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Senior Scientist

Social and Behavioral Research Branch

Head

Social Epidemiology Research Unit

Education

B.A. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1980

M.Ed. Northeastern University, 1983

M.P.A. Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, 1987

Ph.D. Brandeis University, 1991

Biography

Sharon K. Davis, Ph.D., is Chief of the Social Epidemiology Research Unit and Senior Scientist in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHRGI), National Institutes of Health.  She earned her Ph.D. in health and social policy from Brandeis University. Following graduate school, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in health economics from the University of California, Berkeley and a subsequent post-doctoral fellowship in population-based chronic disease and epidemiology from Stanford University School of Medicine.  She held faculty appointments at Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.  Prior to joining NHGRI in 2013, she was Chief of the Social Epidemiology Research Center at Morehouse School of Medicine and Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Davis is a cardiovascular social epidemiologist. Her research focuses on social factors related to the etiology of the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in African Americans. Dr. Davis is interested in how the social exposome of African Americans impact cardiovascular health and genomic outcomes. 

Ultimately, the goal of her research is to inform the development of tailored interventions to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease mortality and morbidity in African Americans. Moreover, identification of social exposures provides new information that can guide future genomic study of the biological pathways through which adverse social exposures impact cardiovascular health.

  • Biography

    Sharon K. Davis, Ph.D., is Chief of the Social Epidemiology Research Unit and Senior Scientist in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHRGI), National Institutes of Health.  She earned her Ph.D. in health and social policy from Brandeis University. Following graduate school, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in health economics from the University of California, Berkeley and a subsequent post-doctoral fellowship in population-based chronic disease and epidemiology from Stanford University School of Medicine.  She held faculty appointments at Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.  Prior to joining NHGRI in 2013, she was Chief of the Social Epidemiology Research Center at Morehouse School of Medicine and Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine.

    Dr. Davis is a cardiovascular social epidemiologist. Her research focuses on social factors related to the etiology of the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in African Americans. Dr. Davis is interested in how the social exposome of African Americans impact cardiovascular health and genomic outcomes. 

    Ultimately, the goal of her research is to inform the development of tailored interventions to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease mortality and morbidity in African Americans. Moreover, identification of social exposures provides new information that can guide future genomic study of the biological pathways through which adverse social exposures impact cardiovascular health.

Scientific Summary

Under Dr. Davis’s leadership, the Social Epidemiology Research group focuses on two thematic research areas: 1) the association between social factors and cardiovascular health outcomes and 2) the effects of social exposure on genomic outcomes. Research has consistently demonstrated higher incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disorders and risk factors among African Americans compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the US.  However, little is known about factors contributing to within group variability that predict cardiovascular disorders and associated risk factors. Given increased cardiovascular risk in African Americans, her team is interested in investigating what aspects of their exposome that affects this increased risk? Two strategies are used to accomplish this goal. First, identify known social factors impacting the prevalence of cardiovascular outcomes and assess the variability within African Americans. Second, assess the effect of adverse social exposure on various genomic biomarkers and variability within African Americans. 

In her first line of research, Dr. Davis investigates the influence of social factors such as perceived racial discrimination, socioeconomic status and stress on cardiovascular outcomes. She has identified differences in neighborhood perception predicted variability in the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes in African Americans. She has also identified biological pathways linking socioeconomic status to cardiovascular disorders in African Americans.  Her second line of research considers how social factors impact genomic outcomes such as telomere, length, expression and DNA methylation. Some of her findings revealed adverse perceived neighborhood was associated with shorter telomere length.  She also identified a cluster of 141 co-expressed genes over-expressed in African Americans with low socioeconomic status.

  • Scientific Summary

    Under Dr. Davis’s leadership, the Social Epidemiology Research group focuses on two thematic research areas: 1) the association between social factors and cardiovascular health outcomes and 2) the effects of social exposure on genomic outcomes. Research has consistently demonstrated higher incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disorders and risk factors among African Americans compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the US.  However, little is known about factors contributing to within group variability that predict cardiovascular disorders and associated risk factors. Given increased cardiovascular risk in African Americans, her team is interested in investigating what aspects of their exposome that affects this increased risk? Two strategies are used to accomplish this goal. First, identify known social factors impacting the prevalence of cardiovascular outcomes and assess the variability within African Americans. Second, assess the effect of adverse social exposure on various genomic biomarkers and variability within African Americans. 

