Dr. Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson


Postdoctoral Fellow
Wayne State University
School of Medicine
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences

PhD, Epidemiological Sciences
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
School of Public Health
Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health

MPH, Public Health Sciences
Wayne State University
School of Medicine
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences

Research Interests:

I am interested in novel risk and preventive factor identification for acute and chronic diseases, especially in regards to social factors which are amenable to policy-intervention. I have benefited from work with interdisciplinary research teams in studying diseases and health outcomes that disproportionately affect specific segments of our population. My long term research goal is to design and implement effective interventions aimed at reducing the persistent disparity in preterm delivery among African American women. I am interested in employing multidisciplinary approaches to eliminate this adverse birth outcome, including identifying life-course exposures that may be detrimental to future reproductive health, engaging the community in planning, implementing and sustaining positive behavioral and psychosocial lifestyle changes.

Overall focus:

  • Race/ethnic and gender disparities in health;
  • Uncovering the pathways linking biological, behavioral and social factors to health disparities;
  • Identifying policy-amenable social determinants of health disparities

Current Research Projects:

  • Potential mechanisms of the subjective neighborhood-preterm delivery association among African American women
  • The multi-level association between objective and subjective neighborhood constructs
  • Associations between objectively-defined neighborhood disadvantage and preterm delivery

What brought you to VCU?

I am attracted to urban research institutions, and VCU has Institutes and Centers that are focused on things that I care about: Women's Health, Societies and Health, and Health Disparities. The diverse student population at VCU was also appealing, as I am very passionate about mentoring and role-modeling for the next generation of public health professionals. Also, the potential to work alongside and potentially collaborate with leaders in mental health, maternal and child health, and community engaged research made the decision about where to launch my research career easy.


I am very intrigued by whirling dervishes.