Kirstie Danielson, PhD
Assistant Professor, Division of Transplant Surgery
Departmental Affiliate, Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Dr. Danielson is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Transplant Surgery, and a departmental affiliate in the Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UIC. She received her PhD in Population Health, with a focus in Epidemiology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and subsequently completed postdoctoral training in Endocrinology at the University of Chicago and Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UIC. Building upon her research on interrelationships between diabetes, bone, and sex hormones in women, her goal is to establish an independent research program in diabetes epidemiology and women’s health at UIC, initially focused on two interrelated and synergistic tracks: the bidirectional association between diabetes and bone and sex-based differences in islet transplantation. For the first aim, Dr. Danielson will describe the prevalence and etiology of sex-based differences in bone fragility due to type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes; and following islet (insulin-producing cells) transplantation to cure type 1 diabetes. In light of recent experimental evidence demonstrating lack of the bone protein osteocalcin leads to diabetes in mice, she will determine whether bone metabolism is prospectively associated with the disease course in humans with type 1 diabetes and islet transplantation outcomes; and if there are sex-based differences. For the second aim, Dr. Danielson will explore whether there are sex-based differences in islet function and clinical outcomes following islet transplant to cure type 1 diabetes. Islets grow during pregnancy and estrogen enhances their function. However, there have been no systematic comparisons of islet function in vitro and following transplant by sex of donor or recipient.
Bethany Everett, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
Dr. Bethany Everett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012. During her training at the University of Colorado, Dr. Everett served as a researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Sciences Population Program and was selected as Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Fenway Center for Population Research in LGBT Health. Her R03-funded dissertation research focused on the social determinants of health disparities and emphasizes the synergistic impact of individual, interpersonal, and contextual factors for shaping health behaviors and outcomes among sexual minorities. Dr. Everett’s research has also received funding the National Science Foundation and the American Psychological Foundation. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Everett will continue to investigate the role of social environments, discrimination, and gender expression on sexual minority women’s health behaviors and outcomes using two longitudinal data sets, the National Study of Adolescent Health and the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women.
Sadia Haider, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Sadia Haider is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and recently joined the UIC faculty in September 2011. Dr. Haider received her MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and her Masters in Public Health in maternal and child health at Harvard School of Public Health. She then completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School in 2005 which was followed by a two year Fellowship in Contraceptive Research and Family Planning at the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to her arrival at UIC, Dr. Haider worked at BIDMC, Harvard Medical School where she was the Director of the Division of Family Planning and the Ryan residency program in Family Planning from 2007 to 2011.
Dr. Haider has received foundation funding to conduct research during her fellowship and as a junior faculty which has focused on the consequences of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. and abroad. She has conducted research in Afghanistan evaluating contraceptive practices and decision-making amongst Afghan couples and evaluated the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Mexican abortion providers. She is currently a co-investigator on a qualitative study funded by Boston Children’s Hospital evaluating adolescents’ knowledge, attitudes and use of long-acting reversible contraception and the principal investigator on a study evaluating the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of primary care providers in relation to adolescent contraception.
During her time as a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Haider plans to focus on the reproductive health disparities that affect adolescent women in the U.S. Her goal is to create effective strategies to prevent adolescent unintended pregnancy focusing on the complex interplay between the health care system, primary care providers and adolescent women’s perspective and behaviors. Dr. Haider plans to investigate adolescent females’ perceived barriers and enhancers in the prevention of unplanned pregnancies and provider’s perspectives on adolescent pregnancy prevention.
