Assistant Professor, Bioengineering

Beatriz Peñalver Bernabé, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Bioengineering. She received her PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Northwestern University and completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago and the University of California San Diego. Her research is focused on translational applications in female reproductive biology. In a transdisciplinary group, she has brought her expertise in statistical and computational methods to tackle complex women’s health disorders. With an instrumental Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Award, her training was concentrated on the human microbiome, the microorganisms that reside inside us, and their associations with human physical and mental health. Her initial studies aimed to establish the relationships between depression during pregnancy and postpartum and the evolution of the maternal microbiome during the perinatal period. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Peñalver Bernabé will continue working on perinatal depression in light of the maternal microbiome and further expand her research in perinatal women’s mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

Dr. Peñalver Bernabé’s Research Profile


Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

Pavitra Kotini-Shah, MD is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine. She is a tenure-track researcher who specializes in using large data registries to reduce disparities in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA). She is also a resuscitation and ultrasound enthusiast. Most recently, she is the recipient of a Zoll Foundation grant to study sex hormone differences in OHCA patients. She is also utilizing the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) Echocardiographic database to evaluate global longitudinal strain (GLS) as a predictor of adverse cardiovascular outcomes among Hispanic subgroups. Dr. Kotini-Shah is also co-investigator on a recent CCTS pilot grant recipient focused on Racial Ethnic and gender disparities Among a COVID-19 hyperTensive population (R.E.A.C.T). As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Kotini-Shah will continue to uncover and translate how sex as a biological variable contributes to cardiac disease, from the molecular level to the phenotypic level, and highlight the need for sex-specific resuscitation approaches to improve survival outcomes for both sexes.

Dr. Kotini-Shah’s Research Profile


Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery/Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery

Heather M. Weinreich, MD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery/Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery in the UIC College of Medicine. She has a background in epidemiology and clinical research. Her research has expanded to include the evaluation of gender differences in resident surgical training. Specifically, she is examining the relationship of surgical instrument design with gender and the resulting effects on confidence, efficiency and surgical outcomes. Her research involves collaboration with human factors psychology and occupation/human factors engineering.


Assistant Professor, UIC Department of Family and Community Medicine

Hunter Holt, MD, MAS is a board-certified family medicine physician, Assistant Professor in the UIC Department of Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Holt is focused on researching and implementing solutions that improve patient experiences and health outcomes related to reproductive health and cervical cancer prevention. In medical school, at Rush University, Dr. Holt traveled to China as a NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellow to research cervical cancer prevention in China. Working with the Cancer Institute of China, Dr. Holt investigated cervical cancer screening in Chinese migrant workers and post-menopausal Chinese women. As a family medicine resident at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Dr. Holt was a part of the Global Health Track working in Senegal to implement sustainable solutions for cervical cancer prevention in rural Senegal. As a Primary Care Research Fellow at UCSF, Dr. Holt completed his master’s degree in Clinical and Epidemiological Research and worked to understand the reasons behind disparities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality. Currently, Dr. Holt is working to finding solutions to reduce these cervical cancer disparities and promote health equity.

Dr. Holt’s Research Profile


Kelsey Gabel RD, PhD is an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Nutrition. She received her Masters and PhD in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). Dr. Gabel has been studying intermittent fasting for almost a decade and has emerged a leader in the field. Specifically, her research is focused on how intermittent fasting may mitigate weight gain and adiposity, adverse effects, and metabolic dysregulation during anti-tumor treatment for breast cancer. Additionally, she is interested in how different modalities of exercise, combined with diet, may improve cognitive decline in older adults with obesity, and how these outcomes may vary by sex. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Gabel will continue to explore how nutrition interventions with and without physical activity affect body weight, adiposity, and cardiometabolic health during treatment in females diagnosed with breast cancer. She will develop her transdisciplinary work to include a larger breadth of factors that impact quality of life during treatment, as well as expand her work to breast cancer survivors and other cancers that primarily affect women.


Victoria S. Lee, MD is an Assistant Professor in the UIC Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. She is a board-certified otolaryngologist and fellowship-trained sinus and skull base surgeon with a tertiary academic practice focused on treating patients with sinonasal pathology. Dr. Lee is highly experienced in rhinologic outcomes research, completing a dedicated T32-funded research training year during residency. Her current research efforts are focused on health disparities, exploring the effects of social (e.g., socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and sex) and physical (e.g., environment) determinants of health on sinonasal disease, and she has received peer-reviewed grant funding to support this work. Epidemiological data on sex-specific differences in particular for sinonasal conditions are limited. At the cellular level, estrogen has been shown to activate pathways that underlie sinonasal inflammatory conditions. As a BIRCWH Program Scholar, the overarching goal of her research is to explore sex-specific differences in patients with inflammatory sinonasal conditions at the epidemiological level. She seeks to characterize sex-specific differences in clinical presentation, disease severity, treatment choice/decision-making, and outcome improvement, in patients with sinonasal disease.