Members

Who is a Member

The HEALTH Research Institute members consists of faculty affiliated with the Department of Psychological, Health and Learning Sciences; the Graduate College of Social Work; the Department of Psychology; the Department of Health and Human Performance; and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. However, membership will be open to all academic units at the University of Houston based on alignment with the Institute’s goal and objectives. The HEALTH Research Institute is the only institute at UH where the research – and ultimate elimination – of health disparities is a central part of its mission. The organizational structure of the HEALTH Research Institute consists of a Director, Co-Director, Executive Board, Advisory Board, Fellows, and Mentees. The Institute reports directly to the Vice President of Research and Technology Transfer.


Benefits of Membership:

Fellows of the HEALTH Research Institute will directly benefit from: (1) intellectual capital generated from formulating cutting-edge research, prevention, and intervention programs with Fellows from a wide range of disciplines; (2) pilot funding program; (3) grant support; (4) health disparities programming; and (4) direct access to community stakeholders that will generate partnerships aimed at addressing public health programs currently impacting our local communities.


Mentees of the HEALTH Research Institute will directly benefit from: (1) receiving hands-on mentorship from an assigned Fellow to facilitate the acquisition of external funding; (2) monthly meetings with other Mentees and a presenter to address issues related to grantsmanship, barriers to success, and other topics of interest; (3) resources to have an external professional review grant applications prior to submission; (4) direct consultation on grant reviews received from funding agencies; and (5) pilot funding program.


If you are interested in joining the HEALTH Research Institute, please visit our Membership page.

Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi

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Founder & Director of the HEALTH Research Institute

Dr. Obasi’s current program of research focuses on addictions, health disparities that disproportionately affect the African American community, stress physiology, and cultural predictors of health behaviors. As the director of the Hwemudua Addictions and Health Disparities Laboratory (HAHDL) at the University of Houston (UH) – a Biosafety Level II laboratory – he takes an interdisciplinary approach (incl., biomarkers, biofeedback, implicit cognitions, genetics, fMRI, experimental manipulations, etc.) and uses a diverse range of settings (incl., community, bar lounge, experimental rooms, medical facilities, etc.) to investigate biological, psychological, social, and cultural determinants of health.

Dr. Lorraine R. Reitzel

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Co-Founder & Co-Director of the HEALTH Research Institute

Dr. Reitzel directs the Social Determinants and Health Disparities Lab at the University of Houston. Her research program focuses on better understanding the social determinants of health and health risk behaviors - and the specific biopsychosocial mechanisms that account for disparities in health risk behaviors and health outcomes - with an emphasis on generating highly translational results that can be used to inform policy and intervention. Much of her work is focused on addressing health disparities related to tobacco use, alone or comorbid with other substance dependence and health risk behaviors, among low socioeconomic status (SES) groups.

EXECUTIVE BOARD

Dr. Elebeoba May

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Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering Director, BME Research Program Director, May Research Group UH Cullen College of Engineering

Dr. Dan O'Connor

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Professor and Department Chair Health and Human Performance Director, O’Connor Lab Group for Interdisciplinary Health Research UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Dr. Steven Woods

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Professor, Psychology Director, Cognitive Neuropsychology of Daily Life Laboratory Director of Clinical Neuropsychology UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Community Members

Dr. Henry Gomez

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Vice-President Hispanic Health Coalition

Jamie Freeny, DrPH, MPH

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Program  Manager,  Harris Health System 

Ex-Officio Members

Dr. David S. Buck

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 Clinical Professor & Associate Dean
for Community Health

College of Medicine

  UH Medical School Representative  

Dr. Daphne C. Hernandez

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Associate Professor 

Department of Health & Human Performance

College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Mentee Representative

FELLOWS

Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi

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Associate Professor and Department Chair
Interim Associate Dean for Research
Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences
Director, Hwemudua Addictions and Health Disparities Lab (HAHDL) 
UH College of Education

Dr. Lorraine R. Reitzel

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Associate Professor,Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences Director, Social Determinants/Health Disparities Laboratory UH College of Education

Dr. Dan O’Connor

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Professor and Department Chair Health and Human Performance Director, O’Connor Lab Group for Interdisciplinary Health Research UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Dr. Elebeoba E. May

