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Clinical Decision Making
Clinical Decision Making
Prescription drugs are prescribed during clinical encounters. Thorough and effective patient-provider communication about the benefits, risks, costs and alternatives to prescription medicines is a vital part of clinical care. The Center supports research and advocacy to identify and overcome barriers to patient-provider communication to improve safe medication use and to maximize adherence.
Comparative Effectiveness
Comparative Effectiveness
For stakeholders to make informed decisions about prescription drug use, they need timely evidence about the comparative effectiveness of therapies and their alternatives, including their risks and benefits. Incomplete evidence contributes to overuse of some therapies, underuse of others and risky prescribing. The Center supports innovative research into these topics.
Global Medicines
Global Medicines
Ensuring adequate access and affordability of prescription medicines poses major and unique challenges for countries around the world. These challenges are particularly salient in emerging economies that account for an increasing proportion of the world's population and pharmaceutical expenditures. Center investigators focus on how public policy can be optimized to maximize global drug availability and access.
Medication Safety
Medication Safety
Some adverse effects of medicines only come to light after medications have been on the market and widely used. Center investigators are working to develop new methods for identifying risk, to predict the likelihood of high-risk medicines or drug combinations and to protect the public from excessive exposure to these products.
Policy Analyses
Policy Analyses
Complex and dynamic policies govern prescription drug regulation. Policymakers face the challenge of maximizing innovation while protecting public health, and developing payment policies that promote evidence-based usage. Center investigators evaluate regulatory policies to provide policymakers with information to continually optimize pharmaceutical regulation.
Prescription Abuse
Prescription Abuse
Prescription drugs provide therapeutic value to millions of Americans. At the same time, rates of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths are skyrocketing. The annual number of fatal drug overdoses in the United States now surpasses those of motor vehicle deaths. The Center supports innovative research and public advocacy to help stem this epidemic.

Center Scholars

At its core, the CDSE is dedicated to training, research, clinical care, and public service within the broad community of drug safety and effectiveness. The Center Scholars are a group of trainees and early-career professionals whose research interests and goals align with those of the CDSE.

Our Current Center Scholars:

Our Graduated Center Scholars:

Current Scholars

Sheriza Baksh, MPH
Degree Program: PhD (Epidemiology)
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS & Stephen Ehrhardt, MD
Research Focus: Pharmacoepidemiology

Sheriza BakshPrior to Hopkins, Sheriza Baksh worked at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where she conducted research on drug safety for generic antiepileptic drugs, nanotechnology drug products, and parenteral drugs.  Through this research, she worked with claims data, adverse events reports, and clinical trial data.  After four years at the FDA, Sheriza joined the Department of Epidemiology, where she is currently a PhD student concentrating in Clinical Trials and Evidence Synthesis with a Certificate in Risk Sciences and Public Policy.  Her interests lie at the intersection of regulatory policy and pharmacoepidemiology.  

Gillian Gresham, MSc
Degree Program: PhD (Epidemiology)
Advisor: Kay Dickerson, PhD
Research Focus: Clinical Trials and Evidence Synthesis 

gillian greshamGillian Gresham is a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology. She holds a master’s degree in epidemiology and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her broad interests in comparative effectiveness research, randomized clinical trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses emerge from her past work and research experiences in these areas. During her doctoral training, she has focused on evidence synthesis, patient-centered outcomes research, the analysis of adverse events in clinical trials and benefit-harm assessment methods. She has also been an active teaching assistant in the clinical trials course series offered at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Geetha Iyer, MBBS, MD
Degree Program: ScM Clinical Epidemiology
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS
Research Focus: Drug Utilization and Pharmacovigilance

geetha iyerGeetha has a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree from India with 5 years theoretical and clinical training, followed by MD in Pharmacology (3 years). She completed her dissertation on pharmacologic management of respiratory infections in pediatric patients. She worked for two years as an Assistant Professor in a medical college training undergraduate medical students in Pharmacology. Geetha's research interests include post marketing effectiveness and safety of drugs as well as utilization of drugs.In the course of her MD dissertation, she developed interest in pharmaco-epidemiological studies. Geetha would like to combine the knowledge of her training as a physician with that of epidemiology gained here to best answer questions regarding drug effectiveness and safety. 

