Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Health Disparities Research Section

Michele K Evans, M.D.




Michele K Evans, MD
Chief, Health Disparities Research Section
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Science


Nicole Noren Hooten, Ph.D. Staff Scientist 

Ngozi Ezike, M.D., Staff Clinician HANDLS

The Health Disparities Research Section (HDRS) conducts interdisciplinary clinical and basic science research focused on examining the underlying cause of the disproportionate incidence, morbidity, and mortality of age-related disease among minority and low socioeconomic status (SES) Americans. The approach provides a two-way bridge between basic science laboratory studies and clinical and behavioral research that spans from a targeted epidemiologic population to the bench. Dissecting the interaction of race, socioeconomic status, behavior, environmental exposure, genetics, and social environment provides insight into how these interactions may result in disparate rates of age-related disease and disability. We have accomplished this by establishing a clinical component, The Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span Study (HANDLS)  and a basic science laboratory component, The DNA Repair Unit, that are interdependent and pursuing related hypotheses. The HANDLS study investigates whether race and SES influence health status and age-related health disparities separately or synergistically as co-factors of behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental conditions. HANDLS is a field-based, epidemiologic, interdisciplinary, longitudinal study. Our baseline cohort is representative of working-age African Americans and whites between 30–64 years old recruited as a fixed cohort of participants by household screenings from an area probability sample of thirteen neighborhoods (contiguous census tracts) in Baltimore City beginning in 2004. The research domains include: cognitive function, nutrition, neighborhood environment, anthropometry, cardiovascular health, physical performance, molecular markers, genetics and genomics, nephrology, neuroimaging, cognitive function, behavioral epidemiology, and psychology.

List of Portfolio/Research Areas

  • Longitudinal trajectories of health disparities
  • Social determinants of health
  • oxidative stress
  • inflammation
  • genomics
  • nutrition
  • aging
  • biomarkers
  • discrimination
  • Age-associated cognitive function
  • Behavioral risk factors for morbidity & mortality

Findings and Publications

Beydoun MA, Shaked D, Tajuddin SM, Weiss J, Evans MK, Zonderman AB. Accelerated epigenetic age and cognitive decline among urban-dwelling adults. Neurology. 2020;94(6):e613-e625. PMCID: PMC7136071.

Chitrala KN, Hernandez DG, Nalls MA, Mode NA, Zonderman AB, Ezike N, Evans MK. Race-specific alterations in DNA methylation among middle-aged African Americans and Whites with metabolic syndrome. Epigenetics. 2020;15(5):462-482.

Tajuddin SM, Hernandez DG, Chen BH, Noren Hooten N, Mode NA, Nalls MA, Singleton AB, Ejiogu N, Chitrala KN, Zonderman AB, Evans MK. Novel age-associated DNA methylation changes and epigenetic age acceleration in middle-aged African Americans and whites. Clinical Epigenetics. 2019;11(1):119. PMCID: PMC6700815

Beatty Moody DL, Leibel DK, Pantesco EJ, Wendell CR, Waldstein SR, Evans MK, Zonderman AB. Interactive relations across dimensions of interpersonal-level discrimination and depressive symptoms to carotid intimal-medial thickening in African-Americans. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2019. 

Beatty Moody DL, Taylor AD, Leibel DK, Al-Najjar E, Katzel LI, Davatzikos C, Gullapalli RP, Seliger SL, Kouo T, Erus G, Rosenberger WF, Evans MK, Zonderman AB, Waldstein SR. Lifetime discrimination burden, racial discrimination, and subclinical cerebrovascular disease among African Americans. Health Psychology. 2019;38(1):63-74

Dluzen DF, Noren Hooten N, De S, Wood WH, Zhang Y, Becker KG, Zonderman AB, Tanaka T, Ferrucci L, Evans MK. Extracellular RNA profiles with human age. Aging Cell. 2018;0(0):e12785. PMCID: PMC6052399

Freeman DW, Noren Hooten N, Eitan E, Green J, Mode NA, Bodogai M, Zhang Y, Lehrmann E, Zonderman AB, Biragyn A, Egan J, Becker KG, Mattson MP, Ejiogu N, Evans MK. Altered extracellular vesicle concentration, cargo and function in diabetes mellitus. Diabetes. 2018;67(11):2377-2388. PMCID: PMC6198336.

An official website of the National Institutes of Health