Cancer Control Research Training Program

Building the next generation of cancer control-focused researchers and public health professionals by encouraging mentorship and collaboration.

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About our program

Welcome to UTHealth School of Public Health’s Cancer Control Research Training Program. 

The Cancer Control Research Training Program has both predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships funded by the National Cancer Institute to launch your successful career in cancer prevention and control research.

Application deadline for postdoc applications is October 15, 2021.

The people—faculty mentors, advisory committee, and program directors—and robust curriculum are the heart of our program. The program offers more than 30 investigators with experience and training in multiple disciplines and cultural backgrounds who have built collaborative networks in Houston, the U.S., and internationally. Mentors work closely with research centers at the school—e.g., The Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, and the Institute for Health Policy—and with MD Anderson and Simmons Cancer Centers.

In our 27th year, the Cancer Control Research Training Program has a strong history of achievement and offers unique training in health disparities, implementation and dissemination science, and program development and adaptation. Historically, one-third of our fellows are from under-represented groups. Our fellows go on to strong postdoctoral programs and faculty positions.

Questions? Email us at ncifellowships@uth.tmc.edu.

About the predoctoral program

Download the predoctoral fellowship application.

Our funding from the National Cancer Institute provides four fellowship positions per year for doctoral students who show outstanding promise for research careers in cancer prevention and control. Fellowships are awarded to newly admitted or continuing students at UTHealth School of Public Health doctoral programs at all campuses. See the Doctoral Fellow Individual Development Plan.

Predoctoral fellows receive:

  • Support for up to 4 years
  • $26,324 annual stipend plus health insurance
  • Tuition and fees, books, software, and travel
  • Outstanding faculty mentoring in a thriving interdisciplinary research environment
  • Weekly contact with faculty, postdocs, and other doctoral fellows through a seminar focused on proposal writing, publication, and career development

Historically, one-third of our fellows have been members of under-represented groups. Recent predocs have moved to postdoctoral positions at Washington University at St. Louis, UT Southwestern, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Fred Hutchison Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, National Cancer Institute, and the Epidemic Intelligence Service (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


About the postdoctoral program

Download the postdoctoral fellowship application.

Our funding from the National Cancer Institute enables us to support four postdoctoral fellows per year. Postdocs in the training program must have a PhD, DrPH, MD or other doctoral degree in health promotion/health education, a behavioral or social science discipline, communication, epidemiology, health services research, health economics, health policy, biostatistics, or a related area of study.

Over a two to three year period, postdocs build their publication records, gain valuable experience on interdisciplinary research teams, take advanced courses, and write at least one proposal for their own funded research in cancer prevention and control. Postdocs will be mentored by our esteemed faculty who are internationally recognized in the areas of implementation research, cancer control and population sciences, health equity, and cancer epidemiology. See the Postdoctoral Fellow Individual Development Plan.

Postdoctoral fellows receive:

  • Support for up to 3 years
  • Annual stipend starting at $52,704, depending on experience
  • Health insurance, tuition and fees, books, travel, and software
  • Access to project portfolios with interdisciplinary teams addressing diverse risk factors with a strong focus on under-served groups
  • 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

Alumni are on the faculties at Duke, University of Arizona, Baylor College of Medicine, UTHealth School of Public Health, UT Southwestern, University of South Carolina, University of California at San Francisco, Medical College of South Carolina, and Pennsylvania State University.

Meet the faculty supporting the program

Program directors

M Fernandez
Maria E. Fernandez, PhD, Director

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

S Vernon
Sally W. Vernon, PhD, MA, 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

Patricia Dolan Mullen, DrPH, MLS, 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 predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows within UTHealth School of Public Health, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and other academic environments.

Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS, Regional Dean of the UTHealth School of Public Health Austin Campus, John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion and founding Director of the internationally renowned Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living leads multiple additions to the CATCH school health program that have undergone successful testing and dissemination.

Cheryl L. Perry, PhD, is the Director and PI of the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth and Young Adults. She served as Scientific Editor of the 1994 and 2012 Surgeon General's Reports on preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults, and on the Scientific Editorial team for the 1st national report on e-cigarettes in 2016.

Xianglin Du, MD, PhD, Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Health Sciences, is a gerontologist and cancer epidemiologist who has received ongoing support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for analyses of SEER-Medicare data on cancer screening, stage at diagnosis, treatment disparities, and survivorship issues.  He leads Program trainees in analyses of these and newly linked national databases, leading to numerous publications in high impact cancer journals.

Stephen H. Linder, PhD, Professor of Management, Policy, and Community Health and Director, Institute for Health Policy has won numerous state-wide teaching awards. He has extensive experience with "knowledge transfer" projects, with community-based environmental risk assessment, and with community surveys that provide data to the public for community planning.

Karen Basen-Engquist, PhD, MPH, is Annie Laurie Howard Research Distinguished Professor in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Director, Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship.  She is an alumna.

Loma Haughton McNeil, PhD, MPH, is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Health Disparities Research. She also directs the Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research.

Jasmine Tiro, PhD, is the Co-program Leader of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.  She is an Associate Professor, Division of Clinical Sciences at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.


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. You can review a list of previous mentors to see whose research interests align with your own. Mentors come from several different institutions, including the School of Public Health, UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, UTSouthwestern and UTMDAnderson, and fellows are encouraged to review mentor biographies on their respective school websites. Mentoring is taken seriously by the program, which has formalized expectations of predoc and postdoc mentors.