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Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering Director, BME Research Program Director, 

May Research Group UH Cullen College of Engineering

Dr. Isabel Torres

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Associate Professor, Social Work
UH Graduate College of Social Work

Dr. Michael Zvolensky

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Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology  Director, Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and Substance Use Treatment Clinic UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Dr. Luis Torres

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Associate Professor, Social Work
Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Partnerships
Associate Director, Center for Drug and Social Policy Research
Co-Associate Director, Center for Family and Child Innovative Research
UH Graduate College of Social Work

Dr. Steven Woods

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Professor, Psychology
Director, Cognitive Neuropsychology of Daily Life Laboratory
Director of Clinical Neuropsychology
UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

MENTEES 2018

Professional Development

Professional Development

All Mentees are welcome to develop their leadership skills in our upcoming workshops. 

Click on the picture for more details.

Dr. Rosenda Murillo

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Assistant Professor Psychological Health and Learning Sciences UH College of Education

Dr. Jessica Mantel

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Associate Professor UH Law Center

MENTEES 2017

Dr. Jodi Berger Cardoso

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 Associate Professor
UH Graduate College of Social Work

Dr. Daphne C. Hernandez

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 Associate Professor
Health and Human Performance
UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD

Lharissa Jacobs, Community Advisory Board Chair

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Association Director of Community Health, 

YMCA of Greater Houston


 Lharissa Jacobs is the Association Director of Community Health for the YMCA of Greater Houston. She has sixteen years of leadership through teaching and volunteering in public schools, and seven years of leading efforts in chronic disease prevention at the YMCA of Greater Houston. Lharissa has a Master’s degree from the University of Houston in Education (M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction) and an MBA from the Bauer College of Business. Her special interests include developing partnerships and collaborative relationships to further the mission of the Y, and in her free time she volunteers as a coach for a running group, and spends time with her husband and two teenagers. 

Dr. Jamie Freeny

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Program  Manager

Harris Health System


 Jamie Freeny, is a dedicated public health practitioner with a desire to make a difference for the health and wellbeing of others. Her nine years of experience in health education and community outreach have offered many insights for her to understand the complexities of how health is effected by where one lives, learns, works, and plays. Jamie has a PhD in Community Health Practice from the UT Health Science Center School of Public Health where she developed research interests in collaborative engagement, adverse childhood experiences, and adolescent mental health. Jamie is a Grant Project Manager in the Community Outreach Services Department of the Harris Health System, co-chairs the IMPACT Collaborative of Greater Houston, serves at the Pastoral Care Leader of the T3 Health & Wellness Ministry at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, and is the Board Chair for the African American Health Coalition. 

Dorothy Gibbons

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CEO and Co-Founder

The Rose


 In 1986, Dorothy and Dr. Dixie Melillo founded The Rose, a Houston-based nonprofit that has provided quality breast healthcare services to over 500,000 insured and uninsured women. With two Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers and a Mobile Mammography Fleet covering Southeast and Central Texas, The Rose has become a leader in healthcare delivery and its programs are replicated nationally and internationally. Dorothy’s non-profit experience involves healthcare, education, and women’s issues. She has served on the founding boards for the Breast Health Collaborative of Texas, the North Pasadena Community Outreach, the Breast Care Center in Washington DC., Gateway to Care, and the Texas Medical Centers Women’s Health Network in Houston. Dorothy is a wife, a mother, and a yoga instructor who holds a BA in communications with extended studies of women’s roles in world religions, mythology and history 

Dr. Henry F. Gomez

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Vice-President

Hispanic Health Coalition


Dr. Gomez is an accomplished, quality-focused professional, formally trained as a physician, with an outstanding record of achievement in clinical research. As Program Director in the Department of Epidemiology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Gomez is responsible for all operational aspects of the Mano a Mano cohort study, the largest health study of its kind with individuals of Mexican origin. As author, and co-author, of numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Gomez has traveled extensively presenting his research findings at national and international conferences. Dr. Gomez is a graduate of the FBI Outstanding Citizens Academy and received the Patrice Johnson Distinguished Alumnus Award for Exemplary Leadership Skills Class XX-Leadership Houston. He is very passionate about research and giving a voice to those he feels are voiceless.

