PhD Research Spotlights

Favel L. Mondesir, MSPH

Epidemiology PhD Candidate

Favel Mondesir is an Epidemiology doctoral student whose research interests focus on exploring psychosocial factors and health disparities associated with cardiovascular disease and risk factor management. Favel works under the guidance and direction of Dr. Emily Levitan, her primary mentor, as well as other researchers both at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and nationally. Favel has received a two year American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate Pre-doctoral fellowship to fund her dissertation project. In this project, she will use a mixed methods study design to explore social networks, pharmacy access and pharmacy density as barriers to medication adherence among people who are at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). Specifically, she will conduct quantitative research among black and white participants in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study and qualitative research to contextualize findings among patients in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) health system. As part of this project, Favel will also examine whether there are racial, gender and rural/urban differences in the barriers to medication adherence.



John P. Donnelly, MSPH

Epidemiology PhD Candidate

John Donnelly is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at UAB, where he also completed his MSPH in Applied Epidemiology. He recently completed a predoctoral fellowship in Health Services, Outcomes, and Effectiveness Research (HSOER), a training program coordinated through the Division of Preventive Medicine at UAB and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32-HS013852). As part of the fellowship, John received focused mentorship in health services research methods from Dr. Henry Wang in the Department of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Paul Muntner in the Department of Epidemiology, and Dr. Monika Safford in the Department of Medicine. He has also collaborated extensively with other researchers at UAB and nationally.

At this point in his training, John has had the opportunity to participate in studies on a broad range of topics, including projects examining risk factors for community-acquired sepsis (defined as organ dysfunction resulting from a dysregulated host response to infection), outcomes after sepsis, healthcare-associated infections, hospital performance, and quality of care. His current line of research focuses on the application of pharmacoepidemiologic methods to examine the association of immunosuppressive therapy types with sepsis risk and outcomes among solid organ transplant recipients. With the support of his mentors, collaborators, program directors, and program administrators, John finished the HSOER training program in July 2016 with invaluable expertise and skills in research that have translated into more than 30 first or co-authored publications and 40 presentations. He has also been named as a top 50 peer reviewer and top new reviewer for the Annals of Emergency Medicine.  His work on sepsis after solid organ transplantation has been published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and served as the inspiration for his recently funded NIH F31 predoctoral fellowship application entitled, “Immunosupppression and Risk Prediction of Sepsis After Solid Organ Transplantation”.

Donnelly JP, Locke JE, MacLennan PA, McGwin G Jr, Mannon RB, Safford MM,

Baddley JW, Muntner P, Wang HE.  Inpatient Mortality Among Solid Organ Transplant

Recipients Hospitalized for Sepsis and Severe Sepsis.   Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Jul

15;63(2):186-94.  doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw295.  Epub 2016 May 23.  PubMed PMID:

27217215;  PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4928388.




Lisandro Colantonio, MD, MSc

Epidemiology PhD Candidate.

Lisandro Colantonio is a physician from Argentina with a Masters in Clinical Effectiveness. Currently, he is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology at UAB. His research focuses on cardiovascular health, metabolism and cardiovascular risk factors including serum lipids, cardiovascular risk prediction and pharmacoepidemiology. His doctoral dissertation focuses on the validity of Medicare claims data for the identification of myocardial infarctions to conduct observational research. To date, he has more than 25 publications, including 10 as first author.  His recent presentations include:

American College of Cardiology 2016 Annual Scientific Session, Chicago, IL, April 2016:   

Colantonio LD, Fazio S, Rosenson RS, Miller M, Banach M, Safford MM, Muntner P, Toth PP.  Low High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Incident Coronary Heart Disease among Blacks in the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study. (Pictured)

Low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) has been associated with incident coronary heart disease (CHD) in many studies; however, most of these studies analyzed predominantly white populations. In our study, low HDL-C was not associated with incident CHD among 8,156 black men and women enrolled in the REGARDS study. These results suggest that the mechanisms leading to low HDL cholesterol and higher CHD risk may be different among blacks and whites.