Current fellows

Predoctoral fellows

Maya Foster, MPH 

August 1, 2019 - Present
Working on: PhD, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences
Research Interests: Food and nutrition disparities among the African American community, with a focus on dissemination, implementation, and adaptation of evidence-based interventions for this community.

Jacquelin Cordero, LMSW

Working on: PhD, Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences
Research Interests: Mixed methods research; reduction of cancer health disparities/inequities of underserved populations through community outreach and education; survivorship/peer-support; primary prevention and harm/risk reduction among substance use/misuse- associated cancers (alcohol, tobacco, and IV drug use), and vaccine-preventable cancer-associated infections (Hep B, HPV).

Postdoctoral Fellows

Katie Janda, PhD

June 1, 2020 - Present
Research Interests: Food insecurity and health disparities, with an emphasis on using multiple sources of data and methods; the relation between food insecurity and cancer risk and prevention.

Dale Mantey, PhD

June 1, 2020 - Present
Research Interests: Impact of tobacco regulatory policy on use behaviors among youth and young adults. Specific do-mains include flavored tobacco products, dual/poly use, nicotine dependence, and tobacco marketing exposure.

Sharice Preston, PhD, CHEW

March 16, 2019 - Present
Research Interests: Social and behavioral science, mixed methodologies, minority health disparities and equity, Cancer prevention (specifically HPV vaccination), intervention design, implementation and evaluation, provider communications, social and behavioral vaccine hesitance.

Jacob Szeszulski, PhD

May 16, 2019 - August 31, 2021
Research Interests: Children and adolescent health, school-based health promotion, community-based participatory research, dissemination and implementation science.

Program alumni

Postdoc alumni

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

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

Casey Durand, PhD, MPH (July 2012 - September 2014)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTHealth School of Public Health

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

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

Aubree Shay, PhD, LCSW, MSSW (February 2014- August 2016)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTHealth School of Public Health in San Antonio

Timothy Walker, PhD (September 2016 - July 2018)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences, UTHealth School of Public Health

Predoc Alumni

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

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

Matthew Koslovsky, PhD (April 2015 - October 2016)
NSF/RTG Postdoctoral Research Associate in Data Science at Rice University

Shelley Bluethmann, PhD, MPH, MA (June 2014 - April 2017)
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Public Health Sciences, Penn State University College of Medicine & Cancer Institute at Hershey, PA

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

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

Natalia Heredia, PhD, MPH (September 2014 - May 2018)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Health Disparities Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


    Alumnus appointed to Texas Radiation Advisory Board

     Dr. William “Will” Pate, was appointed to the Texas Radiation Advisory Board (TRAB) and will remain in this position until the end of his term on April 16, 2023. Dr. Pate is one of 10 Texas professionals appointed to this board.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - Pate

    William Pate

    Conducting needs assessments and "meeting people where they are"

    UTHealth School of Public Health researchers work to bridge that gap between what intervention programs offer versus what's needed by creating programs based on input from the individuals who have lived the experiences. 

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - Meeting People Where They Are

    Vanessa Schick, PhD; and J. Michael Wilkerson, PhD, MPH

    Leading data collection effort aimed at reducing teen pregnancy

    The data collection effort, expected to take six months, is the second part of a yearlong planning phase to address the issue of pregnancy prevention among children in foster care. Melissa Peskin, PhD, associate professor with UTHealth School of Public Health, will lead the effort.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - CLYC slider

    Dr. Markham works with community partner. Photo by Aaron Nieto.

    Preventing and caring for HIV in homeless youth

     Alexis Sims, a doctoral student in health promotion and behavioral sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, has been awarded a $100,000 supplemental research grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate HIV prevention and care in homeless youth.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - NIH funding for HIV

    Alexis Sims, MPH

    Carol Huber appointed to the Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Huber will serve as a member representing regional healthcare partnerships.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact 2020 - Carol Huber appointed to Value Based Payment and Quality Improvement Advisory Committee for Texas

    Carol Huber

    Understanding how one dose of the HPV vaccine may prevent infection

    A new study revealed that one dose of the HPV vaccine may prevent infection from the potential cancer-causing virus, according to research published in JAMA Network Open by UTHealth School of Public Health researchers.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - HPV dosage slider

    Study authors Ashish Deshmukh, PhD, MPH; and Kalyani Sonawane, PhD. Photo by Maricruz Kwon.

    Meeting the public health education needs of the Permian Basin community

    UTHealth School of Public Health and the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) College of Business have partnered to provide graduate students with the opportunity to earn a Graduate Certificate in Public Health while simultaneously earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) beginning Spring 2020.

    READ MOREUTPB Partnership CertificateSPH - Our Impact - UTPB Partnership Certificate

    UTHealth School of Public Health Dean Eric Boerwinkle, PhD, UTPB President Dr. Sandra Woodley

    Fighting back against the vaping epidemic among youth

    As e-cigarette use by young people reaches epidemic proportions, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) have received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct the first-ever assessment on the long-term results of a nationwide nicotine vaping prevention program for youth called CATCH My Breath.

    READ MORESPH - Our Impact - vaping epidemic

    Steven H. Kelder, PhD, MPH