December 2014-February 2015

Letter from the Chair and Director

In the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, we have a strong tradition of not only engaging in rigorous research but also pioneering new methods for conducting studies. For instance, you can read below about how Kelli Komro, Ph.D., and Alexander Wagenaar, Ph.D., are advancing new ways to examine the effects of economic policies, such as minimum wage laws and tax credits, on health. In addition, several of our faculty members, including Jill Herndon, Ph.D., Chris Delcher, Ph.D., Bruce Vogel, Ph.D., and others, are conducting novel analyses using health care claims data linked to electronic health records and patient reported outcomes data to examine the quality of health care that individuals receive. Combined with Bill Hogan’s expertise in biomedical informatics, great strides are being made in comprehensively examining quality and outcomes of care for adults and children.

Our faculty are also committed to sharing these new methods and advanced techniques with their colleagues. For instance, Keith Muller, Ph.D., has received funding from the NIH to launch a nationwide short course aimed at practicing scientists, especially those from groups historically underrepresented in biomedical research. The short course covers statistical research design methods that could help them calculate how large their study needs to be to make strong conclusions. In addition, several of our faculty members will serve as mentors to the Institute for Child Health Policy’s new fellow, Brady Garrett, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist intern with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

I have only covered a few examples of our efforts to advance health research through innovative research design and mentorship, so I invite you to read more below about our department’s growing and diverse research agenda as well as our commitment to improving health through rigorous science.  


Upcoming Events

Since Jan. 22, the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy has hosted seven seminars on various topics, including biomedical informatics, prevention methods, implementation science and data-driven health care. For a schedule of upcoming seminars and events, see below.

Biomedical Informatics Seminar: Özlem Uzuner, Ph.D., on March 9, 2-3 p.m. in CTRB 2161

Visiting Seminar: Julie Mennella, Ph.D., on March 24, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in CTRB 3161/62

Minority Health Disparities Seminar: Ronny Bell, Ph.D., April 29, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. in CTRB 3161/3162

Institute for Child Health Policy and Department of Health Outcomes & Policy Spring Barbecue: Wednesday, May 20 from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on the third floor of the CTRB


Below you'll find several updates on our research endeavors, divided into five pillars: Improving Health Care, Advancing Health Research, Analyzing Policy Effects, Impacting Communities, and Helping the Most Vulnerable. These sections encapsulate the work that we do, demonstrating how our efforts are moving forward on multiple fronts.

You'll also find updates on new faculty and staff as well as news from up the hill and our educational programs

Improving Health Care

As a department, we conduct research to improve health care across the entire lifespan of patients. Here are a few highlights that demonstrate our impact on health care from December through February.

Assistant Research Scientist Receives Grant from AcademyHealth to Examine Health Care Quality for Foster Youth

Assistant Research Scientist Receives Grant from AcademyHealth to Examine Health Care Quality for Foster Youth

Melissa Bright, Ph.D., assistant research scientist in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, was recently named a 2015 New Investigator as part of AcademyHealth’s New Investigator Small Grant Program (NISGP). She was awarded a $10,000 grant for her proposal to examine the effects of a change in Medicaid service delivery on the quality and costs of health care for foster youth. READ MORE »

The OneFlorida Cancer Control Alliance Held its First Annual Stakeholder Meeting

On January 26, more than 30 stakeholders from across the state, including Betsy A. Shenkman, Ph.D., attended the OneFlorida Cancer Control Alliance's first Annual Stakeholder Meeting in Orlando. The goal of the meeting was to bring together all the OneFlorida Cancer Control Alliance stakeholders to engage in strategic planning for 2015. READ MORE »

Advancing Health Research

Our work pushes boundaries, creating new ways of conducting research and implementing findings in health care systems and communities. Here are a few news briefs from the past quarter that demonstrate our commitment to advancing the field.

