NCI Fellowships

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NCI Fellowships - NCI Fellowships


Welcome to The School of Public Health’s cancer education and career development program. We have both pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships to launch your successful career in cancer prevention and control research.

The people—faculty mentors, the advisory committee and program directors—are the heart of our program.

Our program has an excellent track record with graduates going on to strong post-doctoral programs and faculty positions to become independent investigators. We work closely with research centers at the schoolThe Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, and the Institute for Health Policyand with mentors elsewhere in the school and at UT MD Anderson and Simmons Cancer Centers. 

  • The program offers more than 30 investigators with experience and training in multiple disciplines and training and cultural backgrounds who
    • draw on a range of theories and models
    • use both quantitative and qualitative methods for epidemiology, ascertainment, intervention, and diffusion research studies
    • have built collaborative networks in the Houston community, in the State, and elsewhere in the U.S. and nationally and internationally
    • are authors of widely used textbooks and editors and authors of other books
    • are reviewers on NIH study sections and other review groups
    • are members and chairs of influential task forces, boards, and advisory groups
    • are winners of prestigious awards
    • are committed to mentoring and recognized for mentoring excellence
  • Funded projects addressing a range of important risk factors and exposures, most of which are focused on underserved Hispanic, African American, and border and rural populations and also on subpopulations—e.g., drug users, incarcerated men and women, and neighborhoods affected by inequitable environmental policy and enforcement.

Historically, one-third of our fellows have been members of under-represented groups. Our former post-doc fellows are members of the faculties at Duke, University of Arizona, Baylor College of Medicine, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, UTHealth School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, University of California at San Francisco, The Medical College of South Carolina, and Pennsylvania State University.  Others serve at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Click on the links to the right to apply, or click on the other tabs to explore more aspects of our program.


Doctoral Program

Our funding from the National Cancer Institute provides four fellowships per year for doctoral students at UTHealth School of Public Health who have been admitted to doctoral programs in health promotion, behavioral sciences, epidemiology, biometry, policy sciences, or management and community health. Our Health Promotion/Behavioral Sciences Program was named #1 in the nation (see Ranking of Doctoral Programs in Health Education).

The fellowships may be awarded at admission or to continuing students who show outstanding promise for research careers in cancer prevention and control. See expectations of pre-doctoral fellows, mentors, and program directors. The fellowship also requires all trainees to take the doctoral seminar PH1435, please see syllabus.

Doctoral fellows receive:

  • Support for up to 4 years
  • $26,324 annual stipend 
  • Excellent benefits, tuition, books, software, travel

A Quality Program with Career Gains

  • A thriving interdisciplinary research environment
  • Houston campus located in the world’s largest medical center
  • Regional campuses in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, and Brownsville
  • Outstanding faculty mentors
  • Grant portfolio addressing diverse risk-factors and development of cancer control interventions
  • Strong emphasis on under-served groups and the reduction of cancer-related health disparities
  • Established track record, now in its 25th year
  • Weekly contact with faculty, postdocs, and other doctoral fellows through a seminar focused on proposal writing, publication, and career development

Post-Doctoral Program

Our funding from the National Cancer Institute enables us to support 4 post-doctoral fellows per year. Post-doctoral fellows in cancer prevention and control must have a PhD, DrPH, MD or other doctoral degree in health promotion/health education, a behavioral science discipline, communication, epidemiology, or a related area of study.

Over a 2-3 year period fellows build their publication records, gain valuable experience on interdisciplinary research teams, take selected courses, and write at least one proposal for their own funded research in cancer prevention and control. See Expectations of Post-doctoral fellows.

Post-doctoral fellows receive:

  • Funded by the National Cancer Institute
  • Support for up to 3 years
  • Annual stipend starting at $48,432, depending on experience
  • Excellent benefits, tuition, books, software, and travel

Unique training in innovative thinking, health disparities, and dissemination and implementation science:

  • Project portfolios with interdisciplinary teams addressing diverse risk factors with a strong focus on under-served groups
  • Established track record – now in its 25th year
  • Excellent mentoring and training opportunities that advance fellows’ skills, experience, networks, and research productivity
  • Weekly contact with faculty, doctoral fellows, and other postdocs in an ongoing seminar on proposal writing, publication, and career development



All fellows have at least two mentors from complementary disciplines. Fellows have the opportunity to work with faculty members whose research represents a wide spectrum of research populations, methods, and theories. Mentoring is taken seriously in the Center, and the Program has formalized expectations of pre-doc and post-doc mentors. Good mentoring is modeled by senior investigators and is practiced at all levels.

