Current AHEAD Scholars

Program: UW Building Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholars

BIRCWH collage 12.17.15
Pictured: Dr. Higgins, Dr. Neuman, Dr. Rehm, and Dr. Walsh

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH
Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH is an assistant professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has affiliate appointments with Obstetrics and Gynecology, Population Health Sciences, and the Center for Demography and Ecology. She received a PhD in women’s studies and an MPH in global health from Emory University, followed by postdoctoral training in HIV/AIDS and sexuality at Columbia University and contraceptive technology at Princeton University.

A behavioral scientist, she employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches to explore relationships between sexuality, gender, and the use of condoms and other contraceptive methods. Dr. Higgin’s research explores how women’s and men’s sexual pleasure-seeking influences HIV risk, unintended pregnancy, and contraceptive practices. She also examines psychosocial influences on contraceptive use such as pregnancy ambivalence and relationship dynamics.

Heather Neuman, MD, MS, FACS
Heather Neuman, MD, MS, FACS is an associate professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She completed her medical training at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine and residency in General Surgery at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Dr. Neuman specializes in surgical oncology with a focus on breast, melanoma and sarcoma. She is certified by the American Board of Surgery.

Dr. Neuman’s research focuses on patient-oriented clinical outcomes, including patient decision-making, quality of life, and survivorship. Her primary research focus in on improving the quality of multidisciplinary follow-up care provided to breast cancer survivors. She is currently conducting a mixed-methods study with the aim of identifying factors associated with the types of oncologists providing breast cancer follow-up care, and the decision making process for identifying follow up care providers.

Her long-term research goal is to develop follow-up guidelines regarding who should provide follow-up care that will ultimately lead to improved quality and efficiency of breast cancer follow-up.

Jennifer Rehm, MD
Jennifer Rehm, MD is an assistant professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She obtained her medical degree at the University of Florida, where she received both the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award from the Gold Humanism Honor Society and the Student Hippocratic Award.  She also received the Society for Pediatric Research’s 2011 Fellow Clinical Research Award, and a Research Fellowship Award from the Pediatric Endocrine Society.

Dr. Rehm’s research interests are in clinical research of pediatric obesity and insulin resistance, adipose tissue distribution, polycystic ovary syndrome, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). She is utilizing novel MR technology to develop a NAFLD risk assessment model incorporating fasting insulin, total cholesterol, waist circumference, and ethnicity to improve early diagnosis of NAFLD in at risk populations. Future studies will investigate the evolution of adiposity and associated insulin-resistance in middle-school aged girls of different races and ethnicities.

In addition to clinical research, she coordinates the American Family Children’s Hospital Pediatric Adolescent and Transgender Health Clinic and has a special interest in working with Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer (LBGTQ) and gender variant youth.

Tova Walsh, PhD, MSW
Tova Walsh, PhD, MSW is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a PhD in Social Work and Psychology and a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Walsh recently completed postdoctoral training in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program at UW-Madison. Her training and research experiences have coalesced in a honed research agenda, centered on women service members, veterans (SMV) and their families.

Dr. Walsh aims to expand understanding of the stressors and support mechanisms that shape the health of women SMV, their care needs and how they can be better served. This work will also expand understanding of the distinct experiences of women SMV and their families as they reintegrate into family life following a deployment and of the association between women’s health and family adjustment.

Dr. Walsh’s goal is to apply this research knowledge to inform the design of tailored interventions that are responsive to the unique experiences, needs and preferences of women SMV.


Program: UW T-32 Health Disparities Research Scholars

T32 collage 8.16.16
Pictured: Dr. Coley, Dr. Lee, Dr. McCarty, Dr. Vargas, Dr. Allen, and Dr. Zuelsdorff

Sheryl Coley, PhD
Sheryl Coley completed her DrPH degree in Community Health Education at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 2014. Her research interests include health and health care disparities in maternal health, reproductive health, infant health, and adolescent health among underserved populations. As an HDRS postdoctoral Scholar, Dr. Coley is investigating 1) perceptions of maternal care quality among mothers and providers in Dane County and 2) racial differences in maternal care experiences between African-American and Caucasian mothers. Her research incorporates community-engagement approaches and social theoretical perspectives with the goals of informing prenatal support programming and education initiatives and reducing birth outcome disparities.

