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Center Staff

Blen Biru

Blen Biru, M.Sc.

(857) 498-9462

Blen Biru, M.Sc.

Research Project Manager

Blen Biru is a Research Program Manager at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College, where she studied biology and French and her Master’s of Science from the Duke Global Health Institute where she conducted research on the ideal characteristics of caregivers for orphaned and separated children. Prior to joining CHER, Biru worked on breast cancer clinical trials, evaluation research projects and COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the U.S. and globally. She’s passionate about equitable healthcare access for all.

Amelia DeFosset

Amelia R DeFosset, MPH

Amelia R DeFosset, MPH

Research Program Manager

Amelia DeFosset earned a Master of Public Health from the University of California Los Angeles in 2014, and a Bachelor of Arts from UNC Chapel Hill in 2008, with a focus in anthropology. Her previous professional experience includes using cross-sector, person-centered and applied inquiry to explore up-stream influences on chronic disease outcomes. DeFosset’s research is focused on re-imagining systems, services and supports so that historically marginalized communities have what they need to be holistically well.

Rhea Hebert

Rhea M. Hebert, M.A., MSLS

Rhea M. Hebert, M.A., MSLS

Communications Manager

Rhea Hebert is a communicator and designer with expertise in higher education settings. She’s a fully qualified librarian and has teaching experience in English Composition and American Literature.

Hebert brings a wide range of interests to her work, including graphic, web and instructional design, website management, communications and marketing, research interests in early modern England and the history of books/reading/information, data management, data visualization, and technical writing (documentation, editing, etc.).

Hebert grew up in central Florida and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She earned her master’s in English at the University of Rochester (NY) and her MSLS from UNC Chapel Hill.

Hebert’s pronouns are she/her and she’s committed to providing accessible content as part of her support of creating diverse, equitable and inclusive environments and experiences for communities.

In addition to her work in higher ed, Hebert volunteers with the American Marketing Association’s Triangle chapter and supports Retraction Watch, a project of the Center for Scientific Integrity.

Elle Howle

Executive Assistant

Elle Howle is an Executive Assistant at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research.  She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2013 where she received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology as well as her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, with a focus in Native American Studies.  Her studies took her to Natchez, Mississippi where she participated in an archaeological excavation and field research.

Melissa Marcus

Melissa Marcus

Melissa Marcus

Science Communications Writer

Melissa Marcus is the Science Communications Writer for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. The rest of the day, she’s a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she’s studying Anthropology with minors in Classical Humanities and Data Science. Her interests vary across disciplines and mediums, including painting, digital and web design.

Rachel Quinto

Assistant Director of Operations

Rachel Quinto serves as the Assistant Director of Operations for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. Her experience at the UNC School of Medicine includes coordination of the medical school LCME accreditation, as well as four years of recruitment, pre-health advising and pipeline programming through the Office of Special Programs. She is a producer for the “A Different Kind of Leader” podcast hosted by Giselle Corbie which captures insights from diverse leaders so organizations are in a stronger position to grow, innovate and meet the challenges of the day. Quinto earned her B.A. in Sociology in 2010 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Carissa Whitehurst

Carissa Whitehurst

Carissa Whitehurst

Executive Assistant

Carissa Whitehurst is an Executive Assistant at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. A North Carolina native, she graduated from Guilford Technical Community College in 2013 where she earned her Associates of Arts in General Education. She  brings years of administrative experience from her previous role as a administrative assistant where she worked with faculty, staff and students.

Mary Wolfe

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D.

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she investigated transportation access to health care as well as innovative solutions to transportation barriers to care.

Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, Wolfe was a Fulbright scholar at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research. Her research focuses on connections between the built environment and health to understand disparities in health care access and health outcomes.


Project Coordinators

Naomi Baumann-Carbrey

Naomi Baumann-Carbrey, MPH

Naomi Baumann-Carbrey, MPH

Project Coordinator

Naomi Baumann-Carbrey (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) grant. Naomi earned her B.A. in Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill in 2015 and her Master of Public Health (MPH) from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Health Equity concentration in 2021. Baumann-Carbrey comes from a background in labor and community organizing and has been a part of various movements for workers’ rights and racial justice in North Carolina. She is passionate about advancing health equity through systems thinking and community-based methods.

Samantha Campbell

Samantha Campbell, MPH

(720) 361-3691

Samantha Campbell, MPH

Social/Clinical Research Specialist

Samantha Campbell serves as a Project Coordinator with RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations) in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. Her experience includes food insecurity research, community organizing and engagement, and harm reduction.

Campbell earned her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Environmental Health in 2007 from North Carolina Central University and her Master of Public Health in 2010 from Walden University. Her particular areas of interest include: maternal harm reduction, health equity research focusing on rural communities and adverse childhood experiences.

Susan Clifford

Susan Clifford, MSW, MPH

Susan Clifford, MSW, MPH

Project Coordinator, NC CEAL

Susan Clifford (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator for NC CEAL (Community Engagement Alliance) at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her MPH and MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill and earned her B.A. in Sociology from the College of William and Mary. Clifford is fluent in Spanish and has over 20 years experience working at the community level in immigrant and refugee health. Her prior work experience includes:

  • community engagement,
  • coalition building,
  • lay health advisor programs,
  • Spanish interpretation/translation,
  • language access policy and program management,
  • community-designed educational materials,
  • community involvement in research, and
  • multilingual communications with immigrant and refugee community members.

