The Department of Gerontology welcomes Jaqueline Contrera Avila, PhD, to campus this fall as our newest faculty member. Avila is a population health researcher with experience in U.S. and Latin America population-based data. Her research interests include the social determinants of older adult’s health, tobacco-related disparities among older adults, and cross-national comparisons of aging and health.

“We are excited that Dr. Avila is joining us this fall,” says Gerontology Department Chair Edward Alan Miller, PhD. “She is a productive scholar who will strengthen the department’s expertise in socioeconomic and racial disparities, tobacco control, cancer, and cognition. We appreciate her enthusiasm for collaboration and for contributing to the educational and civic engagement missions of the University. Her work and outlook demonstrate a strong commitment to anti-racism and health promotion.”

Avila earned her doctorate in population health sciences at the Department of Preventive Medicine and Population Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. She comes to UMass Boston from a postdoctoral research position at Brown University’s School of Public Health, where she has examined how socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity impact smoking cessation among older adult smokers. Originally from Brazil, she earned a B.S. in nutrition from the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Boston and UMass Boston is a good fit for her research, Avila says, because both are home to diverse and immigrant populations. She will continue some of her tobacco research, including studying how tobacco use impacts cognition in older adults who are aging under different tobacco control contexts, including in the U.S., Mexico, India, England, and South Africa.

Avila is happy to be adding teaching and mentoring to her job description and to have the opportunity to take her research in new directions. She likes the interdisciplinary nature of gerontology and how her new colleagues come from varied backgrounds, including sociology and public health. The sense of cohesion she felt when she visited campus for her interview sold Avila on the position. “I really liked the sense of community. You get the sense that everyone is working to build the program together.”