Abdool Karim’s guidance, he is researching optimization strategies to improve the accessibility, availability, and usability of HIV prevention services for adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in South Africa. Currently, he is working to explore behavioral and implementation-related phenomena using data from two completed CAPRISA studies: 007 and 084. CAPRISA 007 was a CRCT to evaluate the impact of cash incentives on high school students’ (Grades 9 & 10) HIV incidence, as well as their substance use patterns and academic performance. CAPRISA 084 was a demonstration project of daily, oral PrEP (TDF+FTC) and how it can be incorporated into young women’s sexual and reproductive health services; evidence generated from this study will inform policy and lay the groundwork for PrEP scale-up. Prior to starting the fellowship, Mr. Heck engaged in capacity strengthening efforts related to the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, Safe) Partnership, a PEPFAR-funded initiative focused on reducing AGYW’s HIV incidence in high prevalence countries. Under the DREAMS Partnership, Mr. Heck was tasked with coordinating and facilitating workshops to educate and train implementing partners in Haiti, Botswana, Namibia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Rwanda on evidenced-based girl-centered approaches—providing them with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to identify, reach, and enroll marginalized AGYW (e.g., married, pregnant, out-of-school, orphaned), inadvertently, missed by conventional recruitment efforts. Along with delivering technical guidance and assistance, Mr. Heck assisted with analyses for implementation science projects in Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and eSwatini. Using a multi-sectoral approach, these projects sought to increase service uptake, HIV testing, and consistent condom use among AGYW—as well as decrease their risky sexual behaviors and experience of gender-based violence. To inform outreach strategies and service linkages, these projects aimed to elucidate the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of men who have sex with AGYW, as well. He has also helped digitize, strengthen, and expand the monitoring, evaluation, and learning system of a sexual and reproductive health program in Mozambique; conducted mixed-methods analyses on fertility desires and covert contraceptive use (i.e., a woman using contraceptives without her partner’s knowledge) in a population-based cohort in Rakai, Uganda; and researched the breadth and deleterious effects of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and policies in the United States and how they have impacted global HIV prevention efforts. He received a Master of Public Health degree in Population and Family Health, with a certificate in Public Health Research Methods, from MSPH in 2017.

TRENA MUKHERJEE
TRENA MUKHERJEE

Ms. Mukherjee is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and pre-doctoral fellow in the Global HIV Implementation Science Research Training Fellowship. Her research mentor is Dr. Nabila El-Bassel, a Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work at the Columbia University School of Social Work and Director of the Social Intervention Group (SIG).  Ms. Mukherjee is working with Dr. El-Bassel on several projects at the intersection of HIV, substance use, and criminal justice. Specifically, she is working with Dr. El-Bassel on Project Nova (a combination HIV risk reduction and microfinance intervention among women who use drugs and engage in sex trading in Kazakhstan), BRIDGE (integrating HIV services into harm reduction sites in Kazakhstan), and ASPIRE (a needs assessment for migrant women in Jordan). She has an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health in Chronic Disease Epidemiology & Global Health. Her past research experiences include examining the barriers and facilitators of methadone maintenance treatment uptake among opioid-dependent prison inmates; developing and evaluating a multi-site hepatitis C education intervention among harm reduction program participants; and developing a health needs assessment for refugees and asylum seekers as a Fulbright Fellow in Malaysia. Prior to starting the fellowship she coordinated two NIDA-funded projects that 1) evaluated multiple TB diagnostic and treatment retention strategies among prisoners in Malaysia; and 2) evaluated a telemedicine approach to integrating specialty healthcare in primary care centers in Ukraine. Broadly, her research interests are in implementation science, cost effectiveness, and program evaluation, especially as it relates to infectious diseases (HIV, TB) and reproductive health among vulnerable populations in resource-limited settings.

IVY MUSHAMIRI
IVY MUSHAMIRI

Ms. Mushamiri is a fourth-year student in the Epidemiology doctoral program. Her research mentor is Dr. Jessica Justman, Associate Professor of Medicine (in Epidemiology) at CUMC, Senior Technical Director of ICAP and Principal Investigator (PI) of the Population-based HIV Impact Assessments (PHIA). Ms. Mushamiri has worked with Dr. Justman and in-country partners on developing data collection instruments to assess linkage to HIV care and treatment of PHIA participants in Zimbabwe and Lesotho and is currently preparing manuscripts comparing the linkage to care and treatment outcomes across multiple PHIA countries.  She assessed the impact of health behavior campaigns on HIV risk behaviors in the Swaziland HIV Incidence Measurement Survey (SHIMS) and presented findings at the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in July 2018. The is preparing to submit the manuscript based off this work for peer review. Ms. Mushamiri has also supported Dr. Justman on the data compilation of the MTN-014 phase I crossover topical PrEP study and is a co-author on the manuscript which was recently published in the Journal of AIDS. She has supported data analysis and reporting for an evaluation of an integrated community-based and clinical HIV/AIDS program in Zambia (SCOPE study). She is also the lead author on an ongoing comprehensive systematic review of the evidence regarding the effectiveness of community–based primary health care in improving HIV/AIDS outcomes in maternal and child health. Ms. Mushamiri has additionally been involved in designing and analyzing data for a study assessing the effect of place-based sexual networks and neighborhood characteristics on sexual behavior and HIV risk in U.S. women using participants of the HPTN 064 study. She continues to be involved in the design and assessment of various studies based off the PHIA surveys and is currently working on her dissertation proposal. Prior to her participation in the fellowship, Ms. Mushamiri participated in the school’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program.

