Previous UF Mentors

Folakemi T. Odedina, PhD.

Program Director

Dr. Odedina is Professor of Pharmaceutical Outcomes & Policy, and Radiation Oncology. She is also the Associate Director of Health Disparities for the UF Shands Cancer Center. Her research program focuses on the predictors of health disparities and cost-effective, community-based behavioral interventions to improve the health of minority populations. She has directed over 30 research projects, including the Department of Defense award – FAMU Center for Minority Prostate Cancer Training and Research (CMPC), which comprises a trans-disciplinary team of clinical, behavioral and basic scientists. In 2009, Dr. Odedina’s leadership in health disparities was recognized by the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacy (ASHP) and the Association of Black Health-System Pharmacists (ABHP) when she was awarded the Inaugural (1st) Leadership Award for Health Disparities. In 2011, she was elected as the North America Vice President for the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC). Dr. Odedina has a global consortium focused on understanding the burden of prostate cancer disparities in Black men of West African ancestry, and developing tailored and targeted community-centered interventions to eliminate prostate cancer disparities among US Black men. In addition to her research accomplishments, Dr. Odedina has mentored numerous faculty, research associates, graduate students and professional students at West Virginia University (WVU), Florida A&M University and University of Florida. She has also trained over twenty Masters’ students, ten Doctoral (Ph.D.) students, and taught over 3,000 Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) students at UF, WVU and FAMU.

R. Renee Reams, PhD.

R. Renee Reams, PhD is Full Professor and Medicinal Chemistry Section Chair in the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She has been involved in prostate cancer investigations since 2004. She also serves on State of Florida’s Health Disparity Research Advisory Committee and is a member of several prostate cancer research consortiums. As a Principal Investigator with more than fourteen years experience serving as Program Administrator for the HRSA Centers of Excellence (COE) Program, Dr. Reams led the Faculty/Student Research Training COE Activity. This program matched year 1 thru year 3 pharmacy majors (sophomore, junior equivalent) with FAMU Pharmacy faculty researchers for hands-on, 15-hour per week basic and clinical science research training experiences during the academic year and in the summer. A total of 67 students were matched and trained over the four year period during this activity: 15% of the students became co-authors on published articles and 88% published abstracts in national state and on-campus journals Annually, since 2007, Dr Reams has coordinated and hosted the annual student research forum, a campus-wide scientific poster presentation event for undergraduate and graduate students at FAMU. Personally, Dr. Reams has also worked very closely with and mentored more than 24 undergraduate FAMU students in her own laboratory in the past 20 years. She has taught Physiological Chemistry to over 3,000 Doctor of Pharmacy (Pham) students at FAMU. In addition, Dr. Reams is also a member of the FAMU graduate faculty and has trained & graduated four PhD and two MS students in her research laboratory. With her experience in prostate cancer research and in mentoring undergraduate, graduate students, junior faculty, research associates, Dr. Reams is poised to contribute significantly as the FAMU faculty academic advisor for this DoD Collaborative Undergraduate HBCU Student Summer Training Program Award between FAMU and UF.

Paul Okunieff, M.D.

Director, UF Shands Cancer Center

Chair, UF Department of Radiation Oncology

Paul Okunieff, M.D., is board-certified in therapeutic radiology and is among the pioneers of in-vivo nuclear magnetic resonance imaging of tumors. Dr. Okunieff’s research includes development of a novel method to measure radiation-induced DNA fragments in the bloodstream to estimate radiation exposure, and the identification of molecules that provide genetically-based protection against radiation hazards. He has active protocols to study the treatment of metastatic cancers with radiosurgery, and is developing protocols for the use of proton therapy in metastatic cancers.

Dr. Okunieff came to UF in 2009 from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he served as Philip Rubin Professor in radiation oncology and chair of the department of radiation oncology. Prior to his appointment in Rochester in 1998, Dr. Okunieff served as branch chief of radiation oncology at the National Cancer Institute and as an assistant professor in radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School between 1988 and 1993.

Dr. Okunieff earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, where he also completed his postdoctoral fellowship in medicine and a fellowship in radiation medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering & computer science and biological science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Okunieff is radiation oncology chair for the Southwest Oncology Group, is a diplomat of the National Board of Medical Examiners and he serves on national committees overseeing the safety and quality of therapeutic radiation delivery.

Merry-Jennifer Markham, M.D.

Dr. Markham is a clinical investigator and educator with a focus on gynecologic malignancies and lymphoproliferative disorders. She is board certified in Medical Oncology, Hematology, and Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), and numerous clinical trial cooperative groups.

Nancy Mendenhall, M.D.

