Trainee Profiles

Current Pilot Research Awardee

Melody Goodman, MS, PhD 
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Public Health Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine

Goodman is a biostatistician. Her research interests are identifying the origins of health disparities and developing evidence-based primary prevention strategies to reduce these disparities. Her lab seeks to develop a more rigorous understanding of the social risk factors that contribute to health disparities in the St. Louis metropolitan area, with the goal of developing culturally competent, region-specific solutions through collaborative activities with community members, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and faculty members at Washington University. The purpose of this work is not to continue to identify problems but rather to focus on the development of solutions for improving health in communities.

Goodman has two primary lines of research:

  • A biostatistical track that conducts applied statistical research on methods for community-based cancer interventions and health disparities research
  • A community-based public health track that will focus on developing the infrastructure for community-based participatory research (CBPR) through academic community collaborations as well as the implementation and evaluation of CBPR projects to reduce health disparities.

Click here to read more about her work. 


PECaD Postdoctoral Research Associates

Jean Hunleth, PhD, MPH
Hunleth is interested in addressing health inequities in the St. Louis region and globally through community-engaged and contextually rich research. Her current work draws on community-based participatory research techniques to understand the experience of cancer screening and treatment among low-income residents of St. Louis. The goal is to identify and interrupt the social and economic processes that underpin disparities in cancer-related mortalities. This work is informed by her training in public health (master's degree) and anthropology (doctoral) and previous experience on public health interventions and research projects in southern Africa.

Hunleth has more than 10 years of experience on health-related projects in Zambia, including an 18-month ethnographic and participatory research project with children, which examined children’s roles in caring for adults who suffered from TB and HIV. This research underscored for her the importance of listening to children’s experiences and perspectives and also examining the contexts of therapeutic decision making. As both a practitioner and researcher, Hunleth has been dedicated to translating local knowledge into programmatic and policy changes to reduce barriers to diagnosis and care.

Shahnjayla Connors, PhD, MPH, CPH
Connors is interested in eliminating health disparities with transdisciplinary methods. Her current research focuses on the relationships between psychosocial and biological factors that contribute to cancer and cancer disparities. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop biobehavioral interventions for the reduction of cancer disparities in minority populations. Her research is informed by a background in molecular biology and public health training focused on social determinants of health and health disparities.

In her doctoral work, Connors focused on the transcriptional regulation of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL in breast epithelial cells treated with cigarette smoke condensate. In addition to identifying a transcription factor not previously known to regulate the protein, this research provided insight into the role of cigarette smoking on the transformation of breast epithelial cells. During her first postdoctoral position, Connors’ research focused on the molecular basis of green tea chemoprevention in prostate cancer and cancer chemoprevention clinical trials.