Program Directors

Maria E. Fernandez, PhD, Director

Maria E. Fernandez, PhD image

Lorne Bain Distinguished Professor of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences and Director, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Teaching Interests: Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, Health Promotion planning and implementation using Intervention Mapping, and Dissemination and Implementation

Research Interests:Dissemination and Implementation Research, Health Promotion Planning; Intervention Mapping, Health Equity / Health Disparities, Cancer Control, Hispanic and other underserved populations, Health Promotion Program Evaluation, Technology in Health Promotion, Primary Care, Health Communications

Sally W. Vernon, MA, PhD, Program Co-Director

Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Epidemiology, Chair, Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences
Blair Justice, PhD Professorship in Mind-Body Medicine and Public Health, and Senior Investigator, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Research Interests: Cancer Prevention and Control for Breast, Cervical and Colorectal Cancers, Psychosocial Issues in Cancer Genetic Testing, Measurement of Psychosocial Constructs, Reliability and Validity of Self-Report Cancer Screening Behaviors, Cancer Screening and Prevention, and HPV

Sally W. Vernon, MA, PhD, Co-Director

Patricia Dolan Mullen, DrPH, Program Co-Director


The University of Texas System Distinguished Teaching Professor and Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and Senior Investigator and Training Director, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Teaching Interests: Research and career development skills for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, with an emphasis on innovation and Systematic review and meta-analysis

Research Interests: Maternal and Fetal Health, Smoke-free Homes, Informed Decision-Making for Cancer and Other Screening Tests, Adaptation of Evidence-based Interventions, Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, and Evaluation Research

Advisory Committee

Our Advisory Committee represents wide-ranging expertise in cancer prevention and control and in training and mentoring pre- and post-doctoral fellows within The School of Public Health, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, and other academic environments.

This internal advisory committee assists the Program Directors by:

  • Recruiting—by suggesting additional recruitment strategies and using their own professional networks to expand the applicant pool
  • Selecting candidates who are a good fit for the Program and likely to achieve the Program goals
  • Reviewing training plans, appraising trainee progress reports, and suggesting strategies for addressing systematic or any individual problems that are identified, including recommendations by mentors or Program Directors that a trainee be terminated or not renewed
  • Suggesting next steps, including specific faculty, post-doc, and other relevant positions to foster the careers of trainees completing the program
  • Reviewing the curriculum and new components that will be developed
  • Approving indicators of success and evaluating the success of the Program in achieving its aims
Danmeng Huang

Danmeng Huang, MPA

September 2015 - August


BA, Medicine, Public Policy, Sun Yat-sen University
MPA, Social Policy/ Healthcare Policy & Management, Cornell University
Working on: PhD, Policy and Management Science

Research Interests:

Decision science, economic evaluation, policy evaluation, claims data, and breast cancer screening

Andrea Betts, MPH

September 2016 - Present


BA, English and Political Science, Southern Methodist University
MPH, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH in Dallas
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, in Dallas Regional Campus

Research Interests:

Cancer survivorship, adolescent & young adult cancer, mixed methods research

Andrea Betts

Gordon Watt

Gordon Watt, BA

September 2017 - August 2018


BA,Plan II Honors & Hispanic Linguistics, The University of Texas at Austin

Working on: PhD, Epidemiology, in Brownsville Regional Campus

Research Interests:

Liver cancer prevent, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, health disparities, cohort studies

Lynn Ibekwe, MPH

September 2017 - Present


BA, Medicine, Health, and Society & Sociology, Vanderbilt University
MPH, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Research Interests:

Health disparities, cancer prevention and control, chronic disease prevention and management, health promotion for minority populations, intervention development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination

Professional Photo

Jessica Austin

Jessica Austin, MPH

May 2018 - Present


BS, Neuroscience, Texas Christian University
MPH, Behavioral and Community Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center 
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, in Dallas Regional Campus

Research Interests:

Cancer survivorship, health services research, survivorship care planning, patient centered communication, self-management, dissemination & implementation science, mixed-methods research, multi-level interventions

Jenna Parro, MHA

August 2018 - Present


BA, Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin
MHA, Texas State University
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Research Interests:

Cancer health disparities, women’s health, LGBTQ health, underserved populations, health communication, qualitative research


Post-Doctoral Fellows 


Amy Hughes

Amy E. Hughes, PhD

BS, Economics, California Polytechnic State University
MS, Economics, The University of Texas at Dallas
PhD, Geospatial Information Sciences, The University of Texas at Dallas

Research Interests:

Applications of spatial statistics & spatial econometrics; geographic policy implications relevant to cancer screening and outcomes research

Career Aspirations: 

Research and teaching in an academic setting


Estimating the Health and Economic Impacts of Changes in Local Air Quality

The Utility of EMR Address Histories for Assessing Neighborhood Exposures

Understanding how low-socioeconomic status households cope with health shocks: An analysis of multi-sector linked data

Financial Incentives for Promoting Colorectal Cancer Screening: A Randomized, Comparative Effectiveness Trial

Neighborhood Effects in a Behavioral Randomized Controlled Trial

Using address histories in health research: challenges and recommendations for research