Clifford values collaborative work, equitable community relationships and community-centered solutions.

Jennifer Detwiler

Jennifer Detwiler

(919) 616-9055

Jennifer Detwiler

Assistant Project Coordinator

Jenni Detwiler earned her B.S. from East Carolina University. She began her research career at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, where she worked on several state-wide early education evaluation studies. She has been actively engaged with stakeholders across all phases of social research. She contributes to the RADx-UP program as an Assistant Project Coordinator working with the Community Engagement Core supporting Working Groups and the Engagement Resource Center. She has a longtime interest in family health and support systems.

Greys M. Florez Torres

Greys M. Florez Torres, B.A., B.S.

Greys M. Florez Torres, B.A., B.S.

Assistant Project Coordinator

Greys M. Florez Torres (she/her/hers) serves as Assistant Project Coordinator for the Community Engagement Core on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She is an MLA candidate in the field of Development Practice at Harvard Extension School. Greys earned a Micromaster Credential in Data, Economics, and Development Policy from MIT, and graduated with a double major, B.A. in Economics, and B.S. in Mathematics, from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her experience includes the development and management of grants-founded educational programs that promote equity and inclusion of under-served populations. Her research interests focus on data-driven sustainable development.

Laura Florick

Laura Florick, MPS

Laura Florick, MPS

Assistant Project Coordinator

Laura Florick (she/her) is an Assistant Project Coordinator supporting the RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics – Underserved Populations) program at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her B.A. from the University of Kansas in Sociocultural Anthropology, earned a graduate certificate in Technical Writing and Public Rhetorics from the University of Arkansas, and earned a Master of Public Service degree with a focus on food policy from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

Before coming to UNC, she worked in community leadership, research and project management positions all over the world including archaeological and ethnographic field work, international education, arts field trip program evaluation and research on local food economies during COVID-19, while supporting museums, K12 schools, higher ed institutions, community grassroots initiatives and nonprofits. Her research interests include community-based participatory research, program evaluation, community food sovereignty and equitable food systems.

Shikira Flounory, MSPH

(318) 834-7577

Shikira Flounory, MSPH

Research Program Manager

Shikira Thomas is a Research Program Manager in the Center for Health Equity Research for the New IDEAS study, under the supervision of Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, Ph.D.

Thomas is a recent MSPH graduate of Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and earned a B.S. in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana. Her research interests are in colorism, racism and discrimination as upstream determinants of chronic disease in African Americans. Thomas’ master’s thesis focused on the association between skin color and hypertension for college-educated African Americans.

Recently, Thomas has served as a Project Manager for a HRSA-funded Health Workforce Research Center at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, as well as a Project Coordinator for a NIDA-funded study investigating the role of neighborhoods, daily stress, stress hormones and substance use among young adult Black males in Durham county (North Carolina).

 

Angelique Jennings

Angelique Jennings, MPH, CHES

Angelique Jennings, MPH, CHES

Assistant Project Coordinator

Angelique Jennings (she/her/hers) serves as an assistant project coordinator on the RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics in Underserved Populations). Jennings earned a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Spanish from Georgia Southern University. She recently earned her Master in Public Health degree from Georgia Southern University, with a concentration in Community Health.

She has experience working with diverse communities through research and service. She has worked in rural communities in coastal Georgia that lack resources to address their healthcare needs.

Jennings has research interests in the mental health of families of children/adolescents with disabilities, as well as this community’s abilities to access these mental health resources. She is invested in learning and growing in the field of health equity and cultural competency to best assist every community she serves.

Alayah Johnson-Jennings

(608) 770-2331

Alayah Johnson-Jennings

Project Coordinator

Alayah Johnson-Jennings is a Masters of Public Health student in Health Equity, Human Rights, and Social Justice at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Johnson-Jennings is a tribal member of the Quapaw, Choctaw, Sac and Fox, and Miami Nations of Oklahoma. She holds a B.A. in Native American Studies and Sociology with a concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Dartmouth College.

Johnson-Jennings is passionate about health equity work, with a primary focus on indigenous populations. 

 

Lia Kaz

Lia Kaz, MSW

Lia Kaz, MSW

Project Coordinator

Lia Kaz (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator with RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations) in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Masters in Social Work (MSW) from UNC Chapel Hill with a concentration in Community, Management, and Policy Practice in 2019, and her Bachelors in Social Work from Warren Wilson College in 2015. Her previous professional experience includes conflict transformation and restorative justice, post incarceration case management, rural civic engagement, antiracist education and community mental health. Kaz’s research interests are eclectic, though all centrally related to the question, “How can we build systems of well-being together?”

Courtney Kelly, MPA, MA

Courtney Kelly, MPA, MA

Project Coordinator

Courtney Kelly (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator on the Engagement Impact Teams (EITs) for the RADx-UP program in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her BS in Nutrition from NC State University in 2013 and her MA in Human Services Counseling with a concentration in Health and Wellness from Liberty University in 2016. She is a recent Master of Public Administration graduate from North Carolina Central University. Her fellowship studies focused on health policy research and providing support to NC Medicaid health equity projects. Courtney is a Durham, NC native and has experience working in the public sector, serving in non-profit and government roles. Her interests include civic engagement, women’s rights, and achieving equity in marginalized communities. 

