2020 Fellows

Astrid Cardona Acosta, BS

Doctoral Student, Behavioral and Cellular Neuroscience
Texas A&M University

eIRTI Senior Mentor: Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD
IRTI Peer Mentor: Luis Natividad, PhD

Astrid Cardona-Acosta is a first-year PhD student in the Behavioral and Cellular Neuroscience program at Texas A&M University. Her research interests focus on the study of causal relationship between early life experiences such as stress and psychotropic drugs, brain biochemistry, and behavior. As a graduate student she has taken part in several projects such as the long-term physiological and behavioral consequences of adolescent exposure to methamphetamine and investigating the underlying comorbidity between major depressive disorder and western-style diet. However, she is specifically interested in assessing the long-term neurobiological consequences of benzodiazepine (Alprazolam) drug exposure during adolescence, as it is a highly sensitive period during development. Due to their abuse potential, benzodiazepines can act as a primer for drug addiction liability in adulthood that ultimately leads to polydrug abuse. By using a conditioned place preference paradigm, she is investigating how pre-exposure to alprazolam during adolescence dysregulates reward sensitivity to low doses of opioid drugs. Moreover, she aims to assess molecular targets within brain regions that regulate reward and mood such as the ventral-tegmental area and nucleus accumbens, to further investigate how early alprazolam exposure may induce reward sensitivity to other drugs of abuse. Her long-term career goal is to become a well-rounded independent neuroscientist to contribute to the knowledge about mechanism(s) underlying drug abuse to the scientific community.

Selected Publications:

Sial OK, Parise LF, Cardona-Acosta A, Gnecco T, Vieregg EL, Skansi PN, Bolaños-Guzmán CA (2020) Early-life adversity followed by western-style diet leads to physiological dysregulation, depressive phenotype, decreases in reward sensitivity, and treatment resistance in adulthood. Manuscript under review.

Parise LF, Sial OK, Cardona-Acosta A, Vieregg EL, Skansi PN, Bolaños-Guzmán CA (2020) Extracellular-regulated kinase 2 in the lateral habenula regulates reactivity to stress in adolescent male rats. Manuscript under review.
Sial OK, Cardozo E, Cardona AM, Parise EM, Parise LF, Iniguez S, Bolaños-Guzmán CA (2020) Adolescent exposure to methamphetamine results in long-term physiological and behavioral consequences. Manuscript under review.

Jessica Frankeberger, MPH

Doctoral Student, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
University of Pittsburgh

eIRTI Senior Mentor: Alice Cepeda, PhD
IRTI Peer Mentor: Diana Sheehan, PhD

Jessica Frankeberger is a PhD candidate in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where she is affiliated with the Center for Social Dynamics and Community Health. She earned both a BS in Health Promotion in 2015 and an MPH in 2016 from the University of Southern California. Her current research focuses on the social and ecological contexts in which substance use and associated problems occur and how these contexts uniquely impact women, racial/ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations. Jessica’s dissertation will aim to understand how these environments contribute to maternal substance use, specifically examining how individual, community, and geospatial factors impact opioid-related hospital admissions and overdose among postpartum women.

Selected Publications:

Cepeda, A., Nowotny, K.M., Frankeberger, J.,Ramirez, E., Rodriguez, V.E., Perdue, T., & Valdez, A.(2020).Examination of multilevel domains of minority stress: Implications for drug useand mental and physical health among Latina women who have sex with women and men. PLOS One, 15(3), e0230437. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230437.

Mair, C., Frankeberger, J., Gruenewald, P., Morrison, C., & Freisthler, B. (2019). Space and place in alcohol research. Current Epidemiology Reports, 6(4), 412-422. doi: 10.1007/s40471-019-00215-3.

Nowotny, K.M., Frankeberger, J.,Cepeda, A., & Valdez, A. (2019). Trajectories of heroin use: A15-year retrospective study of Mexican American menwho were affiliated with gangs during adolescence. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 204,107505.doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.06.008.


NIDA. F31. (July 2020- June 2023). Social ecological contexts of opioid overdose and hospital readmission in the postpartum period.

Audrey Hai, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor, Social Work
Tulane University

eIRTI Senior Mentor: James Anthony, PhD, MSc
IRTI Peer Mentor: Catalina Lopez-Quintero, MD, PhD, MPH

Audrey Hang Hai is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Tulane University. She received her PhD in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and her MSW from University of Southern California. Dr. Hai has dedicated her scholarship to helping reduce Latinx health disparities with a focus on substance use interventions specifically designed or adapted for that population. She is especially interested in technology-based interventions for their potential to break the barriers to treatment commonly experienced by Latinxs (e.g., immigration related issues, stigma, cost/insurance) and their potential to make a large public health impact at a lower cost. Her short-term goal is to secure a K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development award to support further training and career development activities needed to become an independent NIH-funded intervention researcher. Some of Dr. Hai’s recent publications can be found in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, and Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Selected Publications:

Hai, A. H., Hammock, K., & Velasquez, M. M. (2019). The efficacy of technology-based interventions for alcohol and illicit drug use among women of childbearing age: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research,43(12), 2464-2479.