    In her first line of research, Dr. Davis investigates the influence of social factors such as perceived racial discrimination, socioeconomic status and stress on cardiovascular outcomes. She has identified differences in neighborhood perception predicted variability in the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes in African Americans. She has also identified biological pathways linking socioeconomic status to cardiovascular disorders in African Americans.  Her second line of research considers how social factors impact genomic outcomes such as telomere, length, expression and DNA methylation. Some of her findings revealed adverse perceived neighborhood was associated with shorter telomere length.  She also identified a cluster of 141 co-expressed genes over-expressed in African Americans with low socioeconomic status.

Publications

Koehly LM, Persky S, Shaw P, Bonham VL, Marcum CS, Sudre G, Lea D, Davis SK. Social and behavioral science at the forefront of genomics: Discovery, translation, health equity. Soc Sci Med. 2019 Aug 7: 112450. DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112450. [PubMed]

Gaye A, Doumatey AP, Davis SK, Rotimi CN, Gibbons GH. Whole-genome transcriptomic insights into protective molecular mechanisms in metabolically healthy obese African Americans. NPJ Genom Med, 3:4 DOI: 10.1038/s415225-018-0043-x, 2018. [PubMed]

Gaye A, Gibbons GH, Barry C, Quarells R, Davis SK. Influence of socioeconomic status on whole blood transcriptome in African Americans. PLoS One, 12:12:e:187290.  DOI. 10.1371/journal.pone.0187290, 2017. [PubMed]

Gebreab SY, Hickson DA, Sims M, Wyatt SB, Davis SK, Correa A, Diez-Roux AV. Neighborhood social and physical environments and type 2 diabetes mellitus in African Americans: The Jackson Heart Study. Health Place, 43:128-137, 2017. [PubMed]

Khan RJ, Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Davis SK. Race-specific association between health-related quality of life and cellular aging among adults in the United States: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Qual Life Res, DOI: 10.1007/s11136-017-1610-9, 2017. [PubMed]

Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Khan RJ, Xu R, Davis AR, Quarells RC, Davis SK, Gibbons GH. Perceived neighborhood problems are associated with shorter telomere length in African American women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 69:90-97, 2016.  [PubMed]

Davis SK, Xu R, Riestra P, Gebreab SY, Khan RJ, Gaye A, Hickson D, Sims M, Bidulescu A. Association of adiponectin and socioeconomic status in African American men and women: the Jackson Heart Study. BMC Public Health, 16:511 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-0160316, 2016.  [PubMed]

Davis SK, Gebreab SY, Xu R, Riestra P, Khan RJ, Sumner AE, Hickson D, Bidulescu A. Association of adiponectin with type 2 diabetes and hypertension in African American men and women: The Jackson Heart Study. BMC Cardio Dis,15:13, DOI 10.1186/s12872-015-0005-5, 2015. [PubMed]

Gebreab SY, Davis SK, Symanzik J, Mensah GA, Gibbons GH, Diez-Roux AV.   Geographic variations in cardiovascular health in the United States: contributions of state-and individual-level factors. J Am Heart Assoc, 4:e001673 DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.114.001673, 2015. [PubMed]

Davis SK, Xu R, Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Khan RJ, Wilson JG, Bidulescu A. Association of ADIPOQ gene with type 2 diabetes and related phenotypes in African American men and women: The Jackson Heart Study. BMC Gen, 16;147.doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0319-4, 2015. [PubMed]

Davis SK, Liu Y, Gibbons GH. Disparities in trends of hospitalization for potentially preventable chronic conditions among African Americans during the 1990s: implications and benchmarks. Am J Pub Health, 93:447-455. 2003. [PubMed]

Din-Dzietham R, Nembhard N, Collins R, Davis SK. Perceived stress following race-based discrimination at work is associated with hypertension in African-Americans. The Metro Atlanta Heart Disease Study, 1999-2001. The Metro Atlanta Heart Study. Social Sciences and Medicine, 58: 449-461. 2004. [PubMed]

Davis SK, Liu Y, Collins R, Rebecca Din-Dzietham. Stress-related racial discrimination and hypertension likelihood in a population-based sample of African Americans: The Metro Atlanta Heart Disease Study. Ethnicity & Disease, 15:585-593. 2005. [PubMed]

