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Center Staff

Rachel Berthiaume

Rachel Berthiaume, MPH

Rachel Berthiaume, MPH

Associate Director for Education and Engagement

Rachel Berthiaume is the inaugural Associate Director of Education & Engagement for CHER. In this role, she will design, supervise and evaluate engagement and education programs, consistent with the mission and strategic vision of CHER. She also serves as the Deputy Director of Continuous Education for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Clinical Scholars, a comprehensive leadership development program for healthcare providers from diverse fields across the U.S. Her career in public health began with Peace Corps service (Madagascar 2004-2006), and then continued with HIV/AIDS/STI prevention and treatment programs at health clinics in sub-Saharan Africa. She earned her Masters of Public Health in Health Behavior/Education from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2012. She previously managed health projects in Philadelphia, PA and Michigan, that examined intersections between communities and public agencies to improve maternal and child health service delivery, particularly in addressing equity and inclusion issues. Her extensive professional experience on designing and delivering high-quality programming promoting health equity and leadership, as well as personal experience working within community organizations where she gained a ground-level view of community organizing operationalization, contribute to her commitment to health equity, innovation and authentic engagement.

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.

Rhea Hebert

Rhea Marie Hebert, M.A., MSLS

Rhea Marie Hebert, M.A., MSLS

Communications Manager

Marie Hebert is a communicator and designer with expertise in higher education settings. They’re a fully qualified librarian and have teaching experience in English Composition and American Literature.

Hebert brings a wide range of interests to their 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 their bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. They earned their master’s in English at the University of Rochester (NY) and their MSLS from UNC Chapel Hill.

Hebert’s pronoun is they and they’re committed to providing accessible content as part of their support for creating diverse, equitable and inclusive environments and experiences for communities.

In addition to their work in higher ed, Hebert has volunteered 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.

Mary Wolfe

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Associate Director of Research Innovation and Development

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Research Innovation and Development at 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 and innovative mobility solutions to barriers to care.

Before coming to Carolina, McKinley was a Fulbright scholar at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research studying impacts of green space on chronic disease outcomes. Her research focuses on connections between built environments and health to understand and address disparities.

Rachel Quinto

Assistant Director of Operations

Rachel Quinto serves as the Associate Director of Operations for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research and has been with the center for over five years. 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 (now the Office of Scholastic Enrichment and Equity). She is the executive 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.


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. Baumann-Carbrey earned her B.A. in Global Studies from UNC Chapel Hill in 2015 and her Master of Public Health (MPH) from the 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.

Jennifer Detwiler

Jennifer Detwiler

(919) 616-9055

Jennifer Detwiler

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 a 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.

Maura Drewry, MPH

Maura Drewry, MPH

Project Coordinator

Maura Drewry (she/her/hers) serves as a Project Coordinator in 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 B.S. 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.

Greys M. Florez Torres

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

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

Project Coordinator

Greys M. Florez Torres (she/her/hers) serves as a 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 a Master in Liberal Arts (ALM) in the field of Development Practice from Harvard (Division of Continuing Education). Florez Torres earned a Micromaster Credential in Data, Economics, and Development Policy from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (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, community engagement, and participatory research that promote equity and inclusion for underserved populations. Her research interests focus on data-driven sustainable development.

Laura Florick

Laura Florick, MPS

Laura Florick, MPS

Project Coordinator

Laura Florick (she/her) is a Project Coordinator supporting 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, Florick 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-engaged research, community resiliency, 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.

Lia Kaz

Lia Kaz, MSW

Lia Kaz, MSW

Project Coordinator

Lia Kaz (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator 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 bachelor’s 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 relate to the question, “How can we build systems of well-being together?”

Courtney Kelly

Courtney Kelly, MPA, MA, PMP, CSM

Courtney Kelly, MPA, MA, PMP, CSM

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 B.S. in Nutrition from NC State University, M.A. in Human Services Counseling from Liberty University and MPA from North Carolina Central University. Her fellowship studies focused on health policy research and providing support to NC Medicaid health equity projects. Kelly 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 in the UNC Center for health Equity Research. Her experience includes sexual violence prevention, community engagement and program evaluation. She earned her MSW from the UNC School of Social Work and her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Florida. Leiva’s research interests include community-based approaches to healthy equity, queer and trans-inclusive sexual health interventions, and social determinants of health.

