Student Projects

Fall 2023 Awardees


Leslie Barnard

Use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders for Military Service Members and Veterans in Colorado from 2020-2023

Leslie Barnard is a fourth year DrPH student in the Epidemiology program. She received her MPH in Epidemiology from Tulane University and her BA in Biology from the University of Vermont. Leslie’s previous work as an epidemiologist in state and local health departments included various injury and violence prevention programs. As a student at the Colorado School of Public Health, Leslie works as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative on a variety of projects including work with the Colorado Office of Gun Violence Prevention and firearm policy evaluation. Leslie’s dissertation focuses on firearm storage practices to prevent firearm suicide.

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Kristi Bartholomay

Association between bullying and teen mental health outcomes: exploring modifications by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) status, sex, and race/ethnicity

Kristi is a Colorado Native who studied neuroscience and molecular biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. After graduating, she moved to California to work at Stanford on a longitudinal clinical research study investigating the cognitive, behavioral, and neurological development of young girls with Fragile X Syndrome, where she completed her master's degree in Epidemiology. Her primary research interests are in genetic and neurological developmental conditions in children, with an emphasis on reducing gender disparities in research.


Alexandra Barone-Camp

Examination of the Association between Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and Outcomes in Motor Vehicle Accidents as a Target for Public Health Intervention

Alexandra Barone-Camp is a third-year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in Molecular Biology. Her previous research and interests include pediatric trauma indices and health disparities within the LGBTQ+ community. Alexandra and her partner Kaitlyn plan to use this grant to investigate the association between social vulnerability and health outcomes in motor vehicle accidents with the support of their mentors Quintin Myers, PhD and Catherine Velopulos, MD, MHS, FACS.


Kaitlyn Dickinson

Examination of the Association between Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and Outcomes in Motor Vehicle Accidents as a Target for Public Health Intervention

Kaitlyn Dickinson is a third-year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s in biology and master’s in biomedical engineering from South Dakota School of Mines. Her previous research aimed at exploring the impact of social inequities on patient care. Kaitlyn and her co-investigator Alexandra plan to investigate the association between Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and outcomes in motor vehicle accidents as a target for public health intervention. Her mentors supporting this project are Quintin Myers, PhD and Catherine Velopulos, MD, MHS, FACS.

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Claire Jacobson

Social Determinants and Post-Gunshot Wound  Care: A Descriptive Analysis

Claire Jacobson is a third-year medical student at CU School Of Medicine. This award will aid in supporting their ongoing firearm injury prevention research project at Denver Health. Their project focuses on examining how social determinants of health, such as race, housing status, and mental health comorbidities, influence the follow-up care provided to patients who have sustained firearm injuries. Originally from Chicago, Claire pursued their undergraduate studies at Stanford University. Prior to medical school, they took a two-year hiatus to conduct a Fulbright Research Project in an Emergency Department in Nepal and earn a master's degree in Community Health and Prevention Research. Their involvement in firearm injury prevention research commenced during their clerkship at Denver Health last year, where they assisted in caring for numerous patients with severe, yet preventable, firearm-related injuries. Claire aspires to persist in advocating for firearm injury prevention measures through both research and education in their future career as an Internal Medicine physician.


Virginia McCarthy

Transformative Voices Transform Violence Prevention: Violence prevention professional engagement in qualitative inquiry informs relevant program implementation and effectiveness measures for hospital-based violence intervention programs

Virginia McCarthy, DrPH(c), MPH, MDiv is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health and is a Research Assistant in the Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative through the Injury and Violence Prevention Center. Ginny also serves as the Director of Development for Denver Youth Program/GRASP (the Gang Rescue and Support Project) in the Denver Metro area. Serving across institutions in these capacities, Ginny supports frontline work in violence intervention and prevention through prioritization of community voice and experience to inform local programmatic engagement and to guide funder investment to impact immediate and upstream measures to reduce firearm injury and death.

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Amber Winters

Scripts of Adolescent Male Suicide

Amber is a first-year PhD student at the Colorado State University Department of Psychology, working with Professor Silvia Sara Canetto. Amber received her Master of Science in Research Methods in Psychology from the University of St Andrews in Scotland and her Bachelor of Science in Clinical/Community Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Amber has several years of suicide prevention and intervention research and direct clinical experience. This award will support her work on a project to understand suicide risk among male adolescents in northern Colorado.

Spring 2023 Awardees

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Mohammad Sohail Akhter

Theory-based determinants of stopping drowsy driving behavior in college students: A cross-sectional study

Mohammad Sohail Akhter is an advocate for public health and possesses a range of skills and knowledge in research, data analysis, and project management. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, India, then continued in his education to earn a master’s degree at the University of Hyderabad (India). Currently he is finishing his doctorate at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas. His academic journey has equipped him with a deep understanding and skill in handling complex public health and epidemiological studies, utilizing tools like R programming, SPSS, and QGIS. He is also skilled in communication and leadership, forming strong partnerships and achieving significant results through teamwork. His research covers various areas such as tuberculosis, mental health, COVID-19, injury prevention, and public health nutrition, showing his broad knowledge across different subjects.

