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Leaders in research, research training, and graduate education

The UMMC-GTEC program faculty bring expertise in cardiovascular epidemiology and related research, health disparities, evidence-based approaches in research training, education, and coaching of diverse students and early-career faculty. We also bring a deep familiarity and history of engagement with colleges and universities in Mississippi, and state-of-the art research resources and infrastructure.

Our faculty and mentors are experienced investigators who have a strong and consistent track record of federal grant funding, peer-reviewed publications, graduate education, and passion for developing and coaching the next generation of biomedical scientists dedicated to improving the health of Mississippians through science. They are scientific and educational leaders at many of the leading research institutions in the nation, including those in Mississippi. UMMC-GTEC faculty have influenced the policy and practice of funding agencies, created new paradigms and conceptual frameworks, impacted legislation regarding health issues, and hold promise for leading change in treatment approaches for a range of vulnerable population groups.

Core directors

Marino A. Bruce, PhD, MSRC, MDiv, is Professor and Director of Faculty Development in the Department of Population Health Science in the John D. Bower School of Population Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Bruce is a sociologist and a seminary-trained, ordained minister who examines how faith, religion, and spirituality have implications for biopsychosocial pathways linking stress to cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease risk and progression among African-American men across the life course and across generations. Dr. Bruce is the Principal Investigator of UMMC-GTEC.

Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, Founding Director of the Program of Men’s Health Research in the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions (HCHDS), Deputy Director of HCHDS, and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center for Minority Aging Research. Dr. Thorpe is a social epidemiologist and gerontologist with substantial experience with conducting and analyzing observational study data and has generated a substantial body of research examining the influence of social determinants of health on the development of race- and SES-related disparities in health outcomes among of middle- to older age African Americans. His most recent work focuses on improving the lives of African American men. He participates in several training programs designed to develop under-represented minorities at several career stages. Dr. Thorpe is the Co-Director of the UMMC-GTEC.

Core faculty and mentors

Bettina M. Beech, DrPH, MPH, is the Associate Provost for Planning and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Houston. She is the immediate past founding dean and professor of Population Health Science at the John D. Bower School of Population Health. Dr. Beech is a population health scientist and a leading expert in pediatric cardiometabolic risk factors among African American youth, and the science of research training and mentoring among groups underrepresented in biomedical science. She currently serves as the Science Director of UMMC-GTEC.

Elizabeth Heitman, PhD, is Professor of Ethics in Science and Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Heitman is an internationally known educator in research ethics and responsible conduct of research whose research explores best practices in research ethics education, particularly for international and racial/ethnic minority students, fellows and early career faculty.

Keith C. Norris, MD, PhD, is an internationally recognized clinician scientist and health policy leader who has been instrumental in shaping national health policy and clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease (CKD). He has made major contributions to addressing disparities in contemporary society. He is professor and executive-vice chair of internal medicine for equity, diversity and inclusion at the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He previously served as interim president and vice president of research and health affairs at Charles R. Drew University School of Medicine. Dr. Norris is a board-certified nephrologist and certified hypertension specialist.

Program faculty

Ronny A. Bell, PhD, MS is chair and professor of public health at East Carolina University School of Medicine. Dr. Bell is an epidemiologist who has training in nutrition science and is counted among leading scientist conducting chronic disease epidemiologic research with racial and ethnic minority populations, especially Native Americans. 

Adolfo Correa, MD, MPH, is professor of medicine, pediatrics, and population health science at UMMC and serves as the director and PI for the Jackson Heart Study (JHS). Dr. Correa has conducted research as an epidemiologist in academia and the federal government over the past 25 years and has provided leadership to with diverse groups of investigators on the surveillance of chronic diseases and the development of research teams conducting research using epidemiologic data.