Doctoral Students

Inaugural T32 Social Determinants of Health HIV Fellows

Under the leadership of Gina Wingood, ScD, MPH a new NIH-funded T32 on Social Determinants of HIV is now housed in the department of Sociomedical Sciences. This grant provides tuition support and a stipend to PhD and DrPH students newly admitted to the departments of SMS, BIO, POPFAM and EPI. Recruitment of trainees is structured such that 50% of students enrolled are underrepresented. 

The T32 provides research training that addresses the social determinants of health and marginalizing structures that influence HIV. Trainees take coursework in the social and economic determinants of health, social epidemiology and HIV structural interventions, and participate in HIV Grand Rounds at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Betselot (Bets) Wondimu is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences. Bets graduated from the University of Maryland where he double majored in Public Health Science and Anthropology. Bets is interested in using a prevention science lens to identify and examine social and behavioral factors that frame experiences with HIV/AIDS, to the end of improving communication and redistributing resources to populations that have been historically excluded from access. As a doctoral student, Bets hopes to focus his research on the etiology of mental distress and foregone mental health care in black and immigrant populations. Prior to his doctoral studies, Bets worked as a Public Health Analyst at RTI International’s Center for Behavioral Health Epidemiology, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Safiya Sirota is a doctoral student in the department of Biostatistics. Safiya’s past research includes studying substance use patterns in the United States— historically and during the COVID-19 pandemic— and studying data literacy, specifically how people fall for misleading graphs. On this T32, Safiya will continue to study substance use and its connection to HIV and  will strengthen her understanding of quality health communication. Safiya looks forward to using her statistical skills to analyze the social determinants of HIV. She is also passionate about translating results into practical, digestible information that can be used to develop appropriate interventions. Prior to arriving at MSPH, Safiya received her BA at Wellesley College where she double majored in Mathematics and Psychology.

Dana Bezuidenhout is a PhD candidate in the department of Epidemiology.  Dana has an MPH in Epidemiology (and a Certificate in Global Health) from MSPH, and a BA in Biology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.  For the past four years, Dana has been working in South Africa for a research group investigating interventions targeted at early detection, diagnosis, and treatment retention of TB and HIV.  As part of this research, Dana was involved in examining the social determinates of retention along these disease cascades. Specifically, they assessed how social determinants that impact HIV prevention cascades among adolescent girls and young women. Dana is interested in further examining social determinants of health to other infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

Anubhuti (Anu) Poudyal is a doctoral student in the Sociomedical Sciences Department. Her background is in global mental health, with a focus on the delivery of evidence-based, technology-driven interventions in low- and middle-income countries. Anu is primarily interested in understanding social and cultural factors influencing comorbidities such as HIV and mental health. As a T32 fellow, she intends to explore social determinants of HIV that influence treatment outcomes and medication adherence among vulnerable populations with comorbidities. Before joining Columbia, she completed her MPH at Texas A&M School of Public Health and worked at the Division of Global Mental Health, George Washington University as a Senior Research Associate.

Rowe Family Fellows

Matthew Lee, MPH, BA is a DrPH student interested in enhancing implementation and sustainability in health policies and structural interventions. Matthew previously worked as a Quality Improvement/Technical Assistance Project Officer at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), and has also completed projects with the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, ICAP at Columbia University, and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. He received his MPH in Sociomedical Sciences with a certificate in Health Promotion Research and Practice from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and holds a BA in Anthropology and English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.

Sonia Mendoza, MPH, BA became interested in mixed-methods research and Latino health as an undergraduate at Stanford where she worked on community-based health intervention studies. As an MA student at Columbia she continued to pursue her interest in the social determinants of health and minority health. Her MA thesis analyzed the role of social networks and social cohesion in relation to obesity rates and health measures within enclaves of Latino communities in the US. As a researcher in a NIDA funded study at NYU Medical Center, her interest in mental health, stigma, and policy were solidified and inform her published works on addiction and racialized medicine. Here she developed her understanding of structural influences on health and qualitative research skills. As a doctoral student, Mendoza uses her ethnographic and quantitative research methods to study clinical cultures, the production of medical knowledge, and dissemination of health interventions in ethnic minority communities. 

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