Hailey Leiva, MSW

Hailey Leiva, MSW

Project Coordinator

Hailey Leiva (She, Her) serves as a Project Coordinator with the UNC Center for health Equity Research on RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations). Her experience includes sexual violence prevention, community engagement, and program evaluation. She earned her MSW at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work and BS in Psychology at the University of Florida. Hailey’s research interests include community-based approaches to healthy equity, queer and trans-inclusive sexual health interventions, and social determinants of health.

Judithe Louis, MSW

(919) 408-6620

Judithe Louis, MSW

Assistant Project Coordinator-EIT

Judithe is a native born in Haiti, moved to the US in 1994. Judithe graduated from Tulane University with a Master of Social Work.  She has experience working both in research, direct care, and within community/school settings. At North Carolina Central University Judithe had the privileged of working closely with Dr. Jonathan Livingston, as a research assistant gaining practical research skills such as compiling literature reviews, interpreting data, and analyzing results from various studies on health disparities. She is currently an Assistant Project Coordinator on the Engagement Impact Teams (EITs) as part of the RADx-UP Program.

Sarah Morgan, MSW

(919) 843-8270

Sarah Morgan, MSW

Project Coordinator

Sarah Morgan serves as a Project Coordinator for the Center for Health Equity Research.  In 2012, she earned her Master of Social Work from the Joint Master of Social Work Program through North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research interests include Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their effects on developmental trajectories and outcomes throughout the lifespan.  In 2009, Sarah completed her BA in Psychology and English at the University of North Carolina.

Meghan Peterson, MPH

Meghan Peterson, MPH

Project Director, COVID Prison Project

Meghan Peterson is the Project Director for the COVID Prison Project. She is interested in using health research methods to understand and ultimately eradicate the prison-industrial complex. Her past research has focused on criminalization of substance use disorders, sex workers’ rights campaigns, and access to medications for addiction treatment.

Hannah Potter

Hannah Potter, MPH

(704) 690-1488

Hannah Potter, MPH

Program Leader

Hannah Potter serves as the Associate Project Leader for Community and Health Systems Engagement with Radx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations). She comes to CHER with varied experiences at the intersection of health equity and community centered work through various roles as a doula and in organizing around health access. She received her MPH in 2019 from the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. While in her MPH at UNC, she received a FLAS award for the study of Arabic from the UNC Center for Middle East Studies and served as a GRA with the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute. Her research interests are health equity, reproductive justice and community-based participatory methods.

Breanna Williams, B.S.

Breanna Williams, B.S.

Project Coordinator

Breanna Williams (she/her) is a Project Coordinator with the Co-LEARN Project in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Iowa. Williams’ particular areas of interest include: health equity research in vulnerable populations, rural community access to healthcare, program evaluation, program implementation and family systems.

Before joining UNC, Williams worked in research and project management positions related to the treatment and prevention of childhood trauma through a community mental health care center. Her previous professional experience includes: research, evaluation and project management; prevention and treatment of childhood trauma; community mental health; evidence-based practices; perinatal depression and anxiety; maternal mental health and well-being; and virtual reality systems in research.

Brianah Williams, MPH

Brianah Williams, MPH

Assistant Project Coordinator

Brianah serves as an Assistant Project Coordinator for UNC Center for Health Equity Research on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. The RADx-UP program supports research that aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations; strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression, and outcomes; and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing. Brianah aides in providing coordination across the CDCC for community engaged research activities and ensure seamless integration of teams for rapid, focused, and informed decision-making in a timely manner.


Other Staff

Olivia Allison

Olivia Allison

Olivia Allison

Graduate Research Assistant

Olivia Allison is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Research at the Re-Envisioning Health and Justice Lab. She earned her B.A. in Sociology and Health Sciences from William and Mary in 2020. She is currently in the MPH program at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research interests include determinants of health, health disparities, community-based participatory research and HIV prevention.

Forrest Behne

Policy Analyst

Forrest Behne is a policy analyst at the Re-Envisioning Health and Justice Lab. In 2014, he earned a B.S. in Biology from Washington & Lee University and spent six years in the beer industry as a brewer and microbiologist. He was incarcerated for nearly two years because of a little-understood medical condition. Since being released through clemency by Ohio’s governor, he is inspired to help those affected by the criminal justice system. His research interests now include criminal justice reform, penology and the collateral consequences of incarceration.

Angela Benson

Research Assistant

Angela Benson is a Research Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Research in the Re-Envisioning Health and Justice Lab. She received her B.A. in anthropology and public health from the University of Rochester in 2019. Her undergraduate research activities took her to field sites across India, including Kerala – where she led an independent project exploring casteism in Christian communities. Her research interests include racial and caste equity, HIV prevention, and community-based health.

Christina Carilli

Christina Carilli

(203) 767-1709

Christina Carilli

Research Assistant

Christina Carilli is as a Research Assistant with the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from High Point University in 2021. Her research interests include examining neural mechanisms that adversely affect brain development and put individuals at risk for externalizing disorders.

Addie Coleman

(704) 928-6300

Addie Coleman

Research Assistant

Addie Coleman is a Research Assistant with the UNC Re-Envisioning Health & Justice Lab. She works with The COVID Prison Project. Coleman is a Ph.D. student in the department of Health Policy and Management at UNC. She graduated with honors from UNC in the spring of 2020 with a B.A. in Sociology and Management & Society. Her thesis focused on the impact of race/ethnicity, gender and educational attainment on access to health care among working-aged adults in the United States. Her research interests now include sociodemographic disparities in health care access, political determinants of health and mass incarceration.