Colleen Murphy

Colleen Murphy, MPH

Colleen Murphy, MPH

Project Coordinator

Colleen Murphy serves as a Project Coordinator at UNC CHER with the Co-LEARN Project and the RADx-UP Program. Her academic and professional experience includes community-driven and -centered health research, community health worker models for care coordination, community-based participatory research methods and environmental justice all within a social determinants of health conceptual framework.

Murphy’s particular interest incorporates political economics of health and its relevance to understanding and addressing health equity. She earned her MPH in Public Health Leadership from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Hood College.

Jess Roe

Jess Roe, MPH

714.307.9247

Jess Roe, MPH

Education and Training Coordinator

Jess Roe(she/her) serves as an Education and Training Coordinator with the NC Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER).

Roe earned her MPH in Health Equity, Social Justice, & Human Rights from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in May 2023. She served as a graduate assistant and temporary project manager for the Gillings Inclusive Excellence unit.

Prior to graduate school, Roe worked as a high school science teacher in Weldon, NC. She also worked as an indoor environmental professional and research coordinator for an indoor testing and research company. Roe earned a dual-degree B.A. in Biology and Spanish at the University of San Diego.

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

Project Coordinator

Brianah Williams (she/her) serves as a Project Coordinator for the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) on the NC CEAL project. Williams has also supported the RADx-UP project.

Prior to joining UNC CHER, Brianah served as an Assistant Project Coordinator at the North Carolina Institute for Public Health in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Williams earned her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Public Health Education at North Carolina Central University in 2017. She earned her Master of Public Health (MPH) in Community Health Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2020. She is passionate about public health and enhancing the quality of life for all. Williams has 5 years of service at UNC Chapel Hill.


Other Staff

Christina Carilli

Christina Carilli

(203) 767-1709

Christina Carilli

Social/Clinical Research Assistant

Christina Carilli is as a Social/Clinical Research Assistant with the Implementation of EMR-Integrated Referrals to Link Clinical and Community Services to Reduce Health Inequity initiative at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from High Point University in 2021.

Caroline Carter

Caroline Carter

(984) 833-9096

Caroline Carter

Communications Specialist

Caroline Carter is a recent graduate from North Carolina Central University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with a focus on Public Relations. She also attended UNC Charlotte from 2017 to 2021, where she studied middle-grade education and learned ways to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve academic success.

Throughout her studies, Carter developed a passion for finding solutions to problems faced by families and communities who lack access to essential information and care. She strongly believes in combating misinformation and providing accurate information to marginalized communities. Carter hopes to use her network at UNC to increase support and trust between the institution, organizations and communities.

Maura Drewry, MPH

Maura Drewry, MPH

Project Coordinator

Maura Drewry (she/her/hers) serves as a Project Coordinator in 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 B.S. 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.

Alexa Katon

Alexa Katon, M.S.

Alexa Katon, M.S.

Interim Project Coordinator

Alexa Katon works in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) as an Interim Project Coordinator for the RADx® Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. Katon earned her B.S. in Nutrition Science from NC State University and her M.S. in Forensic Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Her interests lie at the intersection of psychology and public health, and she is particularly passionate about issues concerning people involved in the criminal justice system and people with substance use disorder.

The UNC well in Carolina Blue on a white background in a Carolina Blue circle.

Ames J. Lynch

Ames J. Lynch

Associate Project Specialist

Ames Lynch (they/she) serves as an Associate Project Specialist in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. They received their degree in Political Science at NC State with a concentration in International Politics which involved open source intelligence, peacekeeping and policy making. Their previous experience includes IT, education and data management. Her interests include community-driven and holistic approaches to health equity (particularly initiatives that include people that are trans, GNC (gender nonconforming), and those that live outside of the gender binary). They also have an interest in ethics, language and communication in research.

Jeffrey Mathew

Jeffrey Mathew, MBA, PMP, CIA, UTD Yellow Belt

Jeffrey Mathew, MBA, PMP, CIA, UTD Yellow Belt

Associate Director

Jeffrey Mathew has over 15 years of experience in nationally ranked healthcare and academic institutions. He oversees all components of implementation and execution of the RADx-UP program objectives in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER). Responsibilities include providing strategic oversight with partnering institutions Duke and CCPH, regulatory oversight, and management of personnel responsible for project support across numerous sites and locations in the United States.