Michelle A. Kominiarek, MD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Michelle A. Kominiarek, MD returned to UIC in September 2008 after being an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Indiana University. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology (2003) and fellowship training in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (2006) at UIC. She earned her medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago. At Indiana University, she was the Principal Investigator of a NICHD-sponsored Consortium on Safe Labor which generated a database of electronic obstetrical medical records from multiple sites. The purpose of the project was to characterize labor and delivery in a contemporary group of women experiencing current obstetrical clinical practices. Dr. Kominiarek’s interest in maternal obesity prompted her to further evaluate the impact of weight on delivery route and labor patterns. She is first author on one of the analysis from this project – “The Maternal Body Mass Index: A Strong Association with Delivery Route.” Her knowledge of maternal obesity is diverse and her focus to date has included surveys of patient knowledge regarding the risks of maternal obesity, publication of review articles including an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin on pregnancy after bariatric surgery, addressing the risk of cesarean in a large NICHD multi-centered study, and multiple “grand rounds” presentations regarding maternal obesity, its risks, and implications for clinical practice.
Amidst an epidemic of obesity in the United States, obesity among pregnant women has risen dramatically. The obstetrical patient population at UIC has an alarmingly high number of overweight and obese gravidas (63% based on 2009 data). Everyday we observe the tremendous morbidity that can occur as a result of obesity in our practice including preeclampsia, diabetes, a skyrocketing cesarean delivery rate, and infectious complications. Now as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UIC, Dr. Kominiarek proposes to tackle the problem of maternal obesity with two approaches: (1) Determine the association between morbidities unique to pregnancy (preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, post-term birth) and biomarkers (leptin and other adipokinins) and (2) Develop and pilot a specialized prenatal care program for obese patients at UIC to determine if it helps improve perinatal outcomes.
Julienne Rutherford, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing
Julienne Rutherford is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women, Children, and Family Health Science in the COllege of Nursing. She received her MA and PhD in Biological Anthropology from Indiana University in 2007, conducted a two-year predoctoral research internship at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Anthropology and the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in 2009, and is in her second year in a faculty position at UIC. The overarching goal of her research program is to develop a “womb-to-womb” approach to life history studies, finding links between the intrauterine environment experienced by a female fetus and the intrauterine experience that female provides her offspring later in life. Her specific focus is on the placenta as the mechanism that connects maternal physiology to the developing fetus in an intergenerational loop, creating an environment with lifelong and evolutionary consequences for health and reproduction. She is currently exploring how mechanisms of placental nutrient transfer impact reproductive function in women in the Philippines through an R03-funded study of placental morphology and metabolic function from pregnancies of native Philippine women who are part of a birth cohort that has been studied since their mothers were pregnant with them. This study (in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern University, Wayne State University, and the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines) seeks to determine whether a mother’s own developmental experience shapes the placental transmission of nutrients to her offspring. Dr. Rutherford is also collaborating with colleagues at UIC to investigate mechanisms of placental invasiveness that may predispose women to postpartum hemorrhage. In addition to working on studies of human biology, Dr. Rutherford has ongoing projects devoted to placental biology and function in two species of nonhuman primates, common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops).
For more information about Dr. Rutherford's work in biological anthropology, please visit her blog.
Former BIRCWH Scholars
Angela Rose Black, PhD
Assistant Professor, Applied Health Sciences
Angela Rose Black is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining the faculty at UIUC, she fulfilled a CDC-funded three year postdoctoral training program at the School of Public Health at UIC. Dr. Black received her PhD in Child and Family Development at the University of Georgia. In both her pre- and post-doctoral training, Dr. Black focused on the personal and social stressors salient to African American mothers’ depressive and anxious symptomatology. Dr. Black now enlists her interdisciplinary background in Psychology, Women’s Studies, Family Science, and Public Health to explore gender norms and expectations as they relate to daily life management and preventive health care decision making among African American women. She has particular interest in gendered expectations of “strength” among African American women, specifically the extent to which African American women embody self-reliant, self-sacrificing, and self-silencing behaviors in fulfillment of strong black womanhood.
