Core Faculty

Matthew L. Bush , MD, PhD, is a Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Bush is a surgeon scientist who has a research focus on increasing access to and timely delivery of specialty healthcare in underserved populations. His current work is NIH funded and involves clinical trial design and execution among vulnerable populations which incorporates mixed methodology along with dissemination and implementation research approaches. 

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Lisa Cliggett PhD, is Professor and Chair, of the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Cliggett’s research examines the socio-political, economic and ecological dynamics of development and change, including health, in Zambia, Southern Africa.  Her current and past research is supported by the National Science Foundation.

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Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH, is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine of the College of Medicine. Dr. Dignan’s research is focused on cancer prevention and control for rural and medically underserved populations. His projects have developed and evaluated the effectiveness of interventions to increase screening and follow-up for abnormal screening test results and have included partnerships with community members, healthcare providers and healthcare delivery systems.  His current project is to increase patient navigation for Appalachian populations and is supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission.  

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Rachel H. Farr, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Arts & Sciences. Dr. Farr’s research in developmental psychology focuses on diverse families, particularly those parented by LGBTQ+ adults and formed through adoption. For over 14 years, she has conducted a large longitudinal study about how parental sexual orientation relates to child, parent, and family outcomes among diverse adoptive families across the U.S. Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, Dr. Farr is currently studying racially, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse adolescents with LGBTQ+ parents.  

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Diane B. Francis, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Kentucky. She is also a fellow with the Obesity Health Disparities PRIDE Program funded by the National Heart, Lunch and Blood Institute. Dr. Francis is a social scientist whose research at the intersection of communication science and public health focuses on communication in the service of health equity among Black populations. Her program of research examines the role of communication in health disparities and knowledge translation to advance health equity and focuses on the mechanisms and effects of health campaigns and culturally appropriate interventions, mediated health messages, and interpersonal communication in shaping health behaviors and health disparities. She has conducted research to advance understanding of how to harness traditional and new media to promote healthy behavioral changes in young adult Black men and women; the impact of celebrity illness disclosures on communication and health outcomes; and how people communicate about health across various contexts (e.g., interpersonal and family networks, social media). She has published more than 20 peer-reviewed articles in communication, public health, and medicine journals. Her work has been funded by intramural and extramural sources, including the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Francis earned a PhD in Mass Communication from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, dual Master’s degrees in Global Media and Communication from the University of Southern California and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of the Virgin Islands.   

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Candice Hargons, PhD, is an award-winning associate professor of counseling psychology at UK, where she studies sex, social justice, and leadership, all with a love ethic. Her research examines racial trauma, including the autonomic mechanisms of exposure to racist stimuli and using meditation as an intervention to facilitate recovery from autonomic race-based stress reactions. She also studies sexual health, including sexual pleasure, intimate justice, and sexual health disparities. She is a licensed psychologist and founding director of the Center for Healing Racial Trauma. She has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Blavity, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times.  

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Nancy Grant Harrington, PhD, is Professor of Communication, Director of the Health Communication Research Collaborative, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Communication and Information; she also holds an academic appointment in the School of Public Health and is a faculty associate of the Multidisciplinary Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. Dr. Harrington’s research focuses on persuasive message design in the health behavior change context. Her current work focuses on developing training materials to improve patient-provider communication in contexts such as substance use treatment referral, tobacco cessation, and cost-of-care conversations. 

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Dr. Pamela Hull

Pamela Hull, PhD, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science in the UK College of Medicine, is a medical sociologist with over 15 years of experience in conducting community-engaged research with a focus on reducing health disparities among African American, Hispanic, and low-income populations, in collaboration with community partners. Her research focuses on the implementation of evidence-based practices for cancer prevention and control, including HPV vaccination and obesity prevention, using implementation science and technology-based applications. Dr. Hull serves as Associate Director of Population Science and Community Impact for the UK Markey Cancer Center, where she leads Markey’s community outreach and engagement efforts through the Community Impact Office functions, and she oversees MCC’s population science research agenda and resources.  

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Dr. Patrick Kitzman

Patrick Kitzman, PhD, MSPT, is a Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Health Sciences. Dr. Kitzman’s research focus is on care transitions and community resource development for individuals with neurological conditions such as stroke, brain injury, and spinal cord injury living in under-resourced rural communities. He is also involved with examining health disparities related to these at-risk populations.  