Mathew worked in Texas Health Resources, an award-winning system and one of the largest faith-based/non-profit systems in the nation. He led system-wide initiatives through project design, deployment, coordinating stakeholder engagement and completion of action items. His work supported the integration and improvement of operations across the enterprise to reach strategic goals. Mathew worked as the Program Manager of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center (SCCC). He managed multiple projects driven by the center’s strategic goals, operations improvement objectives and regulatory compliance requirements. Mathew oversaw capital expansion projects in the SCCC, including opening two satellite clinics. Mathew graduated from one of the top 50 business schools in the nation. He is certified as a project management professional, internal auditor and a yellow belt.

Courtney McMillian

Courtney McMillian, MPH

Courtney McMillian, MPH

Associate Clinical Research Coordinator

Courtney McMillian serves as the Associate Clinical Research Coordinator for the North Carolina Community Engagement Alliance (NC CEAL) in the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER).

With a focus in epidemiology on the infectious disease track, McMillian earned her Masters of Public Health degree from the Gillings School of Global Public Health in May 2023. She earned her B.A. from Winston-Salem State University in December 2019. She majored in sociology and minored in public health. She earned her A.A. in December 2017, majoring in psychology.

McMillian previously worked as a graduate research assistant focusing on content analysis with Covid-19, underserved communities health disparities, Covid-19 impacts on mental health and complications dealing with long Covid.

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.

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.

Matthew Palmer

Matthew Palmer, MPH

Matthew Palmer, MPH

Research Assistant

Matthew Palmer (he/him/his) serves as a Research Assistant in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. He earned his MPH in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2023. He was an Interprofessional Education and Practice Distinguished Scholar while at UNC Gillings and earned a graduate certificate in Innovation for the Public Good.

Palmer has a diverse professional background ranging from the biomedical sciences to social systems knowledge to clinical work. He is most interested in reimagining existing health systems to ensure equitable access to healthcare and working to attenuate unmet social needs through advocacy, research and innovation.

His most recent work includes community-based participatory research with the Montagnard community, social/clinical research in the hospital emergency department related to unmet social needs of patients and the evaluation of barriers to enrollment in medical financial assistance programs in central and eastern North Carolina.

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.

Abhigna Rao

Abhigna Rao, B.A.

Abhigna Rao, B.A.

Student Research Assistant

Abhigna Rao is a Student Research Assistant with Abacus Evaluation at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research and is pursuing her MPH in Health Behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She also serves as a Graduate Research Assistant with the Center for Aging and Health in the UNC School of Medicine studying health disparities in cancer care access among aging populations.

Rao earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communication from the University of Delaware. While there, she contributed to multiple evaluation projects at the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP at UD) and wrote her undergraduate thesis on student experiences and priorities in settings of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was later published in the Delaware Journal of Public Health.

At a high level, she is passionate about program implementation, evaluation, and qualitative research, and hopes to apply those to areas of health literacy, women’s and family health, and cross-cultural inequities.

Erika Redding

Erika M. Redding, MSPH

Erika M. Redding, MSPH

Research Program Manager

Erika Redding serves as a Research Program Manager in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She earned her MSPH in 2019 from the Department of Health Behavior in the Gillings School of Global 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.

Veena Reddy

Veena Reddy, B.S.

Veena Reddy, B.S.

Advanced Social/Clinical Research Assistant

Veena Reddy is an advanced social/clinical Research Assistant in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research. She works with the Co-LEARN team to research effective implementation strategies for cardiovascular disease evidence-based practices.

Reddy earned her B.S. in Biology at the University of California, Riverside. She worked as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Center for Health Disparities before being promoted to Staff Research Associate. In her role, she performed community-based research to understand COVID-19 vaccine attitudes among Southern California’s uninsured and Medicaid beneficiaries. Reddy’s research interests include promoting clinician trust, reducing vaccine hesitancy and community-based health.

 

India Rockett

India Rockett

(310) 770-9717

India Rockett

Research Assistant

India Rockett is a Research Assistant at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) and is currently assisting with the NC CEAL project. She is pursuing an M.S. (2023 candidate) in Population Health Science and a Global Health certificate at Duke University School of Medicine.

Rockett graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2021 with a B.S. in Health Science with an emphasis on Community Education, and a certificate in Healthcare administration. Her interests in research are areas that focus on racial health disparities, health equity, health services, health administration and community engagement.

Jess Roe

Jess Roe, MPH

714.307.9247

Jess Roe, MPH

Education and Training Coordinator

Jess Roe(she/her) serves as an Education and Training Coordinator with the NC Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research (CHER).