Duncan D, Collins R, Din-Dzietham, Davis SK. Physical activity and incident of hypertension among Blacks: No Relationship? Preventing Chronic Disease, 3:3. 2006. [PubMed]

Berry J, Flowers CR, Davis SK. Examining racial disparities in colorectal cancer care. Journ of Psychosocial Oncology. Volume 27; 1, 2009. [PubMed]

Berry J, Caplan L, Davis SK, Minor P, Counts-Spriggs M, Glover R, Ogunlade V, Bumpers K, Kahn J, Brawley OW, Lowers C. A black-white comparison of the quality of stage-specific colon cancer treatment. Cancer, 116(3):713-22. 2010. [PubMed]

Baltrus P, Shim R, Watson L, Davis SK. Socioeconomic Position, Stress and Cortisol in Relation to Waist Circumference in African American and White Women. Ethn Dis, 20:376-382. 2010. [PubMed]

Quarrels R, Liu J, Davis SK. Social determinants of cardiovascular disease risk factor presence among rural and urban Black and White men. Jour of Men's Health. (9)2:120-126. 2012. [PubMed]

Davis SK, Quarells R, Gibbons GH. A Comprehensive Cardiovascular Disease Lifestyle Treatment Controlled Trial Among High-Risk African Americans. Open Jou Preventive Med, (3)9: 526-533. 2013. [FullText]

Clinical Trial: Genomics, Environmental Factors, and Social Determinants of Cardiovascular Disease in African-Americans Study (GENE-FORECAST®)

  • Publications

    Koehly LM, Persky S, Shaw P, Bonham VL, Marcum CS, Sudre G, Lea D, Davis SK. Social and behavioral science at the forefront of genomics: Discovery, translation, health equity. Soc Sci Med. 2019 Aug 7: 112450. DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112450. [PubMed]

    Gaye A, Doumatey AP, Davis SK, Rotimi CN, Gibbons GH. Whole-genome transcriptomic insights into protective molecular mechanisms in metabolically healthy obese African Americans. NPJ Genom Med, 3:4 DOI: 10.1038/s415225-018-0043-x, 2018. [PubMed]

    Gaye A, Gibbons GH, Barry C, Quarells R, Davis SK. Influence of socioeconomic status on whole blood transcriptome in African Americans. PLoS One, 12:12:e:187290.  DOI. 10.1371/journal.pone.0187290, 2017. [PubMed]

    Gebreab SY, Hickson DA, Sims M, Wyatt SB, Davis SK, Correa A, Diez-Roux AV. Neighborhood social and physical environments and type 2 diabetes mellitus in African Americans: The Jackson Heart Study. Health Place, 43:128-137, 2017. [PubMed]

    Khan RJ, Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Davis SK. Race-specific association between health-related quality of life and cellular aging among adults in the United States: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Qual Life Res, DOI: 10.1007/s11136-017-1610-9, 2017. [PubMed]

    Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Khan RJ, Xu R, Davis AR, Quarells RC, Davis SK, Gibbons GH. Perceived neighborhood problems are associated with shorter telomere length in African American women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 69:90-97, 2016.  [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Xu R, Riestra P, Gebreab SY, Khan RJ, Gaye A, Hickson D, Sims M, Bidulescu A. Association of adiponectin and socioeconomic status in African American men and women: the Jackson Heart Study. BMC Public Health, 16:511 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-0160316, 2016.  [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Gebreab SY, Xu R, Riestra P, Khan RJ, Sumner AE, Hickson D, Bidulescu A. Association of adiponectin with type 2 diabetes and hypertension in African American men and women: The Jackson Heart Study. BMC Cardio Dis,15:13, DOI 10.1186/s12872-015-0005-5, 2015. [PubMed]

    Gebreab SY, Davis SK, Symanzik J, Mensah GA, Gibbons GH, Diez-Roux AV.   Geographic variations in cardiovascular health in the United States: contributions of state-and individual-level factors. J Am Heart Assoc, 4:e001673 DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.114.001673, 2015. [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Xu R, Gebreab SY, Riestra P, Gaye A, Khan RJ, Wilson JG, Bidulescu A. Association of ADIPOQ gene with type 2 diabetes and related phenotypes in African American men and women: The Jackson Heart Study. BMC Gen, 16;147.doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0319-4, 2015. [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Liu Y, Gibbons GH. Disparities in trends of hospitalization for potentially preventable chronic conditions among African Americans during the 1990s: implications and benchmarks. Am J Pub Health, 93:447-455. 2003. [PubMed]

