Division of Preventive Medicine In the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health

UC San Diego Integrated Cardiovascular Epidemiology Fellowship - T32

Trainees

Current Post-docs

Sonia Ponce

Adrienne Schlang

Isac Thomas
Dr. Thomas was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He then completed residency training in internal medicine at the University of Chicago. From there, Isac returned to California where he began training in clinical cardiology at the University of California, San Diego. As a T32 fellow, he is concurrently receiving a Master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology. His research interests include coronary and extra-coronary arterial calcification and associated risks of cardiovascular disease.

Past Post-Docs

Marc Adams, Ph.D.
Dr. Marc Adams is a behavioral scientist (B.A. Psychology, M.P.H. Health Promotion, Ph.D. Public Health/Behavioral Science) focusing on increasing physical activity and healthful eating and reducing secondhand smoke exposure (SHSe) for primary prevention of CVD. His current interests include behavioral economic theories, ecological models, automated learning systems, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and objective measurement of behavior and environments. He is a recipient of the Cornelius Hopper Diversity Award for research into smoking and SHSe among in Mexican and Mexican American populations. During his doctoral training at the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at UCSD’s CalIT2, he designed a pedometer-based eHealth intervention to increase physical activity. He is currently a Co-Investigator of a study funded by the Health Games Research Initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio to support innovative research in the development and use of “exergames” to achieve desirable health outcomes. Dr. Adams has co-authored over 20 peer-reviewed papers and several book chapters. With Dr. James Sallis as a mentor, he plans to focus the T32 Fellowship on the intersection between health-behavior interventions and urban design features (e.g. walkable neighborhoods).

Marc enjoys traveling, cooking, hiking and sailing in his spare time.

Alvaro Camacho, M.D.
Dr Camacho graduated in 1997 from Xavier University School of Medicine in Bogota, Colombia. He did his independent study project in 1996 and Research as a Visiting Scholar in 1998 under the mentorship of Joel Dimsdale, MD, Editor Emeritus of Psychosomatic Medicine, at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He then finished his training in Psychiatry in this institution where he obtained the Lewis Judd Award for Research Excellence during Residency. In addition, he obtained a Developmental Grant during his training from the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center at UCSD. He also obtained his Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He has obtained several awards from the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Foundation for improving quality of mental health care among minorities.

In addition, he received funding from the Hartford foundation to improve services to elderly Hispanics in Imperial County. Additionally, he completed the NIMH sponsored Career Development Institute for Bipolar Disorder at the University of Pittsburgh under the direction of Dr David Kupfer.

In addition of being a T-32 fellow in our Division of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Camacho is also a non-salaried Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSD. His area of research focuses on the association of mood/anxiety and cardiovascular risk factors among Hispanics living in underserved communities as well as phenomenology of psychiatric disorders among Hispanics living by the US-Mexico Border.

He has published and participated in research projects with worldwide recognized faculty in psychiatry such as Joel Dimsdale, MD, Hagop Akiskal, MD; Dilip Jeste, MD; Murray Stein, MD, MPH, David Feifel, MD, PhD and Mark Frye, MD.

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Jordan Carlson, Ph.D.
Jordan A. Carlson, PhD, MA, is Director of Community-Engaged Health Research at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. His research interests include active living, school-based physical activity, neighborhood walkability, improving uptake and implementation of physical activity interventions, and physical activity measurement technology.

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Noe Crespo, Ph.D.
Dr. Crespo is a public health and behavioral science researcher. He received his bachelors and masters degree in exercise science from California State University Los Angeles, a masters of public health degree from the University of Southern California, and a PhD in Public Health from the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at UCSD in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention. Dr. Crespo is currently an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. His research focuses on physical activity and nutrition interventions to prevent chronic disease among Latinos and underserved populations. This includes studies conducted in partnership with city recreation centers, clinics and schools to conduct and evaluate effective public health approaches.

