We are proud of the IPRC’s graduate students! Students are an important part of the IPRC. There are typically over 20 graduate and postdoctoral students directly involved in the IPRC’s projects in any given year. Throughout its history, the Center has contributed substantially to the training of over 175 graduate students. We are proud that many of our former students are employed in leading positions as researchers or practitioners in universities; community, state, and national agencies and centers; and non-governmental agencies.

Graduate Students

Ishrat Alam headshot

Ishrat Alam

Graduate Research Assistant

Ms. Alam is a first-year doctoral student in the department of Epidemiology. She received a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Mathematical Decision Sciences from UNC. For her honors thesis, she analyzed racial bias in police use of force in the New York “Stop and Frisk” policy. Prior to starting her doctoral program, she worked as an Economist at RTI International, where she evaluated the effects of public health media campaigns on attitudes and behaviors and studied national disparities in tobacco use among LGBT young adults.  Outside of work, she volunteered as a Crisis Hotline Companion and Support Group Facilitator at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. Her research interests include violence prevention, minority health, and econometric methods.

Mary Figgatt, MPH headshot

Mary Figgatt, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Mary is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology. She received her MPH in Epidemiology from Drexel University. Prior to beginning her doctoral training, she was an epidemiologist at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, where she implemented the city’s first drug overdose death review program and led several other epidemiological projects. Mary also completed the CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellowship at New York State Department of Health. Her research interests include substance use, infectious diseases, and the impact of policy on health outcomes.

Kate Vinita Fitch headshot

Kate Vinita Fitch

Graduate Research Assistant

Kate Vinita Fitch is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and a research assistant for the Innovations in Suicide Prevention Research (INSPIRE) project at IPRC. Prior to coming to UNC, she completed her BA in Public Health from the University of Colorado Denver while conducting research on disparities in how threatening individuals are when they are killed by police based on their race and mental health status. Kate’s primary research interests are self- and other-inflicted violence, including suicide, police brutality, and domestic abuse, especially against people with mental illness.

Katherine Gora Combs, MPH headshot

Katherine Gora Combs, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Katherine Gora Combs is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and works as a graduate research assistant on the North Carolina Opioid Settlement Dashboard. Katherine is a two-time alumna of UNC, having received a Master of Public Health (Health Behavior) with a certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (Biostatistics) with a second major in Music (Performance). She is the 2021-2022 recipient of the Gary G. and Carolyn J. Koch Merit Scholarship in Public Health and was inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in 2021. Her research interests center on the intersection of research, policy, and practice to address substance use, including opioids, alcohol, and poly-drug use. In addition to her studies and research, Katherine enjoys attending concerts of all genres, exploring new restaurants, and going to sporting events (Go Heels!).

Claire Hoffman headshot

Claire Hoffman

Graduate Research Assistant

Claire Hoffman is a second-year MPH student in the Department of Health Behavior. Prior to beginning her MPH, Claire worked at Abt Associates for three years as a policy analyst, conducting health services research. She worked on a wide variety of projects, ranging from access to mental health services to juvenile justice to oncology care reform. Since arriving at UNC, Claire has worked with Dr. Beth Moracco on research about firearm-related intimate partner violence. At IPRC, Claire supports the Harm Reduction Learning Network and the Injury-Free NC Academy. Her research interests include behavioral health, community engagement, and health equity.

Muhammad Hudhud, MS headshot

Muhammad Hudhud, MS

Graduate Research Assistant

Muhammad Hudhud is a first year doctoral student in the Department of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health. A native of Baltimore, MD, Muhammad completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Johns Hopkins University in public health and public mental health respectively. His research interests include injury control and violence prevention, specifically around firearm, youth, interpersonal, and self-directed violence. Muhammad enjoys cooking, working out, reading, and playing piano.

