UTH

CoLab

Research

Objectives

CoLab is led by four CHPPR University of Texas Health faculty with international and domestic substance use and chronic disease research backgrounds. Their research is focused on assisting and improving the lives of underserved people with a history of substance use, mental health concerns, comorbidities, and sexually transmitted diseases. The team hopes to eliminate inequities and health disparities through training opportunities, health education, and social justice programs while collaborating with diverse, marginalized communities.

Projects

Housing for Opioid MAT Expanded Services (Project HOMES)

Housing for Opioid MAT Expanded Services (Project HOMES)

Project HOMES provides housing for people in Medication-Assisted Recovery (MAR) from opioid and stimulant. Our residences across the Texas region are substance-free and work to create a supportive environment for people with a history of problematic substance use. We have 14 homes, all in compliance with National Association for Recovery Residence (NARR) standards. We have conducted quantitative and qualitative research in evaluating our residents and a cost-benefit analysis to capture the net benefit of recovery residents to society. Our main objectives include identifying variables to promote positive health outcomes, identifying programming priorities, and informing decision-making for people with an opioid use disorder (OUD). While recovering from opioid use is a personal experience that looks different for every person, we hope to capture all the unique experiences that every resident encounters in their recovery journey.

Our Website

National Alliance for Recovery Residences

Trohn

Using Local Data to Tackle a National Problem: Overdose Data to Action

Using Local Data to Tackle a National Problem: Overdose Data to Action

Forty cities and health departments fund OD2A: Local to build a strong foundation and facilitate cooperation among public health, behavioral health, health systems, community organizations, and public safety. We are using data to tailor prevention strategies to reach groups who are disproportionately affected by the overdose epidemic and are at the highest risk of overdose and developing robust partnerships with local overdose responders. We aim to ensure that culturally relevant information and the delivery of prevention projects are informed through data and ongoing engagement with populations.

National Overdose Response Line

CDC - Overdose Data to Action

Behavioral Workforce Education and Training (BHWET)

Behavioral Workforce Education and Training (BHWET)

As a program funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Behavioral Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) is working to expand the recovery support peer specialists (RSPS) workforce in Texas. The program builds on the Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP). RSPS assists individuals with substance use disorders using medication-assisted treatment and living in recovery residences. The RSPS program also trains people interested in becoming peer specialists through educational classes and internships, where they are supported with fees, tuition, and training and receive a stipend.

Health Resources and Services Administration

Recovery Support Peer Specialist (RSPS) Fellowship Program Application

Enhanced Integrated Treatment Program with Sexual Health in Recovery

Enhanced Integrated Treatment Program with Sexual Health in Recovery

E-ITP SHIR is an evidence-based intervention funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for increasing access to sexual health, substance use, and mental health treatment for Latino and African-American gay/bi men and transgender women who are at risk for contracting or transmitting HIV and use drugs during risky sex. The program assesses each client’s sexual health and existing shame about sexual behaviors. The ITP consists of several tailored formats: (1) An intensive outpatient program, individual therapy, and case management; (2) A supportive outpatient program to address relapse prevention plus individual therapy and case management; (3) Individual therapy and case management.

The Montrose Center

SAMSHA

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - Review of Opioid Abatement Strategies

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - Review of Opioid Abatement Strategies

The goal of this project was to conduct a literature review on strategies to abate opioid use disorders, train health providers and community leaders on how to use Narcan and help people with opioid use disorders get started on medically-assisted therapies. In addition, we also evaluated the coordination of care of individuals undergoing medication-assisted treatments (MAT), routine treatments, and the effectiveness of prevention programs, and support services. We also provided actionable items to prevent overdose deaths and improve healthcare services.

Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Abatement Council

People

Sheryl McCurdy

Sheryl McCurdy, PhD

Professor
Houston

Dr. McCurdy is a professor at the UTH Science Center Houston. Since 2003, she worked in Tanzania on harm reduction and heroin recovery. Currently, she is working on an NSF cultural anthropology award examining heroin care networks in Tanzania. Alternatively, she facilitates HRSA-funded paraprofessional training programs to increase the number of recovery support specialists and evaluate the effectiveness of an online training curriculum in rural Texas and the Texas-Mexico border. Along with Dr. Wilkerson, she manages Project HOMES providing recovery residences for people using MAT.

