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Dornsife's PhD in Health Services Research and Policy Students

Learn more about the focus of our students' research in Drexel Dornsife's PhD in Health Management and Policy program.

Table of Contents:

Katherine Ardeleanu, MS, LGPC

Katherine Ardeleanu headshot

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

Publications:

  • Carey, M.E., Ardeleanu, K., Marcus, S.C., Tao, S., Mandell, D., Epstein, A.J., & Shea, L.L. (2022). Short report on navigating access to care for Medicaid-enrolled autistic youth and young adults: Examining accrual of intellectual disability diagnoses in adolescence. Autism, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613231177559
  • Hur, E.H., Ardeleanu, K., Satchell, T.W., & Jeon, L. (2022). Why are they leaving? Understanding associations between early childhood program policies and teacher turnover rates. Child Youth Care Forum. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-022-09693-x
  • Schock, N., Ardeleanu, K., Wang, J., & Jeon, L. (2022). “It’s just too much”: COVID-19 effects on Head Start teachers’ lives and work. In J. Pattnaik & M. R. Jalongo (Eds.), The Impact of COVID-19 on Early Childhood Education and Care: International Perspectives, Challenges, and Responses. Springer.
  • 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2020.1776809
  • 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: ka928@drexel.edu or LinkedIn


Clara B. Barajas, PhD(c), MPH

Clara Barajas headshot

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

Clara's Focus: Clara's research focuses on health care access and utilization among Latino youth and families, including mixed-status families. Through this research, Clara aims to facilitate access to health care services, address dis-and-misinformation, and improve quality of care.

Research Interests:

  • Latino and immigrant health
  • Inequities in health care access and utilization
  • Cancer prevention and control
  • Dissemination and Implementation Research

Professional Experience: Throughout the Ph.D. program, Clara has been working on Latino Youth Study with her mentor, Dr. Alex Ortega. The study aims to understand the multiple levels of influence on access to care for Latino youth and families. She will also be working on a study focusing on addressing dis-and-misinformation among Latino immigrants.

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 to develop national childhood cancer plans as part of the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer.

From 2017 to 2021, Clara gained invaluable experience in community-based participatory research while working at Michigan State University’s Health Equity Research Center in Flint, MI. In prior years, Clara worked at the Health and Human Services Agency in San Diego, CA as a coordinator of the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention project.

Publications:

  • Mosquera, I., Barajas, C. B., Zhang, L., Lucas, E., Benitez Majano, S., Maza, M., ... & Carvalho, A. L. (2023). Assessment of organization of cervical and breast cancer screening programmes in the Latin American and the Caribbean states: The CanScreen5 framework. Cancer Medicine.
  • Purtle, J., Rivera‚ÄźGonzález, A. C., Mercado, D. L., Barajas, C. B., Chavez, L., Canino, G., & Ortega, A. N. (2023). Growing inequities in mental health crisis services offered to indigent patients in Puerto Rico versus the US states before and after Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Health Services Research, 58(2), 325-331.
  • Mercado, D. L., Rivera-González, A. C., Stimpson, J. P., Langellier, B. A., Bustamante, A. V., Young, M. E. D. T., ... & Ortega, A. N. (2023). Undocumented Latino Immigrants and the Latino Health Paradox. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
  • Ellington, R., Barajas, C. B., Drahota, A., Meghea, C., Uphold, H., Scott, J. B., ... & Furr-Holden, C. D. (2022). An evaluation framework of a transdisciplinary collaborative Center for Health Equity Research. American Journal of Evaluation, 43(3), 357-377.
  • Plasencia, J., Barajas, C., & Hinton, J. (2021). Consumption of Diet and Nutrition Information in Digital Magazines Marketing to Latinx Women.
  • 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). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-11795-5.
  • Milam, A. J., Oboh, O., Brown, Z., Edwards-Johnson, J., Terry, A., Barajas, C. B., ... & Furr-Holden, C. D. M. (2021). Symptoms of depression and anxiety among black medical students: the role of peer connectedness and perceived discrimination. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 1-8.
  • 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.

Contact: cbb57@drexel.edu or LinkedIn


Allie Eastus, MS

Allie Eastus headshot

Degrees: BS in Public Health from Drexel University; MS in Health Metrics Sciences from University of Washington

Allie’s Focus: Allie is passionate about using implementation science and community based participatory research to address health disparities within urban communities. She is driven to understand how research can be used as a policy lever to strengthen evidence-based public health policy.