Joanna Burdette, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy
Joanna Burdette is an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Teresa Woodruff in the Department of Neurobiology and Physiology at Northwestern University. Her research interests include understanding how ovulation-induced wounding is associated with early events in ovarian cancer, the engineering of steroids as intracellular magnetic resonance contrast agents, and the role of steroid and peptide hormones to regulate each other in breast cancer cells. Past research projects have focused primarily on the role of hormones in reproductive process and aging including characterizing several botanicals as alternatives for menopausal symptoms, ovulation’s contribution toward ovarian cyst formation, and the stimulation of ovarian cellular proliferation in response to gonadotropins. Dr. Burdette and her laboratory team developed a novel three-dimensional organ culture system using hyrogels and artificial wounding as a model for studying normal ovulation. Dr. Burdette has received research support from a wide variety of sources including the NIH, Ovarian Cancer Rsearch Fund, the American Cancer Society Illinois Division, the UIC Cancer Center, and the UIC CCTS.
Colleen Corte, PhD, RN
Associate Professor, College of Nursing
Dr. Corte received her PhD in nursing from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation was focused on identifying specific disturbances in the structure of the self-concept that characterized young adults with alcohol dependence and distinguished them from social drinkers and young adults in recovery from alcohol dependence. Dr. Corte completed a 2-year interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship at the Addiction Research Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan where she focused on disturbances in the structural properties of the self-concept as a predictor of early drunkenness in a high risk sample of adolescents, as well as gender differences in these effects. Dr. Corte's work at UIC began with a focus on urban minority youth who are at an earlier developmental stage (preadolescence) to determine whether disturbances in the structure of the self-concept are related to risk factors for alcohol use (conduct problems and parental alcohol problems) and whether these self-concept disturbances are associated with drinking initiation. As a BIRCWH scholar, she extended her work to explore the role of identity development, including sexual minority-specific identities, on risk behavior in LGBT youth. Dr. Corte has been funded by the UIC Chancellor's Committee on the Status of LGBT Issues and the Lesbian Health Fund. The long-term goal of her research program is to develop gender-, race/ethnicity- and developmentally-specific interventions aimed at the configuration of identities to prevent risk behavior in adolescents.
Hyunyoung Jeong, PharmD, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy
Hyunyoung Jeong is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacy Practice and Biopharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Jeong received both her PharmD and PhD from the UIC College of Pharmacy, and completed postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Drs. William T. Beck and James Fischer at UIC. Her research interests are in understanding how female hormones regulate expression and function of hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes and transporters, and the clinical impact on pharmacokinetics of drugs. Accordingly, her current projects involve characterization of hormonal effects on hepatic drug elimination, and investigation of potential clinical outcomes of the hormonal regulation, with special interests in drug therapy in pregnant women or oral contraceptive users. The long-term goal of her work is to develop a model to better predict altered pharmacokinetics of drugs in women during the life cycle.
Bryna Harwood, MD, MS
Associate Professor, College of Medicine
Bryna Harwood is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Family Planning Fellowship. She graduated from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco, California. She then completed a Fellowship in Contraceptive Research and Family Planning and a Masters degree in Epidemiology under the direction of Dr. Daniel Mishell at the University of Southern California from 1999 to 2001. In her fellowship, Dr. Harwood participated in epidemiologic research and Phase I, II, and III clinical trials in contraception and medical abortion and completed an independent research project investigating the use of buccally-administered misoprostol as a single agent for medical abortion. Her masters thesis entitled “Life Table Analysis to Estimate the Efficacy of Misoprostol in the USC Medical Abortion Trials” was the first such analysis of the largest dataset of misoprostol used as a single agent for medical abortion. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Harwood was Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and collaborated on clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of new methods of contraception and microbicide clinical trials. Dr. Harwood received a five-year K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research award in 2008 to continue her research activities aimed to improve women's health through preventing unplanned pregnancies. She is currently exploring the factors important to contraceptive decisions, quatifying women's preferences for contraception and developing an intervention to optive contraceptive decision-making.
