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Arnold School of Public Health

August graduate joins Harvard Medical School as postdoctoral fellow in global health and infectious disease epidemiology

July 28, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

UofSC first showed up on Chengbo Zeng’s radar when he met health promotion education and behavior (HPEB) professor Xiaoming Li at the 2017 AIDS Impact Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Zeng had already studied preventive medicine (Guangdong Pharmaceutical University) and biostatistics (Sun Yat-sen University) in his native China, but he was interested in learning more about the context of the public health research he contributed to as a biostatistician.

“I was involved in the design and evaluation of a randomized controlled trial among people living with HIV and mental health disorders, and I lacked the conceptual understanding of social determinants of health and how to design, implement and evaluate a theory-based social behavioral intervention,” he says. “The Ph.D. in HPEB could enrich my knowledge in these aspects, and Dr. Li and I shared similar research interests, so I decided to attend UofSC and join the South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality (CHQ) family.”  

Since it was established in 2015 by Li, who directs the Center as the SmartState Endowed Chair of Clinical Translational Research, CHQ has grown to include 40 individuals (i.e., core faculty/staff, faculty associates, consultants, postdoctoral fellows, doctoral students, undergraduate research assistants, and Junior Scholars). Their collaborations are further extended by alumni and international networks of close to 30 more contributors. 

During his three years at Carolina, Zeng worked on various projects at CHQ as a Junior Scholar and a graduate research assistant. The Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow developed research expertise in infectious disease epidemiology (e.g., HIV, COVID-19) and is interested in leveraging advanced epidemiological design and methods to investigate structural barriers to health outcomes for populations with these conditions.

“Our doctoral program is very good, especially for those who are interested in the design and evaluation of social behavioral programs,” Zeng says. “Additionally, if you have strong analytic skills, you have many opportunities to collaborate with excellent scholars and apply what you learned in our program to the real-world research.”

Through his Ph.D. program and CHQ, Zeng worked closely with mentors Li and HPEB assistant professor Shan Qiao, who provided opportunities to work with scientists from diverse backgrounds (e.g., biostatistics, geography, clinical medicine, psychology). “These collaborations widen my horizons, improve my communication skills and shape me as an interdisciplinary researcher,” he says.  

Zeng graduates with 27 peer-reviewed publications and 31 presentations to his name. In recognition of his many achievements, he received two of his department’s highest honors: the Christopher Peter Aluah Outstanding Doctoral Student Award and the Olga I. Ogoussan Doctoral Research Award. He also won the Arnold School's Doctoral Student Achievement Award

Long term, Zeng plans join academia, conducting global research in low- and middle-income countries. He will first obtain additional training through a postdoctoral fellowship in global health and infectious disease epidemiology at Harvard Medical School. In this position, he will work with a team of epidemiologists and clinicians on the endTB study to improve access to high-quality, evidence-based care for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis around the world.

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