Darren DeWaltDarren DeWalt, MD, MPH – Director

Dr. Darren DeWalt is Chief of the Division of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology and Associate Professor at UNC. He completed 2 years as Director of the Learning and Diffusion Group at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. He was also the principal investigator for the North Carolina Infrastructure for Maintaining Primary Care Transformation (NC IMPaCT) and led the design team and was a national improvement advisor for the Improving Performance in Practice (IPIP) program. His research focuses include self-management interventions for patients with low-literacy and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart failure, COPD, and asthma.

Laura Graves Brown, MPH – Executive Director

Laura Brown earned a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in Health Behavior from the UNC Gillings School of Public Health. She applies quality improvement, behavioral intervention design and evaluation, and adult learning to improve clinical care and public health. Laura has led many complex projects and programs at UNC Chapel Hill, the American Board of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.


Jennifer Elston Lafata, PhD, MHSA – Associate Director

Jennifer Elston Lafata is a BSPH graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and received her doctorate in Health Services Management and Policy from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Lafata returned to UNC Chapel Hill in 2016. Prior to returning to UNC, she served in a number of leadership positions at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, MI, and most recently was on faculty in the School of Medicine and the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her academic focus is on how the engagement of patients can facilitate the delivery and receipt of evidence-based cancer care. She has extensive experience working with delivery organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate care innovations.

Shana Ratner, MD, FACP – Associate Director

Dr. Ratner completed Medical School at UNC Chapel Hill, residency in Internal Medicine, and a Chief Residency year at University of Chicago. She joined UNC’s faculty in 2011 in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Epidemiology. She is Medical Director of the UNC Internal Medicine Clinic. She has interests in clinical care, systems redesign, resident education, quality improvement education, preventive health, and population health.


Amy Shaheen, MD, MSc – Associate Director

Dr. Shaheen completed medical school at the University of Chicago, trained in Internal medicine at the University of North Carolina, and completed a master’s degree in Healthcare Quality and Safety at Northwestern University. She joined UNC’s faculty in 2006. Dr. Shaheen works to improve care in the ambulatory environment with a specific emphasis on low back pain and chronic diseases. As a course director in the medical school, Dr. Shaheen has developed curriculum in quality improvement for the ambulatory environment and teaches population health techniques to third and fourth year medical students. She has also developed faculty development opportunities for community physicians interested in quality improvement.

Matt Nielsen, MD, MS – Associate Director

Dr. Nielsen is Associate Professor of Urology and Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Health Policy & Management at UNC, and is a Clinical Investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. He serves as the Service Line Leader for Urology and has QI interests in optimizing transfusion practice and perioperative care in general, catheter-associated urinary tract infection, and stewardship of opioid prescribing for surgical populations. On the national level, he is Chair-elect of the American Urological Association Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Committee and serves as a consultant for the American College of Physicians High Value Care Task Force.


Candice Hardin Hunt, MHA – Project Manager

Candice Hardin Hunt earned her master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. In previous positions, Candice worked with state and local leaders to advocate for public health laws and improve the quality of care provided to pediatric patients in southeastern North Carolina. Candice manages IHQI Improvement Scholars projects.

Matt Huemmer, MBA, MHA, CLSSGB, CLSSBB – Project Manager

Matt joined UNC Healthcare after spending 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry where he held multiple roles related to process/quality improvement in operations and consulting. Originally, he earned his BA in Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill. Some years later, Matt attended the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA. Later, Matt returned to UNC and earned his MHA from the Gillings School of Public Health. He is a certified lean six sigma green belt and black belt via the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Matt supports the UNC Health Care Sepsis Initiative, the Service Line Leader Development Program and the NC Children’s Hospital’s participation in the Improving Pediatric Sepsis Outcomes collaboration.

Monecia R. Thomas, MHA – Project Manager

Monecia Thomas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Science Education-Biology from NC State University and a Master of Healthcare Administration from UNC. She served as Health Director for Yadkin and Davidson Counties with responsibility for policy development, program planning, and continuous quality improvement. She also served as the NC Institute for Public Health’s Senior State Accreditation Coordinator, consultant for Population Health Improvement Partners and as Director for Continuing Education/Professional Development to aid public health leadership in the development of innovative health programs. Monecia manages the NC Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program.

Sabrina Vereen, DHA, FACHE, CHTS-TR – Project Manager

Sabrina’s primary expertise is facilitation of health system care transformation and population health improvement in medicosocially complex and other vulnerable groups. She is passionate about using quality frameworks; leveraging improvement methodologies, implementation science, and evidence-based interventions; and collaborating with innovative, interdisciplinary teams and learners to maximize health for all populations in the Carolinas and beyond. Sabrina is a 2001 UNC MHA graduate from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and has a doctorate in healthcare administration and leadership with a concentration in quality measurement from Medical University of South Carolina. She also holds multiple credentials in Lean Six Sigma and Fellow designation from American College of Healthcare Executives.

May-Britt Sten, MSN, RN, CPHQ – Project Manager

May-Britt Sten earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing from Columbia University School of Nursing in 1990. May-Britt has worked as a bedside nurse, pediatric clinical nurse specialist and performance improvement leader and applies this experience to her work in performance improvement, change management, and adult education. May-Britt has worked on a variety of successful local and organization wide improvement initiatives as a team member, team leader or improvement coach, improving clinical outcomes and the care experience.

Karen Davis, BBA – Program Coordinator

Karen Davis earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Campbell University. She is currently enrolled in the University of Phoenix’s dual degree program pursing the Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration (MHA/MBA) degrees and is scheduled to graduate December 2018. Karen previously held operational positions at UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, and McCleod Regional Medical Center. Karen is also a United States Marine Corps Veteran. She supports IHQI’s many quality improvement program activities.

Kelly Reilly, M Ed – Project Coordinator

Kelly Reilly earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Wake Forest University and a Master of Education degree from UNC Chapel Hill. She served as a classroom instructor and literacy specialist in several local school districts, and also earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Kelly’s most recent position with Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill included responsibilities in content management and communications. Kelly provides support to IHQI’s varied program activities, communications and operations.

Will Stanley, MS – Project Coordinator

Will Stanley earned a Master’s degree in Public Health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, through the Environmental Sciences and Engineering Department. His experience includes international health and development projects where he was involved in a monitoring and evaluation capacity, and management and operations for several startup organizations, including nonprofits. Will provides program support for a number of IHQI initiatives.