Patricia Hershberger, PhD, APRN, BC
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing
For the first 10 years of her career, Dr. Hershberger actively cared for women who were experiencing reproductive health concerns as a registered and advance practice nurse. In the spring of 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in Nursing Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she examined the life experiences of donor oocyte recipient women. Following her doctoral work, she completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan Center for Enhancement and Restoration of Cognitive Function where she focused on understanding naturalistic decision making theory and methods. While at the University of Michigan, she designed and developed a research project examining the decision making processes of young women with cancer who were contemplating the use of novel and experimental fertility preservation treatments such as cryopreservation of oocytes and ovarian tissue. Her interest in the decision making processes of women as they interface with novel and emerging reproductive treatments has expanded to include the innovative and far-reaching use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis. In preparing for her recently funded R03 study examining the decisions of women and their partners surrounding the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Dr. Hershberger completed the 2006 Summer Genetics Institute Fellowship that takes place on the NIH campus. Dr. Hershberger envisions her research plan ultimately addressing the development and testing of targeted and tailored decisional support interventions that are based on a comprehensive understanding of women’s decision making regarding medical options for fertility management, most particularly when emerging reproductive or genetic technologies are involved, and the ‘quality of life’ effects of those decisions. Further, she plans to learn more about health policy with the intent of engaging in work to mitigate health disparities in the use of medical options for fertility management that involve advanced technologies.
For more information on Dr. Hershberger's Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: Couples' Decision Making at the Genetic and Reproductive Interface study, please visit her website.
For more information on Dr. Hershberger's Fertility Preservation Decision study, please visit her website.
Leah H. Rubin, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Leah Rubin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Rubin received her PhD from the UIC Department of Psychology, and completed a NIMH-funded predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Drs. Pauline M. Maki and C. Sue Carter. Her current program of research is aimed at improving the cognitive and mental health of women with psychosis and women living with HIV. The majority of Dr. Rubin's work to date has focused primarily on female-specific risk factors, including sex steroid hormones, glucocorticoids, and oxytocin, and their impact on cognition in healthy women and female psychiatric patients. This line of work aims to better understand sex differences in schizophrenia through the exploration of hormonal contributions to this mental illness. Dr. Rubin's interest is in addressing the gap in knowledge about the role of endogenous neurohormones in modulating clinical symptoms as well as social/emotional and cognitive functioning in schizophrenia. The goal is to identify sex-specific, neurohormonal treatments for mental illness and to improve the lives of women with severe mental illness. In addition to to her work in healthy women and female psychiatric patients, she has extended her research program to investigate and better understand the impact of stress on cognition in HIV-infected women and the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Dr. Rubin received pilot funding from the Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research (D-CFAR) to begin focusing on these issues mechanistically. She works with the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), the largest longitudinal study of the natural and treated history of HIV disease in women, to address these issues epidemiologically. Her goal is to improve the cognitive functioning in HIV-infected women through a translational and interdisciplinary research approach brigding psychoneuroendocrinology, epidemiology, and biostatistics methods.
Thasarat S. Vajaranant, MD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Thasarat Vajaranant is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. She received her medical degree from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand in 1996. Since 1999, Dr. Vajaranant has been involved in research focusing on imaging and electrophysiology of the retina and optic nerve. She completed her ophthalmology residency in 2006 and glaucoma fellowship in 2007 at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. In the fall of 2007, Dr. Vajaranant joined the faculty in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. During the first year as a new faculty member she received two prestigious awards from the American Glaucoma Society: Clinician-Scientist Award and Mentoring for Advancement of Physician Scientists. In addition, she won an award for the best paper presentation at the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2008. In 2009-2010, she has been named one of the Best Doctors in America as recognized by her peers. Dr. Vajaranant’s research focus has been broadened, and as a BIRCWH scholar, her research goal is to build a research program in women’s eye health. Specifically her goals are to determine gender difference in eye diseases and to identify women at risk as well as gender specific risk factors for blindness. Worldwide, blindness is more common in women, and glaucoma is one of major causes of irreversible blindness. Under the mentorship of Rohit Varma, MD, Ronald Hershow, MD and Jacob Wilensky, MD, Dr. Vajaranant is investigating gender difference in eye diseases and glaucoma using a database from the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES), a large population based study. In addition, she is examining the neuroprotective effect of female sex hormones, and studying the association between the decline in the female sex hormones with aging and the development of glaucoma and glaucoma progression. Under the mentorship of Mahnaz Shahidi, PhD, she will be investigating the effect of female sex hormones on the optic nerve head oxygenation in a glaucoma animal model.
