Priyanka Vakkalanka

Priyanka Vakkalanka, Ph.D. student, Epidemiology

Improves veterans' healthcare

• Hometown: Chantilly, VA
• Faculty mentor/advisor(s): Ryan Carnahan, Associate Professor, Epidemiology; Bill Field, Professor, Occupational and Environmental Health
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? PhD, Epidemiology, 2021
• Please describe your research: I study mental health care and delivery of services in veterans and the general US population.  At this point, I am investigating medication-assisted therapies on health outcomes among veterans with substance use dependence.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Identifying gaps and disparities in healthcare access and delivery of care for mental health conditions allows us to target our efforts for interventions and services for those who need it.  Ultimately, it is about making sure people receive the care they need in a timely fashion, improving the quality of their lives, and reducing the potential for emergent psychiatric conditions such as self-harm or suicide.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I was involved with research from my first semester here.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved with research has improved my ability to ask more questions and identify methods or techniques to answer those questions.  This experience has been continually building on itself, and has opened up new doors or opportunities each year at the university and nationally for me.  Each time I participate in a new research study with colleagues, it allows me to learn about new topics in health, policy, and medicine – increasing the breadth and depth of my research portfolio.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to pursue a career in academia and research, where I can continue my efforts in improving mental health care through various pharmacological and technical advancements, teach, and collaborate with other researchers.

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