Chioun Lee, PhD
Chioun Lee obtained her PhD in Sociology from Rutgers University in 2012. She is committed to illuminating the role of gender, a key indicator of social inequality, in relationships between stressful life experiences and health disparities. Her research focuses on three domains: (a) differential exposure and vulnerability to life adversities (stress); (b) social, psychological, and behavioral mechanisms that link life adversities and health outcomes, including physiological risk for disease endpoints; and (c) resilience factors (social, psychological, behavioral) that may mitigate the health-compromising effects of life adversities. Her research is multidisciplinary, rooted in her doctoral training in sociology (medical sociology, mental health, aging and the life course), followed by postdoctoral training in population studies (biodemography) at Princeton University and health psychology (resilience and psychoneuroimmunology) at UW-Madison. She has employed advanced analytic techniques to multiple longitudinal studies of aging, focusing on life adversities in both early and later life.

Alyn McCarty, MS, PhD
Alyn McCarty earned a MS in Population Health Sciences and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2014. Her research interests include: socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in infant health; social capital and systems of maternal social support for disadvantaged populations; and statistical methods for causal inference. As an HDRS postdoctoral Scholar, Dr. McCarty is pursuing two related goals: first, to examine the reciprocal causal connections among postpartum depression, mothers’ help-seeking through the use of formal and informal social support systems, and infant feeding patterns, and second, to understand racial/ethnic disparities in the processes linking postpartum depression, systems of social support, and infant feeding patterns.

Edward Vargas, PhD
Dr. Edward Vargas obtained his Ph.D. in Public Affairs from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University (2010). Since then, he has held postdoctoral positions at the University of North Carolina and the Robert W. Johnson Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. He has also held a visiting lecturer position at Indiana University. His research interests include the effects of poverty and inequality on the quality of life, focusing specifically on health, education, and social policy, and how these factors contribute to the well-being of vulnerable families. He also investigates the methodological issues involved in the quantitative study of race and ethnicity. As an HDRS postdoctoral Scholar, Dr. Vargas is investigating how socio-political, familial, and personal contexts that make up the Latino/a experience affect their physical and mental health. In particular, he is examining the effects of immigration policy and deportations on health, health hardships on the well-being of Latino/a families.

Chenoa Allen, PhD
Dr. Chenoa Allen received her PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2016. She also has an MS in health and medical sciences from the University of California, Berkeley – University of California, San Francisco, Joint Medical Program. Allen’s research focuses on how structural forces, including state and local immigration-related policies, affect health and health care access for children in immigrant families. In her dissertation, she showed that state policies that restrict rights for undocumented immigrants also reduce access to health care for Latino, US citizen children who have immigrant parents. As an HDRS postdoctoral fellow, Allen plans to shift her focus to policies that expand rights for immigrants. In particular, she plans to examine whether extending public insurance coverage to pregnant undocumented immigrants improves their birth outcomes. Allen also studies methodological and measurement issues related to health disparities research; over the long term, she is working toward obtaining better data on under-studied immigrant and refugee groups. In her free time, Allen enjoys baking, embroidery, and studying aerial arts.

Megan Zuelsdorff, PhD
Dr. Megan Zuelsdorff received her PhD in Population Health Sciences from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2016. Her dissertation research explored sociobehavioral and psychobiological mechanisms in cognitive aging, with a focus on stress buffering and environmental enrichment models. This work, and her graduate training in social epidemiology, informs Zuelsdorff’s research interest in the notable but too rarely acknowledged socioeconomic and ethnic disparities in cognitive health. As a postdoctoral fellow in the HDRS program, Zuelsdorff is examining the relationship between cumulative disadvantage and later-life cognition trajectories. Specifically, she seeks to better understand the intersecting roles that clustered early life adversity, stress responsivity, and brain health may play, as well as the methodological complexities involved in sampling and measurement.


Program: UW Family Medicine Primary Care Research Fellows

Primary Care Research fellows April 2017
Pictured: Dr. Berg,  Dr. Grant, and Dr. Jacobsohn

Kristin Berg, MD
Kristin Berg completed her undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus. She attended medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, NE, completing a one-year research fellowship through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute – National Institutes of Health Research Scholars Program prior to graduating medical school. She became interested in smoking cessation research during her internal medicine residency at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics and began research with the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention through the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. After completing a chief resident year, she entered the Advanced Fellowship for Women’s Health through the William S. Middleton Memorial VA during which she completed her MS in Population Health and furthered her interests in gender disparities and tobacco use. Kristin plans to continue her research on gender disparities in tobacco use and cessation during her time with the Primary Care Research Fellowship before applying for independent research funding to continue her career as a general internist and tobacco researcher with the UW.