Taruja Karmarkar, MHS
Degree Program: PhD (Department of Health Policy and Management)
Advisor: Darrel J. Gaskin, PhD
Research Focus: Pharmacoeconimcs, Decision Modeling, Pharmaceutical Policy, and Patient Outcomes Research. 

taruja karmarkar

Taruja Karmarkar is currently a doctoral student in the Health Economics and Policy program in the Department of Health Policy and Management. She is pursuing a concentration in Economic Evaluation with an interest in decision modeling methods, pharmacoeconomics, and the implications of these methods on policy. Taruja holds an MHS degree in Health Economics, from JHSPH, with a concentration in Comparative Effectiveness and Outcomes Research. She also completed the certificate in Quality, Patient Safety & Outcomes Research while working on a project with physicians in the Outcomes After Critical Illness and Surgery Group (OACIS). Taruja serves as a Reviewer for the Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Registry at the Center for Evaluation and Risk in Health at the Tufts Medical Center. Prior to coming to JHSPH, she received a BA in Economics from New York University. 

Remington Nevin, MD, MPH
Degree Program: DrPH (Department of Mental Health)
Advisor: Peter Zandi, MHS, MPH, PhD
Research focus: Antimalarial Drug Safety


Remington Nevin received his MD from the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in 2002 and his MPH from Johns Hopkins in 2004. He returned to Johns Hopkins to pursue his DrPH following a 14 year career in the U.S. Army where he served as an Preventive Medicine physician, including on overseas tours in Afghanistan and Africa. During his military career, Dr. Nevin’s research into the adverse neuropsychiatric effects of the U.S. Army-developed antimalarial drug mefloquine, and his work to raise awareness of its widespread prescribing among deployed personnel with mental health contraindications, contributed to the U.S. military’s decision to deprioritize its use as a drug of “last resort”, and directly informed recent FDA-approved label changes which included a new boxed warning of potential long-term mental health effects. Dr. Nevin testified to the U.S. Senate on these effects confounding diagnosis and management in military servicemembers and veterans of neuropsychiatric disorders including PTSD and TBI, and in 2014 was awarded the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Outstanding Recent Graduate award for his research and advocacy work in this area. His current research focuses on improving diagnostic specificity to enable improved epidemiological and genetic epidemiological studies into antimalarial toxicity.

Kevin Riggs, MD, MPH
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS
Research focus:  Prescription Drug Costs

Kevin Riggs

Dr. Riggs is a research fellow in the Johns Hopkins Division of General Internal Medicine, and Hecht-Levi Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.  His research interests include clinical ethics, and the ethics and effectiveness of cost-containment strategies.  He is currently researching the effect of drug coupons on costs and adherence.  He earned his Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and completed his medical degree and internal medicine residency at Duke University.  

Mariana Socal, MD, MSc, MPP
Degree Program: PhD (Department of Mental Health)
Advisors: Dr. Antonio Trujillo, MPP, PhD
Research focus:  Pharmaceutical Access and Utilization in Low and Middle Income Countries

tanMariana Socal is a Neurologist with clinical experience in the public and private health care systems in Brazil, where she used to work with the public health administration on evidence-based decision-making for the provision of medicines. During that period she also collaborated with local state attorneys in responding to legal claims for access to medicines. Since then Mariana has become interested in researching ways to improve access and utilization of medicines for persons with chronic diseases in low- and middle-income countries. After graduating from a Master’s in Public Policy from Princeton University Mariana joined the Doctoral Program in Health Systems at the Department of International Health in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she is currently in her third year.

Jingwen Tan, ScM
Degree Program: PhD (Epidemiology)
Advisors: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS & Jodi B. Segal, MD, MPH
Research focus:  Epidemiology of Drug-Induced Morbidity and Mortality

tanAfter graduating with a BS degree in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology from UCLA, Jingwen conducted laboratory surveillance for respiratory viral pathogens during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She then completed the ScM degree from JHSPH in Epidemiology, and obtained the Certificates in Risk Sciences and Public Policy, and Public Health Informatics.  She currently interns at the Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology in the Food and Drug Administration where she helps coordinate the post-marketing surveillance pilot program for the Sentinel Initiative. She is interested in the epidemiology of drug-induced morbidity and mortality using electronic databases.

Sangeeta Tandon, PharmD
Degree Program: MPH
Advisor: Dr. Andrea Ruff, MD
Research Focus: Pharmaceutical Quality, Access, and Affordability in Low Income Countries

Sangeeta TandonSangeeta is currently pursuing an MPH at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Currently she serves as an Operations Manager in the Critical Care Pharmacy at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where she participates in optimizing the operational process in the hospital as well as has a clinical component in optimizing drug therapy.  Prior to Hopkins, Sangeeta was a Fulbright scholar conducting research in sub-Saharan Africa looking at measuring adherence in low income countries, teaching a health policy course on drug regulation, and conducting pharmacologic monitoring research of nontraditional medications.  Her interests are in effectiveness research and looks to find ways to improve pharmaceutical access abroad.