Julie Kafka, MPH headshot

Julie Kafka, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Ms. Kafka is in her third year of the doctoral program in the Department of Health Behavior at UNC Gillings. Prior to her doctoral work, she worked at the Education Development Center (EDC) in Boston on early childhood mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention. She received her MPH from UNC in 2018 and was inducted into the Delta Omega honorary society for studies in public health. Ms. Kafka works primarily with Dr. Beth Moracco studying firearm-related intimate partner violence. She has also worked with the NC Department of Public Health on the state’s violent death reporting system (NC-VDRS). Ms. Kafka is a recipient of the Jamie Kimble Foundation Scholarship for courage. Her dissertation focuses on the contribution of intimate partner violence to firearm suicide. She is interested in applied research and systems change for violence prevention.

Amelia Martin headshot

Amelia Martin

Graduate Research Assistant

Amelia Martin is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology investigating occupational fatality trends and disparities in North Carolina. Prior to coming to UNC, she received her B.S. in Biology and a secondary-major in Global Health from Duke University. She has worked on projects examining the impact of e-waste exposure on maternal and child health, the relationship between green space access and chronic health outcomes, and infectious disease community transmission. Her current research interests include air pollution and heavy metal exposure, pesticide exposure, and occupational health.

Kristin Shiue, MPH headshot

Kristin Shiue, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Kristin Shiue is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology. Before coming to UNC, she received her MPH in Epidemiology from the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine and worked at IQVIA as a member of the Injury Surveillance & Analytics team, collaborating on research efforts to examine injury and player health in professional sports leagues. Kristin is a recipient of the Gillings School’s Robert Verhalen Endowed Scholarship in Injury Prevention/Trauma Management and the Gary G. and Carolyn J. Koch Merit Scholarship in Public Health. Beyond sport-related injury, Kristin’s research interests lie at the intersection of substance use and pain, particularly the leveraging of large healthcare databases and integrated data systems to guide the development of effective strategies to manage pain and mitigate the ongoing opioid crisis.

Bhavna Singichetti, MPH headshot

Bhavna Singichetti, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Ms. Singichetti is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and recipient of the Shults Injury Prevention Scholarship. She received an MPH in Epidemiology at The George Washington University. Before coming to UNC, she worked as a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where she earned the distinction Outstanding Research Associate in Clinical Research for 2017. Her research interests include pediatric injury, traumatic brain injury/concussion, and transportation safety (including systems thinking).

Monica Swilley-Martinez, MPH headshot

Monica Swilley-Martinez, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Monica is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology. She received her MPH in Epidemiology from the Colorado School of Public Health. Prior to beginning her doctoral training, worked as both a Healthcare Consultant and Research Assistant conducting applied public health research. At the IPRC, Monica supports the Innovations in Suicide Prevention Research (INSPIRE) project. Her research interests include substance abuse disorders, reduction of risk-taking behaviors in young adults, and self-directed violence prevention.

Katherine (Katie) Wolff, MPH headshot

Katherine (Katie) Wolff, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Bio coming soon!

Student Research Groups

An Innovative Approach to Supporting Student-Led Groups

Over the past 5 years, the IPRC has utilized an innovative approach to supporting student-led groups with interests in specific areas of injury and violence research. Initially, this method arose from the IPRC’s desire to support a multi-disciplinary group of students with a shared research interest in gender-based violence (GBV) and has since expanded to supporting other student-led research groups focused on other injury-related topics (e.g. opioid drug overdose and child abuse and neglect). The student-initiated GBV Research Group, with IPRC support, has grown into a campus-wide GBV research consortium that is leading and generating its own publications, presentations, seminar series, journal club, and annual symposium. The Opioid Drug Overdose (ODO) Research Group and the Child Maltreatment Prevention Research and Practice Network are also well organized and productive. The ODO Research Group is implementing a faculty speakers’ series and research workshops where students share their research and receive support from their peers and faculty. The Child Maltreatment Prevention Research and Practice Network is working with faculty to conduct a systematic review to examine the availability, psychometric properties, and use of social determinants of health screening measures to detect early indicators of risk and inform care among youth in clinical settings.

Learn more about IPRC-supported student research groups here.