Biostatistics Research Team Recognized by AMSTAT News for Two Grant Awards

Biostatistics Research Team Recognized by AMSTAT News for Two Grant Awards

Keith Muller, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, and his co-investigator Deborah H. Glueck, Ph.D., associate professor of biostatistics and radiology in the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Health, were featured in a December AMSTAT News article for their two recent grant awards. READ MORE »

HOP Staff Member Passes CHDA Certification Exam

HOP Staff Member Passes CHDA Certification Exam

Ashley Sanders, research programs assistant director in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy, recently passed the Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) exam through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). READ MORE »

Shenkman, the OneFlorida Cancer Control Alliance Featured in CTS: Clinical and Translational Science

A news brief in the December issue of the journal CTS: Clinical and Translational Science featured an interview with Betsy A. Shenkman, principal investigator of the three-year, $1.6 million grants from the Florida Department of Health's James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, along with a description of the research infrastructure being developed through the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium and the OneFlorida Cancer Control Alliance. Read the brief, which is on page 426, here.

Analyzing Policy Effects

Much of our research examines the role of policies in improving health, health care, communities, and vulnerable populations' lives.

Health Outcomes and Policy Professors Collaborate on Creation of Annual Report for the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Health Outcomes & Policy Professors Collaborate on Creation of Annual Report for the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program


New policy analysis website will help researchers uncover links between economic policies and health

About 22 percent of children in the United States live below the federal poverty line and 45 percent come from low-income families, increasing their risk for myriad health problems. In 2012, the federal earned income tax credit lifted 6.5 million people, including 3.3 million children, above the poverty line.

While several organizations have recognized the role that policies and laws can have on health, few studies have rigorously examined the effects of family economic security policies, such as tax credits, minimum wage laws and unemployment compensation, on health and health behaviors. Now, a team from the University of Florida’s Institute for Child Health Policy and Temple University’s Public Health Law Research Program has developed new methods for analyzing policy effects using the Public Health Law Research Program’s national policy surveillance website, READ MORE »

SSRN Lists Professors’ Paper Regarding Social Determinants of Health on Several Top Ten Lists

SSRN Lists Professors’ Paper Regarding Social Determinants of Health on Several Top Ten Lists

A recent paper published by Kelli Komro, Ph.D., and Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy was ranked on several Social Science Research Network Top Ten download lists. READ MORE »

Researchers Receive Funding to Help Evaluate Florida's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

In response to emerging trends in prescription drug abuse in Florida, University of Florida researchers have partnered with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to analyze new developments and examine the effectiveness of the state monitoring entity.

Due to various factors, the number of deaths from prescription pain relievers in Florida has fallen from a high of 2,710 overdose deaths in 2010 to 1,916 deaths in 2013, the lowest number since 2003. In addition, from 2012 to 2013, there was an 8.3 percent decrease in the number of deaths caused by one or more controlled substance prescriptions in Florida as well as a 53 percent reduction in the number of patients engaged in ‘doctor shopping,’ a practice some patients employ to gain access to additional prescriptions. The statistics are promising, but new trends continue to emerge and UF College of Medicine researchers say it’s crucial to monitor them.  READ MORE »

Impacting Communities

In addition to our work in clinics and health care systems, many of our researchers engage directly with schools, parents, and members of communities in an effort to discover new information about trends in health and to prevent problems before they even start.

Komro to Speak as Expert on Adolescent Development at SAMHSA Event

Komro Invited to Speak as Expert on Adolescent Development at SAMHSA Event

Kelli A. Komro, Ph.D., MPH, professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, was invited to speak as an expert on child and adolescent development at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 11th Annual Prevention Day on Monday, Feb. 2, in National Harbor, Md. READ MORE »

Cochrane Review on School Policies for Promoting Health and Co-Authored by HOP Professor Ranks as Top Download for 2014

A recent Cochrane Review examining the most effective policies for promoting health in schools, which was co-authored by Kelli A. Komro, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, has been ranked as the third most downloaded Cochrane Review for 2014. READ MORE »

Helping the Most Vulnerable

Much of our research is dedicated to assisting the most vulnerable populations, including children, adults with multiple conditions, and populations on Medicaid or with historic health disparities, such as Native Americans.

Research Team Creates Brief, Reliable Alcohol Risk Survey for American Indian and White Adolescents

Research Team Creates Brief, Reliable Alcohol Risk Survey for American Indian and Other Adolescents

As part of a large-scale, NIH-funded prevention science study that aims to reduce underage alcohol use among American Indians and other adolescents in rural Oklahoma, an Institute for Child Health Policy and Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health team designed and executed a novel alcohol risk survey.  READ MORE »

Research Day Featured in The POST

Read a brief recap of the Institute for Child Health Policy's annual Highlighting Children's Health Research event in UF Health's monthly newsletter, The POST. The recap also featured this photo of Sarah Lynne-Landsman, Ph.D., assistant professor, and a brief summary of her research on the commercial availability of alcohol to youth who appear underage. 