Research Interests:

  • Health Services Research/
  • Implementation Science Health Policy
  • Community Based Participatory Research Data Analysis Methods

Professional Experience:

  • Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, 2021 – Present
  • Research Assistant at the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST), Drexel University, 2019 – 2020

Contact: ae466@drexel.edu


Elochukwu Ezenwankwo, MSc (Med), MPH

Elochukwu Ezenwankwoheadshot headshot

Degrees:: MSc in Medicine from the University of Cape Town, SA MPH in Public Health from the University of Hertfordshire, UK

Elochukwu’s Focus: Elochukwu’s research focus has evolved quite tremendously in the past five years, spanning the broader areas of population health, implementation science, health services/systems, and global health research.

As a population health scientist and global health researcher, Elochukwu uses advanced research methodologies like realist methodologies, mixed-methods design, evidence synthesis, and participatory health research in developing and evaluating homegrown solutions to inform policy and practice adjustments that address health disparities (particularly in cancer care and service delivery) and improve survivorship outcomes in minority and underserved populations. Elochukwu is also developing capacity as a trial methodologist, supporting trial teams in designing and implementing inclusive and trustworthy clinical trials. Part of this entails supporting trialists and investigators in (1) effectively implementing Studies Within A Trial (or SWATs) to, for example, identify recruitment/retention challenges and plan bespoke strategies/interventions to address them and (2) investing efforts wisely in identifying and prioritizing patient-centered outcomes using, where they exist, tools like Core Outcome Sets [or COSs].

Elochukwu currently serves on the Editorial Board of BMC Health Services Research as a Board Member/Editor. He is also an External Reviewer for the NIHR Global Health Research Program and an International Collaborator on the IHME’s Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors (GBD) studies and the affiliate projects. Elochukwu has been selected for several competitive opportunities and awards, including the NIH/National Cancer Institute – CRDF Global Funded African Behavioral Research (ABeR) Catalyst Immersion scholarship; the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, South Africa; and the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC)— Global Health Equity Scholar award.

As a Doctoral Researcher, Elochukwu’s work at Drexel will examine, through a more realist lens, intersectionality and the overlapping factors that widen access and delivery gaps in lung cancer screening in typical urban resident minority communities.

Research Interests:

  • Cancer health disparities
  • Population health/health systems research
  • Realist methodology
  • Clinical trial methodology/oncology clinical trial

Professional Experience:

  • Editor, BMC Health Services Research, 2023-present
  • External Reviewer, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Global Health Research Program, 2023-present
  • Research Assistant, FHS Cancer Research Initiative, University of Cape Town, 2021-2022
  • Research Collaborator, Mayo Clinic Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, 2021-2022

Publications:

  • Ezenwankwo EF, Nnate DA, Oladoyinbo CA, et al. 2022. Strengthening Capacity for Prostate Cancer Early Diagnosis in West Africa Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Realist Approach to Rethinking and Operationalizing the World Health Organization 2017 Guide to Cancer Early Diagnosis. Annals of Global Health. 2022; 88(1): 29, 1–12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/aogh.3519
  • Ogunsanya ME, Sifat M, Bamidele OO, Ezenwankwo EF, et al., 2023. Mobile health (mHealth) intervention in prostate cancer survivorship: a scoping review. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-022-01328-3
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Nnaji CA, Moodley J. 2022. Cancer service delivery and the impacts of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa: a scoping review. Ecancermedicalsciences. https://doi.org/10.3332/ecancer.2022.1485
  • Ezenwankwo EF and Nnaji CA. 2021. Prostate cancer and the added burden of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa: Rethinking regional priorities for responsive and data-driven cancer control programs. Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.33887
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Motsoeneng P, Atterbury EM, et al. 2021. Plausible conditions and mechanisms for increasing physical activity behavior in men with prostate cancer using patient education interventions: Sequential Explanatory Mixed Studies Synthesis. Supportive Care in Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-021-06693-w
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Oladoyimbo CO, Dogo MH, et al. 2021. Factors influencing help-seeking behavior in men with symptoms of prostate cancer: a qualitative study using an ecological perspective. Cancer Investigation. https://doi.org/10.1080/07357907.2021.1933009
  • Nnaji CA, Ezenwankwo EF, Kuodi P, et al. 2022. Timeliness of diagnosis of cervical and breast cancers and associated factors in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review. BMJ Open. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-057685
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Ogbodo VE, Ofodum CM, et al. 2021. Behavioral oncology research in Africa: Lessons from the last two decades and key considerations moving forward. European Journal of Cancer Care. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.13545
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Nnate DA., … & Shamley, D. 2021. A Scoping Review Examining the Integration of Exercise Services in Clinical Oncology Settings. BMC Health Services Research. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-022-07598-y
  • Ezenwankwo EF, Ezeukwu AO, Abaraogu UO. 2021. Effects of physical activity changes induced by behavior change interventions on inflammation and patient-centered outcomes in breast cancer survivors: a systematic review. European Journal of Physiotherapy. https://doi.org/10.1080/21679169.2021.1933586