Vernon Grant, PhD
Vernon Grant holds an interdisciplinary PhD in Exercise Science and Community Health from the University of Montana—Missoula (2014). Vernon was born and raised in Browning, MT and is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation (Amp-ska-pi-pikuni). Vernon’s dissertation research employed a mixed-methods community-based participatory research approach to identify, design, and implement community identified strategies to increase physical activity in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade elementary school children on an American Indian Reservation in Montana. Being born and raised on the reservation, Vernon knows first-hand the devastating effects that diabetes has on Indian people. Accordingly, his research interest is focused on finding strategies to increase physical activity in American Indian populations to decrease obesity and the subsequent development of diabetes. Vernon also enjoys writing and speaking to audiences about the benefits of physical activity and health consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle. In his spare time, Vernon loves spending time with his family, running, weight training, boxing, and watching college football!

Gwen Jacobsohn, PhD, MA
Gwen Costa Jacobsohn holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign specializing in health, organizational, and small group communication. Her research focuses on the effects of provider-patient communication on changes in health behaviors and health-related outcomes. Her dissertation examined the longitudinal relationship between parental perceptions of communication during well-child visits (in terms of information provision, information value, and provider-parent relationships) and weight-related outcomes in preschoolers. She hopes that this line of research will ultimately provide the foundation for tools and best practices designed to help providers more effectively talk to parents and children about weight-related topics (e.g., food intake, physical activity, screen time). Gwen has also worked closely with Dr. Elizabeth Cox (Pediatrics) on research relating to the delivery of family-centered care in both inpatient and outpatient settings, and with Dr. Betty Chewning (School of Pharmacy) on developing programs to facilitate the engagement of multiple stakeholders in patient-centered outcomes research. In the rest of her life, Gwen spends most of her time trying to keep up with two very active boys and an 85lb lap dog. She loves baseball, travelling, and all things food-related (e.g., cooking, collecting mid-century cookbooks, and watching TV cooking competitions with her family).


Program: Centennial Scholars at UW-SMPH

Centennial Scholars collage April 2017
Pictured from top: Dr. Felton, Dr. Mancera, Dr. Mezu-Ndubuisi, and Dr. Stephenson

Elizabeth Felton, MD, PhD
Dr. Felton is an assistant professor of neurology at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. She is board-certified in neurology and specializes in epilepsy. Her clinical interests include dietary therapies for adults with epilepsy, special issues affecting women with epilepsy (epilepsy during pregnancy and catamenial epilepsy), and surgical evaluation for the treatment of epilepsy.

Michael Mancera, MD
Michael Mancera, MD received his medical degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 2009. He completed an emergency medicine residency at Grand Rapids/Michigan State University, then went on to do a fellowship in out-of-hospital care, emergency medical services at Indiana University. As a Centennial Scholar, Dr. Mancera plans to create an educational program focused on prehospital medicine for all levels of learners. Eventually, he intends to create and EMS fellowship program. Dr. Mancera joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in 2013, and became a Centennial Scholar in July 2015.

Olachi Mezu-Ndubuisi, MD, OD
Olachi Mezu-Ndubuisi received her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine. Prior to her career as a physician, she obtained a doctor of optometry degree from Abia State University in Nigeria, and maintains a license to practice that discipline. She completed her pediatric residency at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, and her neonatal-perinatal medicine fellowship at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At UIC, she started basic science studies in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a blinding eye disease affecting premature babies, where she developed an in vivo mouse model to study ROP in live neonatal mice. She joined the University of Wisconsin in November 2013 and holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Pediatrics and Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. She became a Centennial Scholar in July 2014.

Jason W. Stephenson, MD
Jason W. Stephenson received his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis. He completed his diagnostic radiology residency at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where he also completed a fellowship in musculoskeletal radiology.   Prior to joining the UWSMPH Department of Radiology in 2012, he was an assistant professor of radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. A former high school science teacher, Dr. Stephenson’s academic work is now focused on medical education at all levels, including curriculum design, e-learning and simulation technology for radiologic education.