Chris Corsi

Chris Corsi

(919) 843-8271

Chris Corsi

Research Assistant

Chris Corsi serves as a research assistant at the Center for Health Equity Research. Previously, he has worked in health promotion, education, and prevention of violence and disease. In 2018, he earned his BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include HIV and LGBTQ health disparities.

Mariah Cowell, MSW

Mariah Cowell, MSW

Research Assistant

Mariah Cowell is a Research Assistant for the Center for Health Equity Research in a the Health & Justice Lab. Her past work experience includes community engaged research, project management, and program evaluation.  She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research interests include hyper-incarceration and the criminal justice system, racial equity, and incorporating anti-oppressive frameworks into practice.

Maura Drewry, MPH

(336) 324-5338

Maura Drewry, MPH

Social/Clinical Research Assistant

Maura Drewry (she/her/hers) serves as a Social/Clinical Research Assistant for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her MPH in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2020, and she earned her BS in Health Sciences from Furman University in 2017. Her prior work experience includes a variety of community-engaged efforts focused on chronic disease prevention, mental health, anti-racism, and Adverse Childhood Experiences. Her research interests include racial equity, social determinants of health, systems-level public health solutions, holistic health promotion, and community-based participatory methods.

Greg Guest

Greg Guest, Ph.D., M.A.

Greg Guest, Ph.D., M.A.

Research Scientist

Greg Guest is a Research Scientist in the Center for Health Equity Research at UNC. He is a medical anthropologist with 15+ years of public health research and evaluation experience. He has designed and led health studies among vulnerable and under-served populations in the United States, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, with funding support from USAID, NIH and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Guest has a longstanding interest in developing and testing novel field research and evaluation methods, particularly in the context of mixed methods designs and multi-sector evaluation.

Tammy Jacobs

(919) 271-0554

Tammy Jacobs

Community Engagement Specialist

Tammy Jacobs is a Community Engagement Specialist with the New IDEAS study.  She brings a wealth of knowledge with a background in low income housing.  Previously she has worked with low income residents in public housing community developments in Durham and Chapel Hill.  She has contributed to work involving HIV awareness studies among these populations.  Prior to this work she held multiple roles with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.  Her research interest include a desire to improve African American public health equity among the elderly and women.  Tammy holds a BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Tyler Jobe, M.S.

Tyler Jobe, M.S.

Research Assistant

Tyler Jobe is a Research Assistant with the UNC Center for Health Equity Research in support of ongoing projects. He earned a Master of Science in 2015 from East Carolina University with a concentration in medical physics, and graduated with a B.S. from Vanderbilt University in 2013 double-majoring in physics and engineering science.

Before joining CHER, Jobe worked with UNC’s Department of Radiology as a member of the research team to help facilitate research studies conducted within the department. His current work focuses on improving patient outcomes and ensuring equitable access to health resources among patients in traditionally underserved communities.

Aylin Memili

Aylin Memili, BSPH

(336) 897-9993

Aylin Memili, BSPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Aylin Memili is a second-year Masters of Public Health student in Applied Epidemiology at UNC. She earned her BSPH in Nutrition from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and explored the genetic components of the gut microbiome and cardiovascular disease in diverse populations. She gained skills in data analyses and management with metagenomic data. In graduate school, a summer practicum experience with the UNC Patient Safety Learning Lab inspired her to study social determinants of health that drive adverse maternal health outcomes. Through this lens, her research interests currently focus on barriers that keep women in marginalized communities from getting adequate and informed reproductive healthcare.

Andrea Mendoza

Andrea Mendoza, MPH

Andrea Mendoza, MPH

Community Engagement Specialist

Andrea Mendoza (she/her) is a Community Engagement Specialist for the New IDEAS study in the Center for Health Equity Research. She graduated with her MPH in global health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2021 and with a B.A. in psychology from Duke University in 2015. Mendoza has a background in community health, health outreach and health education. Her interests include advancing health equity work, especially mental health in the Latinx population, as well as community-centered participatory and qualitative methods.

Dzidzai Muyengwa

Dzidzai Muyengwa, MPH

Dzidzai Muyengwa, MPH

Research Program Manager

Dzidzai Muyengwa is a Research Program Manager at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) where she provides research support and analysis. Her upbringing in Zimbabwe fueled her passion to help vulnerable populations everywhere live healthier lives. She is passionate about health equity, maternal and child health, implementation science, and combining research with action. Before coming to CHER, Muyengwa was supporting and contributing to research, collaboration and data collection efforts for the Duke Global Health Innovation Center‘s Launch and Scale Speedometer project, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She earned her Master of Public Health degree at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Health and Environment and a minor in Medical Anthropology from UNC.

Sara OBrien

Sara O’Brien

(980) 230-4799

Sara O’Brien

Advanced Research Assistant

Sara O’Brien (she/her/hers) is an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She is currently studying to get her BSPH in Biostatistics and B.A. in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures from UNC Chapel Hill. O’Brien has worked with CHER since September 2020, primarily focusing on the CRx-CVD and MAPSCorps projects. Her research interests are at the intersection of data analytics and visualization and health equity, particularly within Latine communities. Post-graduation she intends to pursue an MPH in Epidemiology.

Nastacia Pereira, MPH

Nastacia Pereira, MPH

Research Specialist

Nastacia Pereira (she/her/hers) is a Research Specialist in the RISE lab and helps to support various ongoing projects in the lab from monitoring study progress to data analysis. Nastacia earned her MPH in Health Behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Agnes Scott College. Her research interests include the implications of racism and discrimination on health, applied solutions to reduce racism and close gaps in health disparities, and community-based participatory research.

