Dr. Sitara M. Weerakoon is an incoming postdoctoral fellow with the Yale School of Medicine NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Substance Abuse Prevention and the SASH Lab at the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Weerakoon obtained a PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health (UTH SPH), and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health from Austin College.
Her research focuses on substance use impact on health in the child and adolescent population with a lifecourse approach. She is skilled in research design, quantitative data analysis, data visualization, survey development, GIS mapping, health communication, and academic writing. Her master’s thesis combined the use of structural equation modeling and geographic information system (GIS) mapping software, while her dissertation (“Effect of in utero polysubstance exposure on anthropometric and cardiovascular health outcomes in ethnically diverse adolescents”) used mixed effects growth curve modeling and regression modeling to explore child growth over time and cardiovascular disease risk in adolescence after prenatal exposure to maternal drug use.
She has contributed to papers on childhood obesity prevention and substance use in adolescence and adulthood. Her research has been covered by Forbes, The Independent, The Telegraph, and many more. She also has several papers under review and in preparation regarding adolescent sexual health, substance use in adolescence, racial and ethnic disparities in adolescent mental health, and other topics relating to child health. Her work has been accepted for oral and poster presentations at several local, national, and international conferences. During her PhD, she was the recipient of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence Primm-Singleton Minority Travel Award, the James T. Willerson & Nancy Beamer Willerson Scholarship in the School of Public Health, and the Outstanding New Student Doctoral Scholarship. During her MPH, she was the recipient of the Richard M. Grimes Scholarship in Public Health and the Outstanding New Student Master Scholarship. In 2019, she represented UTH SPH as a Student Global Health Ambassador at Universidad El Bosque in Bogota, Colombia. She is a member of the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health, American Public Health Association, and Texas Public Health Association.