BIRCWH Scholars

Current BIRCWH Scholars

Victor AdekanmbiVictor Adekanmbi, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor
Obstetrics and Gynecology
UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

BIRCWH Scholar: 2022-Present

Research Topics: Cancer epidemiology; cancer prevention; women’s health; sexually transmitted infections; infectious diseases; prediction and mixed effects modellings; and socioeconomic determinants of health.

Funding Obtained: Pending


Phillip CantuPhillip Cantu, PhD

Assistant Professor
Internal Medicine - Geriatrics
UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

BIRCWH Scholar: 2022-Present

Research Topics: Dementia caregiving; Mexican Americans; and informant measures of cognitive decline

Funding Obtained: Pending


Gabriela HalderGabriela Halder, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS)
UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

BIRCWH Scholar: 2022-Present

Research Topics: Women’s health; patient centered care; and preoperative preparedness.

Funding Obtained: Pending


Christine HsuChristine D. Hsu, PharmD, PhD

Obstetrics and Gynecology
UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

BIRCWH Trainee: 2023-Present

Research Topics: My research centers around cancer prevention, cancer care and outcomes, and pharmacoepidemiology. My research expertise lies in the application of epidemiologic methods and complex study designs to administrative and registry-based data.

Funding Obtained: Pending


Meagan WhisenantMeagan Whisenant, PhD, APRN

Assistant Professor
Department of Behavioral Science
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

BIRCWH Scholar: 2023-Present

Research Topics: My program of research is focused on breast cancer prevention and survivorship, including studying in variation in breast cancer-related symptom burden, symptom-related communication between clinicians and patients, and development of innovative interventions for supporting patients and their caregivers in managing breast cancer-related symptoms across the disease and treatment trajectory.

Funding Obtained: Pending


BIRCWH Program Alumni


  • Soham Al Snih, MD, PhD
    Soham Al Snih

    Program Director and Professor, Rehabilitation Sciences
    Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
    Professor, Nutrition and Metabolism
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2008-2011

    Research Topics: Obesity, muscle strength, and disability in older Hispanics; sex differences.

    Funding Obtained:

    • NIH/NIA; Grant ID: 5 R01 HD065702-20 ($125,460); Obesity, muscle strength, and disability in older Mexican Americans and elders from Latin American and the Caribbean (2009-2012). Markides K (PI), Al Snih (Co-I).
    • NIH/NIA; Grant ID: R03AG029959 ($541,799); Longitudinal study of Mexican American elderly health (2001-2013).


  • Ivonne-Marie Bergés, PhD

    Ivonne Bergés

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2006-2008

    Research Topics: Disparities in stroke outcomes.

    Funding Obtained: 

    • NIH/NICHD; Grant ID: R03HD058216 ($151,000); Gender differences in home and community participation after stroke (2008-2011).
    • NIH/NIA; Grant ID: R01 AG031178 ($1,325,540); Psychological well-being and recovery among hospitalized older adults (2008-2014).
    • U Maryland Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center; Grant: $30,000; A home-based fall exercise intervention (2014).


  • Kanika Bowen-Jallow, MD, MMS, FACS, FAAP
    Kanika Bowen-Jallow

    Cook Children's Pediatric
    Prosper, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2018-2020

    Research Topics: Childhood obesity, health equity, and sex differences.


  • Egle Bytautiene Prewit, MD, PhD

    Egle Prewit

    Associate Professor/Research
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Reproductive Research
    UT Health San Antonio, Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine
    San Antonio, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2011-2015

    Research Topics: Effects of maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and preeclampsia on offspring health.

    Funding Obtained

    • American Heart Association; Grant ID: 14BGIA20480229 ($140,000); Lactation, oxytocin, and maternal cardiometabolic health later in life (2014-2016).


  • Celia Chao, MD
    Celia Chao

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2007-2009

    Research Topics: Gastrointestinal hormones and breast cancer.