Women's Health Research Associates
Chisina Kapungu, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Dr. Chisina Kapungu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her PhD in clinical psychology at Loyola University Chicago and completed a NIDA-funded postdoctoral prevention research fellowship at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at UIC. Dr. Kapungu has extensive clinical experience working with culturally diverse urban families around parenting, HIV risk, mental health and prevention. Her research is focused on investigating the multi-systemic factors associated with sexual risk behaviors among African American girls and women. Dr. Kapungu received a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01) under the mentorship of Drs. Carl Bell and Donna Baptiste to develop and evaluate a developmentally appropriate, culturally sensitive, faith-based HIV prevention program for African American girls and their mothers. The family and faith-based HIV intervention is unique in its integration of a theoretically-based “grassroots” HIV intervention developed by the faith community (Generation to Generation) and an evidence-based HIV prevention program designed for African American girls (SIHLE). Her qualitative research explores the key elements for successful collaboration and implementation of faith-based HIV prevention interventions in churches. Dr. Kapungu plans to extend her community-based HIV research with youth in Zimbabwe. Her long-term goal is to develop and disseminate culturally sensitive HIV primary and secondary prevention programs in the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Melissa Lamar, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
Dr. Melissa Lamar is an Associate Professor within the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry here at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been a BIRCWH Associate since the Spring of 2012. Dr. Lamar’s interest is in the underlying mechanisms for cognitive and affective declines in normal and pathological aging. As such, she uses cognitive testing, psychiatric interview and brain imaging to answer questions related to such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and late-life depression. With funding from the National Institute on Aging, Dr. Lamar has begun to investigate the impact of vascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes on brain structure and function and the risk such factors bring to bear on the development and progression of dementia and depression. She focuses on underserved minority populations disproportionately affected by vascular risk factors and further investigates for sex differences within and across these populations. Through the BIRCWH program, Dr. Lamar is expanding her work in women’s health to answer questions about the interaction between cardiac and brain health in women across the lifespan.
Lindsey Leininger, PhD, MA
Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
Lindsey Leininger is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Health Policy and Administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public Health. Dr. Leininger is a health services and health policy researcher who pursues work on child and adolescent health and the health care safety net for low-income populations. The majority of her published work regards the insurance coverage and access to health care of Medicaid-eligible populations. She is currently working on a foundation-funded project that builds and tests risk prediction tools that prospectively classify Medicaid populations by their likely need for intensive case management. She also leads a foundation-funded evaluation of a care coordination and case management intervention for high-risk pregnant women in the Wisconsin Medicaid program. Prior to joining the SPH faculty, Leininger was a Researcher at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.
Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, PhD, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, College of Medicine
Dr. Tussing-Humphreys received her Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Dietetics from SUNY-College at Buffalo. She returned to UIC in July 2012 after a three year appointment with the USDA Agricultural Research Service with whom she conducted a church-based diet and physical activity efficacy intervention for African American adults in the Lower Mississippi Delta region. During her doctoral training at UIC, she examined the mechanisms linking obesity to dysregulated iron metabolism in premenopausal women. Under the mentorship of Drs. Marian Fitzgibbon and Giamila Fantuzzi, she will expand upon this area of research by examining how altered iron metabolism in obese individuals may be associated with greater intestinal and gynecologic cancer risk. In addition, Dr. Tussing-Humphreys is Assistant Director for the University of Illinois Cancer Center Diet and Behavior Shared Resource and is collaborating with UIC College of Nursing, USDA, and Louisiana State University researchers to examine the impact of maternal obesity on maternal and neonatal inflammation, iron status, and health outcomes.