A University of Florida College of Medicine faculty member since 1985, Dr. Mendenhall served as the chair of the department of radiation oncology from 1993-2006. She has nearly 30 years of experience and specializes in the areas of breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphomas and pediatric cancers. She also treats patients who have prostate cancer and other malignancies. Dr. Mendenhall is a leader in research, has extensive experience in cooperative group trials (COG) and has produced nearly 160 published works, including articles in such publications as American Journal of Clinical OncologyCancer, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. In addition, she has been named in several leading women’s magazines as one of the nation’s top doctors for women with cancer. Currently, Dr. Mendenhall is responsible for the day-to-day clinical operations of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

Mary Ellen Young, Ph.D.

Dr. Mary Ellen Young graduated ABD in 1984, and completed her dissertation in 1987 at the University of Florida. After working in Texas at University of Houston and Baylor Medical, she returned to UF in 1998. She returned to what is now the Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health in 2008 as a Clinical Associate Professor, a position she held until her recent promotion to Professor.

Her research specialty is in the area of health research using qualitative methodology. Her focus has been on stroke and cancer populations and her current passion is with family caregiving research.

Walter O’Dell, Ph.D.

Dr. Walter O’Dell currently serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida in the departments of Radiation Oncology and Biomedical Engineering. He received his B.S. in Applied and Engineering Physics from Cornell, his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and was a Post-Doctoral Fellow and Research Scientist in the Department of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He has received various awards and scholarships, some of which include the Casarett Award for Translational Research, American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant, American Heart Association Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award and the Society of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Abstract Cum Laude Award. Dr. O’Dell currently serves as Senator for the University of Florida Faculty Senate, a member of UF BME Medical Physics Committee, and CTSI/MBI Human Imaging Core Scientific Advisory Committee. He is a Scientific Committee member of the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, and a member of the UF Faculty Senate Rec Sports Board. He is an active member of the Radiation Research Society, Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium, Biomedical Engineering Society, Society of Magnetic Resonance, American Association of Physicists in Medicine and SPIE Medical Imaging society. He has over 30 publications, a few of which include the Detection and Characterization of Brain Tumor In Computer-aided Detection and Diagnosis and the Method for accurate sizing of pulmonary vessels from 3D medical images.

Curtis Bryant, M.D.

Dr. Curtis Bryant is a radiation oncologist in Jacksonville, Florida and is affiliated with UF Health Shands Hospital. He received his medical degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and has been in practice for 7 years. He is one of 12 doctors at UF Health Shands Hospital who specialize in Radiation Oncology.

Chris Xing

Chengguo (Chris) Xing, Ph.D.

Chengguo (Chris) Xing, Ph.D., is a professor and the Frank A. Duckworth Eminent Scholar Chair in the department of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Xing received his B.S. degree from the Dalian University of Technology and obtained his Ph.D. degree from Arizona State University. He completed postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Xing started his independent research career as an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota in 2003, and he was promoted to associate professor in 2009 and professor in 2014. He joined the faculty at the University of Florida in August 2016


Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D.

Duane A. Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D. is Co-Director of the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and Director of the UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. He is the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and the State of Florida Endowed Cancer Research Chair at the University of Florida College of Medicine

Dr. Mitchell currently serves as a chartered member of the NIH study section on Cancer Immunopathology and Immunotherapy, Chair of the NCI Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium Immunotherapy Committee, member of the NCI Brain Malignancy Steering Committee  Immunotherapy Working Group, and as gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Center for Brain Tumor Research Scientific Advisory Council. He also serves as Program Leader for the UF Health Cancer Center, Cancer Therapeutics and Immuno-Oncology (CTI) research program. Dr. Mitchell has more than 40 refereed journal publications, 15 textbook chapters and scientific reviews, and is inventor on five United States patents on findings from his oncological research. He has been invited to serve on several scientific advisory boards and to speak on neuro-oncology in local, national, and international venues.  His work is supported by the Department of Defense, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Neurologic Diseases and Stroke, and several private funding agencies.


Rowan Milner, Ph.D.

Dr. Milner is dually board-certified in veterinary internal medicine and veterinary oncology. Milner received his early academic training from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

His research interests include osteosarcoma, melanoma vaccine, stereotactic radiosurgery, targeted radiotherapy and tumor suppressor genes.

He joined UF’s faculty in 2001. He has twice received Clinician of the Year awards from UF veterinary students since that time. In recognition of his development of a promising new melanoma vaccine and for other research, Milner was named Clinical Researcher of the Year by the Florida Kennel Club in 2007. In 2011, he won the Pfizer Award for Veterinary Research Excellence and in 2009, he received a faculty enhancement opportunity award from the Office of the Provost at UF.


Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., MPH, FACE

Dr. Linda Cottler, Associate Dean for Research and Planning at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and Dean’s Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine at the University of Florida, is involved in studies in several major areas with public health importance. These include: the development of culturally reliable and valid measures for identifying substance use, abuse and dependence, along with psychiatric disorders and their risk factors; innovative methods for conducting national surveys of high risk behaviors; and community based, peer-delivered interventions to change high risk behaviors and substance abuse. The Cottler lab has focused its work with underrepresented populations including prescription drug misusers, former National Football League players, stimulant users among youth 10 to 18 years of age nationally, out-of-treatment drug users and heavy drinkers, prescription drug misusers, female sex workers, and criminal justice populations.  The work she has done is directly related to reducing disparities for health research and health services. Dr. Cottler has been involved with major research efforts over the years, including the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study and now the longitudinal ABCD study.


Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D., M.A., MBA

Dr. Salloum is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Policy at the University of Florida College of Medicine and a member of the UF Health Cancer Center and the Institute for Child Health Policy. He is a health services researcher whose work has consistently focused on decision making across the cancer prevention and control continuum, including prevention, screening, and treatment. His research considers the influence of guidelines and incentives on the demand for health and healthcare across the cancer control continuum.


Yousong Ding, Ph.D.

Yousong Ding, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, received his B.S. in applied chemistry from Peking University. He pursued his M.S. studies about fungal secondary metabolite biosynthesis at the University of Nebraska under the direction of Dr. Liangcheng Du. He further expanded his expertise in the natural product field during his Ph.D. training with Dr. David Sherman at the University of Michigan. Dr. Ding then worked as a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Frances H. Arnold’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. In the Arnold laboratory, he applied principles of protein engineering and synthetic biology to develop biocatalysts for the production of valuable chemicals and to understand herbicide metabolism. His long-term interests in developing drug molecules led him to take a position in Pfizer. This position allowed him to gain experience in pharmaceutical bioprocess development, and correspondingly he generated various types of biocatalysts used in bio-routes for lowering manufacturing costs of several drugs. In 2013, Dr. Ding started his position as an assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Florida. His research interests include natural product biosynthesis, drug discovery and development, synthetic biology, protein engineering, and chemical biology


Sihem Bihorel, Ph.D, Pharm.D., M.S.

Dr. Bihorel graduated with a master’s and a Pharm.D. degree from the University of Paris-Descartes in France and a Ph.D. degree from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at SUNY at Buffalo. She published several peer reviewed papers and has been awarded prestigious awards including, the PROSPER Excellence award from the College of Pharmacy at UF, the PhRMA Foundation starter grant award in translational medicine and therapeutics, and the scholar award from the Center for Protein Therapeutics at Buffalo


Jinhai Huo, Ph.D., M.D., MsPH

Dr. Huo is a health services researcher and health economist, and his main research interests focus on delivery of health care, health disparities, health policy, and economic evaluation, with a particular focus on cancer care. He has expertise in utilization, comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness analysis using large national claims and survey databases, such as SEER-Medicare data, Texas Medicare data, MarketScan® Commercial Claims & Encounters data, MarketScan® Health Risk Assessment Survey data, Medicare Fee-For Service Provider Utilization & Payment data, National Health Interview Survey data, and National Plan and Provider Enumeration System data.


Jane V. Aldrich, Ph.D.

Jane Aldrich, Ph.D., joined the College of Pharmacy as a professor of medicinal chemistry. She came to the University of Florida from the University of Kansas, where she had been a professor since 2001. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and completed an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

The focus of research in her laboratory is the design and synthesis of peptides and peptidomimetic analogs. This research involves examining structure-activity relationships, primarily of opioid peptides, and exploring synthetic methodologies to prepare novel peptide and peptidomimetic analogs. Her research has expanded to also include studies related to drug development, examining the metabolic stability of peptides, their ability to cross biological barriers, and their pharmacokinetic and pharmacological properties in animal models. Current projects focus on novel peptide analogs as potential treatments for drug abuse, pain and cancer.


Mansour Mohamadzadeh, PhD, MS

Dr. Mohamadzadeh is an immunologist with over 25 years of expertise in the fields of inflammation, systemic/mucosal immunology, infection, and vaccine delivery. He is also experienced in working with various therapeutic approaches that focus on the role of innate immune cells, particularly dendritic cells, and how these cells determine the activation and differentiation of T lymphocytes—including T cells such as TH17 or extrathymic regulatory T cells (Tregs)—in steady state, during infection, and throughout autoinflammatory intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). In his opinion, understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying intestinal immune regulation is most effective when host interactions with intestinal bacterial species and their bacterial products are fully understood, and when the critical molecules that culminate in inflammation or anti-inflammatory responses are identified. Thus, his research is firmly centered on the specifics of beneficial gut microbes, their unique properties, and their role in the induction of stimulatory or regulatory signals in innate cells and T lymphocytes, contributing directly to further proinflammation or regulation of inflammatory diseases (IBD, NEC). Pragmatically, his research is tightly entwined with generating novel therapies for intestinal disorders (e.g. NEC) using beneficial bacteria such as P. UF1 to significantly regulate induced pathogenic inflammation in sufferers who urgently need it.