    Funding Obtained

    • NIH/NCI; Grant ID: K08CA125209 ($642,535); Bombesin-activated carcinoma associated fibroblasts in colorectal cancer (2009-2014).
    • Society of Surgical Oncology Clinical Investigator Award; Grant: $100,000; Stromal biomarkers and colorectal cancer recurrence (2009-2011).
    • John Sealy Memorial Endowment Fund; Grant: $50,000; Studies in metastatic phenotype of the colorectal cancer cell (2013-2014).
    • UTMB Institute for Translational Sciences; Grant: $150,000; Development of novel therapies for advanced colorectal cancer: Targeting cystathion-β-synthtase-mediated intratumor H2S biosynthesis (2013-2015). Project Manager.


  • Erika Fuchs, PhD, MPH
    Erika Fuchs

    Senior Maternal and Child Health Epidemiologist
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Lincoln, NE

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2016-2020

    Research Topics: Prenatal and childhood vaccination; surrogate pregnancy.


  • Maria Giraldo Giraldo, BSc, MSc, PhD
    Maria Giraldo Giraldo

    Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2020-2022

    Research Topics: Immunity to virus infection; pattern recognition receptor signaling; mechanisms of viral infection and replication; role of Ubiquitin and E3- ubiquitin ligases replication of different viruses (ZIKV, DENV, WNV, Influenza, SARS-CoV-2); role of ubiquitination of ZIKV on reproductive biology (reproductive tissues tropism).


  • Fangjian Guo, MD, PhD
    Fangjian Guo

    Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2016-2018

    Research Topics: Breast cancer screening, cancer prevention, HPV epidemiology and vaccination.

    Funding Obtained

    • J. Sealy Award/PI/2016
    • CA K07/PI/2018


  • Jacqueline Hirth, PhD, MPH
    Jacqueline Hirth

    Assistant Professor, Family and Community Medicine - Chairman's Office
    Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2012-2016

    Research Topics: Cervical cancer prevention, women’s health disparities, and breast cancer screening trends.

    Funding Obtained:

    • Cervical Cancer Free America; Grant: $5,000; Association of region of residence with human papillomavirus vaccine uptake among 9-17 year old adolescents in the U.S. (2013-2014).
    • Institute for Translational Sciences; Grant $26,344; Mediation effects of HPV vaccination on regional variations in HPV types (2014-2015).
    • AHRQ 5 R24 HS022134-02; Grant $691,695; Patient centered outcomes research in the elderly (2013-2018). Multiple PIs: Goodwin J (PI), Hirth J (Co-I), Kuo YF (Subproject PI).


  • Elizabeth Lyons, PhD, MPH
    Elizabeth Lyons

    Professor and Chair, Nutrition, Metabolism, and Rehabilitation Sciences
    Assistant Professor, Population Health and Health Disparities
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCHW Scholar: 2011-2014

    Research Topics: Physical activity interventions, cancer survivorship, technology, video games, mobile devices.

    Funding Obtained:

    • UTMB Claud D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center; Grant: $30,000; IMPACT: Inactivity monitoring and physical activity controlled trial (2013-2014).
    • American Heart Institute; Grant ID: 13BGIA17110021 ($139,840); STEP AND GO: A study of technology-based exercise promotion (2013-2015).
    • NIH/NCI; Grant ID: 1 K07 CA175141-01A1 ($496,992); LEVEL UP: Video games for activity in breast cancer survivors (2014-2018).
    • American Cancer Society; Grant ID: 127057-MRSG-14-165-01-CPPB ($658,817); Self-monitoring activity: A randomized trial of game-oriented applications (2015-2019).


  • Christine McGrath, PhD, MPH
    Christine McGrath

    Assistant Professor, Global Health
    University of Washington, Seattle, WA

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2013-2015

    Research Topics: HIV and maternal/child health, HPV infection, HPV vaccination.


  • Sadaf Milani, PhD, MPH
    Sadaf Milani

    Assistant Professor, Epidemiology
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2020-2022

    Research Topics: Epidemiology of aging; cognition and dementia; health disparities, minority health, and gender disparities; pain and prescription opioid use.



  • Tracy Nguyen-Oghalai, MD, PhD
    Tracy Nguyen-Oghalai

    Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine (Clinician Educator)
    University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Health Sciences Campus
    Los Angeles, CA

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2006-2008

    Research Topics: Impact of rheumatic diseases on rehabilitation.

