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Dornsife's PhD in Health Services Research and Policy Students

Katherine Ardeleanu headshot

Katherine Ardeleanu, MS, LGPC

Degrees:: BA from Northwestern University; MS, Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

Katherine's Focus: Katherine is interested in studying disparities in mental health and access to mental health services, as well as how to address these disparities and increase access to mental health care for under resourced populations. In addition to being a researcher and PhD student, Katherine is also a licensed mental health counselor and has seen firsthand in both research and clinical work how inequities in access to mental health services negatively impact people.

Katherine aims to address this issue in two ways. First is developing a better understanding of barriers to mental health care and how to address these barriers in order to improve accessibility of care. Second is researching mental health treatments for diverse populations and creating and implementing culturally informed treatments that are appropriate for minoritized groups who have historically been underrepresented in research.

Research Interests:

  • Mental health
  • Mental health services
  • Disparities in mental health
  • Inequities in access to and quality of mental health services

Professional Experience:

  • Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor, Maryland, 2019-present
  • Lab Manager/Graduate Research Assistant, Johns Hopkins University, 2018-2021
  • Research Fellow, National Institute of Mental Health, 2015-2017


  • Jeon, L., Hur, E., Ardeleanu, K., Satchell, T., & Swanson, C. R. (2021). Early childhood professionals’ psychological well-being. In O. N. Saracho (Ed.), Contemporary Perspectives in Early Childhood Education.
  • Jeon, L., & Ardeleanu, K. (2020). Work climate in early care and education and teachers’ stress: Indirect associations through emotion regulation. Early Education & Development, 31(7), 1031-1051.
  • Jeon, L., Bostic, B., Ardeleanu, K., Zhao, X., Li, H., Abel, Y., Harnett, C., Kwon, K., Marcell, A. V., & Swanson, R. C. (2020). Happy Teacher project: Strengthening health, wellness, and psychosocial environments in Head Start. Johns Hopkins School of Education, Baltimore, MD.
  • Jeon, L., Hur, E., Satchell, T., Ardeleanu, K., Schock, N., Guttman, A., & Swanson, C. (2019). Maryland EXCELS 2019 research annual report. IDEALS Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Baltimore, MD.
  • Hur, E., Jeon, L., Guttman, A., Ardeleanu, K., Schock, N., Satchell, T., & Swanson, C. (2019). Maryland EXCELS technical assistance deliveries. IDEALS Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Baltimore, MD.
  • Jeon, L., Alexander, C., Hur, E., Ardeleanu, K., Schock, N., & Swanson, C. (2019). Wage and compensation model for Alaska’s early care and education. IDEALS Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Baltimore, MD.

Contact Information: or LinkedIn

Clara Barajas headshot

Clara B. Barajas, MPH

Degrees:: BS from Michigan State University; MPH from Michigan State University.

Clara's Focus: Clara grew up in a small rural town in Michigan and formed part of a migrant farm working Latino community. Navigating the health care system for her parents and other friends/families began her passion in facilitating health services for newly immigrated families and led to her interest in studying health systems to identify areas of advocacy for Latinos.

Clara has extensive experience in public health, working in academia, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. In 2020, Clara served as a project coordinator at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. She collaborated with partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to improve cancer screening programs through the CanScreen5 project and develop national childhood cancer plans as part of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer. From 2017-2021, she gained invaluable experience in community-based participatory research while working at Michigan State University’s health equity research center in Flint. In prior years, Clara spent some time in San Diego, CA, working at the Health and Human Services Agency as a coordinator of the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention project.

Throughout the PhD program, Clara will be working on the Latino Youth Study with her mentor, Dr. Alex Ortega. The study aims to understand the multiple levels of influence on the access of care for Latino youth.

Research Interests:

  • Latino health
  • Immigrant health
  • Health services research
  • Health inequities
  • Cancer screening
  • Health in Latin America
  • Health policy
  • Dissemination and Implementation Research