Airianne Posey

Airianne Posey, MSW

Airianne Posey, MSW

Social/Clinical Research Assistant

Airianne Posey is a Social/Clinical Research Assistant at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. Posey earned a master’s in Social Work with an American Indian/Alaska Native populations concentration from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis in 2017. She graduated with a B.A. in Sociology in 2014 from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her interests are in community-based participatory research, culturally appropriate research methodology, qualitative methods and health equity.

Erika Redding

Erika M. Redding, MSPH

Erika M. Redding, MSPH

Program Leader

Erika Redding serves as a Program Leader in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research on the RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations) grant. She earned her MSPH in 2019 from the Department of Health Behavior in the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC; she is currently a doctoral candidate in the same department.

Redding’s research interests include understanding the role of structural barriers in facilitating the health disparities experienced by minoritized populations in the United States as well as the implementation of culturally competent interventions to address these disparities. Her dissertation research considers the role of structural racism on public health outcomes for Black survivors of domestic violence. Redding is a fellow with the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and previous Summer Fellow with the UNC Center for the Study of the American South.

Gabrielle Schust, BA

(573) 777-0495

Gabrielle Schust, BA

Graduate Research Assistant

Gabrielle Schust is a first-year Master of Public Health Student in the Global Health concentration at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She received her B.A. in International Studies and Spanish from the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi in May of 2020, where she did her senior thesis on the comparative role of nuns as providers of healthcare and social services across time and place. Her research interests include US health law and policy, sexual and reproductive rights and justice, and healthcare inequities for refugee and recent immigrant populations in the US.

Amanda Souto

Amanda Ribas Rietti Souto, MPH

(703) 963-8640

Amanda Ribas Rietti Souto, MPH

Program Lead - RADx-UP Community Engagement Core

Amanda Ribas Rietti Souto, MPH, is a Research Program Manager at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) grant. Her research interests in experience are in health disparities research, health equity for racial/ethnic minority groups, community engagement, and participatory and qualitative methods. She earned her master’s in Public Health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, specializing in health equity, social justice and human rights, and her B.A. in Medical Anthropology from the University of Virginia.

Monica M. Taylor

Monica M. Taylor, Ph.D., MPH

Monica M. Taylor, Ph.D., MPH

Research Scientist

Monica M. Taylor, Ph.D., MPH is a Research Scientist in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Planning and Public Policy from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University where she investigated disparities in breast cancer mortality from a social justice perspective. Her research focuses on the inequitable distribution of the social determinants of health in vulnerable populations (geographic, economic and racial), using political theory and community-engaged approaches to eliminate health disparities in chronic and infectious diseases.

 

Shristi Tiwari

Shristi Tiwari, MPH

Shristi Tiwari, MPH

Research Assistant

Shristi is a Program Manger at Duke University Center for Child and Family Health. She is currently working part-time as a Research Assistant for CHER on the Health Equity Curriculum. Her research interests include: health equity, poverty and health equity policy.

Madelene Travis

Madelene Travis

Site Coordinator

Madelene Travis is a site coordinator of the JCOIN TCN-Paths study at the Re-Envisioning Health and Justice Lab. She graduated from Colorado College in 2017 with a B.A. in Sociology, with a focus on the sociology of health and medicine. Broadly, her research interests include the social determinants of health, how individuals and families cope with chronic illness, and the intersection between the criminal justice system and opioid use.

Jenny Williams, PhD

Jenny Williams, PhD

Research Coordinator

Jenny Williams earned her PhD in anthropology in 2013 from the University of Kentucky.  Her research interests focus on the biological and social causes and consequences of health inequity, particularly for under-served populations.  Jenny has worked in a variety of contexts including sub-saharan Africa, Northern Europe, and the United States.  Her particular areas of interest include: nutritional health disparities, trauma and gender-based violence, and community-led responses to health inequities.

Roger Williams, MA, MPH

Roger Williams, MA, MPH

Research Assistant

Roger Williams serves as a Research Assistant with RADx-UP. He completed his MPH in Epidemiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in 2021. During his MPH, he provided project support to the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Roger earned his MA in Cross-Cultural Ministry and MA in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He obtained his BA in Cross-Cultural Studies at Howard Payne University. His research interests are community-centered participatory methods, vaccine equity, social medicine, and global health.


Clinical Scholars

Gabrielle Diekmann

(919) 843-1349

Gabrielle Diekmann

Communications Specialist

Gabrielle Diekmann is the Communications Specialist for the Clinical Scholars Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Gabrielle has over 5 years experience helping small businesses and nonprofits grow through integrated marketing communication strategies. She came to UNC from Southeast Missouri State University, where she served as a Project Coordinator for the Economic and Business Engagement Center’s grant-funded research and programming. She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Marketing with minors in Mass Communications and Professional Selling in 2012 from the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Melissa Green, MPH

(919)843-3304

Melissa Green, MPH

Deputy Director for Communication and Recruitment

Melissa is the Deputy Director for Communication and Recruitment for the Clinical Scholars Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with CHER. Melissa’s experience includes 15 years managing research intervention studies in community settings using principles of community-based participatory research with and for African American and Latino populations. Her research interests include health disparities across the cancer continuum, peer support interventions, disease prevention, and factors that influence participation in health research. She received her Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education.


Abacus Evaluation

Associate Director, Gaurav Dave, MD, DrPH, MPH

Gaurav Dave, M.D., DrPH, MPH

Gaurav Dave, M.D., DrPH, MPH

Director, Abacus

Gaurav Dave is a Research Associate Professor in the School of Medicine and the Associate Director of the Center for Health Equity Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Dave is an expert in the field of formative and summative evaluation research, specializing in evaluating multi-level, complex initiatives, programs and interventions. He has over 15 years of clinical and public health practice and evaluation experience. His area of research focuses primarily on hypertension and chronic diseases, integrating systems thinking in evaluation research. He is the Director of Evaluation of the NIH-funded North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (TraCS) at UNC, which aims at to accelerate clinical and translational research from health science to discovery to dissemination to patients and communities. Dave co-directs the Systems Science and Evaluation Lab at UNC to foster the integration systems thinking and evaluation in biomedical, clinical and public health research. He serves as the Evaluation chair for HRSA’s Southeast Regional Genetics Network at Emory University to improve health equity and health outcomes in individuals with genetic conditions, reduce morbidity and mortality caused by genetic conditions.

As the principal evaluator and investigator, Dave has worked on various federally and foundation-funded projects all over the U.S., including the Newborn Screening and Sickle Cell Disease Program, Heart Matters and Community Initiative to Eliminate Stroke. Dave has a medical degree from the University of Pune, India and worked as an emergency room physician in Mumbai, before coming to the U.S. in 2004. He attended UNC Greensboro and completed a Masters and a Doctorate in Public Health in 2006 and 2011 respectively, with a concentration in public health, community-based prevention research and evaluation. Dave’s research interests include evaluation, systems science, and methods research to reduce disparities associated with chronic diseases and hypertension.

Abacus logo-Carolina Blue

Herleesha Anderson, MAC, M.Ed.

Herleesha Anderson, MAC, M.Ed.

Associate Director of Operations

Herleesha Anderson is the Associate Director of Operations for Abacus Consulting Evaluation Services.

She earned two degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill: a bachelor’s in Communication Studies and a master’s in Accounting from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. She also earned a master’s in Higher Education Administration from Georgia Southern University.

Anderson’s prior work experience encompasses leadership, financial management and research administration.

Rakiah Anderson

Rakiah Anderson, MPH

Rakiah Anderson, MPH

Evaluation Project Coordinator

Rakiah Anderson, MPH, is an Evaluation Project Coordinator on the Abacus team in UNC’s Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her MPH (2020) in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and trained in Culturally Responsive Evaluation with support from the American Evaluation Association GEDI Scholarship.

Anderson’s career commitment is to use culturally responsive research and evaluation approaches to advance equity and improve health outcomes.

Nisha Baral

Nisha Baral, Ph.D.

(407) 990-3800

Nisha Baral, Ph.D.

Data Modeler, Abacus

Nisha Baral earned her M.S. in modeling and simulation and her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Her interest is in modeling complex adaptive systems using an agent-based modeling approach and data modeling techniques. She has experience building mis/information diffusion models and analyzing social media datasets from several platforms like GitHub, Reddit, YouTube and Twitter. Baral has experience analyzing several behavioral factors like cognition, social influence, influence disparities, information overload and sentiments. She has studied emotion contagion due to social influence and its effect on users’ information processing capacity. Her goal at Abacus is to apply her simulation and modeling and data science skills  and other experience on behavioral study to community-based research on epidemiology like COVID or any other public health-related issues.

Tara Carr

Tara Carr, MPH

Tara Carr, MPH

Research Program Manager

Tara Carr is a Research Program Manager of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program with the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her MPH and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. She was a Graduate Research Assistant with the Children’s Healthy Weight Research Group at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, working on evaluation for federally-funded, multi-level intervention studies in the early care and education setting.

As a 2021 HHS Early Care and Education Scholar, Carr’s dissertation research uses mixed methods to better understand predictors of childcare providers’ feeding styles, beliefs and practices, which have been implicated in the development of childhood obesity. As a doctoral student, she was also a member of the Evaluation Team for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded 100 Million Healthier Lives Campaign – Spreading Community Accelerators through Learning and Evaluation (SCALE) 2.0 initiative. Her research interests include community-based participatory research and evaluation of complex interventions to address health and well-being disparities

Chenguang Du

Chenguang Du

Statistician

Chenguang Du serves as a Statistician on the Evaluation Team for CHER and Abacus. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Educational Research and Evaluation at Virginia Tech. His academic focus is on the quantitative methodology in social science research. His substantial research interests are psychology and gerontology. 

Jason Gonzalez-Martinez

Jason Gonzalez-Martinez

Jason Gonzalez-Martinez

Administrative Support Associate

Jason Gonzalez-Martinez serves as an Administrative Support Associate for the Abacus Evaluation Team at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. A Miami native, he graduated from Florida International University in 2016 with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. He brings years of administrative experience from his previous role as a Program Coordinator where he worked with faculty, staff and students.

Jade Hollars

(919) 428-4350

Jade Hollars

Graduate Research Assistant

Jade Hollars is a MPH candidate in the Maternal, Child and Family Health concentration at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her interest areas surround health advocacy, family planning, and fertility support. She is passionate for improving community outreach and education while addressing gaps between programs and community involvement, especially within rural and underserved communities and populations.

