Doctoral dissertation research award helps students fund their research projects

photo of Ben King at APHA
Ben King, doctoral student

HOUSTON – Ben King, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, was recently presented with the Fall 2017 Doctoral Dissertation Research Award from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. Doctoral dissertation research awards provide students with funding for research-related expenditures that are essential to the conduct and successful completion of their doctoral dissertations and that fall outside of the scope of typical graduate school expenses.

The award will help fund King’s research efforts for his dissertation proposal titled “Assessment and findings of the vulnerability index (VI-SPDAT) survey of individuals experiencing homelessness in Travis County, TX.” The VI-SPDAT is currently used in Austin by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) to prioritize who is at higher health and wellbeing risk and who should be prioritized in receiving housing services. Through his research, King says he hopes to “understand the strength and limitations of the VI-SPDAT as a measurement tool, to validate the tool by comparing a random sample of assessments to electronic medical records, and to study the characteristics of the data collected through the coordinated assessment.”

The funds from the doctoral dissertation research award will assist King in completing his proposal.

“There is a specific step in my research study, in which the combined surveys and electronic record data was to be bolstered with data from a community health information exchange organized by an office called the Integrated Care Collaborative (ICC),” says King. “Once I initiated the request process, it was made clear that it would require a small amount of funding which was more than I could pull together, but less than a formal grant proposal might call for. The School of Public Health dissertation award was well designed and perfectly timed to plug this sudden leak in my proposal plans so that I could move forward.” 

Isabel Roth
Isabel Roth, Dr.P.H., M.S., alumna and postdoctoral research fellow

Isabel Roth, Dr.P.H., M.S., an alumna of UTHealth School of Public Health and postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Management, Policy and Community Health, was bestowed the Spring 2017 Doctoral Dissertation Research Award from the School of Public Health. The award helped fund Roth’s research efforts for her dissertation proposal titled “Ethnography of Integrative Pain Treatment at a Large Urban Pediatric Hospital.” Roth conducted an ethnography to learn more about complementary therapies and how they were integrated into the pediatric hospital environment. After spending six months conducting interviews and observations, Roth decided to create a short animated video based on her results and to communicate her research findings to the community.

The funds from the doctoral dissertation research award assisted Roth in completing the animated video. Roth and her mentor Sanghamitra Misra, M.D., medical director of the Texas Children's Mobile Clinic Program, worked with Kindea Labs’ animation team to produce a video that captured their vision.

“My hope is that this video can be used as a tool to illustrate the research process and the findings from this project to reach a larger audience,” says Roth. “Particularly for a research project involving pediatric patients, I wanted to produce a product that they could interact with, in addition to peer reviewed publications for a more academic audience.” View Roth’s animated video here at

For more information about the doctoral dissertation research award guidelines, please visit the Office of Research website here.     

— Written by Kori Gould