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Arnold School of Public Health

Assistant professors Elizabeth Crouch (HSPM), Bankole Olatosi (HSPM) and Glenn Weaver (EXSC) named 2021 Breakthrough Stars

January 25, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Elizabeth Crouch and Bankole Olatosi, assistant professors in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management (HSPM), and Glenn Weaver, an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science (EXSC), are among just 12 faculty members across the university to receive 2021 Breakthrough Star Awards from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Selected by peers based on early career achievements, Breakthrough Stars exceed expectations in their fields, demonstrate exceptional potential and make outstanding contributions to research and scholarship. 

“The University of South Carolina is very fortunate to have so many excellent scholars populating our research community at every level,” says Prakash Nagarkatti, Vice President for Research. “This year’s Breakthrough award recipients are among the best of the best. It is an honor to call this year’s faculty award recipients colleagues, and to have a small role in launching the 2021 Graduate Scholars into their promising careers. Congratulations to you all on this well-earned accolade.”

Elizabeth Crouch

Crouch is a health policy researcher whose work examines health disparities among rural and other vulnerable populations across the lifespan, from adverse childhood experiences to Medicare utilization in older adults. She joined the Arnold School’s HSPM department and the Rural and Minority Health Research Center (which she now leads as Deputy Director) in 2015.

Initially holding a research assistant professor role, Crouch moved into a tenure-track position in 2017. In the brief time since then, she has generated more than $5 million as principal investigator or co-principal investigator for competitively funded grants. She is co-principal investigator in the recent $2.8 million award from the health Services Resources & Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to support the Rural and Minority Health Research Center for another four years.

Since 2015, Crouch has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers. She is a graduate of the 2018 cohort of the National Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Fellows Program, serves on the editorial board of the NRHA-funded Journal of Rural Health, and was recently elected to the NRHA Board of Trustees.

“In the past five years, Dr. Crouch has gained a national reputation in the field of rural health, specifically around early childhood and end-of-life experiences among rural residents,” says Jan Eberth, associate professor of epidemiology and director for the Rural and Minority Health Research Center. “Her expertise has been sought at the state and national level, as evidenced by a large grants and contracts, invited presentations to federal task forces/agencies, and service on advisory boards for federal entities, journal publishers, and local nonprofits.”

Bankole Olatosi

A 2007 alumnus of the Ph.D. in HSPM program, Olatosi joined the Arnold School as a faculty member in 2015. For the past five years, he has led his department’s Master of Health Administration program and served as a clinical associate professor. He moved into a tenure-track position in 2019, continuing his research on the application of big data science to healthcare services utilization among people living with HIV in both domestic and global settings.

Collaborating with mentor and 2021 Breakthrough Leadership in Research Award winner Xiaoming Li, Olatosi is the co-principal investigator for the UofSC Big Data Health Science Center. Established in 2019, the Center recently won a $1.25 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and another from the National Science Foundation to conduct COVID-19 research. Together with his HIV-focused R01 grant, Olatosi has garnered more than $7.25 million in funding.

Thus far, Olatosi has published 26 peer-reviewed articles – many in top quartile journals, such as the British Medical Journal, AIDS and Behavior, and AIDS Care. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and serves as a member of the national board and the Chair of the accreditation council for the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

“Dr. Olatosi has been leading the state-wide efforts to shape the fields of HIV prevention intervention and COVID-19 research through his insights and understanding of the healthcare system, his creativities to research design, his ability to develop a state-wide research network, his expertise in analytic methods, and careful interpretation of research findings which have had far reaching practical and policy implications for healthcare and public health in both U.S. and globally,” says Li.

Glenn Weaver

Weaver also claims UofSC as his alma mater. He graduated with a Ph.D. Physical Education in 2014 and then joined the Department of Exercise Science for a postdoctoral fellowship. Like the other Breakthrough Stars, Weaver first held a research assistant position before transitioning into a tenure-track role.

His work focuses on helping professionals that teach and care for school-age children to create safe and healthy environments. For example, one of his recent projects has involved assessing the efficacy of a new and innovative summer program that he and his team developed for elementary-age children. The Healthy Summer Learners program aims to address two challenges faced by children from low-income households during the summer months: unhealthy weight gains/fitness losses and academic declines in areas such as reading and math.

Over the past four years, Weaver has published 75 peer-reviewed papers (more than 100 overall). In the past three years, he’s been awarded two National Institutes of Health R21 grants and two NIH Diversity Supplements to support doctoral students that he mentors. Most recently, he joined an $11.16 million P20 grant as Project Principal Investigator for the Research Center on Children’s Well-Being

The common theme in this work is the effort to develop, implement and evaluate interventions that mitigate the persistent increased risk of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents from minority and low socioeconomic status backgrounds.

“Dr. Weaver has established himself as a very promising early-career research scientist in the area of childhood obesity prevention and treatment,” says Michael Beets, professor of exercise science. “He has developed extensive national and international collaborations that have resulted in invited presentations, publications, and grant funding.”


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