Two poster presentations at the American Heart Association EPI council meeting in March 2016, Phoenix, AZ. One poster was presented with Dr. Muntner as the senior author. Also, he presented a moderated poster presentation with Dr. Safford as the senior author.  Below is the information for his moderated poster presentation:

Colantonio LD, Gamboa CM, Richman JS, Levitan EB, Soliman EZ, Howard G, Safford MM. Racial Differences in Incident Fatal, Non-Fatal and Total Coronary Heart Disease in Observational Population-Based Studies. American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2016 Scientific Sessions, Phoenix, AZ, March 2016.

We examined secular trends in the risk for incident fatal, nonfatal and total CHD among blacks and whites across three US cohorts from different time periods. In this analysis, we observed that black-white disparities in the incidence of fatal CHD have remained similar for many years, particularly among those <65 years of age, and are explained by risk factors. We also observed a lower risk for nonfatal CHD among black versus white men, which appears to be a consistent finding across studies. This finding is surprising considering that black men have higher risk for fatal CHD compared with white men.


Kelsey Jordan, MPH

Epidemiology PhD Candidate

Kelsey Jordan has been a student in The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) School of Public Health in the Department of Epidemiology since 2010.  She completed her MPH (Master in Public Health) in Epidemiology degree in the spring of 2012 and then immediately began the doctoral program.  Currently, Kelsey is a fourth year student in our PhD in Epidemiology program.  Her research interests are in dental (i.e., cariology) epidemiology.  Since she has been taking classes in the School of Public Health as a doctoral student, she has been conducting her interdisciplinary research within UAB’s School of Dentistry under the supervision of her advisor, Dr. Gerald McGwin, an epidemiology methods expert, and her dental school mentor, Dr. Noel Childers, a pediatric dentistry clinical expert.   Her work has been focused under Dr. Childers’ NIH-funded, on-going longitudinal study, “Epidemiology of Dental Caries and Immunity in Children (Alabama)”.  This study has been observing two cohorts of (infants and school-aged) children for seven years with plans to follow them through their teenage years.   One main purpose of the study is to identify the risk factors for dental caries in children, using a high-caries risk population. 

After much research experience with Dr. Childers’ work, Kelsey developed and proposed her own research plan ancillary to his study.  She submitted the proposed study, “Beverage Consumption and Dental Caries Amongst Young Children with High Caries Risk”,  to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in the form of a F grant, a predoctoral training grant, application in December of 2014.  Her application was recently funded and as a result she has been awarded one of the Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Awards within NIDCR and a graduate fellowship position within the Department of Epidemiology at UAB.  The purposes of these awards are two-fold.  Kelsey’s grant will allow her to research how children consume non-water beverages as potential risk factors for dental caries, employing a methodologically-intense approach to the data.  Within the context of her research plan, she will also be able to receive additional training in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Dentistry which will be essential for carrying out this research question as well as future cariology epidemiology research. The Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Pediatric Dentistry have committed to and will continue to provide Kelsey with the necessary training, expertise, and resources to more immediately complete her dissertation work and prepare her for eventually becoming an independent researcher in the field.


John N. Booth III, MPH
Epidemiology PhD Candidate

John N. Booth, III, is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology.  Under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Muntner, his research focuses on disparities in healthy lifestyles, hypertension, subclinical cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease outcomes comparing African Americans with whites. He also maintains a special interest in sleep-related research.

John collaborates with researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, nationally and across Europe. Additionally, John is the primary investigator for his National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Pre-doctoral Fellows (Parent F31). This award provides the foundation for his dissertation project. Using 25 years of data collected in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, his investigation will evaluate racial disparities in the maintenance of healthy lifestyles and their effect on cumulative blood pressure burden and left ventricular mass in African Americans and whites.