  • Meghea, C., Montgomery, B., Ellington, R., Wang, L., Barajas, C. B., Lewis, Y., Sheridan, Y. T., Van Egeren, L. A., & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (2021). An NIH investment in health equity - the economic impact of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions. BMC Public Health 21, 1774 (2021).
  • Milam, A.J., Oboh, O., Brown, Z., Edwards-Johnson, J., Terry, A., Barajas, C., Simon, K., Furr-Holden, C. Depression and Anxiety among Black Medical Students: The Role of Peer Connectedness and Racial Discrimination. (2021). Submitted to the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. Accepted.
  • Milam, A. J., Barajas, C. B., Buchalski, Z., Sadler, R., & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (2020). Discrepancies in Local, State, and National Alcohol Outlet Listings: Implications for Research and Interventions. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
  • Barajas, C. B., Jones, S. C. T., Milam, A. J., Thorpe, R. J. Jr., Gaskin, D. J., LaVeist, T. A., & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (2019). Coping, Discrimination, and Physical Health Conditions among Predominantly Poor, Urban African Americans: Implication for Community-Level Health Services. Journal of community health, 1-9.
  • Williams, S., Barajas, C. B., Milam, A. J., Olson, L., Leaf, P., & Connolly, F. (2019). Preparing students for success: Expansion of public preschool and elementary school outcomes in Baltimore City, Maryland. Prevention Science, 1-10.
  • Nesoff, E. D., Milam, A. J., Barajas, C. B., & Furr-Holden, C. D.M. (2019). Expanding Tools for Investigating Neighborhood Indicators of Drug and Violence Exposure: Validation of the NIfETy for Virtual Street Observation. Prevention Science, 1-8.
  • Jones, S. C., Brooks, J. H., Milam. A. J., Barajas, C. B., LaVeist, T. A., Kane, E., & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (2019). Racial Discrimination, John Henryism Coping, and Behavioral Health Conditions among Predominantly Poor, Urban African Americans: Implications for community-level opioid problems and mental health services. Journal of community psychology, 47(5), 1032-1042.
  • Ellington, R., Scott, J. B., Barajas, C. B., Meghea, C., Drahota, A., Uphold, H. & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (in press). An Evaluation Framework of a Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center for Health Equity Research. American Journal of Evaluation.

Contact Information: or LinkedIn

Nipuni Gomes

Nipuni Gomes, MPH

Degrees:: BA in Communication, Trinity University. BA in English, Trinity University. MPH in Health Policy, Emory University.

Nipuni's Focus: Nipuni is passionate about helping families find the tools they need to promote mental health and is interested in improving access to and uptake of mental and behavioral health services in immigrant and minority youth and families. She has worked in medical and health policy communications and advocacy and hopes to use her experiences and research to inform the development of effective, culturally-competent, and inclusive policies and interventions that will help families create positive emotional environments that allow children to reach their full potential.

Research Interests:

  • Improving access to and use of mental and behavioral health services in first-generation immigrant youth populations
  • Creating infrastructure for trauma-informed mental health services for minority children and families

Professional Experience:

  • The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center (Atlanta, GA): Program Coordinator: June 2020 - July 2021, Graduate Research Assistant: October 2019 - May 2020
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Office of Policy, Planning, and Partnerships (Atlanta, GA) Graduate Health Policy Intern: June 2019 - December 2019
  • Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health (Atlanta, GA) Teaching Assistant, Introduction to Health Care Management: August 2019 - December 2019
  • Connecticut Voices for Children (New Haven, CT) Communications and Development Assistant: June 2017 - May 2018
  • Rackspace Technology (San Antonio, TX) Customer Reference Intern: June 2016 - August 2016
  • The Ruth Paz Foundation (San Pedro Sula, Honduras) Public Relations Management Assistant: May 2014 - August 2014


Contact Information: or LinkedIn

Rosie Mae Henson

Rosie Mae Henson, MPH

Degrees: MPH from Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health.

Rosie Mae's Focus: Rosie Mae Henson is interested in mixed-method approaches to policy implementation and dissemination research, particularly related to policies and systems that address health disparities.

Research Interests:

  • Social, economic, and environmental policies and systems that impact health equity
  • How to communicate and disseminate research to inform decision-making and policy development around health disparities
  • Identifying barriers and facilitators to implementation of evidence-based policies to advance health equity


 Damaris Lopez Mercado headshot

Damaris Lopez Mercado

Degrees:: BS in Public Relations from University of Florida; MPH in Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale University.

Damaris's Focus: Damaris is passionate about improving the mental and physical health of Hispanic/Latino communities. Specifically, her goal is to improve access to behavioral health services and chronic disease management within this community. She hopes her research can be used to help inform policies that improve healthcare access and provide Hispanic/Latino individuals with the tools they need to better their health.

She is currently working with Dr. Alex Ortega on a psychiatric epidemiological project assessing mental health and governmental response in Puerto-Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Research Interests:

  • Hispanic/Latino health
  • Mental health
  • Nutrition and chronic disease

Alexandra Rivera

Alexandra C. Rivera González, MPH

Degrees: BSc in Human Biology at the University of Puerto Rico. MPH in Public Health at the University of Puerto Rico.

Ali's Focus: As a fluently bilingual health professional, Ali's goal is to absorb all that she learns and translate it into a sustainable approach that helps improve the quality of health services in Latino communities. Ali has worked as a research coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital, focusing mainly on WTC workers, mental health (PTSD, depression, and anxiety), and chronic conditions (asthma, COPD, hypertension and diabetes). She is currently working on a Hurricane Maria project assessing mental health and governmental response in Puerto-Rico post-disaster.

Research Interests:

  • Latino health
  • Mental health
  • Post-disaster mental health
  • Chronic health conditions


Learn more about the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Services Research and Policy and the unique research opportunities available.