Publication List

Johnny M. Wilkerson

Johnny M. Wilkerson, PhD

Associate Professor
Houston

Dr. Wilkerson is an Associate Professor at the UTH Science Center in Houston. Currently, he serves as the Diversity Officer and a Faculty Co-Coordinator for the Health Disparities Certificate Program and has been working as a practitioner and researcher in community health education for over twenty years. His research focuses on the identification of individual and structural determinants that contribute to health disparities among priority populations and the development and evaluation of health promotion programs.

Publication List

Kathryn R. Gallardo

Kathryn R. Gallardo, PhD

Assistant Professor Non-Tenure Research
Houston

Dr. Gallardo is an Assistant Professor at the UT Health Science Center at the Houston School of Public Health. She is a licensed master social worker and holds a PhD in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Gallardo’s research interests center on examining, expanding, and enhancing access to recovery support services (RSS) for underserved and marginalized populations, including individuals taking medications for an opioid use disorder (MOUD) and emerging adults. She is particularly interested in exploring how MOUD-related stigma can be combated within the context of RSS.

Publication List

Serena A. Rodriguez

Serena A. Rodriguez, PhD

Assistant Professor
Dallas

Dr. Rodriguez is focused on designing, implementing, and evaluating interventions that improve healthcare delivery and reduce disparities, particularly among historically marginalized patient sub-populations. Her research focuses on the implementation of science and cancer prevention and control with her experiences in community-based global health work. She has led multiple studies examining access to women's health services in rural Uganda, cervical cancer screening among women with refugee status, and cancer care delivery for women living with HIV.

Publication List

Estevan Herrera

Estevan Herrera, BMST

Project Manager
Houston Campus

View bio

Estevan (Steve) is the Project Manger of Project HOMES. He previously managed multiple high-impact organizations in the behavioral sciences and has previous experience as a clinical biochemist. Currently, he is collaborating with multiple community partners, including the National Association Recovery residences.

Sreelatha Akkala

Sreelatha Akkala, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Sreelatha is the current project lead of Comptroller and a current PhD student in the department of Health Services Research with a minor in epidemiology and biostatistics. Her research and current projects reflect a keen interest in substance use disorders, particularly opioid use disorders.

Michael Anosike

Michael Anosike, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Austin Campus

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Michael is a PhD student in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and the project leader of BWHET. He also has an MPH in epidemiology and a bachelor’s in public health. His current research interests include harm reduction methods, chem sex, and opioid substance use.

Alejandro Betancur

Alejandro Betancur, MSc

Research Coordinator II
Houston Campus

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Alejandro is a PhD student in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. He is one of the program coordinators for OD2A and the CHW. His academic training includes degrees in clinical psychology, psychoanalytic research, and psychology, and his primary research focus is substance use.

Jasmin Blue

Jasmin Blue, BAP

Research Assistant II
Austin Campus

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Jasmin is a research assistant with CoLab and an MPH student at the Austin Regional Campus. Her current interests focus on health promotion theory and practices that can enhance one’s pre-existing strengths to promote habits toward building long-term recovery.

Yogitha Koneru

Yogitha Koneru, MBBS

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Yogitha is a current MPH student in epidemiology. She has an MBBS from Southern Medical University and received a fellowship at Medvarsity. She has over six years of experience in cardiology, general, diabetic, in-patient, and outpatient care while serving as a consultant cardiologist and senior medical officer.

Jakira Lewis

Jakira Lewis, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Jakira is a second-year Ph.D. student and the current project coordinator of EITP-SHIR. She received an MPH in Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health. She also worked at the Texas Department of State Health Services and the State of Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She is passionate about perinatal health care and health equity.

Casey Malish

Casey Malish, BSW

Research Assistant II
Houston Campus

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Casey, with an MSW from the University of Houston, brings a decade of recovery experience to CoLab. He has worked extensively with substance use and incarcerated populations. As a Research Assistant at UT Health, Casey collects data on people in recovery utilizing Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid use.

Urvi Mehta

Urvi Mehta, B.D.S

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Urvi is an MPH student in epidemiology who is passionate about reducing oral health disparities within vulnerable populations. As a GRA with CoLab, she is currently collecting data on opioid use disorder treatments in Texas. Her career goal is to become a pediatric dentist while advocating for oral health equity.

Sagar Mukhida

Sagar Mukhida, B.D.S

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Sagar is a current MPH epidemiology student, a trained dental surgeon, and a GRA in Project Homes. His research interests include oral health, cancer, infectious diseases, and general epidemiology. He is driven to address opioid use disorders and contribute meaningfully to public health challenges.

Jenny Niedenfuehr

Jenny Niedenfuehr, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Jenny is a first-year PhD student and a GRA with CoLab. She has an MPH in behavioral sciences, a BA in anthropology, and a culinary certificate. Her previous research spans chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, women’s health, rare diseases, and mental health, and is passionate about improving patient-provider communication.