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Nketi Forbang, M.D.
Dr. Forbang was born in Cameroon, and grew up In Kansas. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Truman State University, and his M.D. from t the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Forbang has completed two years of General Surgery residency at Howard University Hospital, and an NHLBI T32 post-doctoral fellow at UC San Diego. He also completed a Master’s Degree in Public Health (M.P.H.), with a focus in Epidemiology, as part of his fellowship. Along with attending conferences, seminars, and monthly journal clubs, his T32 projects included investigating the progression of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) in Diabetic patients. This study specifically looks at Ankle-brachial Index as a measure of PAD disease progression in diabetics. He also determined anatomical variations in the location of the abdominal aortic bifurcation in the population, and associations of these variations with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and CVD events. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, sports, Latin dance, and surfing.

Jan Hughes-Austin, Ph.D.
Dr. Jan Hughes-Austin is an epidemiologist and physical therapist with interest in the role of the immune system in cardiovascular and bone disease. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Health [Nutrition] degree and a Master of Physical Therapy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Hughes-Austin was selected as a June C. Allcott Fellow at UNC-CH for her lifelong commitment to community service. She was also awarded the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award by the American Physical Therapy Association for her leadership and evidence of potential contribution to physical therapy. She practiced physical therapy full time in Juneau, Alaska and Boulder, Colorado before returning to graduate school where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Epidemiology from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Hughes-Austin’s doctoral work focused on cardiovascular disease in first-degree relatives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which resulted in two Graduate Student Achievement Awards from the American College of Rheumatology.

As a T32 postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Hughes-Austin utilized data from three distinct cohorts, (Rancho Bernardo, Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), and LifeScore) to investigate atherosclerosis and inflammation in the coronary arteries and abdominal aorta, risk factors for atherosclerosis in the small peripheral arteries, and how measures of atherosclerosis in the small peripheral arteries associate with mortality.

Dr. Hughes-Austin was recently awarded the Miami-Marquette Challenge Research Grant by the Foundation for Physical Therapy to investigate vertebral bone mineral density, inflamed joints, and physical activity in first-degree relatives of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which are a part of the Studies of the Etiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA). In addition to this project, she is also currently investigating the associations between serum potassium, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in multi-ethnic community-dwelling individuals, which are part of the MESA and the Cardiovascular Health Study.

In her spare time, Dr. Hughes-Austin enjoys any time spent outdoors, which includes rock climbing, hiking, skiing, playing golf, and bicycling; and will jump at the opportunity to travel. She also enjoys time with family and friends, volunteering, and going to see live music shows.

Nicole Jensky
Dr. Jensky, a California native, received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from UC Santa Barbara with a minor in Health and Exercise Science. After graduating, she continued her education at University of Southern California and graduated with a Ph.D. in Biokinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology. Her dissertation focused on analyzing skeletal muscle proteins that regulate muscle mass. She completed her T32 postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Diego. Her fellowship training included: obtaining a Masters Degree in Public Health (M.P.H.) with a focus in Epidemiology at San Diego State University, attending conferences and seminars, journal club, writing manuscripts and writing grant proposals.

Dr. Jensky's postdoctoral research focused on prevention of cardiovascular disease. She investigated the association between blood pressure measures and calcification in different vascular beds. Also, she investigated the association between body composition and calcification of different vascular beds, and lastly, she analyzed associations between physical activity and body composition as well as inflammatory markers in a diverse population.

After completing her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Jensky worked at Cedars Sinai Medical Center as a Research Associate III. In this role, she collaborated with urologists to develop and coordinate a pro-active surveillance research study for low risk prostate cancer patients. Dr. Jensky recently took another position, and she is currently employed as an Associate Medical Scientific Manager in Urology at Allergan. She serves as the liaison between industry and medical researchers for clinical, pre-clinical, and post-marketing studies.

In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing tennis, going to the gym, and traveling.

Britta Larsen, Ph.D.
Dr. Larsen is a behavioral science and epidemiology researcher with a focus in behavioral prevention and management of type II diabetes. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from UCSD, with a focus in health and social psychology. During her T32 fellowship, she worked with her mentor Dr. Bess Marcus on developing and testing physical activity interventions in underserved populations, including Latino men, women, and adolescents. She also used existing datasets to study behavioral and physiological risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, including social networks, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and body composition. Now a faculty member in the department, she currently has a K01 award from NIDDK to implement mediated physical activity interventions through primary care to Latinas with type II diabetes. She is also studying cost effectiveness of physical activity interventions in community and clinical settings, and is using data from large cohort studies to explore associations between body composition, particularly muscle mass, and risk of diabetes. 

