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Faculty Members Receive Prestigious NIH Challenge Grants

On behalf of the entire Mailman School faculty I congratulate Drs. Fuller, Lumey, and Munoz-Laboy and their colleagues receiving these highly competitive awards. The development of leading-edge science and the translation of this knowledge into new policies, standards, and approaches to health promotion is the cornerstone of our work at the Mailman School, and the ongoing research by all three Challenge grant recipients will have a significant impact on many lives.

— Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health

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Stephanie Berger
212-305-4372

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sb2247@columbia.edu

October 15, 2009 -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research, competitive awards funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to three members of the faculty at the Mailman School of Public Health. Recipients of the prestigious awards are principal investigators Crystal M. Fuller, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology; Miguel Munoz-Laboy, DrPh, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences; and L.H. Lumey, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology. These Challenge grants will support the next phase in their ongoing research projects.

Crystal M. Fuller, PhD
Crystal Fuller will continue to investigate multilevel behavioral and structural interventions that improve quality and accessibility of healthcare services in low income, urban environments.  She will use the Challenge grant for the next phase of her research that will evaluate a pharmacy-based pilot structural intervention that combines rapid HIV testing with other screening services, including blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol screening, as a means to reduce stigma associated with HIV testing in communities highly burdened with HIV and limited access to healthcare in New York City. The program includes offering testing services to all drug using and non-drug using pharmacy patrons instead of singling out those who buy non-prescription syringes through the Expanded Syringe Access Program.

Dr. Fuller will be using the latest, most advanced HIV testing technologies and bringing technological innovations and treatment modalities to low-income communities in New York City.

“If our model is successful, we anticipate that it can be duplicated not only throughout other high-risk neighborhoods in New York, but in other cities and states,” says Dr. Fuller.

Co-investigators on the grant are Silvia Amesty, MD, MsED, MPH, assistant clinical professor, Mailman School Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, and College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S); Carlos Rodriquez, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor, Mailman School Department of Epidemiology and P&S Department of Medicine; Jo Phelan, PhD, professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health; and David Vlahov, PhD, senior vice president of Research and director of Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies at New York Academy of Medicine, and professor of clinical Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health. Consulting on the project are Patricia Case, ScD, senior research scientist, The Fenway Institute; and Stuart Feldman, PhD, dean, Touro College of Pharmacy.

L. H. Lumey, MD, PhD
L.H. Lumey will continue his work examining the associations between maternal famine exposure in different stages of pregnancy and DNA methylation patterns in adulthood. This also includes investigating how these DNA patterns are related to risk factors for cardio-vascular disease and diabetes. Dr. Lumey's research will help lead to a better understanding of the very early sources of differences in disease across populations and how the environment shapes human development.

“The field of epigenetics holds great promise in helping us understand the basis of human disease,” says Dr. Lumey, “and this study offers a unique opportunity to look at the interaction between epigenetics and life conditions very early in pregnancy and to examine possible long-lasting effects on health over the life course.”

Co-investigators include Mary Beth Terry, PhD, co-PI, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, who has been involved in epidemiologic case-control studies of breast and colorectal cancer for over 14 years and is currently studying how DNA methylation effects breast cancer risk; Ezra Susser, MD, DrPh, professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School and professor of Psychiatry at P&S, whose work has examined the role of early life experiences and their associations with health and disease throughout the life course; Regina Santella, PhD, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School and director of Columbia’s NIEHS Center, whose research involves developing laboratory methods for detection of human exposure to environmental and occupational carcinogens; Yu-Jing Zhang, PhD research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences; and Ian McKeague, PhD, professor of Biostatistics, who has collaborated on ongoing studies in the birth cohort program.

Miguel Munoz-Laboy, DrPH
Miguel Muñoz-Laboy will begin a study to examine the social network factors of drug use and sexual risk behavior among formerly incarcerated Latino men in order to develop the foundation for a network-based intervention to reduce HIV and sexually transmitted infections for this population. The majority of HIV prevention interventions have failed to consider the role of social-familial networks in the post-incarceration experiences of FILM.

“The lack of attention to contextual factors is worrisome, as research supports the importance of understanding cultural, familial and social network factors for reducing HIV-infection among disproportionately affected populations, including Latinos and formerly incarcerated men,” says principal investigator Dr. Muñoz-Laboy on behalf of the researchers. This study is among the first to investigate HIV risks among this Latino population.

In addition to Dr. Muñoz-Laboy, the research team consists of Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, MSW, principal investigator, associate professor of Social Work, Columbia University; Richard Parker, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health Professor of Sociomedical Sciences; and Marni Sommer, DrPH, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences and director of Sociomedical Sciences Global Health Track, Mailman School of Public Health.

“On behalf of the entire Mailman School faculty I congratulate Drs. Fuller, Lumey, and Munoz-Laboy and their colleagues receiving these highly competitive awards,” says Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health. “The development of leading-edge science and the translation of this knowledge into new policies, standards, and approaches to health promotion is the cornerstone of our work at the Mailman School, and the ongoing research by all three Challenge grant recipients will have a significant impact on many lives.”

Funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the NIH designated approximately $200 million in FYs 2009 - 2010 for the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research to support research on high priority topics within broad challenge areas. The research in these areas focus on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds to quickly advance the area in significant ways and are expected to have a high impact in biomedical or behavioral science and/or public health.

About the Mailman School of Public Health
The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University’s history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master’s and doctoral degrees, and the School’s 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness. www.mailman.columbia.edu Contact: Stephanie Berger, Mailman School of Public Health, 212-305-4372, sb2247@columbia.edu

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