    Funding Obtained: 

    • American College of Rheumatology; Grant ID: R03 HD058216 ($151,000); Gender differences in home and community participation after stroke (2008-2010).


  • Ricardo Rajsbaum, PhD
    Ricardo Rajsbaum

    Adjunct Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2017-2018

    Research Topics: Innate immunity and host-virus interactions, role of host factors, ZIKA virus and pregnancy outcomes.


  • Lauren Richardson, PhD
    Lauren Richardson

    Assistant Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Division of Basic Science and Translational Research
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2022-2024

    Research Topics: Bridging the gap between bench-to-bedside research by merging advanced engineering and biology concepts; utilizing microfluidic devices to collect underutilized biological fluids for biomarker screening; and developing novel organ-on-chip devices that physiologically recreate in utero organs and organ systems.

    Funding Obtained:

    • UTMB IHII Pilot Richardson (PI) 3/2022-08/31/2022 Neutrophil activation and immune homeostatic imbalance at the feto-maternal interface are causal factors in premature birth. The goal of this study is to design experiments to elucidate the chorion HLA-G – Neutrophil axis responsible for regulating the immune status of the feto-maternal interface.
    • UTMB CIRWH Seed Grant Richardson (PI) 12/2021-08/15/2022 Modeling drug kinetics and metabolism across the feto-maternal interfaces utilizing a novel fetal membrane- placenta organ-on-chip The goal of this study is to adapt the validated FMi-PLAOOC device to contain dynamic fluid flow in the decidua compartment and test a previously studied drug, Rosuvastatin, to determine the effects of dynamic flow in this system.


  • Erik Rytting, PhD, MS
    Erik Rytting

    Associate Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2009-2013

    Research Topics: Drug transport across the placenta during pregnancy.

    Funding Obtained

    • John Sealy Memorial Endowment Fund; Grant ID: 67019 ($50,000); Nanomedicine for anticancer therapy during pregnancy (2013).
    • NIH/NICHD; Grant ID: 5 U10 HD0478910-10; ($5,171,677); Obstetric-fetal pharmacology research units network (2013-2015) Co-I.
    • NIH/NIDA; Grant ID: 5 R01 DA030998-05; ($4,139,785); Bupropion for smoking cessation (2013-2015) Co-I.
    • Institute for Translational Sciences; ($29,856); Targeted nanomedicine to improve antiepileptic drug therapy during pregnancy (2014).
    • Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE); ($49,951); Targeted delivery of carbamazepine for improved antiepileptic drug therapy during pregnancy (2015).
    • NIH/NICHD; Grant ID: 1R01HD083003-01 ($2,498,673); Pharmacokinetic & pharmacogenomics approach to indomethacin therapy in pregnancy (2015-2019). Multiple PIs: Gary Hankins & Erik Rytting.


  • Navkiran Shokar, MD, MPH
    Navkiran Shokar

    Associate Dean for Community Affairs, Dell Medical School
    Professor and Chair, Department of Population Health
    The University of Texas at Austin, Dell Medical School, Austin, TX

    Adjunct Professor, HSCEP, Family Medicine El Paso
    Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2006-2006

    Research Topics: Cancer prevention.

    Funding Obtained:

    • NIH/NCI; Grant ID: K07CA107052 ($630,929); Colorectal cancer screening in a diverse population (2006-2012).
    • Sponsor: Susan G. Komen Foundation; Grant: $91,174; Awareness of breast cancer and screening (2012-2013).
    • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas; Grant ID: PP110156 ($2,683,123); ACCION: Against Colorectal Cancer in our Neighborhoods (2011-2014).
    • Paso Del Norte Health Foundation; Grant: $110,292; Institute for health living (2013-2014).
    • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas; Grant ID: PP130083 ($1,096,011); De casa en casa: Preventing cervical cancer in El Paso and Hudspeth County program (2013-2016).
    • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas; Grant ID: PP130068 ($1,098,920); El Paso and Hudspeth County breast cancer education, screening, and navigation program (BEST) (2013-2016).
    • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas; Grant ID: PP140164 ($1,499,438); ACCION 2 (2014-2017).
    • NIH/NCI; Grant ID: R21 CA178506-01A1 ($367,182); Colorectal cancer screening: A new web-based decision-making strategy for low literacy and Hispanic populations (2014-2016).
    • Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas; Grant: $1,499,150; Es tiemp de vacunarte! Time to get vaccinated! (2014-2017).