Kaylan Henderson

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Division Manager for Area A

Houston Health Department


Kaylan Henderson is a public servant who has spent 16 years in Public Health where she has primarily focused on community health and identification of program outcomes and effectiveness. Kaylan Henderson received her Bachelor of Arts in Science from Hampton University and her Masters of Science in Public Health from Meharry Medical College. Kaylan began her Public Health career in Nashville, Tennessee with the Tennessee Department of Health where she served as Director of Policy and Legislation. Her career path has led her to the Houston Health Department where she is currently the Division Manager for Area A. As Division Manager, Kaylan oversees the Third Ward, Sunnyside, Magnolia, and Denver Harbor Multi Service Center, as well as the Sunnyside Health Clinic. Kaylan is an active member of the Missouri City Chapter of the Links, Inc., a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The American Public Health Association, and St. Mary’s of the Purification Catholic Church. 

Lynne H. Nguyen

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Founder and Board Member 

Asian American Health Coalition


 Lynne Nguyen is Director of the Community & Populations Core in the Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She leads MD Anderson’s efforts to increase minorities & women’s awareness, understanding, and participation in cancer clinical trials. Lynne leads a team of community health engagement experts that facilitate long-term, equitable research partnerships between MD Anderson researchers and community-based organizations. A passionate community volunteer and health advocate, Lynne founded the Asian American Health Coalition, the parent organization of HOPE Clinic in Houston. From its beginnings as a 4-hour a month volunteer-led clinic in 2002, HOPE Clinic is now a fully-staffed Federally Qualified Community Health Center that serves all patients regardless of insurance or income status. Lynne received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Houston and her Master in Public Health from the University Of Texas Health Science Center School Of Public Health here in Houston. 

Courtney Taylor

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Vice President and Community Development Officer

Veritex Community Bank 


  Courtney Taylor is the Vice President and Community Development Officer for Green Bank. She is responsible for developing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, creating volunteer opportunities for the bank, and seeking innovative ways to impact the community. Courtney serves on the advisory council for the Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, Inc., Chairperson for the San Jacinto College District Business Management Advisory Committee, and Advisory Board Member to KidsRStrong2 Cancer Non-Profit Organization. With an expertise in community development, nonprofit management, grant writing, communications, and community outreach, Courtney was recognized as one of Houston’s Top 30 Under 30 in 2013. Courtney holds a Bachelors of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Texas at San Antonio and an MBA from Texas Woman’s University. 

Melissa Edwards

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Executive Director

American Diabetes Association Central South Texas 

  

 Melissa Edwards is a community strategist who has served in leadership roles within the philanthropic and not-for-profit industry.  For more than fifteen years Melissa has successfully aligned corporate social responsibility missions with community outreach needs.  Melissa is currently the Executive Director for American Diabetes Association Central South Texas area and oversees a 2.8 million dollar budget in Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio markets. Melissa’s passion, advocacy and work for chronic health diseases spans more than 15 years including two six-year terms on the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.  In 2009, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst appointed Melissa to her first six-year term after serving five years on the board of directors for the Alzheimer’s Association Houston and Southeast Chapter. In 2018 Melissa was named Top 30 Influential Women of Houston and her alma mater, the University of Houston, named her a 2014 UH Frontier Fiesta Honoree. 

AFFILIATES

Dr. Nathan Grant Smith

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Associate Professor
Director, CORE Research Team
UH Department of  Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences 

Dr. Marcel Alejandro de Dios

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 Assistant Professor 

Department of  Psychological, Health,
& Learning Sciences 

Dr. Virmarie Correa-Fernandez

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 Associate Professor 

Department of  Psychological, Health,
& Learning Sciences  

Dr. Brian Reed

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Clinical Professor & Chair

Department of Clinical Sciences

College of Medicine 

Dr. David S. Buck

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Clinical Professor & Associate Dean
for Community Health

College of Medicine 

Dr. Winston Liaw

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Clinical Associate Professor & Chair 

Department of Health Systems and Population Health Sciences

College of Medicine 

Dr. Olivera Nesic-Taylor

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Clinical Professor & Chair

Department of Biomedical Sciences

College of Medicine 

Dr. Chakema Carmack

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Assistant Professor

Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences 

College of Education