NCI Fellowships

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NCI Fellowships - NCI Fellowships

Welcome to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) 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 interdisciplinary training program has an excellent track record: graduates go on to strong post-doctoral programs and faculty positions and become independent investigators. We work with three research centers at UTSPH: The Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research (CHPPR), the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, and the Institute for Health Policy (IHP). Our research centers are involved in a variety of projects which provide opportunities to work on research project teams and to advance research skills.

  • 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, 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, 25% of our post-doc 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 and Medical School -Houston, University of South Carolina and University of Georgia.

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

Fellowship Programs

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.

Pre-doctoral fellows receive:

  • Support for up to three years
  • $24,000 annual stipend at 100 percent time
  • Excellent benefits, tuition, books, software, travel
  • Statistical and writing consultation
  • $4,000 for dissertation expenses NEW!
  • One position open for an international student beginning Sept. 1, 2015 NEW!

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 with a strong emphasis on underserved groups
  • Established track record, now in its 22nd 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 2–3 years
  • Annual salary $50,000 and up
  • Excellent benefits, tuition, books, software, travel, and statistical and writing consultation
  • Up to $8,000 is available for research expenses NEW!

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 22nd 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, and in addition fellows interact regularly with the Program Directors. 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

Patricia Dolan Mullen, DrPH, Program Director

Patricia Dolan Mullen, DrPH, Program Director
Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and Senior Investigator and Training Director, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Research interests: Health promotion for disadvantaged women, including incarcerated women; motivational models of behavior change; informed decision making for cancer and other screening tests; sexual risk behavior; evaluation methods; systematic review, evidence mapping, and meta-analysis.

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

Sally W. Vernon, MA, PhD, Co-Director
Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Epidemiology, Director of the Division of Behavioral Sciences and Health Promotion, and Senior Investigator, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Research Interests: Breast cancer screening; prostate cancer screening; psychosocial aspects of genetic testing for hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer; and worksite health promotion

Maria E. Fernandez, PhD image

Maria E. Fernandez, PhD, Co-Director
Professor of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research

Research Interests: Cancer control, Hispanic populations, informed decision-making health promotion planning and evaluation, health informatics, health communications

Advisory Committees

Our Advisory Committee represents wide-ranging expertise in cancer prevention and control and in training and mentoring pre- and post-doctoral fellows within the University of Texas 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

Predoctoral Fellows


Serena Rodriguez, MA, MPH

BA, Psychology & Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations, Rice University
MA, International Service, Roehampton University & University of Technology 
MPH, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH 
Working on PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH 

Frances Kellerman, MS

BA, Environmental Engineering Sciences, Rice University
MS, Community and Regional Planning, UTSPH- University of Texas-Austin
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, UTSPH

Andrea Betts, MPH

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

Huang photo
Danmeng Huang, MPA

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

Research Interests:

Policy design, Decision analysis, Economic evaluation, Mathematical modeling, Breast cancer screening

Ed image

Edward Tsai, MPH

BA, Biology, Washington University 
MPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, UTSPH

Research Interests:

Physical Activity, Behavior Change, Theory and Methods

natalia image

Natalia Heredia, MPH

BA, Psychology/Policy Studies, Rice University 
MPH, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, UTSPH

Research Interests:

Physical Activity and Nutrition

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Van Nghiem, MSPH

BSc, Biomedical Electronics, Hanoi University of Science and Technology 
MSPH, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Working on: PhD, Health Economics, UTSPH

Research Interests:

Decision Science, Mathematical Modeling, Healthcare Costing, Infectious Diseases, Cancer

Post-Doctoral Fellows 



Timothy J. Walker, PhD
Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, UTSPH

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

Research Interests:

Cancer prevention; Physical activity; Program implementation; Measurement development

Career Aspirations: 

Research and teaching in an academic setting


Amy E. Hughes, PhD
Department of Clinical Sciences, UT Southwestern Medical School

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:

Spatial statistics; Spatial econometrics; Geospatial methods; Geographic health disparities; Cancer screening; EHRs

Career Aspirations: 

Research and teaching in an academic setting

ASPO March 2017-Cropped

Albert J Farias, PhD, MPH
Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Health

BS, Biology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
MPH, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Columbia University
PhD, Health Services (emphasis in Evaluation Sciences, Statistics, and Cancer Prevention and Control), University of Washington 

Research Interests:

Quality of cancer care, Health disparities, Breast cancer, Cancer prevention and control, Evaluation and biostatistics

Career Aspirations:

A tenured professor at a major research university and cancer center


Matthew Koslovsky, PhD
Biostatistician, KBRwyle, Houston,Texas

BS, Mathematics, The University of Texas- Austin
PhD, Biostatistics, University of Texas Health Science Center- School of Public Health (Dec 2016)

L. Aubree Shay, PhD, LCSW
Assistant Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center- School of Public Health, San Antonio Regional Campus

BS, Biology, Trinity University
MSSW, Social Work, University of Texas at Austin
PhD, Social and Behavioral Health, Virginia Commonwealth University (Dec 2013)

Marieke Hartman, PhD
Research Scientist, University of Amsterdam

BS, General Health Sciences, Maastricht University
MS, Health Education and Promotion, Maastricht University
PhD, Public Health, University of Amsterdam (Feb 2013)

Emily Neusel Ussery, PhD, MPH 
Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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

Kimberly Enard, PhD
Assistant Professor, St. Louis University

BA, Mass Communications, English/Theater
MSHA/MBA, Health/Business Administration, Georgia State University
PhD, Public Health, University of California (July 2014)

William Calo, PhD, MPH
JD Postdoc, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

BS, biology, University of Puerto Rico
MPH, epidemiology, University of Puerto Rico
JD, University of Puerto Rico School of Law
PhD, Health Policy and Law, UTSPH (June 2014)

Shelley Bluethmann, PhD, MPH, MA
Postdoctoral Fellow, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD

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