Roe earned her MPH in Health Equity, Social Justice, & Human Rights from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in May 2023. She served as a graduate assistant and temporary project manager for the Gillings Inclusive Excellence unit.

Prior to graduate school, Roe worked as a high school science teacher in Weldon, NC. She also worked as an indoor environmental professional and research coordinator for an indoor testing and research company. Roe earned a dual-degree B.A. in Biology and Spanish at the University of San Diego.

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.

Timothy T. Simmons

Timothy T. Simmons

(336) 278-8153

Timothy T. Simmons

Community Engagement Specialist

Timothy Simmons is a Community Engagement Specialist on the New IDEAS team. Simmons is a service-focused community educator who has over 20 years of experience in member engagement and community collaboration. He strongly believes in advocacy and empowerment of those who may not have a voice and empowering the vulnerable population often overlooked in research. Simmons believes in working in cooperation, in collaboration, in partnership, with our communities.

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.

 


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.

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

Amelia DeFosset

Amelia R. DeFosset, MPH

Amelia R. DeFosset, MPH

Associate Director of Evaluation Services

Amelia DeFosset leads the Evaluation team in Abacus Evaluation. Previously, she led the Health Equity and Evaluation Lab within the Center for Health Equity Research and was the Chief of Health and Policy Assessment with the Angeles County Department of Public Health.

DeFosset earned her MPH from University of California, Los Angeles with a concentration in community health sciences. She has 10 years of experience in using evaluation, organizational learning and quality improvement to examine and address health disparities. She has used community-engaged and systems-informed approaches to evaluate initiatives within community, clinical, education and justice system contexts. She is passionate about helping diverse teams collect, integrate and interpret mixed methods data to solve hard problems, make better decisions and ultimately improve well-being.

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. 

Mary Ryan Hawkins

Mary Ryan Hawkins, M.A.

Mary Ryan Hawkins, M.A.

Associate Director of Evaluation

Mary Ryan Hawkins is a mixed-methods evaluator with over 14 years of experience. She is the Associate Director of Evaluation for the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) where she implements and manages multi-level evaluation plans focused on monitoring progress and assessing impact of the institute and its programs. 

Hawkins graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a double major in political science and philosophy. She earned her M.A. in International Security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School for Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Post-graduation, Hawkins worked as a Research Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analysis where she supported evaluation and assessment of various Department of Defense (DoD) initiatives aimed at improving human socio-cultural knowledge and proficiency in the military. 

After five years with the DoD, she changed directions, moving to the Triangle and working at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute and Duke’s Sociology Department where she spent six years honing her data collection, management and analysis skills. 

Before coming to Carolina, Hawkins supported monitoring and evaluation for a nationally implemented, evidence-based program, Family Connects International, that provides nurse in-home clinical care and connections to local support resources for newborns and their family members.

Caroline Hays

Caroline Hays, MPH, R.N., BSN

Caroline Hays, MPH, R.N., BSN

Evaluation Research Specialist

Caroline Hays (she/her) is an Evaluation Research Specialist with Abacus Evaluation in the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER).

Hays has a Master of Public Health in Maternal, Child, and Family Health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she was a graduate research fellow through the Center of Excellence in Maternal & Child Health Education, Science, & Practice Training Grant.

Hays is also a Registered Nurse (RN) and holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. She has over seven years of experience clinical healthcare settings, including obstetrics, primary care and community health. Hays also has public health research and evaluation experience as a member of the UNC Family Medicine Evaluation of Chatham Hospital Maternity Care Center and through a variety of projects with the Center of Excellence in Maternal & Child Health at Carolina.

Her research interests include perinatal health and disparities in health outcomes and access to care.

Samantha Hoelzer

Samantha Hoelzer, B.S., MPH

Samantha Hoelzer, B.S., MPH

Evaluation Research Specialist II

Samantha Hoelzer has over five years of combined experience in research evaluation and clinical trials. Prior to working at CHER, she managed research projects that explored how digital health interventions can be used to decrease health disparities between rural and urban populations.

Hoelzer has both a Masters in Public Health and a Bachelors of Science from from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before her master’s program, she worked with genitourinary cancer clinical trial research at UNC Lineberger. Her research interests include global health policy, digital health, community-based participatory research, family planning, and maternal and child health.