Read about the Institute for Child Health Policy's accomplishments in 2014 as highlighted in the January column of “On the Same Page” by David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health, here.

Up the Hill

UF Launches Institutional Repository

The University of Florida Libraries recently launched the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida (IR@UF) to facilitate the dissemination of research findings and collaboration. The IR@UF serves as a digital archive for intellectual output, including research, news, grant proposals, theses, dissertations, conference papers, etc., of UF faculty and students. Within the repository, information can be stored, archived, displayed, showcased, and shared simply by logging on with Gatorlink credentials and uploading files. For more information on IR@UF, watch this video

Komro, Wagenaar Train Undergraduate Research Assistant

Devin Ross, a fourth-year public health major at UF, joined the Department of Health Outcome & Policy as an undergraduate research assistant working under Kelli Komro, Ph.D., and Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., both professors in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy in October.

Ross brings a variety of relevant experience to her position, including serving as a student librarian for the UF Education Library and a volunteer research assistant for a collaborative project in the College of Public Health and Health Professions that is developing a mobile application to manage adolescent mental health.

“I have learned a lot since starting, such as how to use the teleform system, but what has been most interesting has been learning about the research Kelli and Alex are working on,” said Ross. “From the Cherokee Project to the research looking at how economic policies impact social determinants of health, I learn something new every day.”

Read more about Ross’ future plans in the New Staff section of this newsletter.  


Thus far, the semester has contained several pieces of positive news regarding the department's educational endeavors, including student honors and ramping up the department's recruitment efforts.

HOP Student Invited to Join Prestigious Graduate Honor Society

HOP Student Invited to Join Prestigious Graduate Honor Society

Gina Eubanks, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, was recently invited to join the Alpha chapter of Alpha Epsilon Lambda, an honor society dedicated to recognizing the academic and leadership accomplishments of graduate and professional school students. READ MORE »

Department Hosts Successful Information Session

On Feb. 4, the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy held its first info session for its post-graduate programs. A mix of approximately 20 undergraduate and graduate students as well as current UF staff were in attendance, along with health outcomes and policy faculty members Ashby Walker, Ph.D., research assistant professor; Jonathan Shuster, Ph.D., professor; Mildred Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., associate professor and director of health outcomes and policy training and education; Yi Guo, Ph.D., assistant professor; François Modave, Ph.D., associate professor; and William Hogan, M.D., M.S., professor.

“Students interested in the field of health outcomes research and medical sciences are offered a wide variety of post-graduate opportunities,” said Maldonado-Molina. “We have a strong pool of applicants, so it is crucial to make students aware of the strengths of our program. We hope this is the first of many successful recruitment events.”

Student Recruiting Up the Hill

On Feb. 6, Alana Christou, education and research administrator in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, visited an undergraduate health disparities class (WST 2322: Introduction to Health Disparities) to inform students of the graduate programs offered through the department.

The recruitment effort was made possible by Ashby Walker, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and education committee member, who suggested Alana reach out to her colleague, Laura K. Guyer, Ph.D., faculty with the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research and director of the Health Disparities in Society undergraduate minor.

If you have any colleagues across the university who you think might be interested in our graduate programs, please contact Alana Christou to facilitate scheduling a class visit for fall 2015.

The New England Science Symposium at Harvard Medical School Accepts HOP Student’s Poster on Unmet Service Needs among HIV-Positive Individuals

Leandra Stubbs, a master’s student in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, has had a poster accepted to the New England Science Symposium. The fourteenth annual conference will be held on April 11 and is run through the Harvard Medical School Office of Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership and the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP). READ MORE »

Post-Doc and Affiliate News

This photo of Lindsay A. Thompson, M.D., M.S., the assistant director of clinical research for the Institute for Child Health Policy, made The POST's list of top photos for 2014. See the complete list here.

