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Arnold School of Public Health


August graduate lands postdoctoral fellowship to continue researching LGBT health disparities

September 17, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Growing up in Mastic Beach, New York, Sarah Piperato was always physically active and interested in health and nutrition. She completed her bachelor’s (State University of New York at Cortland) and master’s (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) degrees in kinesiology and exercise science, respectively. Through the process, she began to realize she would like to broaden her focus beyond physical activity to include other aspects of public health.

After taking a physical activity epidemiology course during her master’s program, Piperato decided that the field of epidemiology would best fit her goals as a researcher and academic. She began researching doctoral programs and found USC’s Ph.D. in epidemiology program in the Arnold School’s department of epidemiology and biostatistics.

“When I visited the USC campus, I felt welcomed by the department, felt the students I spoke with had a positive experience, and felt that I could thrive here as a student,” Piperato says. “The second reason I chose to attend USC was because I was offered a position in the Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Program, which provided me with a wide range of educational opportunities as well as the opportunity to conduct and focus on my individual research interests.”

When I visited the USC campus, I felt welcomed by the department, felt the students I spoke with had a positive experience, and felt that I could thrive here as a student.

-Sarah Piperato, August graduate (Ph.D. in epidemiology)

Throughout her program, Piperato advanced these research interests, which examine lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health disparities. She is particularly interested in understanding the differences in health risks within this population as well as the link between minority stressors and chronic health conditions among LGBT individuals. By extension, she has also developed an interest in sampling methods for recruiting representative samples of LGBT individuals for health-related research.  

Within the department, she worked closely with former faculty member Lyndie Forthofer, who served as Piperato’s mentor. “Dr. Forthofer encouraged me to advocate for my work, push my limits, and was there to guide me when I needed it,” she says. “She modeled how to be a strong, driven, successful researcher.”   

In addition to participating in the Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Program, Piperato served as a graduate teaching assistant within her department. Off campus, she supported the Charlotte-Mecklenberg LGBT Education Initiative as a graduate assistant and worked on University of North Carolina Charlotte’s Gender Minority Health Study as research manager.

Find your passion within public health, advocate for it, and use it to drive your motivation.

-Sarah Piperato, August graduate (Ph.D. in epidemiology)

As a result of these endeavors, Piperato has co-authored several papers, which have either been published or are under review by various journals. She gave a presentation on physical activity and weight status among sexual minority identified women at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, receiving the Walter J. Lear Award for best student abstract from the LGBT Caucus of Public Health Professionals. 

After her August graduation, Piperato moved to Philadelphia to begin a postdoctoral research fellowship at Temple University. Long term, she plans to pursue a tenure-track faculty member position at a large university and continue her research on LGBT health disparities.

“Public Health is a very broad but important area of study,” Piperato advises future students. “Find your passion within public health, advocate for it, and use it to drive your motivation. You are your own biggest advocate; always ask for what you want because if you don’t ask, you will never get it.”