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Alumni Scholars

The KL2 program has been a game changer in my research career and provided me with a solid foundation to become a successful independent health disparities researcher. [It] allowed me to expand my research knowledge through a MS in Clinical Translational Science. Prior to the KL2 program, my research was limited to retrospective reviews and survey research. The protected time allowed me to conduct my first prospective observational pilot study. Since completion of the program, I have received continuous grant funding. The KL2 was instrumental in taking my research career to that next level and my grant funding and publication success are testaments to this amazing program.

Heather Prendergast, MD, MS, MPH, FACEP  |  Professor of Emergency Medicine, Co-Asst. Dean of Clinical Affairs

2020-2022 Heading link

Mia (Maan Isabella) Cajita, PhD, RN

Assistant Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, UIC College of Nursing

Mentor: Susan Dunn, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN, Associate Professor and Department Head, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, UIC College of Nursing

The overarching goal of Dr. Cajita’s research is to empower individuals to effectively perform self-care behaviors. Her current study is focused on the development and testing of an online health literacy-based heart failure self-care intervention.

Betsy Cliff, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Administration, UIC School of Public Health

Mentor: Jamie Chriqui, PhD, MHS, Professor and Director, MPH Program, Division of Health Policy and Administration, Co-Director, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy

Dr. Cliff uses microeconomic theory and methods to examine how incentives affect consumer behavior and spending in the medical system. Her studies have looked at low-value care, health insurance benefit design, provider prices, and price transparency initiatives. In her current project, she will examine medical care use for people in high-deductible health plans with chronic conditions and stratified by income.

Andrew Riley, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, UIC College of Pharmacy

Mentor: Terry Moore, PhD. Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UIC College of Pharmacy

Dr. Riley’s research focuses on the discovery, design, and development of novel small-molecules that target GPCRs and ion-channels implicated in pain and addiction. In doing so, he looks to provide new pharmacological tools to study the function of these receptors in the central nervous system and translate these basic science discoveries into new treatment options for patients.

Natasha Crooks, PhD, RN

Assistant Professor, Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science, UIC College of Nursing

Mentor: Geri Donenberg, PhD, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, UIC College of Medicine, Associate Dean of Research, School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Dissemination and Implementation Science, Director of the Healthy Youths Program

Dr. Crooks’ research program centers on addressing sexual health disparities in Black girls and women. Her current research focuses on translating her conceptual model into practice, exploring sexual pathways, and identifying Black girls at risk for early sexual engagement, sexual trauma, and STIs. Her future research goals include developing and conducting a multi-level STI/HIV prevention intervention to improve Black female sexual and reproductive health across the life course.

2019-2020 Heading link

Andrew Trotter, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, UIC College of Medicine

Mentor: Geri Donenberg, PhD, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, UIC College of Medicine, Associate Dean of Research, School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Dissemination and Implementation Science, Director of the Healthy Youths Program

Dr. Trotter’s research focuses on adapting and piloting an evidence-based peer navigator intervention (LINK-LA) to improve linkage and retention in HIV care for people living with HIV (PLHIV) who are released from prison. This project involved PLHIV who were released from Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) prisons into the care of the UIC Community Clinic Network (UCCN) HIV primary care clinics.

In 2020, Dr. Trotter was recently awarded pilot funding from UIC CCTS for his COVID project entitled, “Artificial Intelligence Modeling for COVID-19 Disease (AIMCOVID) to define COVID-19 clinical disease severity stages, improve clinical management decisions and develop a clinical outcome prediction model”

2018-2020 Heading link

Zackery P. Bulman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, UIC College of Pharmacy

Mentor: Alexander Mankin, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Biomolecular Sciences, UIC College of Pharmacy

Dr. Bulman investigates novel pharmacotherapeutic approaches that aim to overcome drug resistant bacteria and improve patient outcomes. Dr. Bulman was also recently awarded the Vahlteich Award from UIC College of Pharmacy this past June. His grant is entitled, “Tailor Made Antibiotic Combinations for Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae The goal of the project is to rationally optimize combinations with beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitors and aminoglycosides for carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae.

In 2020, Dr. Bulman received the UIC College of Pharmacy Hans W. Vahlteich Research Award.

Gregory Calip, PharmD

Assistant Professor, Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy, Center Affiliate, Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomic Research, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, UI Cancer Center

Mentor: Edith Nutescu, PharmD, MS CTS, FCCP, UIC College of Pharmacy

Dr. Calip’s research focuses on the relationships between multiple myeloma (MM) and its treatment with risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) and differences in risk by race as racial minorities are disproportionately affected by increased incidence, morbidity and mortality from various cancers in the United States (U.S.).

In 2020, Dr. Calip was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy, Center for Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomic Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In his tenure, he has over forty publications with 20 published with grant support from the KL2 program.

David Reed, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Biology, UIC College of Dentistry

Mentor: Lyndon Cooper, DDS PhD, Professor, Oral Biology, College of Dentistry

Dr. Reed’s research project is to define key aspects of the mechanobiology of healthy and diseased mandibular chondrocytes and to evaluate if select pathways can be therapeutically targeted to attenuate the progression of temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis (TMJ OA).

Dr. Reed was recently awarded his first NIH R56 grant entitled, “Cell-Matrix Regulation Of Fibrochondrocytes In TMJ OA”. This R56 defines how degradation of cartilage is communicated to the cell, how this process suppresses mechanisms that protect against cell death, and study how cell protection pathways can be promoted with monoclonal antibody therapy to attenuate the progression of TMJ arthritis.

Sarah Lutz, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, UIC College of Medicine

Mentor: Ernesto R. Bongarzone, PhD. Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Dr. Lutz’s research focuses on the better understanding the function and permeability of the blood brain barrier, in health and neuroinflammatory processes, particularly in multiple sclerosis. Her current project involves the regulation of the migration of Treg cells across the blood brain barrier by transcellular transcytosis.

In 2019, Dr. Lutz received a NHLBI supplement. Recent publications: