Division Research Interests
Behavioral and cancer epidemiology
The behavioral and cancer epidemiology research program in the Division of Epidemiology is focused on examining the behavioral and biological determinants of cancer in the general and underserved populations. This research has four areas of emphasis: (1) assessing the predictors and barriers of colorectal cancer screening and developing interventions to increase screening behavior; (2) developing and evaluating group randomized health promotion intervention among school-aged youth; (3) assessing the role of obesity and other metabolic disorders in the development and survival of cancer; and (4) exploring the role of nutritional factors, in particular vitamins/minerals, in the development and progression of cancer. Active interdisciplinary collaborations with the Departments of Family Medicine and Population Health, Internal Medicine, Psychology, and Social and Behavioral Health contribute to this effort as well as community-based partnerships. Faculty are scientific research members of Massey Cancer Center.
The genetic epidemiology program is focused on two major themes: (1) evaluating the role of genetic and environmental contributions in the etiology of chronic mental health and medical conditions and (2) translating the current understanding of the role of genetic and environmental influences on these outcomes into innovative approaches for enhancing the adoption of best practices in the community, clinical practice, and public health. The program maintains active collaborations with several organizations to accomplish these goals, including: the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, the Center for Society and Health, and the Seventh District Health and Wellness Initiative of Richmond.
Maternal and child health
The maternal and child health epidemiology research program in the Division of Epidemiology is focused on improving the health and well-being of women, children and families. This research includes issues related to perinatal health, provision of comprehensive care to underserved pregnant women, infant development and school readiness, youth violence, sexual violence prevention, and assessment of women’s health status. Methodological work in this area focuses on the development of probabilistic data linkage methods which can enhance Maternal and Child Health surveillance by tracking mothers and infants longitudinally using existing data. Active collaborations with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) contribute to this effort.
Traumatic brain injury
The traumatic brain injury research program in the Division of Epidemiology is focused on advancing clinical research methods in search of better treatment for TBI. This research has three major focuses: (1) to understand the impact of outcome misclassification in TBI clinical trials and to develop methods minimizing Glasgow Outcome misclassification in TBI clinical trials; (2) to improve experimental study design in TBI research; and (3) to study methodological approaches useful to estimate health and economic outcomes in TBI research.
The social epidemiology research program in the Division of Epidemiology is grounded in fundamental cause and life-course theories, and is focused on empirically documenting associations between "upstream" social determinants and adverse health outcomes. This program of research lies at the intersection of civil rights and social justice and is focused on: (1) understanding race/ethnic and gender disparities in health; (2) identifying biologic, behavioral and psychosocial mechanisms of associations between social determinants and health disparities; (3) conducting within-group analyses and examining effect modification to identify high risk groups, as well as protective factors for adverse health outcomes; (4) identifying policy-amenable social determinants of health; and (5) designing intervention studies focused on modifiable social, psychosocial, biologic and behavioral risk factors.
The VCU Center on Society and Health is an academic research center that studies the health implications of social factors—such as education, income, neighborhood and community environmental conditions—and public policy. Its mission is to is to raise awareness about the importance of factors outside of health care that shape health outcomes and to explore ways to improve population health and wellbeing. The Center approaches this work by blending four ingredients for success: (1) user-oriented research—directed at delivering actionable and policy-relevant findings and evidence sought by decision-makers; (2) policy outreach—efforts to meet with decision-makers in all sectors to gain deep familiarity with the decision-making environment, priorities, and language; (3) stakeholder and community engagement—engaging with affected populations and other stakeholders with an intimate understanding of priorities, context, key questions, and feasible solutions; and (4) strategic communication—an organized effort to identify target audiences and prepare materials and media in a tailored format that is engaging and accessible to the audience. The Center pursues these goals through collaboration with scholars in different disciplines at VCU and other institutions, and by nurturing partnerships with community, government, and private-sector stakeholders.