Julia Cen Chen-Sankey, Ph.D., M.P.P., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Social and Behavioral Sciences program at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Her research involves investigating flavored e-cigarette use and tobacco marketing influences among tobacco-naïve youth and young adults, as well as cigar use disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations. Dr. Chen-Sankey is currently serving as the co-chair of the membership subcommittee, Adolescent Network at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). She previously worked as a research analyst at the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, Maryland Department of Health. Dr. Chen-Sankey is a doctorate in behavioral and community health from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Her primary mentor is Dr. Kelvin Choi.
Intramural Research Training
The NIMHD Division of Intramural Research (DIR) is committed to supporting the next generation of researchers in the fields of minority health and health disparities, and diversifying the biomedical research workforce. The NIMHD DIR builds and sustains capacity to conduct cutting-edge transdisciplinary research to address minority health and health disparities. The DIR participates actively in the NIH intramural research training programs.
The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) is a division of the Office of Intramural Research (OIR), Office of the Director (OD). Their mission is to enhance the training experience of students and fellows on all the NIH campuses. They work closely with the Training Offices in the NIH Institutes and Centers to help trainees in the Intramural Research Program (IRP). They provide services to current trainees, potential applicants, investigators, and staff at the NIH.
Current Training Opportunities at NIMHD DIR
Postdoctoral Programs at the NIH
Postdoctoral training in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) provides the opportunity for recent doctoral degree recipients to enhance their research skills in the resource-rich National Institutes of Health (NIH) environment, which consists of more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD and the surrounding area, as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI. Trainees pursue basic, translational, clinical and population health research. Postdoctoral fellows work in a highly collaborative research environment with leading scientists and clinicians. At the NIH campus, they can access the largest translational research hospital in the nation.
Meet Current NIMHD Division of Intramural Research Postdoctoral Fellows
Kristyn Kamke, M.S., Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Population and Community Health Sciences Program of the DIR at NIMHD. She is working with Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy in the Digital Health and Health Disparities Research Program. Dr. Kamke explores the potential for digital health technologies to benefit the health of marginalized groups, particularly racial and ethnic minority youth. As a graduate student, her research focused on implementation and evaluation of a web-based HIV/STI prevention program for adolescents. In her postdoctoral position, Dr. Kamke is applying her expertise in digital health interventions to populations at-risk or currently using tobacco, including pregnant women, low-income young adults, and racial and ethnic minority youth. Additionally, Dr. Kamke is interested in understanding how access to electronic health records and other digital health technologies can improve patient-provider relationships and overall health for vulnerable groups. Dr. Kamke is a doctorate in applied social and community psychology from North Carolina State University.
Francisco Alejandro Montiel Ishino, M.P.H., Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Population and Community Health Sciences Program of the DIR at NIMHD. He conducts research under the direction of Dr. Faustine Williams in the Health Disparities and Geospatial Transdisciplinary Research Program. Dr. Ishino’s research focuses on examining syndemic, or cooccurring and synergizing, noncommunicable disease risk factors among underserved and underrepresented groups using mixed methods, person-centered approaches, and state-space modeling. His specific research interests are finding the most at-risk in already vulnerable groups to better design targeted interventions. Prior to working at NIMHD, Dr. Ishino was a graduate research fellow at the Transdisciplinary Center for Health Equity Research at the College of Education and Human Development of Texas A&M University. Dr. Ishino is a doctorate in health and kinesiology, with a specialization in health education from the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University. Dr. Ishino is also certified in Public Health from the National Board of Public Health Examiners. In addition, he holds the titles of the Ford Foundation Fellow and Sloan Scholar.
Xiaohui Liu, Ph.D., M.S., is a postdoctoral fellow at NIMHD’s Intramural Research Program. Her research goal is to identify geographical/environmental factors leading to health disparities, and novel ways to characterize and explain them. She explores methods for data integration, including spatial, survey data, social media data and biomarker data, using various geospatial, statistical and data science techniques. In her previous postdoctoral position at The Resilience Research Center in Canada, Dr. Liu studied how boom bust economy and social ecological systems interact, and how that impacts the resilience of the youth from the perspectives of physical and spiritual health. Her doctoral study focused on accessing the relevance and reliability of social media (Twitter) based risk communication during natural hazards, and the factors that impacts coastal resilience. Dr. Liu received a Master of Science in Geology from Bowling Green State University in 2014 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Geography from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2017.
Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP)
The NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) hosts the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP), which is designed to bring PhD graduate students to the NIH Intramural Research Program for dissertation research. Participants enjoy the academic environment of a university, the extensive research resources of the NIH, and the breadth and depth of the research programs of both the host university and the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP). The goal is to create a different kind of graduate experience, one that focuses on training the next generation of scientific leaders by emphasizing communication and collaboration skills, integration of information, and interdisciplinary investigation.
Programs for Medical and Dental Students at the NIH
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) is a public-private partnership supported jointly by the NIH and by generous contributions to the Foundation for the NIH from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The American Association for Dental Research, the Colgate-Palmolive Company, Genentech, alumni of student research programs, and other individual supporters. The NIH MRSP is a comprehensive, year-long residential research enrichment program designed to attract the most creative and research-oriented medical, dental, and veterinary students to the intramural campus of the NIH. Student scholars engage in a closely mentored basic, clinical, or translational research project on the main NIH campus in Bethesda or nearby NIH facilities that matches their research interests and career goals. The MRSP is designed for U.S. citizens and permanent residents currently enrolled in an accredited medical, dental, or veterinary program who have completed their core clinical rotations.
Postbaccalaureate Programs at the NIH
NIH postbaccalaureate fellowship programs provide trainees with a full-time biomedical research experience. This experience includes hands-on biomedical research, mentorship, and career development opportunities. Trainees are encouraged to participate in career development activities and take full advantage of the NIH scientific community and training programs.
Meet Current NIMHD Postbaccalaureate Students
Aniruddh Ajith, B.S., is a post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Aniruddh is working under the direction of Dr. Kelvin Choi on research projects related to the possible effects of smoking coupons on smoking behaviors and tobacco-related health disparities among minority populations. Aniruddh is particularly interested in using electroencephalogram (EEG) to understand how smokers may perceive smoking coupons and how smoking coupons perpetuate smoking behaviors. Aniruddh is also examining how smoking during adolescence correlates with intergenerational educational mobility, and therefore with health and socioeconomic disparities. Aniruddh received his Bachelor of Science degrees in Physiology and Neurobiology, and Psychology from the University of Maryland, College-Park.
Zahra Ansari, B.S., is a postbaccalaureate research fellow in the Digital Health and Health Disparities lab. She received her bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2019. At Berkeley, Zahra conducted research on the best outreach methods for colorectal cancer screening in South Asians. There, she oversaw planning and executing culturally tailored interventions to combat low screening rates among South Asians in the Bay Area. Now at NIMHD, Zahra works with Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy to study how best to leverage health technology to bridge health disparities.
Jackie Bonilla, B.S., is a post-baccalaureate fellow working with Drs. Anna Nápoles and Rose Ramos. Her research interests include investigating patient-provider communication and how it influences health outcomes among minority populations. In addition, she is interested in studying social determinants of health and health-related quality of life among minority populations. Currently, Ms. Bonilla is investigating how patient engagement in cancer care can impact patient satisfaction and quality of life among Latina breast cancer survivors. She is also examining how returning research results to participants can potentially impact willingness to participate in future studies. Ms. Bonilla received a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in public health from the University of Georgia in 2019.
Aaron Broun , is a post-baccalaureate fellow working with Dr. Kelvin Choi. His research interests include developmental disparities, interpersonal relationships, mental health, and health behavior. He is currently studying the effects of parental support on changes in tobacco use behavior during adolescence. He is also working on a study investigating the psychological, behavioral and physiological effects of direct mail tobacco advertisements by socioeconomic status. In addition, he is working with collaborators at University of Maryland on an EEG study related to tobacco use. Mr. Broun received a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Oberlin College in 2017. He spent a year at NIDDK studying epigenetic mechanisms of transcriptional regulation before joining NIMHD.
Isaiah Brown, B.S., is a post-baccalaureate fellow working with Dr. Sharon Jackson. Mr. Brown is conducting research focused on identifying the relationships between health access and health care seeking behaviors that could help explain disparities among those living with chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Mr. Brown’s other research interests include mental health, residential displacement, and health systems. Mr. Brown is also a part of the NIH Academy, where he actively learns about health disparities through community service and journal discussions. Mr. Brown received a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Kentucky. Before joining NIMHD, he spent time at the University of Kentucky studying Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases under the direction of Dr. Greg Gerhardt. Additionally, Mr. Brown completed an internship at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, where he studied metabolic disease as a part of the Summer Program in Diabetes and Obesity Research (SPIDOR).
