Dr. Villalba received her Ph.D. in Public Health with a focus in Health Behavior and MPH in Environmental Health from Florida International University. She also completed an MBA in Healthcare. She joined UCF College of Medicine in 2020 as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Population Health Sciences Department with a joint appointment at the Violence Against Women Faculty Cluster. She was recently invited to be a Research Fellow at Centro De Estudios Andaluces (CENTRA) in Spain.


Dr. Villalba is a biobehavioral scientist with a broad understanding and training in basic and behavioral sciences. Her research focuses on the intersectionality between HIV, intimate partner violence, mental health, and substance use. Including HIV, prevention intervention development to improve risk behaviors, coping with abuse and trauma, and social and environmental factors that may moderate the effectiveness of prevention and treatment strategies. The primary focus is on the reduction of health disparities and expanding on the understanding of the barriers to implementation and uptake of evidence-based practice and intervention in underserved and understudied populations. She is also interested in the effects of COVID-19 on the adult population. 


Dr. Villalba has engaged in interdisciplinary, collaborative research nationally and internationally. Nationally, she has collaborated on several NIH funded grants as a co-investigator and principal investigator. She is currently a co-investigator in an NIH funded study, DEFINE, “Defining intervention targets along pathways from cumulative stress and trauma to alcohol and HIV self-management among young people living with HIV.” She is also collaborating on a study focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on engagement in care and adherence to PrEP and supportive services for alcohol and drug use, mental health, and other ancillary care among three key ethnic minority populations of women.


Internationally, she has formed a network of researchers from Latin America and Spain, including Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, and others. She has led and collaborated on several research projects in Spain and Latin America. Her current research project focuses on the pandemic’s impact on mental health and substance use in young adults living in Latin America and Spain. She will also start a new research project on the effects of “Long COVID” on young adults living in Spain. 


Dr. Villalba is in the process of developing the National and International Research Collaboration Lab, which will be live in August 2022. 

** If you are interested and would like to learn more about ongoing research projects, send her an email.

Recent Publications:

Peer Reviewed:

  • Villalba K., Del Pino E, Tadesse S, Barrera A, Ceballos D. The Association Between Mental Health, Substance Use, and Religious Faith Among Young Adults in Times of the Pandemic in Peru and Ecuador. PloS one 2022. (in press).
  • Villalba K., Del Pino E. Guerrero SC, Gomez Velasco NY, Lima-Jardinillo R, Zambrano Cevallos P, Barreda-Parra A, Martin MC.  Vaccine hesitance and mental health among young adults in Latin America. Global Mental Health 2022. (in press).
  • Martin, M.P., Obioha, C.U., Villalba, K., Del Pino Espejo, M.-J., Curtis, D., Padrón-Monedero, A., 2022. Association between Sociodemographic Factors and Abuse by a Parent or Intimate Partner Violence among Haitian Women: A Population-Based Study. Women 2, 76–87. doi:10.3390/women2010009
  • Ibañez, G. E., Sanchez, M., Villalba, K., & Amaro, H. (2022). Acting with awareness moderates the association between lifetime exposure to interpersonal traumatic events and craving via trauma symptoms: a moderated indirect effects model. BMC Psychiatry, 22(1).
  • Ahmed, S., Algarin, A. B., Thadar, H., Zhou, Z., Taskin, T., Vaddiparti, K., Villalba, K., Wang, Y., Ennis, N., Morano, J. P., Somboonwit, C., Cook, R. L., & Ibañez, G. E. (2022). Comorbidities among persons living with HIV (PLWH) in Florida: a network analysis. AIDS Care, 1–9.
  • Sissamis, F., Villalba, K., Garcia J., Melus, V., Markentell, E. J., Perez, L. D., & Ramirez, G. (2022). Religion and death in the United States: a meta-regression comparative assessment of between-county mortality heterogeneity in the United States. International journal of environmental research and public health19(2), 757.
  • Attonito, J., Villalba, K., & Fontal, S. (2021). Priorities for Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment and Prevention During COVID-19’s Second Wave. American Journal of Public Health111(3), 359-362.
  • Richards, V. L., Sajdeya, R., Villalba, K., Wang, Y., Bryant, V., Brumback, B., & Cook, R. L. (2021). Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial of Naltrexone Among Women Living With HIV: Correlations Between Reductions in Self‐Reported Alcohol Use and Changes in Phosphatidylethanol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research45(1), 174-180.
  • Villalba, K., Jean-Gilles, M., Rosenberg, R., Cook, R. L., Ichite, A., Martin, P., & Dévieux, J. G. (2021). Understanding the impact of intimate partner violence type and timing on pre-exposure prophylaxis knowledge, acceptability, sexual behavior, and gender roles among women of color. Journal of interpersonal violence, 08862605211001468.
  • Sepulveda JM, Villalba K, Mora Garcia JP, Turra Diaz O (2022). Tensión epistémica entre multiculturalismo anglosajón e interculturalidad latinoamericana: sus proyecciones en educación. Revista de Filosofía, Centro de Estudios Filosóficos, Universidad del Zulia. Maracaibo – Venezuela: 39 pp. 132 – 142 (100). DOI 10.5281/zenodo.5979768

Education & Specialties


  • MBA, Healthcare, Florida International University
  • PhD, Public Health, (Health Promotion & Disease Prevention), Florida International University
  • MPH, Public Health, emphasis in Environmental Health Sciences
  • B.A., Exercise Physiology, Florida International University



  • Intimate partner violence
  • Behavioral and prevention health
  • Marginalized populations
  • Sexual health


Research Interests:


  • HIV/AIDS prevention/treatment
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence against women
  • Childhood abuse and adult risk behaviors

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