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Kyle Hensen

Cardiff Violence Prevention Program

After being displaced by the destructive hurricane of 2018 in Florida, Kyle relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the experience prompted a shift from nursing to Healthcare Administration, driven by a desire to effect meaningful change in healthcare. Graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration, Kyle demonstrated a strong commitment to public health by collaborating on the Cardiff Violence Prevention Program, utilizing artificial intelligence to analyze emergency department data on violent incidents. Additionally, Kyle held leadership roles on campus and within healthcare organizations, earning recognition such as the 2023 Undergraduate Foundation Scholarship from the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS). Now assuming the position of Patient Liaison at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Kyle aims to enhance patient-centered care strategies and overall healthcare experiences for all.

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Courtney Leapley

Health Disparities in Aggravated Assaults with a Firearm in Colorado

Courtney Leapley is a Research Analyst with the Division of Criminal Justice, Office of Research and Statistics. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Criminal Justice at the University of Colorado Denver. Her mentor for this project is Dr. Sheila Huss, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and BACJ Director at the University of Colorado Denver. Courtney is particularly interested in the mechanisms and means of violence in criminal justice to inform prevention measures and this award will support her work in examining how public health disparities have impacted aggravated assaults with a firearm in Colorado.

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Gina Weir

Barriers to Utilization of Forensic Nurse Examiner Programs in Rural Colorado and Recommendations to Strengthen the Program

Fall 2022 awardees

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Nisha Batta

Extreme risk protection orders and their practical implementations in multiple states: Who petitions for them and why?

Nisha Batta is a 3rd year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in Psychobiology after which she earned an MS in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. Alongside her partner Caitlin Robinson and with the support of the Betz lab, this grant will support their work in examining the utilization and implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws in Colorado and the implication of ERPO laws in promoting public health, safety, and violence prevention.


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Caitlin Robinson, MPH, CRA

Extreme risk protection orders and their practical implementations in multiple states: Who petitions for them and why?

Caitlin Robinson is a 2nd year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Molecular Environment Biology, Environment and Human Health from University of California, Berkeley and her masters degree in Public Health from George Washington University. She has been working in research for nearly a decade, exploring both molecular pathways of trauma and violent injury sequela in addition to epidemiological research on violence and firearm safety. Alongside her partner Nisha Batta within the Betz lab to explore Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Colorado. 

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Alyssa Dalen

Perceptions of Community-Based Interpersonal Violence Organizations Regarding Collaborating with Students at the Colorado School of Public Health

Alyssa is in their final year as an MPH student at the Colorado School of Public Health on the CU Anschutz campus. Before this, Alyssa graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where they studied Neuroscience and Biology. Alyssa is passionate about interpersonal violence prevention and response work and hopes to bring together professionals in various disciplines to address this topic. Their primary mentor is Rachael Williams, JD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado and program manager at the Phoenix Center Anschutz.

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Rebecca Henkind

Further Exploration of Characteristics of Homicide and Suicide Victims Experiencing Homelessness at their Time of Death

Rebecca is a 3rd year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is a researcher of health inequity, a co-founder and president of CU Street Medicine, and a previous employee of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. She completed her undergraduate degree at Emory University located in Atlanta, GA. Her primary mentor for this project is Dr. Catherine Velopulos.


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Emylia Terry

Seatbelt Nonuse among Sexual and Gender Minority Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis

Emylia is a second-year PhD student and Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Public Health. She is interested in how laws, policies, and communication campaigns impact health outcomes and disparities, particularly among sexual and gender minority (SGM) individuals. Thanks to the IVP Student Research Grant, Emylia will focus on a research project to assess seat belt non-use among SGM adults in the U.S. Upon earning her PhD, Emylia hopes to complete her JD in order to serve as a health law specialist and advocate. Her primary mentor for this project is Dr. Jennifer Pharr, an Associate Professor for the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

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Ricardo Villarreal, PhD

Assessment of Culturally Specific Suicide Risks in the Hispanic/LatinX Community

Dr. Ricardo Villarreal is a 4th year medical student at the CU School of Medicine and part of the CU MSTP program. He began his medical research career studying cancer biology at Cornell University where he received his BS in Biology and Physiology. He then received his PhD from the department of Microbiology and Immunology at the CU School of Medicine in 2021 where he completed his thesis on neonatal infectious diseases. Ricardo has published research findings in various biomedical fields and is currently participating in clinical research investigating firearm related suicide and violence prevention within the military population in the lab of Dr. Emmy Betz. He is currently interested in developing emergency psychiatric analyses for at-risk populations including minority and military populations as part of the CU COMBAT Scholar Program.