JOEL NJAH
JOEL NJAH

Dr. Njah is currently a first-year post-doctoral fellow in Global HIV implementation research. He holds an MD from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and has practiced as a primary care physician in several Sub-Saharan African countries, including Cameroon and Zimbabwe. He also received a PhD from the Institute of Clinical and Translational Education, at the University of Pittsburgh School Medicine in 2018, which was preceded by an MPH in 2010 from the Graduate School of Public Health at the same University. Dr. Njah has a mentoring team that comprises Dr. Elaine Abrams, Professor of Epidemiology & Pediatrics and Senior Research Director; Dr. Marry Ann Chiasson, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology; and Dr. William Reidy, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology. His research interested is in evaluating postpartum determinants of loss to follow-up along the PMTCT care cascade and models of mother-infant pair linkage to lifelong care, treatment, and support from PMTCT programs. Accordingly, Dr. Njah is currently studying the factors associated with attrition across the PMTCT cascade in an actively traced cohort of HIV+ mothers and their infants who were documented as loss to follow-up under Option B+ in Eswatini.

LAWRENCE PURPURA
LAWRENCE PURPURA

In the 2018-19 academic year, Dr. Purpura is a first-year post-doctoral Fellow. He received his MD/MPH from Tulane gaining experience in tropical medicine in a community health-worker program. His Research Mentor is Dr. Mary Ann Chiasson who is Professor of Clinical Epidemiology (in Medicine) at MSPH and Vice President for Research and Evaluation at Public Health Solutions. He will be working on a project focused on HIV home self-testing in New York City. The New York City DOHMH has been operating a free home HIV self-testing program for the past 3 years. Dr. Purpura’s primary project involves merging all of the previous waves of the program and performing a repeated measures analysis, specifically looking at the effects of participation in a home testing program over time. As an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer, he completed a 2-year fellowship in applied epidemiology with the Viral Special Pathogens Brach, specializing in hemorrhagic fevers. He gained a myriad of skills related to the utilization of data to guide public health interventions- including outbreak management, surveillance, technical consultation to Ministries of Health, program and research implementation, statistical analysis, and manuscript preparation. Initially, Lawrence was part of the CDC’s Ebola response in Sierra Leone, supervising contact tracing teams and providing general outbreak support to the Ministry of Health.

JONATHAN RUSSELL
JONATHAN RUSSELL

Mr. Russell is a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and a pre-doctoral fellow in the Global HIV Implementation Science Research Training Fellowship. His academic advisor is Dr. Max O’Donnell, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine. His research interests focus on HIV prevention in U.S. men who have sex with men (MSM), and specifically on the implementation of PrEP and TasP in this population. He has an MPH in epidemiology from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, where his master’s thesis explored the racial and ethnic disparities in Tuberculosis incidence among New York City’s U.S.-born population. Before returning to Columbia he was an epidemiologist with the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS), a longitudinal evaluation of the long-term effects of HIV infection and antiretroviral medication among perinatally HIV-infected or exposed children and young adults. As part of PHACS, his research assessed different treatment regimens and their impact on hearing and language, mitochondrial function, and oral health outcomes. Mr. Russell has served as a teaching assistant for the Department of Epidemiology for the following courses: Epidemiology I and II, and Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

RICHARD TERAN
RICHARD TERAN

Mr. Teran is a fifth-year student in the Epidemiology doctoral (PhD) program. His Research Mentor is Dr. Mary Ann Chiasson, Professor of Epidemiology (in Medicine) at CUIMC. His research interests include HIV prevention and treatment among U.S. men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV. Specifically, he is interested in the development and implementation of online research studies and biomarker collection. Richard is currently working on a national online randomized controlled trial (RCT) of high-risk HIV-positive MSM and a study assessing the feasibility of measuring viral load using at-home collected DBS specimens. He plans to evaluate participant partnership behaviors, viral suppression, and engagement in HIV care. Richard is also currently working on his dissertation measuring viral suppression trajectories among a cohort of individuals living with HIV. Richard’s research has been published in AIDS and Behavior, JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and AIDS Care. He has also presented research at IDWeek, CROI, APHA, the International AIDS Conference, and the IAS Conference on HIV Science. Prior to his participation in the fellowship, he participated in the school’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program (funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences) which aims to increase the number of historically underrepresented students who receive doctoral training in public health.

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