Graduated Scholars

Ekta Agarwal, MPH
Degree Program: MPH 
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD
Research Focus: Drug Safety and Adherence 


Ekta is a physician and has a diverse experience working as health care personnel in domestic and international settings. Prior to coming to Hopkins she worked with the New Jersey Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission for children with disabilities and ASD. Ekta interned at the Kennedy Krieger Institute for a Data Resource Mapping Project, a joint venture of the DHMH and MCDD. At the school, her work focused on finding an association between adherence to NOACs and GI bleeding in patients with Atrial Fibrillation. Her interests included Pharmacovigilance and Post- Marketing drug safety. She also pursued a Certificate in Risk Sciences and Public Policy and Good Clinical Practice (GCP). 

Lian-Yu Chen, MD, PhD
Degree Program: PhD (Department of Mental Health)
Advisor: Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD
Research Focus: Substance Use Disorders, Service Utilization and Psychiatric Comorbidities

chenDr. Chen received a PhD from the department of mental health. She received her M.D. degree from National Chung Kung University in Taiwan in 2006 and received psychiatric residency training in Taipei City Psychiatric Center from 2006-2010. She earned Taiwanese Board Certification in Psychiatry in 2010. After her residency training, she joined Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to pursue her PhD. While in training at the school, Dr. Chen's research interests focused on evaluating the service utilization among those with substance use disorder (SUD) and psychiatric comorbidities. Additionally, she investigated prescription stimulant abuse (Adderall®) in the United States. She has won several awards and honors including the Sommer Scholarship in 2012, NIDA Women & Sex/Gender Junior Investigator Travel Award in 2012, and Clinical Excellence Award in Taipei City Psychiatric Center in 2009.

Leigh Efird, PharmD, MPH, BCPS
Degree Program: MPH
Advisor: Sherita Hill Golden, MD, MHS
Research Focus: Hospital Drug Utilization

leigh efirdLeigh received a Masters in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed a Pharmacy Practice residency at Virginia Commonwealth University and a PGY2 Internal Medicine residency at Grady Health System. She currently practices in Internal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Through her work in direct patient care she has the opportunity to influence medication use in the acute care setting which is heavily focused on exacerbations of chronic disease states.  She continues to expand her focus of improving medication adherence during the transition of patients back to the outpatient setting through involvement in patient education of high risk medications, medication reconciliation, and other transitional services

Kevin Fain, DrPH, JD, MPH
Degree Program: DrPH
Advisor: Carlos Castillo-Salgado, MD, DrPH, JD
Research Focus: Safety of Opioid Use in the Elderly


Kevin Fain is a second year DrPH student in the Department of Epidemiology.  His research examines the application of law, policy, and epidemiologic methods for FDA’s regulation of prescription drug safety.  He currently is researching FDA’s implementation of post-marketing drug safety authorities, including Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), and the health effects from opioid prescribing in elderly adults.  Kevin previously worked as an attorney at FDA for 15 years, where he litigated cases for food and drug safety and counseled the agency on human and animal drug legal issues.  He earned his MPH and Certificate in Risk Sciences and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2011.

Haley Gibbs, PharmD, MPH, BCPS
Degree Program: MPH
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS
Research Focus: Therapeutic Drug Monitoring


Haley Gibbs received her Doctor of Pharmacy at Auburn University and completed a Pharmacy Practice residency at University of Illinois at Chicago and a Critical Care PGY2 residency at the Medical University of South Carolina.  She now practices clinical pharmacy at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Neurocritical Care Unit and is currently perusing an MPH from the Bloomberg School of Public Health. As a pharmacist working in an academic medical center, she has a unique opportunity to participate in the optimization of medication therapy for critically ill patients, as drug safety and efficacy are high priorities in patient care. In addition, she has a particular interest in resource utilization, especially as it relates to medication therapy and therapeutic drug monitoring. With rising health care costs, resource utilization is becoming an important area for research for public health.

Mengdong He, MHS
Degree Program: MHS (Epidemiology)
Advisor: Edgar R. Miller, M.D., Ph.D.
Research Focus: Drug Utilization and Effects 

Mengdong He

Mengdong has a bachelor of medicine degree in traditional Chinese medicine with 5-year theoretical and clinical training.  During her first year study at Hopkins, she developed an interest in the research of drug use as well as its beneficial and adverse effects in post-market settings. This summer Mengdong is investigating the impact of opioids use on the adherence of unrelated chronic condition medication. In the next academic year, she will continue my work on drug utilization and explore the health effects of hormone replacement therapy. 

