Department of

Public Health Seminars:


Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Mortality Trends in the U.S. (Graves); Pre-eclampsia prevalence in Virginia from 2008-2015: An analysis of individual- and neighborhood-level factors (Taylor)

Whitney Graves, MPH, and DaShaunda Taylor, MPH | PhD Students, VCU Division of Epidemiology


Current PhD Students

timothyTimothy Ihongbe, MPH, MBBS:

I obtained my degree in Medicine from the University of Benin, Nigeria in 2006 and practiced as a physician in various clinical settings in Nigeria. During this period, I developed an interest in the field of Epidemiology and commenced the MPH program in Epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and graduated in 2013. During my MPH program, I became interested in the area of Maternal and Child Health and this informed my decision to undertake my MPH practicum with the Maternal and Child Health bureau of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) where I looked into the prevalence and distribution of birth defects in South Carolina for the period of 2008 to 2010. I am interested in perinatal/neonatal outcomes and factors affecting maternal outcomes.
I love VCU for its commitment towards the overall development of its students. It provides a very conducive learning environment with faculty and staff who are very welcoming and always ready to help.



Trisha Sando, DPT, CWS:

I received my BS in Biology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2001. I received my Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from the University of Southern California in 2005. During my 9 years of practice as a physical therapist I worked primarily in the acute care setting managing the care of acute and chronic wounds. My interests in both the basic science and clinical aspects of wound have been combined through the Masters of Science in Wound Healing and Tissue Repair from Cardiff University in 2014.

The management of acute and chronic wounds remains difficult in the clinical setting due to multiple factors, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Disparities also exist in clinician education, resulting in poor outcomes and high cost of care. Clinical research in wound care is difficult due to the multiplicity of involved factors as well as ethical and cost issues. The use of epidemiologic methods and data from electronic medical records can generate “Practice Based Evidence” which will be acceptable to clinicians and aid researchers in the development of more focused clinical trials. Epidemiologic methods can also be applied to interventions and outcomes of physical therapy practice in other clinical settings. “Practice Based Evidence” can support the myriad of roles Physical Therapists play in recovery from illness and injury. This in turn can support practice and policy to optimize outcomes for patients while reducing healthcare costs.

I joined the VCU PhD program for its small size, diversity in research areas and focus on student development. GRE-MAP provides an interdisciplinary research group in which I can participate in research on how mobility influences and is effected by the ageing process and psychiatric disorders. The program has many other opportunities to participate in and present research in epidemiology as well as conduct research in collaboration with other departments at VCU.



Jordyn Wallenborn:

I received my B.S. in Community Health at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2011. After graduating, I started a Master of Public Health (MPH) program with an emphasis on Infectious Disease Management at North Dakota State University. During the MPH program, I traveled to Taipei, Taiwan where I worked with Taipei Medical University. In Taiwan, I researched how climate variations affect incidence of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease caused by Enterovirus 71. After obtaining my MPH, I worked as an American Indian project manager with the CDC Community Transformation Grant. My primary research interest is Maternal and Child Health with a focus on breastfeeding, VBAC, and infectious disease. I choose VCU because of the rigorous curriculum, the high commitment of professors to both the students and to improving the health of populations, and the conducive learning environment. VCU welcomes you with open arms and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the VCU family.



Elizabeth Lowery:

I received my MPH from the University of Michigan in 2003.  Upon graduation, I secured a fellowship with the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, working in health disparities with American Indian/Alaska Native populations.  I was able to present the findings of my analysis on the geographic distribution of tuberculosis on several reservations to the Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Tuberculosis, the Washington State Department of Health, and the National TB Controller's Association.  Next, I moved to West Virginia and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  There I published an analysis of the factors influencing quality of life for individuals with workplace exacerbation of asthma.

I took a break from the federal government to work for the Virginia Department of Health as a district epidemiologist in the counties surrounding Fredericksburg, VA. That position involved investigating disease outbreaks, as well as ensuring preparedness for pandemics and terrorist attacks.  Looking to try something different, in 2008 I moved to Washington, DC and the Peace Corps.  There I served as both the data analyst and program manager for the Crime Statistics and Analysis unit, overseeing the collection and analysis of data on crimes reported by Peace Corps Volunteers serving in more than 70 countries.  This position also meant working closely with colleagues to improve the crime surveillance system; assisting in the development of a more robust sexual assault response program; and delivering training to all Peace Corps safety and security staff. Lastly, I took a position with the National Practitioner Data Bank (part of the Health Resources and Services Administration) in 2015. While happy to return to public health, I missed working on issues of security and crime, which brought me to the VCU PhD program, where I hope to focus on the intersection of sexual violence and public health.

At VCU, I found the small class size that I have always appreciated, along with faculty, staff, and students with diverse backgrounds and experiences.  I look forward to several years of learning and growing in this supportive community.



Courtney Blondino, MPH:

I received my BS in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise from Virginia Tech in 2015 and my MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Kentucky in 2017. While at the University of Kentucky, I was the Fitness Graduate Assistant for the Personal Training Program, working within the Campus Recreation and Wellness Department. I was also a Research Assistant for the Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System where I collected data for my thesis paper “Do numbers matter? Comparing single homicide-suicide and multiple homicide-suicide using the National Violent Death Reporting System, 2003-2012.”

My interest in public health developed from a wellness standpoint and translated to epidemiology, studying more specifically in social epidemiology. While working as an intern at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, I began to understand that violence is much more than a criminal-legal problem. Violence is a public health problem. By changing the lens and studying violence as a health outcome resulting from multiple risk factors, prevention efforts can be more accurately addressed.

I chose the VCU PhD program to become an independent research scientist with one-on-one attention from faculty mentors. The academic environment cultivates opportunities and open conversation to better develop my skills as a public health professional.



Sylvia S. Rozario, MPH, MBBS

Born and raised in Bangladesh, I received my bachelor degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. My interest in epidemiology was first anchored during my study at the medical college when I had to take Epidemiology as a basic course. My interest in preventive medicine further developed during my volunteer works for the impoverished population as a medical student and as a physician afterward. After migrating to the USA, I decided to follow my passion and built my career in public health. Prior to enrolling in the PhD in Epidemiology program, I received my Masters in Public Health from VCU, School of Medicine in May, 2015. The experiences I gathered during the MPH program at VCU intensified my interest in Epidemiology and facilitated my understanding of the Epidemiological research field. I wanted to take the opportunity to develop my research career further with a PhD degree in Epidemiology so that I can move closer to my dream of improving overall population health by contributing to the public health research field to find cost-effective, efficient, and innovative solutions to the problems associated with preventable diseases.

I am specifically interested in understanding the epidemiological features of maternal and child health. As a mother of two children, I believe, maternal and child health care are the most important assets in the community. I intend to contribute my skill, knowledge, and time to epidemiological researches on maternal and child health. With that intention, I purposefully focused my practicum, internship and service learning experiences in the areas related to maternal and child health when I was in the MPH program at VCU. Moreover, I have had the privilege of serving as a research assistant in the Division of Epidemiology under the direction of Dr. Saba W. Masho, whose work focuses on maternal and child health. As a PhD student, now my works specifically are focused on maternal morbidities, intimate partner violence, and interpregnancy interval affecting the pregnancy outcome.

I love our program at VCU because of its small size and friendly environment, commitment of our faculty and staffs towards the development of the students, diverse background of the faculty, staffs, and students, and diversity in research areas. The faculty and staffs are very considerate to my individual needs and are always willing to help. I feel very lucky to be a part of this program.