Geospatial Approaches to Population Health Research Working Group (GrAPHeRs):


HDMA Center and Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University

Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou
Ph.D., University of Colorado (2001)
Department of Geography, SDSU

Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou is Professor in the Department of Geography, San Diego State University. He received a B.S. from National Taiwan University in 1991, an M.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1996, and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2001, all in Geography. His research interests are in Internet mapping and distributed GIS applications, mobile GIS and wireless communication, multimedia cartography and user interface design, and cyberinfrastructure with GRID computing technology. He has applied his research interests in applications such as wildfire mapping, environmental monitoring and management, habitat conservation, K-12 education, cyberspace mapping, and homeland border security.

Dr. Caroline A. Thompson
Ph.D., Epidemiology, University of California, Los Angeles (2013)
Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, SDSU

Dr. Thompson is Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, specializing in cancer epidemiology and epidemiologic methodology. Her substantive topic areas include ethnic and other disparities in cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, and cancer-related mortality understood through geographic and social contexts. Her methods research is concerned with the use of existing sources of health-related “real world” data (e.g., electronic health records, pharmacy claims, cancer registries, etc.) for cancer population health research and the treatment of systematic error via quantitative bias analysis in observational epidemiology. In addition to her role as faculty with the GSPH, she is also a K12 scholar with the UC San Diego Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) and a consulting investigator with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, where she completed her post-doctoral training as an AcademyHealth Delivery Systems Science Fellow (DSSF) in 2014. Prior to receiving her training as an Epidemiologist, she enjoyed a 10-year career in the biopharma industry as a data manager for oncology clinical trials.

Dr. Atsushi Nara
Ph.D. , Arizona State University (2011)
Department of Geography, SDSU

Dr. Atsushi Nara is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, San Diego State University. He has developed advanced spatio-temporal analytic algorithms, data mining and geovisualization frameworks and toolkits, monitoring methodologies, agent-based models, and web-GIS applications to facilitate understanding and decision making of moving object dynamics.

Dr. John Elders
Ph.D. , West Virginia University (1978)
Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, SDSU
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, UCSD

John P. Elder, PhD., MPH, is Distinguished Professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at San Diego State University Graduate School of Public, and Adjunct Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California-San Diego. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, the PhD in Clinical Psychology from West Virginia University and an MPH from Boston University in International Health. He currently serves as Principal Investigator of an obesity prevention research project funded by NIH/NIDDK, and of the CDC-funded San Diego Prevention Research Center. He has authored three books and 325 other publications in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention, and behavioral epidemiology. Dr. Elder has consulted for USAID, DoD, the Rockefeller Foundation and WHO projects in 34 different countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. His international work has been in the areas of child survival, MCH, AIDS/HIV, dengue fever and malaria control, research design, and social marketing.

Dr. Joseph Gibbons
Ph.D. , University at Albany, State University of New York (2014)
Department of Sociology, SDSU

Dr. Joseph Gibbons received his B.A. in Sociology at Ramapo College, M.A. in Sociology at the New School for Social Research, and Ph.D. in Sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He has taught a wide range of courses including Urban Sociology, research techniques with Geographic Information Systems, Social Inequality, and Introduction to Sociology at institutions including SUNY Albany, the College of Saint Rose, and Colgate University. His research has mainly emphasized neighborhoods, specifically the implications of racial segregation. So far, this effort have centered on the impact of segregation on the operation of nonprofit organizations, health disparities between neighborhoods, community connection, and locational attainment. Professor Gibbons has published on these topics in various journals, including Urban Studies, Urban Affairs Review, Journal of Urban Affairs, the Journal of Urban Health and Social Science Research,. While his previous research has emphasized cities in the Northeast, he plans to turn his attention to the Southern California area.

Dr.Bruce Appleyard
Dr.Bruce Appleyard

Bruce Appleyard (Public Affairs) focuses on identifying how these policies and practices can be used in concert with one another to improve sustainability, livability, social equity, and public health outcomes.