Catherine Hwang, MSPH
Degree Program: MSPH (Department of International Health)
Advisors: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS
Research Focus: Prescription Drug Utilization and Abuse-Deterrent Formulations

HwangCatherine received a Masters from the Department of International Health.  With past research experience in chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical trials, Catherine explored the policy and regulatory aspects surrounding prescription drug utilization during her training. Her current work examines the extent to which abuse-deterrent opioid formulations will realistically shift the landscape of the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States. The past summer, she was an Epi Scholar at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, where she identified trends, patterns, and disparities in controlled substance prescriptions in order to better understand this epidemic.

Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, MHS
Degree Program: PhD (Department of Mental Health)
Advisors: Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD & Adam Spira, PhD
Research Focus: Sedative-Hypnotic Use Among the Elderly


Chris received his PhD in the Department of Mental Health.  He was a pre-doctoral fellow on the Drug Dependence Epidemiology Training Program, a T32 training grant sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  Chris’s research interests include trends in the use of psychiatric medications in older adults, the potential adverse health outcomes and health service utilization associated with the use of these medications, the impact of national and regulatory policies on the utilization and prescribing of these medications, and whether these policies can minimize the occurrence of adverse health outcomes in this population.  His dissertation focused on the use of sedative-hypnotic medications in older adults, and examined how the exclusion of benzodiazepines from reimbursement after the implementation of Medicare Part D, as well as the recent introduction of non-benzodiazepine sleep-aids (e.g. zolpidem, zaleplon, eszopiclone), has impacted prescribing trends to older adults.  He also examined the impact of these events on the occurrence of adverse health outcomes and health service utilization among elderly patients.

Gaurvika ML Nayyar, MPH, MBA
Degree Program: MPH & MBA
Advisors: David Peters, MD, DrPH, MPH 
Research focus:  Pharmaceutical Quality, Emerging Markets, Health Outcomes, and Access

tanGaurvika Nayyar received an MPH/MBA at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health & Carey Business School. Prior to Hopkins, Gaurvika worked at the National Institutes of Health conducting research on antimalarial drug resistance, pharmaceutical regulation policy, malnutrition, and counterfeiting in low and middle income countries. Her research to better understand the extent of poor quality antimalarials in South East Asia & Sub-Saharan Africa has been widely covered by BBC, NYT, Reuters, CNN & Others. Most recently, Gaurvika has been a summer associate at Johnson & Johnson’s Global Commercial Strategy Operations for pharmaceutical products and an intern at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While in training at the school, she worked on a wide range of products & programs across disease areas with a special focus in emerging markets.

Shilpa Viswanathan, PhD, MS, BPharm
Degree Program: PhD (Epidemiology)
Advisor: Lisa P. Jacobson, ScD
Research Focus: Effects of Concomitant Medication Use on Adherence to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)


Shilpa is a second year PhD student in the department of epidemiology. After interning at Novartis and UNICEF, Shilpa earned an MS in Pharmacy Administration, then worked as a health outcomes analyst for two years before joining Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. As a doctoral student, Shilpa’s interests include post-marketing drug safety and effectiveness, the epidemiology and treatment of autoimmune disorders, and pediatric health care and access to essential medicines in developing countries. Her doctoral dissertation uses methods from Pharmacoepidemiology to answer the question of optimal adherence to HAART in the current era of HIV treatment.

Lijuan Zeng, MHS
Degree Program: MHS (Epidemiology)
Academic Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS & Lea Drye, MS, PhD
Research Focus: Drug utilization, Clinical Trials, Systematic Reviews 

Lijuan Zeng

Lijuanjust finished her first year pursuing a MHS in Department of Epidemiology (Clinical Trials Concentration). In the Center for Clinical Trials, She explored various issues related to clinical trials, and mastered systematic review methods. Prior to coming to Hopkins, Lijuan received her bachelor degree in Pharmacy from Fudan University in Shanghai, where she specialized in Pharmacology and Pharmacy Administration. During the senior internship, she had experiences working in Shanghai Food and Drug Administration and later at Baxter Healthcare, which made her more interested in pharmaceutical safety and effectiveness issues. During the summer, Lijuan was a TA for Graduate Summer Institute of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She is also working on examining controlled substance utilization research with claims data. 

Meijia Zhou, MHS
Degree Program: Master of Health Science
Advisor: G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS
Research Focus: Drug Utilization and Safety

shilpaMeija specialized in Pharmacology and majored in Economics for her undergraduate studies at University of Toronto, where she also accumulated some laboratory experience. She received her Master of Health Science Program in General Epidemiology and Methodology, in which she will continue to research drug utilization. Meija examined the prescribing trends of different therapeutic classes of antihypertensive medications and trends of fixed dose combination therapies in the United States using a national representative sample. Over the summer of 2013, she examined the safety of novel anticoagulants compared to warfarin using claims data. 


If you are a doctoral student or a clinician pursuing a concurrent master’s degree at the School of Public Health and are interested in becoming a Center Scholar, please contact us.

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