Stanford Epidemiology’s new BSSR Training Program welcomes first cohort of fellows for the Fall 2020 semester

November 4, 2020. The Behavioral and Social Science Research (BSSR) Predoctoral Training Program enthusiastically welcomes its first cohort of new fellows for the fall 2020 semester in Stanford's Department of Epidemiology & Population Health!

The BSSR is a new multidisciplinary training program in advanced quantitative training for predoctoral students in the social and behavioral sciences. Our first-ever cohort this fall represents students from Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences and School of Medicine, and the Departments of Sociology and of Epidemiology & Population Health. 

Terresa Eun is a PhD student in sociology at Stanford who is broadly interested in the intersection of health and inequality. More specifically, her research interests include: social inequalities in health phenomena; the intergenerational transfer of health through wealth (and vice versa); and the relationships among health, status, and organizations. “The BSSR program is an exciting opportunity for me not only to learn about population health from perspectives outside of my own field but also to receive methodological training specific to my interests in health and data science.” She adds, “I am especially looking forward to developing the advanced statistical and computational skills necessary to take advantage of advances in technology in order to produce rigorous, creative health research that contributes to our understanding of how social structures shape health outcomes and inequality.”

Michael Hittle completed his undergraduate degree in Human Biology at Stanford in 2019 after a first career in web engineering and marketing entrepreneurship. His pivot to computational epidemiology is driven by a passion for digital health, and a desire to leverage technology to improve both our understanding of disease and the outcomes of those impacted by disease. Michael's interests lie at the intersection of neurology and the mobile phone platform, and include novel digital endpoints, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and remote patient monitoring. Michael is an avid mountain biker, snowboarder and outdoor enthusiast; he also enjoys reading, playing and listening to music and spending time with his growing family. 

Sam Jaros is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health at Stanford’s School of Medicine. His research interests surround treating opioid addiction by combining pharmaceuticals with individualized therapy and community support. He hopes to use his training to spread awareness of opioid addiction as a treatable disease and improve the support extended to people with chronic conditions. Before coming to Stanford, he received undergraduate degrees in Bioinformatics and Sociology at Loyola University Chicago. “As a BSSR fellow, I hope to broaden and connect my skill sets in statistics and the social sciences,” says Jaros. “I strongly believe the other BSSR fellows and I will be in a unique position to take a multi-disciplinary approach to today’s most difficult health problems.”

A five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences (OBSSR) and its partner institutes--the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities--makes the program possible.  It will equip students with the behavioral/social science and computational skills to make important discoveries using novel study designs and big data.

This program will be led by: Lorene Nelson, PhD, an epidemiologist and biostatistician in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health; Abby King, PhD, a clinical health psychologist in the Departments of Epidemiology & Population Health and of Medicine; and Lesley Park, PhD, MPH, an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health and Associate Director at the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences. 

Abby King asserts, "The availability of large-scale, multi-level data generated by today’s digital health platforms offers unparalleled opportunities for advancing knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences, yet few behavioral and social scientists are currently receiving formal training in the data and computational science methods needed to take full advantage of these rich data sources. This is a major goal of this new state-of-the-science NIH training initiative."

The new cohort began work at the beginning of fall term, gaining advanced specialized training at the intersections of social and behavioral health science, epidemiology, data science, and population health. These students are working with primary mentors drawn from diverse behavioral and social science fields (e.g. health and social psychology,  medical sociology, social epidemiology, communications, health economics, education) and additional mentors from the quantitative disciplines (computer science, informatics, statistics, and engineering). 

Current BSSR predoctoral student, Michael Hittle, expressed his elation at being a part of the program's first year, stating "The BSSR program will enhance my methodological and computational skillset, and empower my research and pursuits. I'm excited to develop novel methodologies for monitoring health at the individual and population levels, and honored to be included in such an impressive cohort of aspiring scientists."

The Department of Epidemiology & Population Health (E&PH) opened in October 2019. We are Stanford’s academic and organizational home for studying factors that cause illness and impairment in human populations, offering expertise, research, and training on study design, data collection, analysis and proper interpretation of scientific evidence to improve human health in the clinic and in the field.