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School of Public Health News February 13, 2024

Degrees and graduation years: B.S. in Psychology, UAB 2012; MS in Public Health, Concentration in Pharmacoepidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research, UAB 2016

Anna Junkins, MSPHAnna Junkins, MSPHQ: What universities have you attended, degrees earned and graduation years?

B.S. in Psychology, UAB 2012

MS in Public Health, Concentration in Pharmacoepidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research, UAB 2016

Q: Which program within the Department of Epidemiology are you currently enrolled?


Q: What is your anticipated graduation date from your current program?

Summer 2024

Q: Tell me about yourself (where you grew up, how you got into public health, how you ended up at UAB, etc.)

I grew up here in Birmingham and attended Briarwood Christian and Oak Mountain schools, then Auburn University and finally UAB. After a short but awesome experience at Auburn (including being a part of the amazing marching band!) I chose to come back home and attend UAB to be closer to family. I first developed a passion for public health research when I was a Psychology student volunteering for a Department of Health and Human Services-funded treatment program for men without homes with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance abuse conditions in the Birmingham area. Enhanced Addiction Recovery through Housing (EARTH) was a collaboration between UAB and community agencies, including the Firehouse Shelter. Led by PIs Dr’s. Jesse Milby and Joe Schumacher, the treatment program helped men create and achieve meaningful goals towards housing, abstinence and in other areas of their lives. In addition to being a part of the research analyses and publication of the results showing the impact of the program, I was also able to participate in the meetings and see first-hand the life-changing impact the EARTH program had, helping men achieve job positions, abstinence and permanent housing. This opportunity opened my eyes to health disparities and helped develop a passion for research which aims to reduce disparities among underserved people in the community, leading me to pursue graduate training in Public Health.

Q: Why did you choose to study Epidemiology? And why at UAB?

Several conversations with an undergraduate research mentor of mine led to my exploration of the graduate programs in the School of Public Health. The MSPH program in the Epidemiology department appealed to me most because of the rigorous training in statistical methods it required. I wanted to gain the best training to allow me to be a successful epidemiologist and study how to reduce health disparities. After completing the MSPH program and before entering the Ph.D. program, I had the opportunity to work for two years with Dr. Pauline Jolly in the department as an assistant for the Minority Health Research Training (MHRT) program. This opportunity helped me gain a broader understanding of health disparities globally and to collaborate with and learn from researchers in places such as Peru, Zambia, Guatemala and Jamaica.

Q: Is there a faculty member who has made an impact on your academic journey during this program?

I have an amazing mentorship team in Dr. Sadeep Shrestha and Dr. Mirjam-Colette Kempf. They have served as my research mentors since I began the Ph.D. program. Over the years, they have always pushed me to do my best work and encouraged me to pursue training that helps me grow. They were extremely supportive and helpful when I sought a National Cancer Institute individual award (F31) that would ultimately fund my dissertation work. In addition to their excellent research mentorship, Dr. Shrestha and Dr. Kempf have been extremely supportive of my overall well-being and my attempt at balancing work and motherhood. It hasn’t been an easy ride having two of my three children during the Ph.D. program but having supportive and caring mentors has made the journey possible!

Q: Have you been involved in any interesting projects or organizations during your time here?

One exciting part of my dissertation work has been conducting qualitative in-depth interviews. I have learned so much about HIV care and about aspects of people’s day-to-day lives that affect their care. In addition to their perspectives enlightening the research topic, I have thoroughly enjoyed talking with them and learning from them. I have received feedback from many of them that they have enjoyed talking with me and having a researcher listen to them also, which makes all the hard work of a dissertation worthwhile and meaningful to me.

An amazing organization I was a part of during the Ph.D. program was the Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program (CPCTP). I was very fortunate to be a CPCTP pre-doctoral fellow for two years. As trainees, we got to learn from many different experts and be engaged in the incredible O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. Additionally, the pre-doc and post-doc fellows had a broad range of training and the CPCTP encouraged a collaborative experience for us all to be part of. Being a part of that small group also helped sustain community for me during the COVID-19 pandemic and kept me engaged in the research I was passionate about.

Q: What’s been your favorite class in the School of Public Health and why?

I have taken many amazing courses in the School of Public Health during my MSPH and Ph.D. programs. One of my favorites taken during the Ph.D. program was Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research in Public Health (HCO 728) taught by Dr. Janet Turan. This course was instrumental in solidifying my desire to utilize mixed methods in my dissertation as well as to pursue the Graduate Certificate in Applications of Mixed Methods Research, which has greatly enriched my graduate training. Another favorite was Cancer Epidemiology and Control (EPI 713) taught by Dr. John Waterbor. It taught me a lot and challenged me to conduct a thorough investigation of infectious causes of cancers to share with the class. Categorical Data Analysis (BST 655), taught by Dr. Leann Long, was another challenging and exciting course, perhaps the most challenging course I have taken! I think what makes courses in the School of Public Health so special are the amazing instructors. Our School has a host of inspirational faculty members with such a broad spectrum of expertise and global experience.

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