Dr. Thomas is Professor of Health Services Administration and Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity. One of the nation's leading scholars in the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, Dr. Thomas has applied his expertise to address a variety of conditions from which minorities generally face far poorer outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and HIV/AIDS. From 2011-2017, he was Principal Investigator (with S. Quinn) for the Center of Excellence in Race, Ethnicity and Health Disparities Research. Dr. Thomas has received numerous awards for his professional accomplishments. His work has become recognized as one of the scholarly contributions leading to the 1997 Presidential Apology to Survivors of the Syphilis Study Done at Tuskegee. His current research focuses on the translation of evidence-based science on chronic disease into community-based interventions designed to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. More specifically, he has focused on understanding how social context shapes attitudes and behaviors of underserved, poorly served, and never-served segments of our society toward participation in health promotion and disease prevention activities. Dr. Thomas is particularly interested in how the legacy of the Syphilis Study at Tuskegee (1932–72) has affected and influenced the willingness of African Americans to participate in medical and public health research.
Dr. Quinn is Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Science, Director of the doctoral program in Maternal and Child Health, and Senior Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, School of Public Health, University of Maryland. From 2011-2017, she was Principal Investigator (with S. Thomas) for the Center of Excellence in Race, Ethnicity and Health Disparities Research, and the PI on a study, Uncovering and Addressing Cultural Beliefs behind Vaccine Racial Disparities. She is currently PI (w. D. Broniatowski, George Washington University) on a NIGMS grant, Supplementing Survey-Based Analyses of Group Vaccination Narratives and Behaviors Using Social Media. In recent years, she was the PI on two FDA funded studies: 1) Public Attitudes Toward Medical Countermeasures and 2) Investigating Factors Associated with Participation of Racial & Ethnic Minority Populations in FDA Regulated Research. Dr. Quinn was PI (with Dr. Thomas) of a Grand Opportunity grant from the Office of the Director, NIH and NIMHD: “Bioethics Research Infrastructure Initiative: Building Trust between Minorities and Researchers”. As the PI of a CDC funded study, Public Attitudes Toward H1N1 Influenza, she led two national surveys during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, becoming the first to examine public attitudes toward emergency use authorizations for drugs and vaccines. She was also funded by the CDC to study communication between postal workers and public health professionals during the anthrax attack. Her research interests include vaccine acceptance in routine and emergency situations; racial disparities in vaccine uptake; crisis and emergency risk communication with a specific focus on minority populations; and engagement of minority and marginalized communities in research.
Dr. Butler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity. Dr. Butler’s research is anchored in an ecological framework that incorporates individual, social structure and environmental influences in understanding and eliminating tobacco-related health disparities. He is dedicated to building ongoing and permanent relationships with community members for the purpose of designing and conducting interventions where the community participates fully in all aspects of the research process. Dr. Butler is a behavioral scientist with more than 17 years of experience carrying out community engaged research and practice with African Americans. Moreover, he has extensive experience conducting qualitative research including focus groups and in-depth interviews. Dr. Butler completed postdoctoral training in cancer prevention and tobacco control; focusing on strategies for recruiting and retaining African American public housing residents in cluster-randomized clinical trials. Further, he is a Graduate Fellow in Randomized Behavioral Clinical Trials and the Principal Investigator of a National Cancer Institute-funded Career Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01); where this research agenda examined the smoking cessation needs of African American public housing residents and the requisite strategies for engaging the residents in smoking cessation research.
Dr. Fryer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity. Trained as behavioral scientist, Dr. Fryer utilizes mixed methods study designs to examine the sociocultural context of health and health status, with an emphasis in community-engaged research. His work focuses on racial and ethnic health disparities in substance use and dependence, specifically tobacco and marijuana use among racial and ethnic youth and young adult populations. Dr. Fryer was recently awarded a Tier 1 proof of concept/seed grant through the University of Maryland, Division of Research titled, "Smoke What?": Examining the Smoking Identity of Black Youth and Young Adults. The aim of the study is to develop survey items as the foundation for a future smoking identity scale inclusive of the experiences of black youth and young adults.
He has completed work as the Principal Investigator of a five-year, NIH/NCI-funded K01 career development award, Correlates of Nicotine Dependence among Urban African American Youth. Additionally, he concluded research as a Co-Investigator on the FDA/NCI-funded, Assessing Risk Perceptions for Small Cigars/Cigarillos among Young Adults and as a Co-Investigator and the Research Core Director of the Center of Excellence on Race, Ethnicity, and Health Disparities Research grant within the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD).
Dr. Fryer's collateral research endeavors include: African American men’s health; behavioral intervention research; and the respectful, recruitment and retention of underrepresented communities in research.
Dr. Garza is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health and Associate Director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity. Dr. Garza received her MPH from the School of Public Health at San Diego State University with an emphasis in health education and health promotion. Post MPH degree, Dr. Garza worked as a health coordinator for a federally qualified health center in Coachella Valley, CA where she gained valuable community-level experience working with low-income migrant farm workers (primarily Latinos and African Americans). She coordinated local, state, and federal community education and medical treatment programs with a focus on diabetes, cancer screening, hypertension, STDs, and HIV/AIDS. Dr. Garza returned to graduate school, and received her PhD in Health Policy and Management with a focus in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University where she also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Cancer Epidemiology. Dr. Garza's research activities embrace the full spectrum of the intervention research process-from planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating, to dissemination of research findings - using a community-based participatory research approach. She has a strong interest in health disparities research, including understanding the interplay of psychosocial, behavioral, and neighborhood-level factors associated with health behavior; specifically, factors related to cancer screening. Dr. Garza's research interests also include the role and influence of religion and spirituality on health outcomes and domestic violence. Currently, Dr. Garza is the principal investigator of a NCI-funded, K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01), titled “African Americans and Colorectal Cancer: A Multilevel Model to Assess Factors for Screening.” The objective of the K01 is to characterize individual and neighborhood-level risk and protective factors associated with colorectal cancer screening behavior among African-Americans. Additionally, Dr. Garza’s research involves assessing the prevailing perceptions, knowledge and attitudes toward participation in biomedical research, including clinical trials. Moreover, she is working with the Health Advocates in Reach and Research (HAIR) network, a barbershop initiative, to promote cancer screening in barbershops.