NIH Intramural Research Postbaccalaureate Virtual Poster Days 2021

NIMHD Intramural Research Postbaccalaureate Students Present at Virtual Poster Days 2021

The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) hosts poster sessions every year for recent college graduates (postbaccalaureate students, or “postbacs”) throughout the NIH Institutes to present their research to review panels and peers. The event provides an opportunity for these early scientists to share their NIH research while developing their communication and networking skills. Posters are reviewed by teams composed of graduate students, postdoctoral students, and staff scientists.

This year, we again held the Postbac Poster Days virtually, from April 27 through April 29, 2021. Approximately 950 researchers-in-training shared a variety of studies conducted under the supervision of NIH faculty. Eleven of the trainees were mentored by lead investigators in NIMHD’s Intramural Research Program (IRP), led by Scientific Director of the Division of Intramural Research Anna M. Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H. In addition, a trainee in the NHLBI lab of the NIMHD director presented her research. “Our trainees demonstrated excellent command of complex associations related to social determinants and health status, contributing scientifically to the advancement of cutting-edge health equity research,” says Nápoles.

The NIH Postbac Intramural Research Training Award Program is a 1- to 2-year research program for recent graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees. The program matches the postbacs to a project of interest in one of NIH’s more than 1,100 laboratories and research projects. Each project is led by a principal investigator at an NIH Institute or Center who mentors the postbacs. At NIMHD, there have been 20 postbacs since 2016.

At this year’s meeting, two NIMHD postbacs in the Nápoles lab presented their research. Jackie Bonilla, from the University of Georgia, discussed the effects of sharing research results on Latina study participants’ willingness to participate in future research. She found that providing a summary of study results in plain language could enhance participation in research among Latina participants and is consistent with maintaining community involvement in all phases of research. Stephanie Quintero, from Dartmouth College, evaluated a community-based participatory, peer-delivered stress management intervention for rural Latina breast cancer survivors. She presented results of a qualitative data analysis that identified key benefits and recommendations to the next phase of intervention iteration.

Postbacs from the lab of Sharon H. Jackson, M.D., M.H.Sc., included Isaiah Brown, from the University of Kentucky, who explored differences in physician care among U.S. adults with diabetes. Brown’s research found that, despite most respondents having ideal access to health care, health outcomes in patients with diabetes were still significantly affected by race/ethnicity and education level. Thus, having ample health care access does not guarantee better diabetes outcomes. Koya Ferrell, from Georgetown University, studied the impact of familial and community social support on the self-care of adolescents with chronic disease as they transition to adulthood. Her research found that, regardless of sources or amount of emotional support, individuals who had less than a bachelor’s degree were less likely to utilize healthcare than those who received a bachelor’s degree or greater.

Two postbacs in the lab of Faustine Williams, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., co-mentored by post-doctoral fellow Francisco Alejandro Montiel Ishino, M.P.H., Ph.D. also presented. Charlotte Talham, from the University of Florida, focused on social determinants of health and asthma risk in a nationally representative subpopulation of U.S. sexual minority (SM) adults (N=1,079), using latent class analysis (LCA). Her work identified four unique asthma risk profiles/groups as: (1) High-Socioeconomic Status (SES) Bisexual; (2) Low-SES Bisexual; (3) High-SES Homosexual; and (4) Mid-SES Homosexual. Results also showed that bisexual women have the highest asthma prevalence among sexual minority groups. Kevin Villalobos, from California State University, Los Angeles, examined risk profiles of sleep hygiene and mental health in 4,484 adult Puerto Rican participants in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), from 2010 to 2018. The four (4) classes identified are (1) undersleep with high mental health distress; (2) undersleep with moderate mental health distress; (3) undersleep with low mental health distress; and (4) normal sleep without mental health distress. His findings also revealed that Puerto Rican individuals in the undersleep risk profile classes experienced food insecurity and were more likely to be current smokers.

In the lab of Leonardo Mariño-Ramírez, Ph.D., postbac Whitney Teagle, from Grinnell College, took a “big data” approach, specifically looking at the relationship between comorbidity (the presence of more than one disease in the same person) and ethnic health disparities among 502,520 individuals assessed during 2006-2010 for the UK Biobank. Her research found that hypertension, diabetes, and peripheral vascular disorders generated the largest disparities, and that South Asian individuals and Black individuals experienced pairs of comorbidities significantly more often than White individuals.

A postbac from the lab of Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H., shared research on the impact of smoking on socioeconomic conditions after mid-life. A study by Aniruddh Ajith, from the University of Maryland, College Park, showed that smoking initiation and continuation in adulthood are associated with negative impacts on SES indicators later in life, suggesting that prevention and quitting smoking, especially during early adulthood, could improve SES indicators in the future. Kiana Hacker, also from the University of Maryland, College Park and in Choi’s lab, co-mentored by post-doctoral fellow Julia Chen-Sankey, Ph.D., M.P.P., found that police brutality concerns may contribute to subsequent tobacco and marijuana use, which can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes among Hispanic youth.

Postbac Phillip Hegeman, in the lab of Sherine El-Toukhy, Ph.D., M.A., presented his research on disparities in digital health technology access and use among U.S. adults. He identified six groups of digital health technology users, ranging from the “digitally isolated” to “super users.” He found that age and education were associated with access to and use of digital health technologies. He concluded that lack of access to and use of digital technologies can negatively impact health outcomes, and that making technology available and accessible to underserved populations is important to address inequities in digital health technologies access and use.

In the lab of Harold “Woody” Neighbors, Ph.D., postbac Anjali Purohit studied the causes and health impacts of Goal-striving stress (GSS) through a narrative review, scoping review, and data analysis. Her research investigates the effects of structural barriers and racial discrimination associated with the “American Dream” on GSS.

Saida Coreas, a postbac from California State University, Los Angeles, works in the NHLBI lab of NIMHD Director Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D. and is co-mentored by Staff Scientist Erik J. Rodriquez, Ph.D., M.P.H. Using data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, she studied the theory of segmented assimilation, using measures of acculturation and SES, on the incidence of cardiometabolic disease (diabetes and hypertension) in Hispanic/Latino individuals. Her research found that SES can differently influence the impact of acculturation on cardiometabolic health among Hispanics/Latino individuals. This differing influence suggests the possible existence of population groups with segmented assimilation, where the preservation of a community’s values and solidarity in a particular group may protect that group from worse cardiometabolic health.

The NIMHD Intramural Research Program enhances the postbacs’ research training and professional development. “I am both humbled and grateful to have found great mentors and to be working in a supportive environment that has enabled me to succeed in my fellowship while preparing for my next step—graduate school and beyond,” says Coreas.

Presenting posters gave the postbacs an opportunity to receive questions and feedback from reviewers and peers. This year, two NIMHD IRP postbacs, Ajith and Ferrell, received Outstanding Poster Awards, which go to the presenters whose posters were scored in the top 20% by a panel of researchers.

The postbac program supports scholars as they embark on a career in biomedical research, with the goal of eventually leading their own projects. “We are so privileged to have had such stellar trainees in NIMHD’s intramural research program. We look forward to seeing them go on and contribute their compassion and scientific excellence to reducing health disparities,” says Nápoles.

Page updated January 13, 2022