Dahianna Lopez is a PhD student in Health Policy at Harvard University. In her cohort, Dahianna is one of four students concentrating in Evaluative Sciences and Statistics. Her advisers are Dr. Alan Zaslavsky, statistician and Professor of Health Policy at the Medical School, and Dr. David Hemenway, economist and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health.
During the program, Dahianna has studied topics in economics, causal inference under the Rubin Causal Framework, mathematical regression analysis, decision analysis, health care policy, and injury control. Her research projects include a study on the causal effects of bike helmets on head injury among hospitalized patients and a study of bicycle collisions in Boston, Massachusetts. In general, Dahianna is interested in the link between transportation inputs and health outcomes (i.e., crashes, injuries, and trauma). Upon finishing her PhD, she hopes to become a research professor, a leader of a government agency, or a political leader. But perhaps her greatest dream is to be a senior executive for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Dahianna earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley (2003), a Master's Degree in Public Health (MPH; 2006) from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and a second Master's Degree in Nursing Science (MSN; 2009) from UCLA. Her focus areas under these degrees were cultural and social psychology, community health sciences, clinical nursing leadership, and emergency/trauma nursing. She attended Hollywood Performing Arts Magnet High School and studied lighting design, stage management, and film-making. She was the class salutatorian, ranking #2 in a graduating class of approximately 1000 students.
In January of 2013, as an Urban Policy Fellow for the Boston Area Research Initiative, she began working with the Boston Police Department to analyze crash narrative reports and begin to understand the factors that increase the likelihood of bicycle and pedestrian crashes. Her work resulted in the analysis of police data included in the first bicycle collision report ever produced by the city of Boston. In 2012, she worked with the Office of the Mayor in Boston and the Boston Transportation Department and her experience there was pivotal in understanding how transportation policies are put into practice. She worked closely with traffic engineers and urban planners to understand their craft.
Dahianna's other policy-related experiences have included serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) as Vice Chair and on the Data Subcommittee of the San Francisco Mayor’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force as a consultant. She and Mari Hunter and Paul Supawanich, spearheaded the writing of the first PSAC report on pedestrian safety to the SF Board of Supervisors. (See the PSAC Report). During her time in San Francisco, Dahianna also served on the Board of Directors of WalkSF, a non-profit pedestrian advocacy organization.
Within Harvard University, she has served voluntarily on various committees at the University since 2011. Through the Harvard Graduate Council (HGC), she served as interim VP of Events, photographer, and graduate representative for the Harvard University Student Health Services Committee. Through the Graduate Student Council (GSC), Dahianna has served as a representative of her department, as At-large Interdisciplinary Representative for the graduate division, and as graduate representative for the Public Safety Committee of the Cambridge Campus. Dahianna has also been very active in recruiting qualified minority students for various graduate programs at the university.
Prior to coming to Harvard, Dahianna was the Prevention Director for the San Francisco Injury Center (SFIC) for at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Under that role, Dahianna conducted research on transportation-related injuries (e.g., auto vs. bike and pedestrian). Specifically, she spearheaded a study aimed at calculating the actual medical cost of pedestrian injury in San Francisco (Journal of Trauma, 2011) and one on linking police and hospital data for estimating bike injury rates in San Francisco (Journal of Trauma, 2012). She also coordinated the evaluation of a video game designed to teach pedestrian safety to school-aged children and designed a database for collecting case management notes for a hospital-based violence prevention project. Dahianna's other professional roles have been Health Education Coordinator at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital and Research Associate for professors in the School of Nursing and Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA.
Dahianna's teaching experience includes serving as a teaching assistant for a master's level course on Global Health and Population taught at the Harvard School of Public Health and serving as a teaching assistant in research methods and experimental psychology at UCLA.
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS
Dahianna currently holds a full scholarship, the Graduate Prize Fellowship, for her PhD at Harvard. While at Harvard, Dahianna was awarded the Rappaport Fellowship by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Urban Doctoral Fellowship by the Boston Area Research Initiative at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute. During the summer of 2013, Dahianna has been invited to work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Region 8) to evaluate transportation safety initiatives performed by various states and funded by NHTSA.
She also received full scholarships for the first year of each of her Master’s degrees at UCLA. During her four years at Berkeley, she was the recipient of the George Michaelis Scholarship, a highly prestigious award given by an alumnus of Hollywood High School.
Dahianna has also earned several professional honors. She has earned the American Cancer Society’s Statewide Award for Excellence in Patient Education (California), the William Haddon Scholarship from Johns Hopkins University, and the UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Public Service.
Dahianna was born in Mexico City and emigrated to the inner city of Long Beach, California, at the age of 7. A single mother of two, named Carolina, raised her and her older sister. Carolina studied economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and found it impossible to secure a job in the United States doing anything in economics. In order to make ends meet and pursue her dream of giving her children a better future in this country, she was forced to clean houses and wait tables in the US. For years, she and the girls moved from place to place like nomads—from motels to makeshift lofts in printing shops to trailer homes in cement factories. While working as a waitress, Carolina met and eventually married a Norwegian turbocharger mechanic, named Leif, who had sailed the world for years but had completed only a junior high school education. Together, Leif and Carolina created a very loving and supportive home for Dahianna and her sister. By the time Dahianna went to college, she had lived in over 15 places between two countries and had only lived a “normal” suburban life from the age of 14 to 17. Attending UC Berkeley literally saved Dahianna’s life and put her on the fast track to professional success.
Dahianna’s humble beginnings and struggles have helped her connect to the people for whom she is trying to improve safety and prevent injury. Her experiences with the American educational system also helped her later in life to mentor her mother through the process of preparing for, and applying to, graduate school. Her mother completed a master's degree in social work in 2012 (at the young age of 59) at the University of Southern California and currently serves as a mental health therapist to elderly Latino patients in Los Angeles. Her sister is a highly successful businesswoman for a private company in the aeronautics industry. The happily ever after is not perfect, but it exists. Dahianna is a firm believer that hard work, perseverance, a little bit of stubbornness, and a dash of hope go a long way.
Outside of academia, Dahianna dabbles in the arts and is an amateur guitar player and salsa dancer. She is currently authoring a book aimed at inspiring people of color, and particularly women, to fight for their dreams.
She dedicates all of her work to her immediate family and especially her strong, Latina mom.