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Our Research to Advance Health Equity

Our department is dedicated to conducting research that promotes health equity for all individuals.

We recognize that disparities in healthcare and health outcomes exist, and we are committed to identifying and addressing the root causes of these disparities through rigorous scientific inquiry. Through collaborative partnerships with communities and other organizations, the Department of Population Health Sciences strives to promote health equity and improve the health of all individuals.



I am in my third year of the PHS Ph.D. program, Biostatistics. I also work as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Adam Bress. In the past, I have called myself a statistics enthusiast. However, knowing what I know now and a fair estimate of what I know not, I would rather say that I am an applied statistics enthusiast. I enjoy learning how research questions can be answered with various statistical methods to improve patient health. My interests include causal inference, methods for longitudinal data analysis, and data visualization.  My research assistant and Ph.D. student roles allow me to learn and practice simultaneously. It can be challenging sometimes, but “it is the hard that makes it great.”


I am a third-year PhD Student in the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology track. Before joining PHS, I was a cardiovascular-trained clinical pharmacist at the University of Utah. My goal in pursuing a Ph.D. in PHS is to become a health-systems researcher and pharmacoepidemiologist with a focus on barriers and facilitators to optimal medical therapy in patients with cardiovascular disease.

Daniel Addo, left, & Josh Jacobs at the Williams Building
Daniel Addo, left, & Josh Jacobs at the Williams Building

Who are your partners?

Daniel: At this time in my career, I find myself working on an incredible team in the lab of Dr. Adam Bress. Together, we work on projects focused on the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, optimizing medication use, and reducing health disparities. A special shout out to Dr. Bress and his team, who have taught me so much in the past two years and still counting. Another shout out to Dr. Greene and Dr. Scharfstein, who make themselves available so I can tap into their rich expertise as Biostatisticians. Through Adam’s lab, we work on projects that involve collaborations with the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System and the NIH Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).

Josh: I am still a student so I am in the beginning stages of developing partners. I still am heavily active in both research and scholarship components within the pharmacy community. For example, I mentor both pharmacy residents and students at the University of Utah, am a member of the University of Utah Pharmacy Residency Research and Scholarship Committee, and lead the national American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) Cardiology Practice and Research Network Student and Trainee Committee. Outside of my pharmacy partnerships, I have been lucky enough to be under the excellent mentorship of Dr. Adam Bress. He has connected me with cardiovascular clinician-scientists all over the globe as well as within the University of Utah.

What is something you’re proud of in your work?

Daniel: I was privileged to work with Josh on the paper: Prevalence of Statin Use for Primary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease by Race, Ethnicity, and 10-Year Disease Risk in the US. We found that among US adults who should have been on statins, Black and Hispanic participants had significantly lower statin use than White participants. While the findings were not exactly good news, it was an important discovery highlighting the imbalance in that space and the need to invest more resources towards achieving health equity.

Josh: This summer, I had the privilege of working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Graduate Summer Opportunity for Advanced Research (GSOAR) program. Within the program, I was able to work at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) under the wonderful mentor and physician-scientist, Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wiley, in the Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Lab. The focus of my summer experience was to explore associations between social determinants of health, metabolomics, and cardiometabolic risk. If any graduate students are interested in exploring the intramural side of the NIH, I highly recommend applying for the GSOAR or Graduate Data Science Summer Program (GSSSP) summer internships.

Daniel Addo on a road trip to Colorado
Daniel Addo on a road trip to Colorado
Josh Jacobs presenting at his NIH summer internship
Josh Jacobs presenting at his NIH summer internship

What is something you’re excited about?

Daniel: I am excited to be moving on from coursework to focus more on my dissertation. Engaging with faculty to explore research questions and connecting on mutual research interests has been a learning experience. The challenging moments in my research journey have also been opportunities to gain valuable insight beyond statistical methodology. One example is the statin paper mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, disparities exist, but it’s a privilege to be able to do the work that sheds more light on the issue so we can be better at improving the overall population's health. Is this not exciting?

Josh: I am excited to continue doing research focused on optimizing medical therapy in patients with cardiovascular diseases with a focus on health disparities. Daniel and I were fortunate enough to work together on a recent publication in JAMA Cardiology. Together, we found that despite similar cardiovascular risk, Black and Hispanic individuals who qualify for the cholesterol-reducing therapies, statins, were less likely to be on statin therapy compared to White individuals. Furthermore, we found that access to health care, such as having a routine location for healthcare and having health insurance, decreased the disparity in primary prevention statin use. Beyond this, I am excited to work on my dissertation, which will tackle ideas on health disparities and factors influencing optimal medical therapy in patients with heart failure.

What brought you to the PHS?

Daniel: As an applied statistics enthusiast, I believed there was more to learn before stepping out as a statistician after my master's program. I realized this while working in the statistical consulting lab that was run by my department at the time. I decided to build on my research expertise through the Ph.D. route in a statistics program that was more applied-leaning. The PHS Ph.D. program was an excellent option, with positive recommendations from my fellow Ghanaian friends already in the program. I applied and got accepted into the program. While other offers were on the table, I weighed my options and chose to be here. I have no doubts that I made the right choice for my career path. 

Josh: Prior to joining PHS, I worked full-time as a cardiology clinical pharmacist at the University of Utah Hospital. I still love the clinical aspects of being a cardiovascular-trained pharmacist, but I desired to impact patient care on a population level. I ended up reaching out to my current mentor, Dr. Adam Bress, who had a similar career path to me in search of life advice. His encouraging, supportive mentoring coupled with the department’s dedication to improving patient care, collaborations across the institution and internationally, and the world-renowned researchers within PHS were exactly what I was looking for in my career change.

What does a perfect weekend look like for you?

Daniel: A perfect weekend for me means taking a fun, relaxing drive through the mountains with nostalgic music in the background or even in complete silence, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This is even made more perfect (if such a thing exists) when the destination offers an opportunity to connect with loved ones, make merry, eat good food, share laughs, and do anything that relieves stress.

Josh: My perfect weekend is a fall hike to my favorite destination - Lake Blanche - with my wife, Sam. After that, an evening filled with sushi and board games with friends would be ideal.

Past Spotlights

Melissa Watt, PhD

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Adam Bress, PharmD

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Evan Goldstein, PhD

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