Hai, A. H., Franklin, C., Park, S., DiNitto, D.M., & Aurelio, N. (2019). The efficacy of spiritual/religious interventions for substance use problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 202, 134-148. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.04.045

Hernandez, M., Barrio, C., Gaona, L., Fernandez, P. H., Hai, A. H.,& Lim, C. (2018). Hope and schizophrenia within the Latino family context. Community Mental Health Journal, 55, 42-50. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-018-0354-5

Alyssa Lozano, MS

Doctoral Student, Public Health
University of Miami

eIRTI Senior Mentor: Richard Cervantes, PhD
IRTI Peer Mentor: Miguel Cano, PhD

Ms. Alyssa Lozano, M.S. received her Masters of Science in Prevention Science and Community Health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She works in the area of the promotion of behavioral health and family functioning among various groups of Hispanic youth, including sexual and gender minorities. Her research interests include a focus on qualitative research to inform intervention development. Specifically, she is interested in the development of family-based preventive interventions which address family functioning and reduce and prevent inequities in substance use and mental health outcomes among groups of Hispanic youth.

Selected Publications:

Lozano, A., Liu, F., Lee, T.K., Prado, G., Schwartz, S.J., Leventhal A.M., Kelleghan A.,Unger, J.B., & Barrington-Trimis, J.L. (2020). Bidirectional Association Between E-cigarette Use and Alcohol Use in Adolescents. Manuscript under review.

Lozano, A., Fernández, A., Tapia, M., Estrada, Y., Juan Martinuzzi, L., & Prado, G. (2020). Understanding the Lived Experiences of Hispanic Sexual Minority Youth and their Families. Manuscript under review.

Fernández, A., Lozano, A., Lee, T.K., & Prado, G. (2020). Screening for Adolescent Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors in Primary Care: Preliminary Evidence for a Family Functioning Tool. Manuscript under review.

Daisy Ramirez, PhD, MPH

Post-Doctoral Associate, Epidemiology
Florida International University

eIRTI Senior Mentor: Carlos Rodriguez, PhD
IRTI Peer Mentor: Angela Bazzi, PhD, MPH

Daisy Ramírez-Ortiz is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University. Daisy completed a PhD in Epidemiology at Florida International University in May 2020 and much of her research work during the PhD program focused on HIV/AIDS and alcohol use disparities affecting diverse groups of Latinos. She was a project coordinator and co-investigator for the Project on Health among Emerging Adult Latinos (Project HEAL). She currently works in the NIH -funded research projects: Just-in-Time Adaptive Interventions For Improving Young Latino Sexual Minority’s Success in HIV Therapy and Women-centered HIV Care Practices that Facilitate HIV Care Retention and Viral Suppression in the Presence of Adverse Sociocultural Factors. Her particular research interest is in improving linkage, retention and reengagement in HIV care and treatment in Latino populations by developing targeted public health interventions that address the unique and complex challenges to HIV care faced by Latinos in the United States. Her aspiration is to become an independent researcher and leader in HIV/AIDS and health disparities research.

Selected Publications:

Ramirez-Ortiz, D., Rojas, P., Sánchez, M., Cano, M. A., De La Rosa, M. (2019). Associations of Self-Silencing and Traditional Gender Attitudes with HIV Prevention Behaviors among Latina Immigrant Farmworkers. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 21(2), 430-433.doi: 10.1007/s10903-018-0773-y.

Villalba K., Ramirez-Ortiz D.,Dévieux, J.G.,Attonito, J., Rojas P. (2018). Gender-Role Attitudes among Immigrant Latinas: Empowering Women. World Medical andHealth Policy, 10(4), 401-414.doi: 10.1002/wmh3.288

Cano, M.A., Sánchez, M., Rojas, P., Ramírez-Ortiz, D., Polo, K.L., Romano, E., & De La Rosa, M. (2018). Alcohol Use Severity Among Adult Hispanic Immigrants: Examining the Roles of Family Cohesion, Social Support, and Gender, Substance Use and Misuse, 53(4), 668-676.doi:10.1080/10826084.2017.1356333.

Cho-Hee Shrader, MPH

Postdoctoral Scholar, Epidemiology
Columbia University

eIRTI Senior Mentor: Danielle Ompad, PhD, MHS
IRTI Peer Mentor: Nalini Negi, PhD, MPH

Cho-Hee Shrader is a postdoctoral scholar in the department of Global HIV Implementation Science at Columbia University. Her recently funded NIMHD F31 dissertation focuses on the synthetization of social network and geospatial analysis to characterize the influence of homophily on the access to PrEP-related information within social networks and communities. Specifically, she aims to understand how homophily among Latino men who have sex with men on substance misuse, Latino cultural values, and acculturation stress, affects the configuration of friendship networks, and how in turn, these configurations affect access to PrEP information within networks. She is affiliated with Dr. Mariano Kanamori’s Latinx Health Disparities and Social Network Lab and contributes her geospatial knowledge to Dr. Susanne Doblecki-Lewis’ mobile PrEP project and the CoVPN5 5001 study.

Selected Publications:

Kanamori M, Shrader CDe La Rosa M. A Timely Concern: Would Immigration Policies and Enforcement Actions Influence Higher Alcohol Dependence Among Latina Seasonal Farmworkers? Journal of Agromedicine. 2020: pp. 1-7.

Kanamori M, Williams M, Fujimoto K, Shrader CH, Schneider J, de la Rosa M. A social network analysis of cooperation and support in an HIV service delivery network for young Latino MSM in Miami. Journal of Homosexuality. 2019: pp. 1-14

Algarin AB, Shrader CH, Bhatt C, Hackworth BT, Cook RL, Ibañez GEThe Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Continuum of Care and Correlates to Initiation among HIV-Negative Men Recruited at Miami Gay Pride 2018. Journal of Urban Health. 2019: pp.1-10. 


NIMHD. F31. Latinx MSM Prep Disparities Due to Immigration Stress and Drug Use Networks