SPHHS Faculty Named 2019-20 Family Research Scholars

From left: Airín Martínez, Nicole VanKim, and Jennifer Whitehill

March 26, 2019

Three faculty from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences are among the six 2019-20 Family Research Scholars selected by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Research on Families (CRF). The CRF chooses six faculty members each year for the program based on their promising work in family-related research. The SPHHS recipients were Airín Martínez and Jennifer Whitehill, Assistant Professors in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy, and Nicole VanKim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

The scholars will participate in an intensive year-long seminar that provides concrete skills for successful grant submission, peer and faculty feedback on their developing proposals, individualized methodology consultation with CRF faculty and renowned experts and guidance on funding sources. The current group is the 16th cohort in the program's history.

Martínez plans to examine the relationship between chronic psychosocial stressors and physiological stress on salivary uric acid, a biomarker for oxidative stress, among Latinx families of different migrant family structures. The study hopes to demonstrate the consequences of parents’ legal vulnerabilities for children’s physical health. She hopes that her research can reverse policies excluding U.S. immigrant populations and inform community-based prevention strategies.

VanKim’s goal is to develop a better understanding of how exposure to discrimination, stigma and bias, on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, may increase risk in developing type 2 diabetes. Specifically, she is interested in studying the potential mechanisms that contribute to sexual orientation disparities in type 2 diabetes among women; these potential mechanisms may be higher levels of cortisol and insulin resistance that exacerbate risk for type 2 diabetes among LGBT individuals. 

Whitehill proposes to identify associations between state policies, community factors, and individual factors and drug-involved motor vehicle crashes. Her study will provide a comprehensive look at the problem of drug- and polysubstance-involved motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. and yield insights relevant to policymakers and public health advocates seeking to reduce the burden of drug-impaired driving on individuals, families and society.

Read about all the scholars here.