Jade’s background is in biology where she participated in 4 years of research at Western Carolina University focusing on the regenerative effects of keratin on human embryonic kidney cells exposed to hypoxic environments which mimicked the environment of the heart following cardiomyopathy. Her goal is to integrate these physical science skills into her public health research in the improvement of the health and well-being of mothers and families.

Allyson Kelley

Allyson Kelley, DrPH, MPH, CHES

(919) 265-7549

Allyson Kelley, DrPH, MPH, CHES

Consultant

Allyson Kelley is a community health scientist and the founder of Allyson Kelley & Associates PLLC. She leads a multidisciplinary team of associates and together they work to evaluate programs that result in opportunities for community healing and transformation.

Since 2005, Kelley has worked with tribes and organizations as a research partner, public health consultant, evaluator, methodologist, epidemiologist, mentor, author and educator. Her research interests include building community capacity to address the cultural, social and environmental factors that contribute to differences in health outcomes among underserved populations in the United States.

Kelley earned her master’s degree in Public Health Practice from the University of Alaska Anchorage and her doctorate in Public Health from UNC Greensboro. Her first book, Evaluation in Rural Communities (Routledge, 2018) has been recognized as a practical, how-to guide for evaluation throughout the US. Kelley’s second book, Public Health Evaluation and the Social Determinants of Health (Routledge, 2020) provides insight into evaluation methods that build health equity.

Kelley loves teaching the next generation of public health workers and is an associate professor at UNC Greensboro. She lives in the central Oregon mountains and loves the outdoors and unplanned adventures.

Marlena Kuhn

Marlena Kuhn, MPH

Marlena Kuhn, MPH

Evaluation Research Assistant - Data

Marlena Kuhn is an Evaluation Research Assistant within the UNC Center for Health Equity Research for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program. She earned her MPH from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2021 and her B.S. in Neuroscience from Trinity University in 2019. Her interests revolve around leveraging data analytics techniques to support projects promoting health equity.

Valerie Lucas

Valerie Lucas

(919) 727-8278

Valerie Lucas

Evaluation Research Assistant

Valerie Lucas is an Evaluation Research Assistant at CHER and Abacus where she primarily works on the RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, Under-served Populations) program. She is a recent graduate of UNC with a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in Global Public Health. As an undergraduate, Lucas provided monitoring, evaluation and research support to Carolina for Kibera as a Peacock Fellow. She also successfully defended an anthropological thesis on the impact of economic inequality on social and mental health among community health volunteers on Kibera, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi. Lucas has volunteered with Community Empowerment Fund as a Community Engagement Coordinator and with Durham Volunteer Doulas as a postpartum doula.

Cheryl Noble

Cheryl C. Noble, MSPH, MSW

Cheryl C. Noble, MSPH, MSW

Senior Evaluation Consultant

Cheryl Noble, MSW MSPH is an evaluation consultant with expertise in leadership development, health equity and organizational development. She is a Senior Evaluation Consultant with Abacus, an evaluation consultancy group in UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. She has experience working with programs focused on leadership development, health equity and social service provision in the academic, international non-profit, health care, government and public health sectors.

Noble has provided evaluation services for multiple programs, including the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) project, Clinical Scholars Leadership Institute, Food Systems Leadership Institute, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Leadership Institute, and the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Leadership Institute. She regularly collaborates with academic, philanthropic, non-profit and public health partners to develop comprehensive evaluation approaches measuring program outcomes and impacts. After 10 years of experience in evaluation and 15 years of experience in the human service industry, she has expertise in a variety of evaluation methods, focusing on mix-methods approaches, qualitative analysis, social network analysis, and Concept Mapping, among others. She earned her B.S. in International Relations from Bethel University and her MSW and MSPH from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Abisola Osinuga, Ph.D., MPH

(319) 512-6701

Abisola Osinuga, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Evaluator

Abisola Osinuga is an Associate Evaluator of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Occupational and Environmental Health from the University of Iowa. Her research is focused on addressing gender inequalities and maternal health disparities by assessing how the physical, social and environmental conditions of unpaid domestic work impacts women’s health. While in graduate school, Osinuga worked at the Iowa Public Policy Center as a research evaluation intern, collaborating with the Health Policy team by evaluating the impact of health policy initiatives on the cost of, access to, and use of, health care services and systems in the state of Iowa. She is experienced at designing, implementing and evaluating research programs, using behavioral theories and psychometric methodologies to develop surveys, coordinating research projects at home and abroad, and applying exposures assessment tools/methods in uncharted work settings.

Adriana Parker

Adriana Parker, MPH

Adriana Parker, MPH

Evaluation Research Assistant

Adriana Parker is an Evaluation Research Assistant with Abacus Evaluation in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research, where they work with the RADx-UP Coordination and Data Collection Center (CDCC). They earned their MPH (2022) in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. Before coming to Abacus, Parker worked in evaluation for federally funded Maternal Health Innovation (MHI) programs, leading the development and implementation of qualitative instruments and surveys for quality improvement and project evaluation purposes. She also worked on the NIH-funded ACHIEVE (Advancing Community and Clinical Care for Childbirth-related Hypertension: Implementation, Engagement and Valuing Equity) Project, providing support for community-engaged data collection and dissemination initiatives. Parker’s passions lie in reproductive justice, community-based participatory methods and health equity. They are also trained as a full-spectrum doula and have been supporting birthing people through every stage of reproductive health since 2019.