ICHP Partner Center in College of Education Receives $5 Million Endowment

Anita Zucker, an alumna from the UF College of Education, recently donated $5 million to endow the Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies for the purpose of enhancing its programs focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning. Moving forward, the renamed Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies will continue collaborations with the Institute for Child Health Policy, along with other campus partners, to further position UF as a national and world leader in understanding how young children develop and learn in the context of their families and communities. READ MORE »

Affiliate Faculty Member Featured in COM Seminar Series

Lisa J. Merlo, Ph.D., M.P.E., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, will speak during the Medical Education Week Seminar Series on April 8 from 12-1 p.m. in the Communicore Building, Room C1-4. The series, which is hosted by the College of Medicine Society of Teaching Scholars, aims to celebrate the college’s education programs and serves to allow guest speakers, students, and residents an opportunity to discuss the different facets of medical education.

Merlo’s presentation, “Stress and Wellness Among Medical Students in Florida,” will describe common mental health concerns among medical students in Florida and list their barriers to mental health care. Attendees will also be able to discuss medical student views regarding how to promote wellness among physicians-in-training.

For more information on the seminar series, click here.

Recent Publications

Jill Boylston Herndon, Scott L. Tomar, Frank A. Catalanotto, Bruce Vogel, and Elizabeth A. Shenkman. The Effect of Medicaid Primary Care Provider Reimbursement on Access to Early Childhood Caries Preventive Services. Health Services Research, 50(1), 136-160.

Herndon JB, Crall JJ, Aravamudhan K, Catalanotto FA, Huang IC, Rudner N, Tomar SL, Shenkman EA. (2015). Developing and Testing Pediatric Oral Health Care Quality Measures. Journal of Public Health Dentistry. PMID: 25684132.

Guo Y, Pandis N. Sample size calculation for repeated measures and longitudinal studies. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. 2015;147(1):146−149.

Henrietta L. Logan, Frank Catalanotto, Yi Guo, John Marks, and Shafik Dharamsi. Barriers to Medicaid Participation among Florida Dentists. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. 26(1).

Langford R., Bonell C.P., Jones H.E., Pouliou T., Murphy S.M., Waters E., Komro K.A., Gibbs L.F., Magnus D., Campbell R. (2015). The World Health Organization’s Health Promoting Schools framework: A Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health, 15:130.

Komro, K.A., Livingston, M.D., Kominsky, T.K., Livingston, B.J., Garrett, B.A., Maldonado-Molina, M.M. & Boyd, M. (2015). 15-minute comprehensive alcohol risk survey: Reliability and validity across American Indian and White adolescents. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 76(1).

Komro, K.A., Wagenaar, A.C., Boyd, M., Boyd, B.J., Kominsky, T., Pettigrew, D., Tobler, A.L., Lynne-Landsman, S.D., Livingston, M.D., Livingston, B., Maldonado Molina, M.M. (2015). Prevention trial in the Cherokee Nation: Design of a randomized community trial. Prevention Science, 16(2):291-300. 

Komro, K.A., Burris, S. & Wagenaar, A.C. (2014). Social determinants of child health: Concepts and measures for future research. Health Behavior and Policy Review, 1(6), 432-445. On SSRN's Top Ten download list.

Kenzik K, Huang I-C, Rizzo D, Shenkman E, Wingard J. (2014) Relationships among symptoms, psychosocial factors and health-related quality of life in hematopoietic stem cell transplant survivors. Supportive Care in Cancer. PMCID: PMC4312505.

New Faculty

Jiang Bian

Assistant Professor

The increasing complexity of today’s medical research requires more than traditional, single point-of-view approaches. In particular, (big-)data-driven approaches, which aim to reveal patterns in massive heterogeneous datasets and make clinically relevant predictions, are becoming increasingly common in translational research. Jiang Bian, Ph.D., M.S., has a diverse yet strong multi-disciplinary background and extensive research experience in data analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, network science, distributed computing systems and software engineering. Here at the University of Florida, Bian will focus on 1) network science — understanding the structure and function of physical, biological, and social networks and how this structure and function relates to health and health care; 2) data-driven medicine — applications of machine learning and data mining techniques in medical research especially on solving big data problems; and 3) design and development of tools and systems using informatics principles and techniques to support clinical and clinical research activities. In his free time, Bian enjoys being outside, especially hiking and fishing with his wife and two daughters. As a gourmet and a person of Chinese ancestry, he has a refined interest in trying novel food from diverse cultures.

