Erica C. Spears, Ph.D.
Erica C. Spears, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow at CHEER. She is assigned to the Center’s NIAMS/NIH R01 grant entitled “Psychosocial Factors and Lupus Progression among African American Women.” Her research on this project focuses on the social-environmental determinants of health among African American women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a disease characterized by significant disparities along both gender and racial lines.
Dr. Spears earned her doctorate in health education at Texas A&M University. She is a budding health disparities researcher whose work focuses on promoting health equity and chronic disease prevention in the African American community. Her dissertation examined knowledge gaps and perceptions of risk surrounding Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in African Americans. She employed a mixed-methods approach and incorporated geographic mapping tools, like ArcGIS and Google Earth, to identify health promotors and barriers within the built environment.
Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Spears worked as a public health practitioner. She began her career as a health educator, and transitioned into grant writing, management, and program development. As a practitioner, Dr. Spears oversaw projects from nine unique funding sources, ranging from foundations to the federal government. She holds an undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University in Mass Communication and a Master’s in Speech Communication, with a concentration in health, from the University of Houston.
Connor D. Martz
Connor D. Martz is a third-year doctoral student in the department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences. His research interests include the social determinants of health and health inequalities, chronic disease prevention, and the impact of stress on human development. More specifically, he is interested in examining the complex interplay between social-contextual stressors, behavior, and biology across the life span among socially marginalized groups. Connor’s current research focuses on the associations between interpersonal discrimination, vicarious racism, and disease activity and damage among African American women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
As a graduate student, Connor is gaining training in health equity science, human development, and epidemiological research methods and statistics. Within CHEER, Connor works as a graduate research assistant for Dr. David H. Chae. Dr. Chae also serves as Connor’s major professor, and is joined by committee members Dr. Thomas Fuller-Rowell of Auburn University and Dr. Amani Nuru-Jeter of UC-Berkeley.
Connor is from Hartland, Wisconsin and earned a B.S. in Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Upon completion of his Ph.D., he plans to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship to gain additional training in health disparities research and prepare for a faculty position at a major research university.
Kara Chung is a first-year doctoral student in the department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences. Her research interests include health inequities and the social determinants of health. More specifically, the roles that environmental contexts and discrimination-related stress play in producing health disparities among minority and disadvantaged populations.
Kara is originally from Janesville, Wisconsin and earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology - with a Neurobiology focus and Environmental Studies and a certificate in Global Health from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. She hopes to stay in academia upon graduation to continue doing research and to teach and mentor future researchers in this field.