Sara Warfield

PhD in Epidemiology
Graduated in May 2019 Sara Warfield

I chose WVU because they are making huge strides to combat the opioid crisis.

What is your area of research and why did you choose it?

My area of interest is in substance use disorders (SUD), specifically opioid use disorder (OUD). I had a great mentor in my MPH program at ETSU, Dr. Rob Pack, who ignited my passion on this topic. During my MPH I worked on a NIDA funded interprofessional team that focused on prescription opioid abuse and misuse. Through the guidance of Dr. Pack and others on the team, I was able to gain experiences in the local community as well as at the state level. Because of this experience, I only applied to doctoral programs that were focused on addressing this issue. I chose WVU because they are making huge strides to combat the opioid crisis that was looming over the state.

Why did you choose to complete your mentorship experience with the WVU ICRC?

Dr. Pollini has mentored me extensively in the field of harm reduction. I have gained experience with data collected using respondent driven sampling methods to examine characteristics of hard-to-reach populations, such as people who inject drugs (PWIDs). I have analyzed data from a cohort of PWIDs to better understand individual, social, and macro-level factors associated with Hepatitis C (HCV), abscesses, and initiating as a minor.

For instance, Dr. Bossarte has connected me on a national level, specifically to SAMHSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs. I have worked on projects with SAMHSA using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which one of the largest surveys conducted in the US examining substance use, mental health, and other health-related factors in the United States. I have also analyzed health projects for the Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention at the Veterans Health Administration Medical Center in Canandaigua, New York.

Drs. Bossarte and Pollini are leaders in the field of psychiatric epidemiology and have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in this field. Because of my experience at the ICRC, I have been able to work on not only local projects focused on the opioid crisis but I have had opportunities around the state and at the national level. Through this experience I have gained both qualitative and quantitative skills that I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. 

What do you want to do after you graduate?

I am looking for a post-doc focused on treatment and recovery for substance use disorders (SUDs), specifically opioid use disorder (OUD). I am passionate about researching the complex relationship of OUD with co-occurring psychiatric and medical disorders in order advance treatment and recovery efforts.

What does public health mean to you?

Public health is a multifaceted approach that focuses on protecting the physical and mental health of communities.