Meet Our 2019 Marshall Foundation Fellows

Meet Our 2019 Marshall Foundation Fellows

March 8, 2019

Congratulations to Omar A. Contreras, MPH, and Shawna L. Follis, MS, doctoral candidates at the University of Arizona Mel And Enid Zuckerman College and recipients of the 2019 Marshall Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.

Old Main

The Marshall Foundation offers the Marshall Foundation Dissertation Fellowship to help Arizona graduate students complete their doctoral dissertation. Each year the university selects seven doctoral candidates as dissertation fellows, with one recipient of the Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Marshall Foundation Dissertation Scholarship. Students are selected on the basis of the dissertation topic, methodology and potential contributions of dissertation research to the state, nation, and the world. Mr. Contreras and Ms. Follis each received a $10,846 award. 

Omar Conteras

Contreras is a Dr.PH. candidate in public health policy and management and the recipient of the Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Marshall Dissertation Scholarship. He also received a tuition scholarship for up to two semesters for the completion of his doctoral dissertation, titled: Evidence-based research to inform diabetes prevention policy in Arizona. 


His research combines epidemiological and qualitative methods to examine the prevalence of prediabetes, the economic impact of diabetes prevention in Arizona, as well as understanding best practices from states with Medicaid diabetes prevention coverage policies, and assessing the Arizona State Legislature to determine how data helps to inform and shape evidence-based health policies.

Contreras would like to thank the members of his Dissertation Committee: Chair: Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS, associate dean of Phoenix Programs at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Committee: Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, assistant professor; Heather Carter, EdD, Arizona Senator and assistant professor of practice; Kacey Ernst, PhD, MPH, associate professor; and Gabriel Shaibi, PhD, Arizona State University. Contreras extends a special thanks to the late Dr. Maria Teresa Velez who inspired him early in his undergraduate career to pursue higher education and to be tenaciously fearless and resilient in the times of adversity.

Shawna Follis

Follis is a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology. Her dissertation title is, The Role of Psychosocial Stress and Visceral Fat in Osteoporotic Fractures: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative. For her research she will use data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) cohort study, consisting of 161,808 postmenopausal women. 

Her research will evaluate the role of psychosocial stress in visceral adipose tissue (VAT), fat that is stored deep in the abdomen, to understand how these factors contribute to higher rates of osteoporotic fractures in a multiethnic population of postmenopausal women.

Follis would like to thank the members of her Dissertation Committee: Chair: Zhao Chen, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UA Mel And Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Committee: Jennifer Bea, PhD, assistant professor, UA College of Medicine – Tucson; Chengcheng Hu, PhD, MS, professor of biostatistics, UA Zuckerman College of Public Health; and Yann Klimentidis, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology, UA Mel And Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.