Chris Delcher

Assistant Professor

In February, Chris Delcher, Ph.D., was named an assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy. Chris' research focuses on the surveillance of prescription drug-related outcomes, policies for reducing prescription drug abuse, and identifying populations at-risk of adverse outcomes associated with prescription drugs.  He also has international experience developing surveillance systems in Haiti and Central America and was a Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador. Chris has two boys, 8 and 5, who like Star Wars and invented the name "Luke 'SAS'walker" to describe his job. 

Jaclyn Hall

Assistant Scientist, ICHP

Jaclyn Hall, Ph.D., is a geographer who joined the department as a faculty member in September 2014, though she first began working with ICHP in 2011 on a dental health project with Jill Herndon, Ph.D. Jaclyn is trained as a spatial ecologist and has almost two decades of experience analyzing environmental data to understand how humans impact and are affected by their environments. She contributes to a variety of health policy related projects, including geocoding, mapping, creation of new spatial data sets, cluster analysis, and study group delineation.  Jaclyn currently works with the Texas and Florida projects to determine the spatial distribution of specific health groups, analyze the relationship between health outcomes and neighborhood social-economic class, and identify health plan coverage gaps.

François Modave

Associate Professor

François Modave, Ph.D., is a new associate professor in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and will join Bill Hogan, Ph.D., to develop the Biomedical Informatics program at the University of Florida. François was trained as a computer scientist and mathematician and focuses on developing algorithms and tools to improve informed and shared decision-making. François was born and raised in Paris but also lived in Montréal, Canada, and Gold Coast, Australia, before moving to the U.S. François has been racing in triathlons for over 20 years and enjoys spending time outdoors, training, or running with his wife, Mariana, and son, Gabriel, who also runs track and cross-country.

New Staff

Gina Neshewat

Research Coordinator
Location: Mowry 131

Gina Neshewat is a new research coordinator on the Texas QI team for the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy. Gina held previous positions at the University of Michigan Medical School as a site manager, program coordinator, and research coordinator in various departments. In her free time, she likes to listen to live music, spend time in her community, and do things outside like hang out on the beach or in a boat.

Xiuyao Song

Statistical Research Coordinator
Location: Mowry 152

Xiuyao Song is a new employee in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy. She works as a statistical research coordinator. Xiuyao has held previous positions at Yahoo! Inc., Digi-Net Technologies Inc., and UF AHC IT-ESE. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, gardening, and playing violin.

Mirela Vasconcelos

Program Assistant
Location: CTRB 3227-C04

Mirela Vasconcelos is the new program assistant for Bill Hogan, Ph.D. She joins the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy from outside of UF, where she worked in property management as a rental manager for the Collier Companies in Gainesville. She hopes to continue taking classes and pursuing a higher degree. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor activities and reading.

Devin Ross

Student Research Assistant
Location: 1329 Building, 5230-24

Devin Ross is a new research assistant for Kelli A. Komro, Ph.D., and Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D. Prior to her position with the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, she worked as a librarian for the University of Florida Education Library. Devin is currently a senior in the Bachelor of Health Science program, studying public health. She will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall of 2015 to begin her Master of Health Administration.

Steven Evens

Student Research Assistant
Location: 1329 Building, 5-015

Steven Evens is a new research assistant for Melissa Bright, Ph.D. Evens previously served as a research assistant for Caprice Knapp, Ph.D., for three years in the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy and will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Warrington College of Business Administration. In his free time, he enjoys reading about currents events and drinking a good cup of coffee.

HOP Staff Member Retires

Russ Augsburg, a program assistant on the Texas EQRO team, retired in December.

“Russ was hired to assist with financial items for Texas but quickly became a ‘go to’ figure in the department to assist in a number of different projects and tasks," reflected Kim Case, Ph.D., research scientist.  "Russ’s fun attitude, and proclivity for handing out candy, made him a wonderful member of the team.”

Russ said he enjoyed learning more about the exciting programs and projects in the department as well as seeing the people involved in the large-scale studies.

As a retiree, Russ enjoys fishing on his boat in the Gulf and has several trips planned in his camper, including trips to New Orleans and a few blues festivals.

“Some people were afraid I was going to get bored in retirement,” he said. “But I was never too concerned about that.”    

The department and institute wish Russ well in this new stage of his life.


If you have an accomplishment you would like to share, an idea for a future newsletter, or would like to provide feedback on this newsletter, please contact Elizabeth Hillaker Downs, director of communications for ICHP and HOP. You can click here to fill out a feedback form.