Marcia Otto's Research Lab

Robust Nutrition Science to Inform Dietary Interventions, Policy, and Clinical Practice



Our research focuses on the role of diet on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognition, and cancer survivorship to inform the design of dietary programs and clinical practice to reduce diet-related disease burden in adult populations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Otto also co-led a productive, collaborative effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid the critical groundwork for disease surveillance in the region, facilitating an evidence-based public health response to the outbreak in Southeast Texas.


The U-DINE Study

The U-DINE Study

The objective of the Uncovering the Long-Term Impact of Oropharyngeal Cancer and Dysphagia on Dietary Quality and Nutrition Among Veteran Cancer Survivors (U-DINE) Study is to examine the patterns of low-quality diet among individuals with oropharyngeal cancer during the acute, extended, and permanent stages of cancer survivorship. This project is conducted in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Everything in moderation? Dietary diversity, quality and cardiovascular health

Everything in moderation? Dietary diversity, quality and cardiovascular health

Goal: to examine the role of diet diversity for diet quality and risk of cardiovascular disease among diverse U.S. adults.

Harris Cares – Embrace Hope COVID-19 Analytics Harris County

Harris Cares – Embrace Hope COVID-19 Analytics Harris County

Goal: To strengthen disease surveillance by quantifying dynamics, patterns, disparities, and trends in SARS-CoV-2 testing, infection, and vaccination among individuals living in the Greater Houston area.


Marcia C. Otto

Marcia C. Otto, PhD

Associate Professor

Marcia Otto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Houston, Texas. She received her postdoctoral training in Nutritional and Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health after earning a PhD in Environmental Health from UTHealth Houston School of Public Health. Otto’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Publication List

Kristen Sandulache

Kristen Sandulache, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Kristen Sandulache received her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Pittsburgh. As a research dietitian at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, she is currently collecting dietary information from participants with oropharyngeal cancer as part of the UDINE study.

Ji Yun Tark

Ji Yun Tark, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)

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Ji Yun Tark, MPH, is a Ph.D. candidate in Epidemiology whose dissertation focuses on the association between protein intake and the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. As a graduate research assistant, she conducts literature review, data analysis and assists with reports and manuscripts for ongoing studies.

Savi Appana

Savi Appana, MS


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Savitri Appana, MS, is a biostatistician with an MS in Statistics/Mathematics and more than 20 years of experience and training in biostatistics, statistical model building, hypothesis testing, automated report generation, statistical programming, study data management, and utilizing statistical software such as SAS, R/RStudio, SPSS, and Stata.

Kimberly Morrison

Kimberly Morrison, MPH


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Kimberly Morrison, MPH joined Dr. Otto’s lab at the beginning of 2023 to investigate primary sources of essential nutrients among oropharyngeal cancer patients. Morrison completed her MPH from UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in May 2023.


Name and Credentials Title Organization Contact Information
Mahalia Sampson-Ansah, MPH Trainee, Fall 2022 UTHealth Houston School of Public Health
Victoria Angelle, RD Registered Dietitian, 2021-22 UTHealth Houston

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About School of Public Health

UTHealth Houston is internationally recognized as one of the world's great research universities. The School of Public Health connects research, education, patient care, and community outreach in bold, innovative ways. Basic scientists and clinical researchers from all disciplines work together to deliver innovative solutions that create the best hope for a healthier future. Our faculty are pioneering radical solutions for imminent public health problems and provide the tools and resources that will push our students to think critically and creatively both in and out of the classroom. This is where academic rigor meets real-world application.

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Here are some resources for those interested in learning more about healthy eating patterns and some exciting, potentially high-impact initiatives related to our work.

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