    Din-Dzietham R, Nembhard N, Collins R, Davis SK. Perceived stress following race-based discrimination at work is associated with hypertension in African-Americans. The Metro Atlanta Heart Disease Study, 1999-2001. The Metro Atlanta Heart Study. Social Sciences and Medicine, 58: 449-461. 2004. [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Liu Y, Collins R, Rebecca Din-Dzietham. Stress-related racial discrimination and hypertension likelihood in a population-based sample of African Americans: The Metro Atlanta Heart Disease Study. Ethnicity & Disease, 15:585-593. 2005. [PubMed]

    Duncan D, Collins R, Din-Dzietham, Davis SK. Physical activity and incident of hypertension among Blacks: No Relationship? Preventing Chronic Disease, 3:3. 2006. [PubMed]

    Berry J, Flowers CR, Davis SK. Examining racial disparities in colorectal cancer care. Journ of Psychosocial Oncology. Volume 27; 1, 2009. [PubMed]

    Berry J, Caplan L, Davis SK, Minor P, Counts-Spriggs M, Glover R, Ogunlade V, Bumpers K, Kahn J, Brawley OW, Lowers C. A black-white comparison of the quality of stage-specific colon cancer treatment. Cancer, 116(3):713-22. 2010. [PubMed]

    Baltrus P, Shim R, Watson L, Davis SK. Socioeconomic Position, Stress and Cortisol in Relation to Waist Circumference in African American and White Women. Ethn Dis, 20:376-382. 2010. [PubMed]

    Quarrels R, Liu J, Davis SK. Social determinants of cardiovascular disease risk factor presence among rural and urban Black and White men. Jour of Men's Health. (9)2:120-126. 2012. [PubMed]

    Davis SK, Quarells R, Gibbons GH. A Comprehensive Cardiovascular Disease Lifestyle Treatment Controlled Trial Among High-Risk African Americans. Open Jou Preventive Med, (3)9: 526-533. 2013. [FullText]

    Clinical Trial: Genomics, Environmental Factors, and Social Determinants of Cardiovascular Disease in African-Americans Study (GENE-FORECAST®)

Book Chapters

Davis SK.  Cardiovascular risk reduction community-based intervention trials: insights for future model development. Chapter in Daniel S. Blumenthal & Ralph J. DiClemente, (Eds.),  Community-based health research: issues and methods, New York: Springer Publishing Company, pp 199-218, 2004.

Davis SK, Quarells RC, Gibbons GH. Hypertension in African American Communities. Chapter in Ronald Braithwaite, Sandra E. Taylor and Henrie Treadwell (Eds.), Health Issues in the Black Community, Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishing Company, pp 233-257, 2009.

  • Book Chapters

    Davis SK.  Cardiovascular risk reduction community-based intervention trials: insights for future model development. Chapter in Daniel S. Blumenthal & Ralph J. DiClemente, (Eds.),  Community-based health research: issues and methods, New York: Springer Publishing Company, pp 199-218, 2004.

    Davis SK, Quarells RC, Gibbons GH. Hypertension in African American Communities. Chapter in Ronald Braithwaite, Sandra E. Taylor and Henrie Treadwell (Eds.), Health Issues in the Black Community, Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishing Company, pp 233-257, 2009.

Social Epidemiology Research Unit Staff

Lisa DeRoo
Lisa A. DeRoo, Ph.D.
  • Staff Scientist
  • Social Epidemiology Research Unit
Rumana Khan
Rumana J. Khan, Ph.D.
  • Research Scientist
  • Social Epidemiology Research Unit
Kristen Brown
Kristen M. Brown, Ph.D.
  • Research Fellow
  • Social Epidemiology Research Unit
Ruihua Xu
Ruihua Xu, Ph.D.
  • Statistician
  • Social Epidemiology Research Unit
Shailesh Advani
Shailesh A. Advani, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Social Epidemiology Research Unit
Jessica Lewis
Jessica Lewis
  • Postbaccalaureate Fellow
  • Social Epidemiological Research Unit

Last updated: October 30, 2019