Spring 2022 awardees

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Ephrat Fisseha 

Fentanyl Harm Reduction in Denver, CO

Ephrat Fisseha is an MD/MPH student who is pursuing emergency medicine. She is particularly interested in social determinants of health and harm reduction in the emergency department setting. In light of the sharp increase in fentanyl related overdoses, many harm reduction efforts have been targeted to people who inject drugs and have not reached populations of drug users who do not inject drugs or intentionally seek opioids. This award will support her project set in the Denver Health Emergency Department offering free fentanyl test strips and education to patients who use drugs. Fentanyl test strips are harm reduction tools that detect if a drug sample contains fentanyl, thereby reducing the risk of unintentional overdose. She is being mentored by Jason Haukoos, MD. 

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Charles Lommen 

Examining the Relationship Between Traumatic Brain Injury, Race/Ethnicity and Suicide

Charles Lommen is currently pursuing a Bachelors in Neuroscience at Colorado University Boulder. This award will help in his work researching the link between traumatic brain injury, suicide, and quality of care as it relates to ethnicity. Charles currently works as an EMT and hopes to use his research, clinical experience, and education to contribute towards the research in the traumatic brain injury field. He is mentored by Christine Baugh, PhD, MPH of CU Anschutz.

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Spencer Smith 

Prevention First: Providing Suicide Prevention Services for WCU Students

Spencer Smith is an Academic Counselor and is pursuing his Masters of Behavioral Science in Rural Community Health at Western Colorado University. Before becoming a counselor and attending graduate school, he acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology with an emphasis in Criminal Justice and a minor in Pre-Law from Western. This award will support his work in providing preventative services regarding suicide, and collaborating with community organizations and national non-profits to better the overall mental health of Western’s students. He is primarily mentored by Jessica Eckhardt, Ph.D., University of Utah.

Fall 2021 awardees

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McKenzie Campbell

Suicide Among Adolescent Girls: The Role of Mattering as a Mediator Variable

Ms.Campbell is a Master of Public Health candidate at Boise State University and mentored by Dr. Megan Smith. Kenzie's project aims to compare rates of depress and suicidal ideation factors across gender and investigate the impact of risk and protective factors (such as mattering) on the relationship between depression and suicidal ideation in girls as compared to boys.

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Katherine Smulligan

Predictors of Lower Extremity Injury Risk Following Sport-Related Concussion

The aims of Katherine Smulligan's project is to examine individual level predictors of subsequent injury following concussion, specifically socioeconomic status and cervical spine function. Kate's primary mentor is David Howell, PhD, in the University of Colorado Department of Orthopedics.

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Dorothy Stearns

Sex Differences in Violent Death During Incarceration and Legal Intervention

Ms. Dorothy Sterns is a fourth medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She is mentored by Injury Center member, Dr. Catherine Velopulos. Her project will explore the role of the United States prison system in supporting incarcerated individuals through analyzing differences in death during incarceration and legal interventions by gender using the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) database from the CDC. Overall the project will help contextualize societal factors, such as social inequity, within the United States prison system. 

Spring 2021 awardees

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Alin Yuriko Badillo-Carrillo

Homicide-Suicide in the United States: A Deep Understanding of the Mental and Behavioral Health of Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Homicides


Ms. Badillo-Carrillo is pursuing a dual master’s in public health and Latin American studies at the University of New Mexico. The award will support an analysis exploring the association between intimate partner homicide-suicides and the perpetrators’ mental and behavioral health in the U.S. Upon graduation, Ms. Badillo-Carrillo hopes to create equitable intervention programs in communities of color and eventually obtain a PhD in a health-related field. Alin’s mentors are Laura Tomedi, PhD, MPH and Theresa Cruz, PhD, of the University of New Mexico.

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Ligia Batista Silverman

Evaluating Contacts of Children Presenting for Suspected Physical Abuse: Understanding Disparities, Preventing Injuries

Ms. Batista Silverman is pursuing an MD at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The award will support a project to describe the variability and yield of occult injury testing in well-appearing contacts of children who have sub-specialty evaluation for suspected child physical abuse. Ms. Batista Silverman is a professional research assistant in the emergency department and child abuse pediatrics where she has worked on a variety of research projects and aims to become a leader in clinical and scholarly work. Ms. Silverman is mentored by Daniel Lindberg, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

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Sameer Andani

Know Your Rights Car Sticker

Mr. Andani is pursuing an MD at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. His team includes Sarah Groover and Emily Heideman. Their award will support the creation, testing, printing and distribution of a car sticker that reviews a driver’s legal rights in the event of a traffic stop, in order to make traffic law more equitable and reduce police violence. Mr. Andani is a first-generation Pakistani college graduate. His mentor is Maurice Scott, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Injury & Violence Prevention Center (IVPC)

Colorado School of Public Health

CU Anschutz

Fitzsimons Building

13001 East 17th Place

3rd Floor West , Mail Stop B119

Aurora, CO 80045

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