U. Md. student wins NIH award examining fitness, mental health disparities

A University of Maryland graduate student is making big waves in the public health community after winning a major award in STEM.

Sahra Ibrahimi is a Ph.D. student in the Maternal and Child Health program at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. She recently won the People’s Choice Award at the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Minority Student Research Symposium, a contest that highlights the work of STEM students of color.

“Opportunities like this really helps me explore my passion,” said Sahra Ibrahimi.

Ibrahimi says that her area of study was a timely one.

“The connection between physical activity and depression and anxiety during the COVID era in the U.S., and disparities by race and ethnicity,” Ibrahimi said. “People can really relate to it too, no matter from which race and background we are because we all know when we exercise, we feel better.”



For her research, Ibrahimi used a large NIH database that is part of the All of Us Research Program. That database includes biomedical information from a diverse sample of at least one million people living in the United States.

The results revealed health effects broken down by specific groups and communities.

“It really reveals the reality of what’s going on around the country,” Ibrahimi said.

As an Afghan woman, she said she is proud of how her project might help others like her.

“I feel because I come from that community and I have a lived experience. I know the context, in some ways better, and I can contribute in a meaningful way.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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