Contact: efe24@drexel.edu


Nipuni Gomes, MPH

Nipuni Gomes headshot

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

Publications:

Contact: nipuni.gomes@drexel.edu or LinkedIn


Caroline Kravitz, MPH

Caroline Kravitz headshot

Degrees: BS in Community and Regional Development from University of California, Davis; MPH in Health Policy from Emory University

Caroline’s Focus: Caroline’s research focuses on food access policy. She has a specific interest in understanding how policies and programmatic interventions can hinder or improve access to food for vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, racial/ethnic minority groups, and immigrants. Caroline's current projects focus on understanding how U.S. immigration enforcement activities relate to enrollment in SNAP and Medicaid, analyzing the relationship between cost-of-living and food shopping behaviors particularly among those participating in SNAP, and using methods of implementation science to understand the enactment of recent Food as Medicine programs by state Medicaid offices.

Research Interests:

  • Health equity
  • Health policy
  • Food access for vulnerable communities
  • Nutrition and chronic disease
  • Implementation science

Professional Experience:

  • Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health (Philadelphia, PA): Research Assistant, September 2022 - present
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, GA): Research Fellow, June 2020 - June 2022
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, GA): Intern, September 2018 - May 2020

Contact: ck975@drexel.edu


Damaris Lopez Mercado

 Damaris Lopez Mercado headshot

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

Publications:

Contact: dl993@drexel.edu


Liza Tomczuk, MPH

Liza Tomczuk headshot

Degrees: BS and Health Studies Certificate, Dickinson College; MPH, University of Pennsylvania

Liza’s Focus: Liza’s research focuses on improving the implementation of evidence-based practices and programs in under-resourced settings, evaluating and improving existing health policies, and translating research findings into policy and sustained public health practice.

She is passionate about supporting historically marginalized and minoritized members of her community through her work and firmly believes in utilizing a community-centered approach in all stages of research and policymaking. She is specifically interested in adapting and enhancing programs and policies to increase employment, educational, and social opportunities for autistic youth and adults.

Research Interests:

  • Mental health services research and policy
  • Implementation science
  • Health inequities
  • Community-engaged research
  • Qualitative methods
  • Program evaluation
  • Autism and developmental disabilities
  • Urban health

Professional Experience:

  • University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine (Philadelphia, PA): Clinical Research Coordinator Penn Center for Mental Health, August 2019 - August 2023
  • Cardiac Electrophysiology, June 2018 - August 2019
  • The Stockton Bartol Foundation (Philadelphia, PA): Program Evaluation Consultant, January 2023 - September 2023
  • Courdea (Philadelphia, PA): Program Evaluation Consultant, February 2022 - March 2023

Publications:

  • Tomczuk, L., Stewart, R. E., Beidas, R. S., Mandell, D. S., & Pellecchia, M. (2022). Who gets coached? A qualitative inquiry into community clinicians’ decisions to use caregiver coaching. Autism. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613211059499
  • Lawson, G. M., Mandell, D. S., Tomczuk, L., Fishman, J., Marcus, S. C., & Pellecchia, M. (2022). Clinician Intentions to use the Components of Parent Coaching Within Community Early Intervention Systems. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 10.1007/s10488-022-01243-w. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-022-01243-w
  • Pellecchia, M., Mandell, D. S., Beidas, R. S., Dunst, C. J., Tomczuk, L., Newman, J., Zeigler, L., & Stahmer, A. C. (2022). Parent Coaching in Early Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Brief Report. Journal of Early Intervention. https://doi.org/10.1177/10538151221095860
  • Pellecchia, M., Arnold, K., Tomczuk, L., & Beidas, R.S. (2022). Chapter 6: Engaging Community Stakeholders. In Springer Publishing Company, Practical Implementation Science.
  • Nuske, H. J., Finkel, E., Hedley, D., Parma, V., Tomczuk, L., Pellecchia, M., Herrington, J., Marcus, S., Mandell, D., & Dissanayake, C. (2019). Heart rate increase predicts challenging behavior episodes in preschoolers with autism. Stress, 1-9.

Contact: lt546@drexel.edu


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