Saida Coreas, B.S., is a post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) fellow working in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) under Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable. Her research interests include understanding how factors relating to social determinants of health influence tobacco use among minority populations. Ms. Coreas is currently working on research projects related to tobacco use behaviors and tobacco related disparities among minority populations. Specifically, Ms. Coreas is looking at racial/ethnic differences in tobacco products use patterns among U.S. adults, as well as relationships between cigarette smoking susceptibility and smoking initiation among U.S. youth. Ms. Coreas received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health from California State University, Los Angeles in 2018.
Koya Ferrell, M.S., is a post-baccalaureate fellow working under the mentorship of Dr. Sharon Jackson. Her research interests involve understanding how social determinants of health and health behaviors can impact disease progression. Koya is a member of the NIH Academy 2019-2020 cohort where she is developing a deeper understanding of health disparities and how they interact with diverse communities. Previously, Koya worked as a pathways intern with the Office of Grants Management at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Ms. Ferrell received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College in 2016 and her Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University in 2018.
Sean Lee, M.P.H., is currently a post-baccalaureate research fellow working with Dr. Jung Byun in genomics and epidemiology lab at the Intramural Research Program at NIMHD. Sean is interested in examining racial differences in biological determinants of breast cancer patients and how other epidemiological factors may also influence the survival of breast cancer patients. He is currently working on breast cancer among different populations, and the identification of potential risk factors that may contribute to health disparities. Sean received his Master of Science in Public Health with a concentration in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2019 and Bachelor of Arts in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in 2016.
Toluwa Omole, B.S., is currently a post-baccalaureate research fellow working with Dr. Kelvin Choi. He is working on research projects related to tobacco control and tobacco related health disparities among minority populations. Specifically, Toluwa is interested in examining how factors related to the social determinants of health influence the treatment of minority populations and their success with tobacco cessation programs. He is also currently a member of the NIH Academy Enrichment Program, and the NIH Academy. Toluwa received his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with a concentration in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University.
The Undergraduate Scholarship Program at the NIH
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) offers competitive scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are committed to careers in biomedical, behavioral, and social science health-related research. The program offers:
- Scholarship support
- Paid research training at the NIH during the summer
- Paid employment and training at the NIH after graduation
Meet Current NIMHD Undergraduate Scholarship Program Fellows
Alia Alhomsi, B.A., earned her undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in data analysis at George Mason University in fall 2019. She completed a 10-week summer internship at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in 2018 and a 10-week summer internship in the research program of Anna Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H., Scientific Director, NIMHD. Ms. Alhomsi will spend three more years at DIR at NIMHD, working on research projects and manuscripts related to returning results to study participants, psycho-social health of underserved cancer patients, and other health disparities projects.
The Summer Internship Program at the NIH
The NIH Summer Internship Program (SIP) provides summer trainees with a full-time biomedical research experience. SIP is hopeful that many summer trainees will decide to include research as an important component of their future career and will leave with a deeper understanding of how scientific investigation works and what it entails. Summer trainees at NIH are encouraged to find the time to participate in career development activities and reach out to the community around them.
The 2020 NIH Intramural Summer Internship Program (SIP) has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, NIH is offering a virtual summer enrichment program.
2019 Summer Interns
Alia Alhomsi – Mentor: Dr. Anna Nápoles
Angela Wang – Mentor: Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy
Azure Erskine – Mentor: Dr. Faustine Williams
Kathleen Dang – Mentor: Dr. Kelvin Choi
Maria Reyes – Mentor: Dr. Anna Nápoles
Leah Orozco – Mentor: Dr. Kelvin Choi
Patricia Timothee – Mentor: Dr. Faustine Williams
Sana Rahman – Mentor: Dr. Erik Rodriquez (Eliseo’s lab)
Taylor Robinson – Mentor: Dr. Sherine El-Toukhy
Thomas Freitag – Mentor: Dr. Kelvin Choi
Page updated February 15, 2021