Moores Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Elena Martinez
Ph.D. , Harvard University
Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, UCSD

Elena Martinez, PhD is Professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, having joined the UC San Diego faculty in 2012. She holds the Sam M. Walton Endowed Chair for Cancer Research and Co-leads the Reducing Cancer Disparities Program at the Moores Cancer Center. Dr. Martinez holds a PhD in Epidemiology and a Master’s in Public Health. Dr. Martinez’s research interests in colorectal cancer prevention began during the conduct of her doctoral dissertation and extended into her post-doctoral studies at the Harvard School of Public Health. She had a very active research portfolio at the University of Arizona, including RO1 funding and program leadership in a Program Project (PO1) and a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program. She has published extensively in areas of epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, and cancer prevention. Her research currently focuses on breast cancer in Hispanic women, with a prominent leadership role in the Ella Binational Breast Cancer Study. Nationally, she has established herself as a strong leader in the area of cancer health disparities; evidence of this is her appointment as recent chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Minorities in Cancer Research Council.

Dr. Jesse Nodora
Ph.D. , University of Texas (1995)
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, UCSD

Dr. Nodora is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. He received a doctor of public health (DrPH) from the University Of Texas School Of Public health in 1995 with an emphasis on health promotion. After 10 years of public health practice in state-level tobacco control, he transitioned to cancer prevention research at the Arizona Cancer Center and the University of Arizona School Medicine. Dr. Nodora’s research focus is on primary cancer prevention among poor and underserved populations. His work seeks to produce products and information that can be used by individuals and a variety of systems (e.g., communities, health care, government, non-profits) to promote healthy lifestyles, increase access to care, and improve health outcomes for chronic disease, especially cancer.

MD. James D. Murphy
M.D. , University of Michigan (2007)
Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, UCSD

Dr. Murphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences at UC San Diego where he serves as the Clinical Chief of Gastrointestinal Radiation Oncology. Dr. Murphy is a leader in the field of health services outcomes and health services research where he oversees several grant funded research projects.

University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Scarlett Lin Gomez
Ph.D. , Stanford University (2002)
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCSF

Dr. Scarlett Lin Gomez is an epidemiologist with research interests in the role of social determinants of health, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, immigration status, sociocultural factors, and neighborhood contextual characteristics, on health outcomes. She is also Director of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, a part of the California Cancer Registry and the NCI Surveillance Epidemiology End Results (SEER) Program. She has contributed surveillance data regarding cancer incidence and outcome patterns and trends for distinct Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander and Hispanic ethnic groups, as well as cancer patterns by nativity status and neighborhood characteristics. She developed the California Neighborhoods Data System, a compilation of small-area level data on social and built environment characteristics, and has used these data in more than a dozen funded studies to evaluate the impact of social and built neighborhood environment factors on disease outcomes

Dr. Iona Cheng
Ph.D. , University of Southern California (2005)
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UCSF

Dr. Cheng is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also co-Investigator of the SEER Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry. She is a cancer and genetic epidemiologist, and Principal Investigator of multiple NIH- and foundation-funded projects aimed at examining genetics, lifestyle factors, and neighborhood characteristics in relation to cancer risk. She has an extensive research program investigating racial/ethnic differences in cancer risk and has expertise in leading population-based cancer surveillance studies that document the variation in cancer incidence and mortality patterns across race/ethnicity.

Dr. Salma Shariff-Marco
Ph.D. , Johns Hopkins University (2007)
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UCSF

My research focuses on understanding the role of social determinants of health in shaping and perpetuating cancer health disparities. One main area of focus is on place and health. I have participated as a Co-Investigator on several research projects evaluating how neighborhood characteristics (e.g., social, built, and physical environment attributes) and geographic variation may shape cancer-related health behaviors and outcomes across the cancer continuum. In addition, my research has included efforts to better characterize neighborhoods for population health studies (neighborhood archetypes, virtual audits with Google Street View). Our team is also working on multiple ways to enhance the neighborhood data for existing cohorts to better understand the role of neighborhoods in cancer outcomes, including asking participants about their neighborhoods and whether they utilize the resources as well as constructing residential histories to study impact of neighborhood change. My research has also focused on understanding how factors related to social status (race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and immigration) impact health disparities, particularly applying an intersectional lens. During my post-doc, I led a multidisciplinary team in the development of a discrimination measure for the California Health Interview Survey, where we applied a mixed methods approach to testing and validating the measure. Since then, I have continued to study self-reported experiences of discrimination (across a variety of domains, including medical discrimination) and its impact on health behaviors and outcomes, including quality of life among breast cancer survivors

Graduate Students

Paige Sheridan
MPH,University of California Los Angeles

Paige Sheridan is a PhD student in the UCSD-SDSU Public Health Epidemiology Joint Doctoral Program. She received her BS in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon and MPH in Epidemiology from University of California Los Angeles. Her research interests include cancer epidemiology, health services research and clinical epidemiology.

