2009-2011 Cohort – Multidisciplinary Track

Dr. Shelly Hovick completed her PhD in communication at University of Georgia in 2009. Her scholarly interests lie in the area of health communication. She is interested in understanding how communication can be used as a vehicle to reduce health and communication disparities, looking specifically at how individuals seek and process health information. Before returning to graduate school Dr. Hovick worked for the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee as a community educator. While at UGA she served as a research assistant for the Southern Center for Communication, Health and Poverty. At the Southern Center she was involved in research understanding the degree to which low-income people feel susceptible to multiple health risks, desire health information, and have adopted health protective behaviors. Dr. Hovick’s dissertation built on this interest in health information by exploring the barriers and facilitators to communication of family health histories. Shelly is a Kellogg Health Scholar at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Site in the Center for Research on Minority Health/Health Disparities Research, Education, and Training Consortium.


Darrell Hudson, PhD
Dr. Darrell Hudson completed his PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in August 2009, where he also received his MPH. He received a BA in Psychology from Morehouse College in 2002. Darrell’s dissertation examined the relationship between socioeconomic position (SEP) and depression among African Americans. Considering that benefits conferred with higher SEP could be undermined by socially patterned stressors such as racial discrimination among African Americans, he hypothesized that increased levels of SEP would be related to increased odds of depression among African Americans because. He found that increased levels of home equity and parental education predicted greater odds of depression among African Americans. Conversely, household income and education, predicted decreased odds of depression for African Americans. Additionally it was found that higher SEP is related to greater reports of racial discrimination among African Americans. As a Kellogg Health Scholar, Darrell plans to build upon his dissertation research in three main areas: 1) the examination of heterogeneity in SEP across racial groups in the United States; 2) the exploration of the process of upward social mobility among African Americans could be deleterious to the health of African Americans; 3) the development of a deeper understanding of how biological pathways translate social experiences such as racial discrimination into mental disorders and diminished physical health, particularly the mechanisms that may undermine the expected salubrious effects of increased SEP among upwardly mobile African Americans. Darrell is at the University of California, San Francisco site.


Sze “Sam” Liu, PhD
Dr. Sze “Sam” Liu completed requirements for her PhD in Epidemiology from Brown University, Program in Public Health. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Biology and Psychology from Cornell University and a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology from Columbia University. Prior to moving to Providence for graduate school, Sam worked on tuberculosis and tobacco control related-projects at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Her dissertation research quantifies the effect of school desegregation policy on reducing racial disparities in adolescent birth rates in the US. Sam plans to continue to investigate how school desegregation and resegregation trends in recent years affected the health of the US population. Her general research interests include examining how educational quality affects health, investigating the role of social and physical environmental factors in creating health disparities, and understanding the health consequences of governmental social policy. Sam is a Kellogg Health Scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Dara D. Mendez, PhD, MPH
Dr. Dara Mendez received her PhD in Maternal and Child Health with a specialization in Perinatal Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health in August 2009. She obtained her MPH in Maternal and Child Health from UNC in 2005 and her BA in Sociology/Anthropology Pre-Med from Spelman College in 2002. She received a pre-doctoral grant from the National Institutes of Health to complete her doctoral studies and dissertation research investigating the effects of institutional racism, perceived discrimination and other social stressors on the risk of preterm birth. Her primary research interests include understanding the social and contextual factors influencing pregnancy and birth and how these factors contribute to existing racial/ethnic health disparities in the US. Her additional research interests include examining neighborhood context and health, community-based participatory research techniques and the effects of slavery on current health disparities in the US. Dara plans to continue her research in examining institutional racism and other social determinants as major contributing factors to perinatal health disparities and the implications of current health programs and policies in eliminating health disparities. Dara is located at the University of Pittsburgh site.


Renee Walker, PhD
Dr. Renee Walker received her Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in June 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh. Renee also holds a MPH from Drexel University in Community Health and Prevention and a BA in Biology from Lake Forest College (Lake Forest, IL). Her research interests are in the roles of residential neighborhood context as a determinant of health, particularly the neighborhood food environment (types of food stores, types of food offered, affordability, etc.) and the implications for overweight and obesity. Renee�s previous health disparities research includes the use of qualitative methodologies to: 1. understand perceptions of diabetes self-management among residents of a low-income community in Philadelphia, and 2. explore facilitators and barriers to proper diet and nutrition among older African American participants in an exercise and nutrition program. Renee�s current research utilizes Concept Mapping to explore perceptions of factors that go into food buying practices among low-income, urban residents of two neighborhoods with different access to large chain supermarkets. Her research seeks to fill some of the gaps regarding our understanding of how neighborhood context is related to healthy eating practices. Renee is a Kellogg Health Scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health.