  • Venkataraman Sriraman, PhD
    Venkataram Sriraman

    Senior Scientist
    Molecular Pharmacology
    EMD Serono, Billerica, MA

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2006-2008

    Research Topics: Progesterone receptor function in ovarian angiogenesis.


  • Jeffrey Temple, PhD, MA
    Jeffrey Temple

    Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
    Associate Dean of Clinical Research, School of Behavioral Health Sciences
    UTHealth Houston, Houston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2007-2009

    Research Topics: Sexual violence/date rape prevention in adolescents.

    Funding Obtained:

    • UTMB Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health; Grant: $25,000; Adolescent dating violence (2007-2008).
    • NIH/NICHD; Grant ID: K23HD059916 ($521,877); Longitudinal investigation in the risk and protective factors of dating violence (2009-2014).
    • John Sealy Memorial Endowment Fund; Grant: $50,000; Teen dating violence (2009-2010).
    • Hogg Foundation for Mental Health; Grant: $15,000; Impact of teen dating violence on mental health (2010-2011).
    • National Institute of Justice; Grant ID: 2012-WG-BX0005 ($746,181); Continuation of dating it safe: A longitudinal study on teen dating violence (2012-2015).
    • Childbuilders; Grant: $34,743; Evaluation of Parents Under Construction (2015).
    • UT Health Science Center-Houston CDC/ National Center for Injury Prevention & Control; Grant ID: 5 R01 CE002135-03 ($44,874); It's your game: An innovative approach to preventing teen dating violence (2013-2015) Subcontract Co-I.
    • Galveston Foundation; Grant: $32,146; Community project on Central American children (2015).


  • Sarah Tom, PhD
    Sarah Tom

    Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy
    Epidemiology and Public Health
    University of Maryland

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2010-2012

    Research topics: Sleep behavior in women.

    Funding Obtained

    • PhRMA Foundation; Grant: $60,000; Started grant in health outcomes: Sleep medication use and physical function and mortality in older women (2013-2014).


  • Patricia van den Berg, MD, MPH
    Patricia van den Berg

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2008-2010

    Research Topics: Body image, weight control behaviors in adolescent girls.

    Funding Obtained:

    • NIH/NICHD; Grant ID: K23HD063261 ($552,186); Unhealthy weight control behaviors and obesity in Hispanic and non-Hispanic girls (2010-2014).
    • CIRWH Seed; Grant: $15,000; Effect of injectable and oral contraceptives on glucose and insulin levels (2009).
    • Hogg Foundation for Mental Health; Grant: $17,500; Disordered eating and body dissatisfaction in adolescents (2012-2013).
    • Childbuilders; Evaluation of Parents Under Construction (2015).


  • Timothy Walker, PhD
    Timothy Walker

    Assistant Professor, Health Promotion and Behavioral Science
    University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2018-2020

    Research Topics: Physical activity; cancer prevention; health disparities, and sex differences.


  • Karen Williams, PhD, MHSA
    Karen Williams

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2008-2011

    Research Topics: Community partnerships in women's health.

    Funding Obtained:

    • NIH/NCI; Grant ID: R03CA139569 ($142,062); Community and research: Equal partners in health (CAREPH) (2009-2011).
    • St. Lukes Foundation; Grant: $105,620; United Methodist/Episcopal Mental Health Initiative Research Phase One (2009-2011).


  • Xiaoying Yu, MD, PhD
    Xiaoying Yu

    Associate Professor, Biostatistics and Data Science
    UTMB Health, Galveston, TX

    BIRCWH Scholar: 2020-2022

    Research Topics: Longitudinal data analysis; epidemiology studies and outcome research; and HIV.


Contact Us

Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health
John Sealy Annex, Suite 3.108
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX 77555-0587
Office: (409) 772-2417
Email:  Abbey Berenson