In her spare time Britta enjoys traveling, writing, hiking, sailing, cooking, watching football, and spending time with her family.

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Sarah Linke, Ph.D.
Dr. Sarah Linke received a B.A. in Psychology from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, before moving to California to pursue graduate school. She obtained an M.S. in Clinical Psychology and M.P.H. in Health Promotion from San Diego State University (SDSU) en route to completing her Ph.D. through the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology within the Behavioral Medicine Track. She completed her Clinical Psychology Internship/Residency at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, before returning to San Diego for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the NHLBI T32 Integrated Cardiovascular Fellowship Program. Her current research interests include behavioral interventions targeting cardiovascular disease risk factors, with a particular focus on examining the effects of physical activity/exercise as an adjunctive treatment for smoking cessation, substance use disorders, and other mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety). In her spare time, Sarah enjoys long distance running, live music, plays/musicals, the SoCal sunshine, and spending time with friends.

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Morgana Mongraw-Chaffin, Ph.D.
Dr. Sarah Linke received a B.A. in Psychology from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, before moving to California to pursue graduate school. She obtained an M.S. in Clinical Psychology and M.P.H. in Health Promotion from San Diego State University (SDSU) en route to completing her Ph.D. through the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology within the Behavioral Medicine Track. She completed her Clinical Psychology Internship/Residency at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, before returning to San Diego for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the NHLBI T32 Integrated Cardiovascular Fellowship Program. Her current research interests include behavioral interventions targeting cardiovascular disease risk factors, with a particular focus on examining the effects of physical activity/exercise as an adjunctive treatment for smoking cessation, substance use disorders, and other mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety). In her spare time, Sarah enjoys long distance running, live music, plays/musicals, the SoCal sunshine, and spending time with friends.

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Karen Moy, Ph.D.
Dr. Karen Moy is a physical activity and health researcher (B.S. Exercise and Health Sciences, M.S. Kinesiology, Ph.D. Public Health) specializing in physical activity measurement techniques, health disparities among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI), and cultural adaptations of research protocols. In 2001, Dr. Moy was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Auckland, New Zealand, to pursue her doctorate degree in the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world. Since returning to the U.S. in 2006, Dr. Moy has been proactive in physical activity and health research among U.S. NHPI, working to create culturally-specific assessment tools and establish baseline statistics for this understudied, high-risk population. During her T32 fellowship, Dr. Moy has contributed to three community-based participatory research as both Co-Investigator and Principal Investigator (see below). Study findings have been presented at scientific conferences and submitted/published as manuscripts to scientific journals (Journal of Community Health; Journal of Physical Activity and Health).

Dr. Moy has also served as a mentor to SDSU graduate students in health promotion, and submitted a R21 proposal to NIH.

Rosemay Remigio-Baker, Ph.D.
Dr. Rosemay Remigio-Baker earned her BS from the University of California on Biochemistry and Cell Biology with a minor in Psychology, and her MPH from San Diego State University. For her thesis, she determined the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes among Filipino women in San Diego and assessed whether the use of antihypertensive medication induced diabetes in this population. Rosemay completed her PhD on Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health where she evaluated the association between depressive symptoms and body composition, and potential modification by race/ethnicity, sex, overweight/obesity status and neighborhood factors such as physical and social environment. During her doctoral program she earned multiple scholarships and recognition including the Miriam Brailey Award and Charlotte Ferencz Scholarship from the Department of Epidemiology, and the Marilyn Spivak Menkes Award for Personal and Academic Excellence. She also earned a Diversity and Predoctoral Health Disparities Fellowship and a training grant for Clinical Research and Epidemiology in Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Her current research includes investigating adverse childhood events, CVD and lung disease among women residing in Hawaii; modification by neighborhood factors of the association between stroke and cognitive function in the Women’s Health Study; health disparities in the vitamin D/calcium and insulin resistance association using the Jackson Heart Study and Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities study; as well as the association between fatty liver and calcific atherosclerosis in the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

She is a member of the American Heart Association Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Early Career Committee, as well as the planning committee for Mental Health Workshops on Asian-Pacific Islander populations provided by the Kalusugan Community Services Center in National City.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and relaxing at the beach.