Michael Pena

Michael Pena, BAP

Research Assistant I
Austin Campus

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Michael is a research assistant with Project HOMES. Previously, he received a BA in psychology from Texas State University, where he also worked as a research assistant on the SPACES study, assessing whether people prescribed stimulant medication aids their learning. Currently, his research interests include drug use and addiction.

Roshitha X. Ramisetty

Roshitha X. Ramisetty, B.D.S

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Roshitha received her Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery in 2019. She practiced as a dental surgeon for three years before moving to the US in 2021 to pursue her MPH with a major in Epidemiology. She is passionate about dental public health, and her research interests include oral health and reducing oral health disparities.

Sakshi Rana

Sakshi Rana, B.D.S

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Sakshi is an experienced dentist from India pursuing her MPH in Epidemiology. She is currently working on projects related to dental infections and opioid use recovery. At Project HOMES, she coordinates participant retention and the culinary curriculum, driven by her deep commitment to improving healthcare outcomes.

Jose Silva

Jose Silva, BS

Data Collector and Marketing
Houston Campus

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Jose Silva is a graphic design intern for CoLab and has a BS in Graphic Design. His main areas of specialty are branding, print design, and illustration. While working with CoLab, Jose has had the opportunity to develop skills to create cohesive visual experiences with a wide array of platforms and mediums.

Hannah H.N. Stewart

Hannah H.N. Stewart, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Hannah is a current PhD candidate and received an MPH in global health. Hannah's past and current research centers on the lived experience of concerns related to individuals' mental health or substance use. She works as a doctoral GRA on projects focused on substance use and recovery homes.

Isabel Thomas

Isabel Thomas, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Isabel is a current Ph.D. student and a GRA with CoLab. Her current research focuses primarily on substance use disorder (SUD), program recruitment, and health communication. Previously, she received her BS degrees in English literature and Spanish language and her MPH degree from Georgia Southern University.

Sean Wheeler

Sean Wheeler, BA

Research Assistant I
Houston Campus

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Sean is a research assistant on Project HOMES and has worked in medical data collection for clinical research trials for the last three years. His other work includes leading broad-base economic justice movements and empowering the LGBTQ+ community through education and skill building.

I. Niles Zoschke

I. Niles Zoschke, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant
Houston Campus

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Niles is a current doctoral graduate research assistant at CoLab and focuses on qualitative analysis in substance use recovery. With an MPH and a BA in Anthropology, they were nominated in 2021 to represent students on the IDEA Committee while being recognized for their commitment to advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity.

Alumni

Name and Credentials Title Organization Contact Information
David Adzrago , PhD, MPH Data Analyst / Research Scientist National Institute of Health (NIH) LinkedIn
Amber Armstead, DrPH, OTR, BCPR Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy University of Texas Medical Branch LinkedIn
Sierra Castedo de Martell, PhD, MPH Postdoctoral Research Fellow Justice-Involved and Emerging Adult Populations (JEAP) Initiative Linkedin
Angela Di Paola , PhD Postdoctoral Associate Yale School of Medicine E-mail
Sylvia M. Lawler , PhD, MA Epidemiologist Harris County Public Health LinkedIn
Elizabeth O. Obekpa , DrPH, MPH Suicide Prevention Program Evaluator New Mexico Department of Health Epidemiology and Response Division - Office of Injury and Violence Prevention Linkedin
Jayson Rhoton , PhD, MA Chief Research Scientist Defense Equal Opportunity Institute LinkedIn

Get Involved

We are always looking for new people to join our team. Feel free to reach out to our Project Manager, Steve Herrera.

Job Listings for Students

Students can apply for CoLab opportunities on the Handshake portal.

Handshake

Job Listings for Staff

Apply for opportunities on the UT career website.

University of Texas Health Houston Careers

Alternative Staff Site for Employees

Apply for opportunities on the UT career website

Careers at UT Health Houston

Are you interested in getting your master's or a doctorate in public health while getting hands-on experience with the CoLab research team? Reach out to our CoLab faculty to explore opportunities for mentoring throughout your studies at the University of Texas.

School of Public Health Departments

Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Data Science, and Management, Policy and Community Health

Department Page


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.

Admissions | Academic Programs | Research Centers

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Resources

We have listed several resources, tools, and organizations that we believe are beneficial in helping members of our commnuity find support. We are actively partnering and collaborating with these organizations. The following tools and resources will be updated seasonally.

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