Jade Hollars, MPH

(919) 428-4350

Jade Hollars, MPH

Evaluation Project Coordinator

Jade Hollars (she/her) is an Evaluation Project Coordinator for Abacus Evaluation. She graduated with her MPH in Maternal, Child and Family Health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her interest areas surround health advocacy, family planning and access to education. She is passionate about improving community outreach and education while addressing gaps between programs and community engagement, especially in rural and underserved communities and populations. Her current role includes operational support, employee engagement and data visualization.

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.

Shelly Maras

Shelly Maras, Ph.D.

Shelly Maras, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Shelly Maras is an Evaluation Research Scientist in the UNC Center for Health Equity Research where she works on a variety of projects in the Abacus Evaluation portfolio, including RADx-UP and ECHO. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology at NC State University in 2022.

As a graduate student, she studied intimate partner violence survivors’ experiences navigating the health care system. Her current research interests include health disparities in underserved communities, community-engaged research and women’s health. Maras is experienced in designing and implementing qualitative and mixed-methods research studies to help understand and improve health equity.

Mary Wolfe

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Associate Director of Research Innovation and Development

Mary Wolfe McKinley, M.Sc., Ph.D., is the Associate Director of Research Innovation and Development at 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 and innovative mobility solutions to barriers to care.

Before coming to Carolina, McKinley was a Fulbright scholar at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research studying impacts of green space on chronic disease outcomes. Her research focuses on connections between built environments and health to understand and address disparities.

Nader Mehri

Nader Mehri, Ph.D.

Nader Mehri, Ph.D.

Statistician Investigator

Nader Mehri holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in demography and a Ph.D. in Social Gerontology. He is an applied statistician and demographer who provides high-quality analyses and guidance to researchers in CHER and Abacus Evaluation.

Mehri’s research uses advanced statistical and demographic methods to understand complex processes that influence health and mortality disparities in the United States and abroad. He developed a flexible, valid and user-friendly Stata program to estimate multistate life table quantities including healthy life expectancy and variability around them. The Stata program facilitates testing hypotheses while accounting for complex survey designs. In addition to expertise in Stata, Mehri is a fluent R programmer in a variety of statistical methods such as structural equation modeling, spatial analysis and meta-analysis.

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.

Abhigna Rao

Abhigna Rao, B.A.

Abhigna Rao, B.A.

Student Research Assistant

Abhigna Rao is a Student Research Assistant with Abacus Evaluation at the UNC Center for Health Equity Research and is pursuing her MPH in Health Behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She also serves as a Graduate Research Assistant with the Center for Aging and Health in the UNC School of Medicine studying health disparities in cancer care access among aging populations.

Rao earned her Honors Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communication from the University of Delaware. While there, she contributed to multiple evaluation projects at the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP at UD) and wrote her undergraduate thesis on student experiences and priorities in settings of higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was later published in the Delaware Journal of Public Health.

At a high level, she is passionate about program implementation, evaluation, and qualitative research, and hopes to apply those to areas of health literacy, women’s and family health, and cross-cultural inequities.

Bianka Reese

Bianka Reese, Ph.D., MSPH

Bianka Reese, Ph.D., MSPH

Evaluation Research Scientist

Bianka Reese, Ph.D., MSPH, is an Evaluation Research Scientist with Abacus Evaluation in the Center for Health Equity Research where she supports the evaluation activities of the NC Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS). She has over ten years of experience in leading empirical and qualitative investigations on the social determinants of health, as well as leading culturally responsive and equitable evaluations (CREE) of community-based health promotion, education and workforce development initiatives and programs.

Reese earned her Ph.D. and master’s of science in Public Health in maternal and child health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research focuses on health equity, positive youth development, and adolescent and young adult sexual and reproductive health.

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 is the Associate Director of Data Science & Analytics of Abacus Evaluation in the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER).

Song leads the data management, analysis, visualization and overall data system design solutions for Abacus projects and contributes to the infrastructure of data needs for projects within CHER.

Prior 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 12 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 furthers the goal of improving health outcomes and equity.

Caroline Taheri

Caroline Taheri, B.S., MPH

(703) 655-9818

Caroline Taheri, B.S., MPH

Evaluation Research Assistant

Caroline Taheri (she/her/hers) is an Evaluation Research Assistant with the Abacus Evaluation team in the Center for Health Equity Research. In 2023, she earned her MPH in Health Behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. While completing her graduate degree, she created evaluation tools, evaluated quantitative and qualitative data, and shared findings through presentations and reports. Taheri’s research interests include violence prevention, trauma-informed practice and policy, mental health, and health 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.

 

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.