Current Pre-docs:

Margaret Crawford
Maggie Crawford is a doctoral student in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health, Health Behavior. Maggie’s research focuses on diabetes management for type 2 diabetes, including using innovative technologies to optimize glycemic control. Maggie earned her B.S. in Nutritional Science and Physiology from UC Berkeley. She then worked for the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health throughout California, where she evaluated school nutrition and physical activity interventions. Maggie was working as a mountaineering guide for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and as a professional mountaineer when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She is concurrently pursuing a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology at San Diego State University. Maggie spends her free time surfing waves, climbing rocks, running trails, and playing with her puppy.

Jessica McCurley
Jessica is a doctoral student in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Jessica’s research focuses on health disparities and psychosocial aspects of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in migrant and minority communities. Jessica received a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Latin American Studies from the University of Georgia and has worked with migrant populations in the U.S., Guatemala, Mexico, and India. Prior to her doctoral work, Jessica held positions as a bilingual case manager for undocumented victims of violence, a research coordinator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and a Psychosocial Support and Evaluation Intern at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, DC. As a doctoral student, Jessica has studied the intersection of stress, psychosocial variables, and cardiometabolic conditions in the national Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), assisted with an adaptation and implementation of a diabetes prevention program for low income Mexican-American women, and conducted cultural adaptations of psychoeducation programs for the East African refugee community in San Diego, CA. She also works in clinical mental health service provision in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. Jessica is concurrently pursuing a Master's degree in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology and aspires to continue an academic research career in behavioral medicine and global health. 

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Past Pre-docs:
Jessica Jimenez, M.A.
Jessica Jiménez is a Using a socio-ecological framework, Jessica studies the pathways between individual-level biological and behavioral CVD risk factors and the larger socio-cultural context in which they occur. A main focus of her work is to understand the mechanisms underlying the relationship between acculturation and CVD incidence within Latino populations. In particular, she applies qualitative and quantitative methods to understand cultural phenomena and biological outcomes. Prior to her acceptance to the T32 UCSD Integrated Cardiovascular Epidemiology training program, she was working a program evaluation consultant for JSI Research and Training, Inc. As a Fulbright Scholar in Oaxcaca, México, she studied the relationship between quality of life and migration among women living in sending communities. She holds a M.A. in International Development and Social Change, with an emphasis in migration studies, from Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts.



Gina Merchant
Gina Merchant is a behavioral scientist (B.A. Psychology, M.A. Experimental Psychology, PhD candidate in Public Health, Health Behavior). She completed her undergraduate degree at UC San Diego and her Masters at California State University San Marcos. Gina works with Dr. Kevin Patrick and Dr. James Fowler at the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems (CWPHS) testing novel applications of technology for health promotion and disease prevention such as using Facebook and text messaging to remotely deliver weight-loss interventions. She also works with Dr. Greg Talavera and Dr. Matt Allison on The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), a multi-center epidemiologic study to determine the role of acculturation in the prevalence and development of disease, and to identify risk factors playing a protective or harmful role in Hispanics/Latinos. Gina’s dissertation work focuses on how social networks influence health behaviors relevant to cardiovascular disease through normative influence and social support. Gina also works on projects looking at the association between sedentary behavior and inflammatory/metabolic biomarkers linked to cardiovascular disease.

In her spare time, Gina enjoys cooking, gardening, spending time with her husband and dog, and running with her teammates from Prado Racing Team, a competitive running team in San Diego.

Smriti Shivpuri, M.A.
Smriti Shivpuri received her B.S. in Psychology and French from The Ohio State University, her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Michigan State University, her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from San Diego State University, and her Ph.D under the mentorship of Dr. Linda Gallo and Dr. Matt Allison through the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at San Diego State University/University of California San Diego. She completed her clinical internship at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Primary Care- Mental Health Integration at the Edward Hines Jr. Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Chicago, IL. Her research interests include psychosocial factors related to cardiovascular disease risk in minority populations, with a special focus on the effect of stress.

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