The VICC.ORG Investigator Directory

Meira Epplein, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Epidemiology)
VICC Member

Contact Information:

2525 West End Ave.
Nashville, TN 37203
Fax: 615-936-8291


Meira Epplein is an Assistant Professor in the Epidemiology Division of the Department of Medicine, and is a member of the Institute for Medicine and Public Health and the Digestive Disease Research Center.  After receiving her PhD, she spent 2 years at the University of Hawaii as a post-doctoral fellow as part of the program on Cancer Control Research Training in Multiethnic Hawaii. She is interested in modifiable risk factors for cancer incidence, and has a specific focus on racial disparities.  In July of 2011 she was awarded a 5-year career development award from the National Cancer Institute to further her knowledge on infections, inflammation and cancer, and specifically to examine Helicobacter pylori subtypes, inflammation, and gastric cancer risk.

Research Description:

As a cancer epidemiologist with a focus on modifiable risk factors, particularly among ethnically diverse populations, I seek to understand the variations in lifestyle including, but not limited to, prevalence of infection, aspirin use, diet, physical activity, and anthropometry among groups of individuals with differing risks of disease. Currently my work is focused on Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that lives in the lining of the stomach of approximately half of the world's population, and the dual nature of its relationship with disease. Specifically, infection with H. pylori is the most well-established risk factor for gastric cancer, but only a fraction of infected individuals will develop cancer, and there is evidence that carriage of the bacteria is inversely related with esophageal adenocarcinoma, a very fatal cancer that is currently increasing in incidence, and possibly with asthma, allergies, and gastroesophageal reflux disease as well. H. pylori prevalence varies widely by geographic region (30% in the United States compared to 80-90% in East Asia and Africa, for example), and by racial/ethnic group within regions as well (minorities in the United States, including African Americans and Asian Americans, have infection rates as high as seen in developing countries). Currently I am exploring the epidemiologic triangle of bacteria-host-environment through studies investigating H. pylori genetic diversity, host characteristics (including race and ancestry and individual inflammatory response) and lifestyle factors (such as diet and medication use) to better pinpoint who is at highest risk of disease, so that we make take preventive measures, especially among groups of under-served individuals who may be at particularly high risk.



  • PhD Epidemiology, University of Washington 2007
  • MS Epidemiology, University of Washington 2005
  • MA International Studies/China, University of Washington 1997
  • BA East Asian Studies, University of North Carolina 1994

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