In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Brandon D.L. Marshall, PhD, an assistant professor of Epidemiology and graduate program director in the Department of Epidemiology at Brown University School of Public Health.
Marshall received a PhD in epidemiology from the School of Population and Public Health at University of British Columbia. While studying there, he worked at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. In 2011, he matriculated at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for post-doctoral training.
HIV/AIDS, substance use epidemiology and structural determinants of health in urban populations are the key areas of research that Marshall has pursued. He is currently serving as principal investigator of the Rhode Island Young Adult Prescription Drug Study (RAPiDS), which is a pilot project funded by the NIH. The aim is to investigate why young adults who are addicted to opioids initiate injection drug use. Marshall is an associate editor of International Journal of Drug Policy, and has published over 100 articles and written two book chapters.
Marshall has received a number of awards for his work, including the Brown University Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award, the Brown University Sheridan Junior Faculty Teaching Fellowship, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship. He is the 2016 recipient of the Brian MacMahon Early Career Epidemiologist Award from the Society for Epidemiologic Research.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
I am fortunate to have been mentored by individuals who work tirelessly to ensure that the results of epidemiological research improve the health of vulnerable populations. Two key mentors include Thomas Kerr, PhD, co-director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia Division of AIDS, and associate faculty member at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia; and Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, Robert A. Knox Professor and dean at Boston University School of Public Health. Both of them have been particularly inspirational throughout my career.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
During my undergraduate training I volunteered at YouthCO, Canada’s largest youth-driven HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C organization. The organization runs a youth-focused needle and syringe exchange and many other programs that combine public health and social justice perspectives. That experience drove my interest to understand the social and structural determinants of addiction and related sequelae, including hepatitis C.
What area of research in hepatology most interests you right now and why?
I am interested in examining hepatitis C transmission dynamics among young people who use drugs. The U.S. opioid epidemic has resulted in a new generation of people at high-risk for hepatitis C. New outbreaks have occurred across the U.S. Epidemiologists need to work closely with public health officials to identify persons at high risk for transmission and to intervene effectively.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to been part of medical history in the making? If so, please explain.
I was very fortunate to be involved in the scientific evaluation of Insite, North America’s first supervised injection facility in Vancouver. Under the mentorship of Dr. Kerr, I led a study, published in The Lancet, which demonstrated a 35% decrease in community overdose mortality after the opening of the facility. Other studies have shown reductions in syringe sharing, public injection drug use, and other risk factors for HIV and hepatitis among individuals who use Insite. Being part of this evaluation was inspiring, but also instilled in me the importance of conducting research of the highest rigor to shift public opinion.
What do you enjoy doing to relax?
During the winter I like to snowboard and in the summer I enjoy bicycling along the beautiful Rhode Island coastline. And of course spending time with my husband and our pug Marcus.