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Dr. Shahnjayla K. Connors

Dr. Shahnjayla K. Connors

Dr. Shahnjayla K. Connors

Assistant Professor of Health & Behavioral ScienceSocial Sciences


Dr. Connors is a transdisciplinary educator and researcher with training in cancer biology and public health. She has professional experience in molecular biology, implementation of clinical trials, health disparities research, and increasing diversity in the science, technology engineering, and math (STEM) sciences. She joined UHD as an Assistant Professor of Health & Behavioral Sciences in 2017 and teaches courses in ethics, biostatistics, epidemiology, and community health. Dr. Connors is passionate about exposing her students to research methods and transdisciplinary learning. Her research focuses broadly on cancer treatment in minority populations. The overall goal of her research program is to develop and disseminate culturally-competent interventions to ensure equitable access to cancer treatment in minority populations. Her current research project explores the breast reconstruction determinants and decision-making in African American women.

Degrees Earned

2010 Master of Public Health (MPH), Socio-Health Sciences, University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, FL. 2010.

2008 PhD, Medical Sciences-Molecular Cell Biology, Interdisciplinary Program (IDP) in Biomedical Sciences, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL.

2003 BS Biology, Cum Laude, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA.

Certificates and Certifications:

2010 Diasporas & Health Disparities Graduate Certificate, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.

2010 Certified in Public Health (CPH), National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE), Washington, D.C.

Postdoctoral Training:

2012-2014 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD), Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.

2010-2012 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Cancer Epidemiology, Division of Population Sciences, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL.

Courses Taught

HEA 3306 Community Health

HEA 3312 Biostatistics

HEA 3314 Principles of Epidemiology

HEA 4301 Special Projects in Health & Behavioral Science

HEA 4303 Ethics for Healthcare Professionals

Experience Qualifications

Professional Experience:

2017-present Assistant Professor of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Social Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Science, University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, TX.

2015-2016 Part-Time Faculty, PhD in Health Sciences Program, College of Health Sciences, Trident University International, Cypress, CA.

2014-2015 Assistant Director of Outreach, McDonnell Genome Institute, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.

2014-2017 Adjunct Assistant Professor,Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems, School of Public Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX.

2013-2017 Adjunct Instructor of Biology, Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis, MO.

More Information

Selected Publications:
Connors, S. K.*, Martinez Leal, I.*, Nitturi, V., Iwundu, C. N., Maza, V., Reyes S., Acquati, C., & Reitzel, L. R. (in press). Empowered choices: African-American women's breast reconstruction decisions. American Journal of Health Behavior.
*Joint first authors

Connors, S. K., Goodman, M. S., Myckatyn, T. M., Margenthaler, J. A., & Gehlert, S. (2016). Breast Reconstruction after mastectomy at a comprehensive cancer center. SpringerPlus, 5, 955.

Noel, L., Connors, S. K., Goodman, M. S., & North St. Louis Breast Cancer Mortality Reduction Executive Committee, Gehlert S. (2015). Improving breast cancer services for African American Women living in St. Louis. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 15(4), 5-12.

Benesh, E. C.*, Lamb, L. E.*, Connors, S. K., Farmer, G., Fuh., K., Hunleth., J., Montgomery, K., Ramsey, A., Moley, K. H., Colditz, G., & Gehlert, S. (2015). A case study approach to train early-stage investigators in transdisciplinary research. Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science, 6, 13-22.

*Joint first authors

Connors, S. K., Goodman, M. S., Noel, L., Chavakula, N., Butler, D., McMullen, R., Oliver, C., McCullough., I, & Gehlert, S. (2014). Breast cancer treatment among African American women in North St. Louis, Missouri. Journal of Urban Health, 92(1), 67-82.

Kim, S. J.*, Amankwah, E.*, Connors, S. K., Park, H. Y., Rincon, M., Cornnell, H., Hashim, A. I., Choi, J, Tsai, Y., Engelman, R.W., Kumar N.B., & Park, J. Y. (2014). Safety and chemopreventive effect of Polyphenon E in preventing early and metastatic progression of prostate cancer in TRAMP mice. Cancer Prevention Research, 7, 435-444.

* Joint first authors

Paxton, R. J., King, D.W., Garcia-Prieto, C., Connors, S. K., Hernandez, M., Gor, B. J., & Jones, L. A. (2013). Associations between body size and serum estradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin levels in premenopausal African American women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 98(3), E485-490.

Kumar, N. B., Crocker, T., Smith, T., Connors, S. K., Pow-Sang, J. , Spiess, P. E., Egan, K., Quinn, G., Schell, M., Sebti, S., Kazi, A., Chuang, T., Salup, R., Helal, M., Zagaja, G., Trabulsi, E., McLarty, J., Fazili, T., Williams, C. R., Schreiber, F. & Anderson, K. (2012). Prostate cancer chemoprevention targeting high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) and atypical small acinar proliferation (ASAP): Model for trial design and outcome measures. Journal of Clinical Trials, 2(1), Pii:1000105.

Kumar, N. B., Crocker, T., Smith, T., Pow-Sang, J., Spiess, P. E., Connors, S. K., Chornokur, G., Dickinson, S. I., Williams, C. R., Salup, R., & Bai, W. (2012). Prostate cancer chemoprevention targeting high risk populations: Model for trial design and outcome measures. J Cancer Sci Ther, 2011(S3), Pii: 007.

Connors, S. K., Chornokur, G., & Kumar, N. B. 2012. New insights to the mechanisms of green tea catechins in the chemoprevention of prostate cancer. Nutrition and Cancer, 64(1), 4-22.

Awards and Honors:

Faculty Development Project for It takes all of Us to keep us well! Engaging in transdisciplinary and community-engaged research to reduce health disparities in our communities [Professional development Session]. 2019 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference, Hawai'i Convention Center, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Minority & Minority Serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award to attend the 11th AACR Special Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, in New Orleans, LA, November 2-5, 2018

Linton-Poodry Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Leadership Institute (LPSLI), American Association for the Advancement in Science (AAAS), Washington, D.C. July 19-25, 2015.

Grant Support:

Shahnjayla K. Connors, PhD, MPH, CPH (Joint-PI) & Lorraine Reitzel, PhD, FAAHB (Joint PI)
A Patient-Centered Approach to Exploring Breast Reconstruction in African American Women
University of Houston- University of Houston-Downtown Synergy Grant. University of Houston & University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, Texas. 2018-2020.

Shahnjayla K. Connors (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) & Nagi B. Kumar, PhD (PI)

Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research
Grant for Phase II Clinical Trial of Polyphenon E in Prostate Cancer (3R01CA122060). H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL 2012-2014.