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Dr. Ana Maria Linares

Ana Maria Linares, DNS, RN, IBCLC, is an Associate Professor of Nursing in the College of Nursing. Dr. Linares graduated and received her degree in midwifery from the University of Chile. She earned a Doctor of Nursing Science degree in 2006 from the University of Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico. She obtained her RN license in Kentucky in 2009 and was credentialed as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2012. Dr. Linares previously worked as an associate professor at the University of Tarapaca in Arica-Chile, where she served as the Dean at the College of Midwifery and taught the courses of obstetrics and neonatology. She joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky, College of Nursing in 2009. Dr. Linares has a program of research on health disparities with an emphasis on the promotion of breastfeeding that has been funded by intramural and extramural grant awards. She is conducting several studies on breastfeeding in KY, including a randomized controlled trial among Hispanic women and their family support person to assess the effectiveness of an innovative and community-based family-centered intervention that seeks to enhance exclusive breastfeeding. Additionally, she is involved in global health research leading a multisite international study to define the socio-cultural determinants of exclusive breastfeeding in Latino American countries. Dr. Linares has disseminated findings in peer-reviewed publications and oral/poster presentations at national and international conferences. Dr. Linares is the recipient of numerous awards including the Breastfeeding Champion Award from the Breastfeeding Improvement Network Kentucky Lactation in 2014, the 2016 Terry Jo Curtis Award from the US Breastfeeding Consultants Association (USLCA), and a 2019 Fulbright Scholar award to study the determinants of iron deficiency anemia in Peruvian children and its association with infant feeding practices. She also serves as a member of the Culture, Respect, Assess/Affirm, Sensitivity, and Self-awareness, and Humility (CRASH) Committee, United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), is a member of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) Research Team, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Human Lactation.  

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Brittany Smalls, PhD, MHSA, is an Assistant Professor, in the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the College of Medicine. Dr. Smalls’ research focus is addressing social determinants of health and its influence on self-care in those with complex chronic disease, especially older adults. Her research includes serving as co-investigator on 2 NIH R01 grants: (1) reducing cardiovascular risk in caregivers in rural Appalachia (1R01NR016824) and (2) improving self-care and access to care in those with type 2 diabetes living in rural Appalachia (1R01DK112136).

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Dr. Danelle Stevens Watkins

Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D., is an Associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Assistant Vice President for Research (Diversity and Inclusion). Dr. Stevens-Watkins leads the UNited In True racial Equity (UNITE) Research Priority Area. Broadly, her research focuses on health disparities and barriers to service utilization among Black adult populations. She completed an NIH (K08DA-032296) Mentored Career Development Award with a research emphasis on the dynamic interaction between anxiety, depression, drug abuse, and HIV risk behaviors among African American male prisoners. Currently, she is completing one of the first known studies funded by NIDA (R01DA-094333) to examine structural, social, and cultural factors impacting the opioid epidemic among Black Americans by gender and age. In addition, she has current projects focused on breastfeeding and maternal morbidity among Black women.

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Dr. Lauren Whitehurst

Lauren Whitehurst, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Whitehurst’s research seeks to address, “What makes a night of sleep “good”? Staying asleep the whole night? Falling asleep once your head hits the pillow? Waking up refreshed and ready for your day? All the above?” Psychological science is still grappling with the answers to this question, yet we do know that a period of sleep helps us think, learn and remember better. Additionally, specific neural changes during sleep, characterized with electroencephalography (EEG), support human cognitive function. Dr. Whitehurst explores how these EEG features and specific changes in our body (i.e. autonomic nervous system) 1) help us define “good” sleep and 2) support cognition. She also examines how stress-sleep interactions impact cognitive function and the importance of sleep to the development of accelerated or pathological cognitive decline (e.g. dementia/Alzheimer’s disease). She is particularly interested in how the lack of access to restorative sleep can play a role in creating or exacerbating disparities in cognitive health for communities historically underserved by science and medicine in the US.  Lauren Whitehurst received her. B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Experimental Psychology from James Madison University in 2011 and 2013, respectively and her PhD in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside in 2018. She completed a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Center for Health and Community and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco in 2020. 

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Corrine Williams, ScD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health, Behavior & Society, College of Public Health, with a joint appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Williams has conducted research on various women’s health and maternal and child health topics, and generally focuses program evaluation and quality improvement. She was part of the research team for the project, “Green Dot across the Bluegrass: Evaluation of a primary prevention intervention,” a CDC-funded collaborative agreement to evaluate the effectiveness of a violence prevention program targeted to high school students. Related to the Green Dot intervention, she also received funding to evaluate this program among college students. In addition, she served as the evaluator of the Kentucky Health Access Nurturing Development Services (HANDS) program, a statewide voluntary intensive home visitation program for high-risk (including young maternal age), primarily low-income, first-time parents that provides services from the prenatal period to the child's third birthday. This work ultimately led to the HANDS program being declared an evidence-based home visiting approach. Dr. Williams is also the Acting Associate Vice President for Student Well-being in the Office for Student Success. As Acting AVP she oversees the UK Counseling Center, the VIP Center, the Disability Resource Center, Campus Recreation and the office of Student Financial Wellness. She also leads a strategic initiative dedicated to a holistic approach to student wellness.

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Lovoria B. Williams, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, is an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing. Her research focuses on implementing multi-level interventions to reduce obesity and lung cancer disparities among African Americans and medically underserved population through community based participatory methods.  Her work is funded by grants from the NIH, State, and Foundations. Dr. Williams is also the Associate Director & Endowed Research Professor of Cancer Health Equity in the Markey Cancer Center, where she provides leadership for the health equity aspects of Markey’s community outreach and engagement functions

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