Chelsea Obrochta

Chelsea Obrochta is a first-year doctoral student in Epidemiology. She earned her BS in Statistics from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2015 and her MPH in Epidemiology from San Diego State University in 2017. Chelsea’s research interests include cancer epidemiology, epidemiologic methodology, and health disparities including racial/ethnic, social, and geographic. The motivating factor for her research is the inequities in vulnerable populations’ access to health care and quality of care. As a public health professional, she believes that universal health care should be a priority, and wants to raise awareness about inequities in our current system.

Chanwoo Jin


Chanwoo Jin is a student in the Joint Doctoral Program in the Department of Geography at San Diego State University (SDSU) and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He received his B.A. and M.A. in Geography from Seoul National University (Korea). His recent research interests include big data (social media) analysis, spatiotemporal modeling, and capital dynamics. He has published 5 papers (3 papers with first author) in Korean peer-review Journals, and most of them are related to the analysis of real estate market. You might take a look his paper list from google scholar.

Haihong Huang

Haihong Huang is a current master student and research assistant in the Department of Geography, San Diego State University. She received her bachelor degree of Geomatics Engineering in Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, China. Now Her research focuses on health disparities geovisualization and Web-GIS development.


Wayne Kepner

Wayne Kepner is currently in the Master’s of Public Health under the Health Promotion and Behavioral Science focus at San Diego State University.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in History with Economic  as his Minor at the University of California, Los Angeles.   He was involved in various non-profit organizations and in Drunk Driving Reduction.  His current research is in College Recovery Programs with a research interest in substance abuse prevention and treatment.



Rachelle De Ocampo

Rachelle De Ocampo is in the Master’s of Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology at San Diego State University.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health at San Diego State University as well. She is interested in chronic diseases and have had related experiences such as research in understanding the seasonal and spatial distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in San Ysidro, California and the understanding of stakeholder and participant views through qualitative methods. She currently interns at IBACH and is currently conducting research in understanding the relationship between cancer and geography among California teachers.



Cynthia Chow

Cynthia Chow is a Master’s student at San Diego State University in the Public Health program in the Epidemiology focus.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences under the Nutrition and Dietetics focus at California State University, Northridge.  She was involved in various programs that help promote health and reduce health disparities in food desert and low socioeconomic communities funded by the USDA.   Her research interest is in the prevention and reduction of cancer and her current research involves the association between food deserts and breast cancer in addition to research in the SB277 bill regarding vaccinations.

Former Members & Graduate Students

Dr. Su Han
Ph.D. , San Diego State University (2016)
Department of Geography, SDSU

Dr. Su Yeon Han is a post-doctoral researcher at Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age (HDMA) , San Diego State University. She majored in Geography and minored in computer science at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the undergraduate level, received an M.S. from Geography and Geographic Information Science in University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and a Ph.D from the joint doctoral program, San Diego State University of University of California at Santa Barbara. Her research interests are in social media, Big Data, Web-based GIS, and CyberGIS.

Brady Stanton

Brady A. Stanton is an Arizona native where he earned his BS in sociology from Arizona State University. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s of arts degree in Sociology at San Diego State University. His research interests include health disparities and cancer research, neighborhood characteristics, spatial analysis, built environment, and crime and deviancy. He is currently working as a research associate for multiple academic centers, emphasizing in cancer research and spatial mapping. His current research focuses on how aspects a community’s built environment influence health related behavior through geospatial analysis.

Yazmin SanMiguel
MPH., University of Illinois at Chicago
San Diego State University/UC San Diego

Yazmin San Miguel is a Mexico-born, bi-lingual, bi-cultural PhD student. In Chicago, IL, she obtained a BS in Biology from DePaul University and MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests concern: 1) the efficacy of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening interventions; and, 2) the role of neighborhoods in cancer screening, prevention and surveillance. During her doctoral studies, she will leverage 10+ years of experience in community engaged interventions and public health practice programs in cancer, diabetes, and HIV. She plans to further gain knowledge of geospatial analysis, multi-level modeling, and surveillance.


Ava Barekat


Sindana Ilango