BIRCWH Scholars


The Tulane BIRCWH program has recruited a total of 25 scholars since its inception in 2002. Together, these individuals form a dynamic and diverse group of young researchers from a variety of backgrounds.

Sarah A. O. Gray

sarah gray

Sarah A.O. Gray, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology in Tulane University's School of Science and Engineering. Her research focus is on early childhood.

Her research examines relational and contextual risk and protective factors that contribute to young children’s psychosocial and educational adjustment.  She is particularly interested in studying the contexts of poverty, violence exposure, early caregiving relationships, and schools, and in elucidating mechanisms of change in interventions for young children and their caregivers.

Her BIRCWH research will center around maternal and child health, with specific interests in moderators and mediators in the biological embedding of early stress and trauma and a focus on parasympathetic cardiovascular and relationship-based pathways.


LaKeisha Williams,
PharmD, MSPH

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LaKeisha Williams, PharmD, MSPH, is a clinical researcher in pharmacy and faculty member in the College of Pharmacy at Xavier University of Louisiana. As a faculty member at Xavier University, Dr. Williams has served as an instructor, preceptor and mentor to introductory and advanced level pharmacy students. She has two clinical practice sites at the Louisiana State University (LSUHSC) Ambulatory Care Clinics, serving as a clinical preceptor for third and fourth year pharmacy students and as a clinical pharmacist providing medication therapy management services to patients, and pharmacotherapeutic recommendations to healthcare professionals of an interprofessional team. As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Williams’s research aims to explore gender and racial/ethnic determinants and intervention to improve medication adherence, with a focus on vulnerable and underserved populations with chronic cardiovascular health conditions.


Elin Grissom, PhD

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Elin Grissom, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology in Tulane University’s School of Science and Engineering. Her dissertation work focused on sex differences and the influence of gonadal hormones on the brain in early life.

In the BIRCWH program, Dr. Grissom will take her experience from the lab of Dr. Jill Daniel and explore the connections between the brain and cardiovascular functioning. Considering that elevated blood pressure is a grave problem in postmenopausal women, Dr. Grissom will seek to discover if findings on estrogen and cognition can be extended to areas of cardiovascular health. As a BIRCWH Scholar, she will be researching whether the short- course of estrogen therapy can impact the central control of cardiovascular function in the brain, thereby leading to long-term improvements in women’s cardiovascular health. 

John S. Schieffelin, MD

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John S. Schieffelin, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics in Tulane University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Schieffelin completed his MD as well as an Internal Medicine and Pediatrics residency training at Tulane University. He is also trained  in adult and pediatric infectious disease through a combined Louisiana State University-Tulane University combined fellowship program.

His research focuses on the pathophysiology and immunology of viral hemorrhagic fevers. He is particularly interested in studying the clinical course of diseases such as Lassa fever and Ebola virus disease to identify interventional targets to improve supportive care. His BIRCWH research will focus on cardiovascular and gender differences in Lassa fever disease. This work seeks to identify markers as well as the severity of cardiovascular disease among patients with acute Lassa fever. His research will also determine if cardiovascular factors play a role in the increased prevalence and mortality seen among women.

BIRCWH Associates

BIRCWH Associates are the past Scholars that remain connected to the Tulane BIRCWH program even when they are not financially supported by the program. The Associates provide valuable feedback to the Steering Committee and Mentors regarding the program effectiveness.  In addition, BIRCWH Associates provide much desired ‘peer mentoring’ of new scholars.  


Stacy Drury, MD, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2012-2014) is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Tulane University.  Dr. Drury completed her MD and PhD in Genetics at Louisiana State University School of Medicine and her adult and child and adolescent psychiatry training at Tulane University.  Her translational research projects examine genetic/epigenetic interactions with negative early life experiences to define, at the neural and neural circuitry level, how early adversity shapes the developing brain. She has received research funding from the AACAP, APA, Harvard Center for the Developing Child, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), Louisiana Board of Regents, Hyundai, and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Drury's clinical and translational research seeks to enhance the understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying the lasting impact of early adversity on children's health outcomes across the life span.




Milton Hamblin, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2012-14) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine.  Dr. Hamblin came to Tulane in 2012 after completing his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.  Dr. Hamblin's research focuses on sex-related differences in vascular function and vascular remodeling-related pathophysiological diseases, including atherosclerosis, vascular lesion formation, and abdominal aortic aneurysms. 

Emily Harville


Emily Harville, PhD (BIRCWH training 2008-10) is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  The focus of her research is reproductive epidemiology.  She has published 45 peer reviewed manuscripts since the start of her BIRCWH training in the areas of pregnancy epidemiology, stress measurement and epidemiological methods. She is currently the Principal Investigator on 1 R01 grant investigating the Long-Term Burden of Maternal Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Birth Outcomes. Dr. Harville is also the PI on 1 U19 subproject, investigating the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on pregnant women and women of reproductive age.


Shengxu Li, MD, PhD (BIRCWH Training 2013-2015) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Li completed his medical training at Beijing Medical University, China, and his PhD study at the University of Cambridge, UK. His research focuses on the epidemiology of obesity, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and type 2 diabetes. As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Li examined sex-specific cardiovascular risk factors measured during childhood for changes in subclinical cardiovascular structure/function in young adults.




Lisa Molix, PhD (BIRCWH training 2011-13) is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Tulane School of Science and Engineering. She came to Tulane in 2007, immediately following the completion of her PhD at the University of Missouri. Dr. Molix's research focuses on examining an interdisciplinary model of intergroup stress that investigates the relationships between psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g. prejudice, empowerment, social identity, intergroup interactions) and cardiovascular health risk factors and outcomes in women and ethnic minorities.

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Minolfa C Prieto, MD, PhD (BIRCWH training 2008-11) is an Associate Professor of Physiology at Tulane SOM.  She investigates the role of the intrarenal Renin-Angiotensin System in the development and progression of hypertension, as well as sex differences in the regulation of genes involved in the development of hypertension in response to high salt.  She has published more than 35 peer reviewed articles and 4 book chapters since the onset of her BIRCWH training. She currently is well-funded by the NIH through a R01 grant award.



Qi Zhao, BMed, PhD is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of  Epidemiology at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  Dr. Zhao completed her medical training at Peking University Health Science Center, China, and her PhD in Epidemiology at Peking Union Medical College, China. Her research focuses on genetic and environmental risk factors and their interactions in the development of cardiovascular disease. As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Zhao investigated sex differences in the association between blood pressure response to the cold pressor test and hypertension incidence. Dr. Zhao has extended her research to effects of a broader range of psychosocial stress factors on human health. Dr. Zhao has also received American Heart Association research funding for investigating the gene-obesity interaction in the regulation of blood pressure.


Andrea Zsombok, PhD (BIRCWH training 2010-2012) is an Associate Professor of Physiology and Medicine, Endocrinology Section. Dr. Zsombok's research focuses on the autonomic control of visceral organs during metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in rodents.  Her investigations employ electrophysiological, anatomical, retrograde tracer approaches in combination with in vivo brain injections in both sexes.



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