Gregory Knell

Gregory Knell, PhD

BS, Kinesiology, Texas A&M University
MS, Kinesiology, University of North Texas
PhD, Epidemiology, UTSPH

Research Interests:

Epidemiology of sleep, physical activity, and sedentary behaviors and their role in chronic disease and cancer prevention and control; Physical activity measurement

Career Aspirations: 

Research and teaching in an academic setting


Transit use and physical activity: Findings from the Houston travel-related activity in neighborhoods (TRAIN) study

Clinical importance of non-participation in a maximal graded exercise test on risk of non-fatal and fatal cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality: CARDIA study

Ecological Momentary Assessment of Physical Activity: Validation Study

The Effect of Light Rail Transit on Physical Activity: Design and Methods of the Travel-Related Activity in Neighborhoods Study

The Association of Trip Distance With Walking To Reach Public Transit: Data from the California Household Travel Study

Postdoc Alumni


William Calo, PhD, JD, MPH (September 2010 - June 2014)
Assistant Professor,  Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State University College of Medicine & Cancer Institute, Hershey, PA

BS, Biology, University of Puerto Rico
MPH, Epidemiology, University of Puerto Rico
JD, University of Puerto Rico School of Law
PhD, Health Management & Policy, UTSPH (June 2014)

Kimberly Enard, PhD, MBA, MSHA (December 2012 - July 2014)
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management & Policy, St. Louis University

BA, Mass Communications & Theater, University of Denver
MSHA/MBA, Health/Business Administration, Georgia State University
PhD, Health Policy & Management, University of California, Los Angeles (July 2014)

Kimberly Enard


Casey Durand, PhD, MPH (July 2012 - September 2014)
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health

BA, Government, Minor, History, University of Texas at Austin
MPH, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH
PhD, Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine (June 2012)

Albert Farias, PhD (March 2013 - August 2015)
Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California

BS, Biology, University of California, Los Angeles
MPH, Social Medical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
PhD, Health Services Research, University of Washington School of Public Health (2015)


Marieke Hartman, PhD, MS (March 2013 - August 2015)
Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam

BS, General Health Sciences, Minor, Physical Activity & Health, Maastricht University
MS, Health Education and Promotion, Maastricht University
PhD, Social Medicine, University of Amsterdam (February 2013)

L. Aubree Shay, PhD, LCSW, MSSW (February 2014- August 2016)
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio 

BS, Biology, Trinity University
MSSW, Social Work, University of Texas at Austin
LCSW, Clinical Social Work, State of Texas
PhD, Social & Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University (June 2013)


Timothy Walker

Timothy Walker, PhD (September 2016 - July 2018)
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health

BA, Zoology, Connecticut College
MA, Kinesiology, University of Connecticut
PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH (2016)

Predoc Alumni

Logan Thornton, DrPH, MPH (May 2011 - March 2014)
Assistant Director, Healthcare Transformation Initiatives at UTHealth McGovern Medical School

BA, Spanish, Randolph-Macob Woman's College
MPH, Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, George Washington University School of Public Health
DrPH,Health Promotion & Behavioral Science, UTSPH (May 2014)


Emily Neusel Ussery, PhD, MPH (September 2013 - May 2015)
Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

BA, Mathematics, Boston College
MPH, UTSPH, Austin Regional Campus
PhD, Epidemiology, UTSPH, Austin Regional Campus (May 2015)

Matthew Koslovsky, PhD (April 2015 - October 2016)
NSF/RTG Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Data Science

BS, Mathematics, The University of Texas at Austin
PhD, Biostatistics, UTSPH (Dec 2016)


Shelley Bluethmann, PhD, MPH, MA (June 2014 - April 2017)
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine at Penn State University

BA, English Language and Literature, University of Michigan
MA, Public Relations, Michigan State University
MPH, Public Health Leadership, University of North Carolina
PhD, Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH (May 2014)

Van T. Nghiem, PhD, MSPH (September 2014 - July 2017)
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

BS, Biomedical Electronics, Hanoi University of Science and Technology
MPH, Health Policy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
PhD, Health Economics, UTSPH, (May 2017)


Serena A. Rodriguez, PhD, MPH, MA (May 2016 - August 2017)
Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Clinical Sciences, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

BA, Psychology, Rice University
MA, International Service, University of Roehampton
MPH, Health Promotion; Global Health, UTSPH
PhD, Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH (May 2017)

Edward Tsai, PhD, MPH (September 2014 - December 2017)

BA, Biology, Washington University in St. Louis
MPH, Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan
PhD, Health Promotion & Behavioral Science, UTSPH (Expected August 2018)


Natalia Heredia, PhD, MPH (September 2014 - May 2018)
Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

BA, Psycholog & Policy Studies, Rice University
MPH, Health Promotion, Columbia University
PhD, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH (May 2018)