Tahna Patel

Tanha Patel, MPH

Tanha Patel, MPH

Associate Director of Evaluation

Tanha Patel is a Program Evaluator and public health professional who partners with executive leadership to implement innovative solutions that improves the health of individuals and the public. Patel leverages her experiences and skills to help government, non-profit and foundation-funded public health programs become more strategic and effective so that they can empower people to leave their own positive impact on their communities.

Patel believes in building internal capacity among program leaders and staff to understand what about their programs is working, how to continuously improve and what impact they are having. She has been consistently recognized as an emerging leader. Patel is currently serving as an chair for the American Evaluation Association’s Translational Research Evaluation Special Interest Group and has co-chaired a working group that identified key opportunities to strengthen clinical and translational science research evaluation. She has also co-authored several publications sharing evaluation methods and findings of evaluation studies.

Patel is well positioned to envision emerging trends and opportunities to influence the future of health, health care and health equity. Her experience working with healthcare systems, government initiatives across the translational spectrum, and foundation supported community-based initiatives, allows her to bring a unique perspective to any team looking to develop innovative ideas to shift systems and culture.

Mayra Perez

Mayra Perez, MSW

(505) 917-1648

Mayra Perez, MSW

Evaluation Research Specialist

Mayra Perez is an evaluation research specialist with seven years of research and project management experience. She is a first-generation Hispanic woman and earned her Master in Social Work degree with a clinical concentration. Perez has experience working in the daily aspects of multiple community-based programs to engage and serve underserved populations. She is part of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). Perez has facilitated motivational interviewing (MI) training workshops and provided feedback in primary care settings. She applies her MI skills in primarily Latinx populations that are Spanish-speaking patients. Perez supports youth and families in adjudicated and non-adjudicated systems.

Rossana Roberts

Rossana Roberts, MSW-MPH

(919) 628-9904

Rossana Roberts, MSW-MPH

Evaluation Research Assistant

Rossana Roberts (she/her) is an Evaluation Research Assistant at Abacus where she primarily works on the RADx-UP (Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, Under-served Populations) program. She graduated from UNC’s dual degree program in 2020 with an MPH concentrating in maternal, child and family health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and an MSW with a concentration in Community, Management, and Policy Practice. Roberts’ prior work experience includes project coordination and program evaluation on a variety of projects ranging from inclusive health education for adolescents, rural health and maternal health promotion. 

Roberts’ research interests include addressing health disparities among underserved populations, specifically promoting positive health outcomes among mothers and their babies.

Michelle Song

Michelle Song, MSPH

(509) 990-4198

Michelle Song, MSPH

Data Analytics Team Lead

Michelle Song leads the Data Analytics team in Abacus Evaluation and is a Data Manager with the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER). Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, Song was a Technical Advisor with the Data Science, Impact, and Learning team at Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University and a leading global health organization. She has over 10 years of experience in data systems and use across domestic and international health systems and public health programs to improve health outcomes. She has designed and implemented economic and program evaluations for health systems, advocacy strategies and improvement of internal operations. Song earned her MSPH from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and executive education Certificates in Business Communication and Management Development from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Her health and non-health sector experience create a unique perspective from which to understand complex systems, how to make data work for the people who collect and manage it, and how to communicate clear messages data can contain. Her current work focuses on bringing data analytics and visualization to research and evaluation that is furthering the goal of improving health outcomes and equity.

Miranda Rain Wenhold

Miranda Rain Wenhold, MSEd

Miranda Rain Wenhold, MSEd

Evaluation Project Coordinator

Miranda Rain Wenhold is an Evaluation Project Coordinator with the Abacus Evaluation team in UNC’s Center for Health Equity Research. Wenhold also leads program development for the University of Pennsylvania’s Project for Mental Health and Optimal Development.

Wenhold earned her M.S.Ed. in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania and is a certified Pennsylvania School Counselor (K-12) and Mental Health Counselor. She has also served as Research Project Manager for various grant-funded initiatives at UNC and the University of Pennsylvania.

Wenhold’s foremost areas of interest are development psychology, public policy, mental health, education and criminal justice reform.

 

Mary Wolfe

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D.

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

Mary Wolfe, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Scientist in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she investigated transportation access to health care as well as innovative solutions to transportation barriers to care.

Before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, Wolfe was a Fulbright scholar at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research. Her research focuses on connections between the built environment and health to understand disparities in health care access and health outcomes.

Bola Yusuf

Bola Bilikis Yusuf, MBBS, MPH

Bola Bilikis Yusuf, MBBS, MPH

Evaluation Research Assistant

Bola Bilikis Yusuf is an Evaluation Research Assistant with the Abacus Evaluation team at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned a medical degree from Nigeria and a Master of Public Health from the University of South Florida. As a graduate student, she worked with the Florida Prevention Research Center where she supported the implementation of a CDC-funded colorectal cancer prevention project. Yusuf also supported the state-wide evaluation of the Florida Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program using mixed methods research. She is interested in program evaluation, health equity, children’s health and in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality.

Jaimee Zeyzu

Jaimee Zeyzus, M.A.

Jaimee Zeyzus, M.A.

Evaluation Project Coordinator

Jaimee Zeyzus serves as an Evaluation Project Coordinator for the Abacus Evaluation Team at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She transitioned to the School of Social Medicine from the School of Nursing, where she operated as a Project Manager. She earned her M.A. in Forensic Psychology from the University of Denver and worked as a clinician specializing in the treatment and evaluation of forensic populations.  She also has 12 years of experience working in law enforcement, most recently as a Special Agent with the NCSBI conducting criminal investigations.