Alumni Spotlight

Heather T. Keenan, PhD, MPH, DCM

Professor in Pediatric Critical Care, Primary Children’s Hospital at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Dr. Keenan’s key accomplishments in graduate school include completing the first ever population-based study of abusive head trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome) in the United States and completing a mixed methods research study that identified disparities in evaluation and diagnosis of child abuse. During her graduate education, Dr. Keenan received the Bert Kaplan Best Student Publication by the UNC Department of Epidemiology and the Gillings School of Global Public Health Bernard Greenberg Award for Excellence in Doctoral Research. Dr. Keenan graduated with a PhD in Epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2004.

IPRC’s contribution to training: Dr. Keenan was advised by Dr. Steve Marshall (IPRC Center Director) and mentored

Alumni Spotlight

Mel Downey-Piper, MPH, CHES

Director of Health Education and Community Transformation, Durham County Department of Public Health, Durham, NC

During her graduate education, Dr. Downey-Piper received the Kerr Memorial Award for commitment to community health education and the Lucy Morgan Award for integrity and leadership in health education. Key accomplishments since graduating with an Master’s degree in Health Behavior Health Education from the Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2008 include leading the largest Health Education Division in NC, launching the state’s first replication site of the Cure Violence program, leading a 400-member coalition, which won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize, and co-leading Durham’s first Health Impact Assessment, which resulted in funds for connecting sidewalks around schools in Durham, NC.

IPRC’s contributions to training: Ms. Downey-Piper was trained by IPRC faculty in the development of study procedures, research tools, and implementation methods as part of the Violence Against Home Health and Hospice

Alumni Spotlight

Shankar Viswanathan, DrPH, MSc

Assistant Professor in the Division of Biostatistics, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY

During his graduate education, Dr. Viswanathan received travel awards from UNC IPRC and the UNC Department of Biostatistics in addition to the Delta Omega Award. His key accomplishments since graduating with a DrPH in Biostatistics from UNC Chapel Hill in 2011 include his influential research on inflicted traumatic brain injuries in children in India, mentoring numerous trainees domestically and internationally in injury and violence prevention research and biostatistics, and being an Associate Editor for the BMC Public Health journal.

IPRC’s contributions to training: Dr. Viswanathan was advised by IPRC faculty and an IPRC graduate research assistant throughout his doctoral training.

Alumni Spotlight

Catherine Vladutiu, PhD, MPH

Senior Epidemiologist in the Office of Epidemiology and Research at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)

Dr. Vladutiu’s key accomplishments in graduate school included conducting the largest state-based study of motor vehicle crashes and adverse pregnancy outcomes in North Carolina. She received the UNC Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award and the SOPHE/CDC Unintentional Injury Prevention and Control Fellowship. Since graduating with a PhD in Epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2012, Dr. Vladutiu’s key accomplishments include facilitating and leading the redesign of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program’s performance measurement system.  In 2018, Dr. Vladutiu was a recipient of the Early Career Professional Achievement Award in MCH Epidemiology – a National MCH Epidemiology Award sponsored by the Coalition for Excellence in MCH Epidemiology.

IPRC’s contributions to training: Dr. Vladutiu was mentored by IPRC Directors Drs. Carol Runyan and Steve Marshall.

Alumni Spotlight

Jared Parrish, PhD, MSc

Senior Epidemiologist in the Alaskan Division of Public Health in Anchorage, AK

Dr. Parrish’s key accomplishments in graduate school include linking multiple administrative databases to examine predictive analytics for child maltreatment in Alaska. During graduate school, he received the Doris Duke Fellowship for the promotion of child wellbeing and prevention of child abuse and neglect. Since graduating with a PhD in Epidemiology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2016, Dr. Parrish’s key accomplishments include co-chairing the Alaska Statewide Violence and Injury Prevention Partnership, and serving as the Technical Advisor for measurement to the Federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

IPRC’s contributions to training: Dr. Parrish collaborated on and gained experience through various projects at IPRC to quantify national, regional, and state rates of abusive head trauma in infants and was advised by Dr. Steve Marshall.