RNA Lab Alumni

Temi Adegbola, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Temi Adegbola received her MPH from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), where she concentrated in the fields of epidemiology and health systems and policy. She graduated with a joint Bachelor's of Science degree from Livingston College and the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in May 2009, where she majored in Public Health. Temi's research interests include examining factors that contribute to the development of health disparities among minority populations and evaluating the policy implications of these disparities. Temi is also in the process of applying to medical school where she can incorporate her interests in health care, public health, and health care disparities.

Ayana April, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Ayana first began pursing research in social science and public health as an undergraduate at Rutgers University while examining the health and human rights implications of sex trafficking, and studying cancer outcomes within the Black community. Since then she has received her MPH from the Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health in Sociomedical Sciences, where she also joined the Meritocracy and African-American Health team. Ayana has expanded on her research interests having work considerably with non-profit organizations such as Basic Health International working to reduce cervical cancer incidences in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as developing interventions to improve maternal and child health outcomes in Uganda with Life for Mothers. Ayana hopes to pursue a doctorate degree and apply her research interests and experiences to addressing health and human rights inequalities among people of Caribbean descent both in the US and abroad.

Gloria Diaz

Research Project Coordinator

Gloria was a Field Director (Bedford-Stuyvesant) for the Black LIFE Study. Her interests in healthcare began in herbal and alternative medicine. After several years of being self-taught and completing an herbalist program in Asheville, NC, she realized she wanted to work with communities on a broad scale, drawing her into the world of Public Health. She eventually went on to receive her B.A. in Community Health Education at Portland State University. During her time in Portland, she became excited about research while in the McNair's Scholar Program, a program encouraging students of color and first generation students to pursue doctoral degrees. She graduated from the Master's in Public Health program at Columbia University in Sociomedical Research. Gloria hopes that her love of food and research will contribute to further empowering communities of color in their food choices and to decreasing health disparities.

King Law

Graduate Student Research Assistant

King Law is a graduate student in the M.P.H. program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), where he concentrates in the field of epidemiology. Growing up in Hong Kong, China, where several notable epidemics such as avian flu and SARS occurred throughout his childhood, he has generated an interest in health sciences, particularly in disease prevention. King graduated with a dual bachelor's degree in biological sciences and economics from Rutgers University in 2009. Shortly after earning his undergraduate degree, he has further dedicated himself into public health by completing a summer internship as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) trainee at the Middle Brook Regional Health Commission, Middlesex, NJ, and successfully became a licensed REHS of New Jersey. As King explores in different disciplines of public health, he finds himself especially interested in epidemiology, where he enjoys applying research methods and statistical knowledge to transform raw data into meaningful findings in disease prevention and public health.

Nelson Travis Saldana, MPH

Project Director

Nelson is extremely grateful to be involved with the Black LIFE study as it encompasses many of his research interests. With the "mind of a planner" and the "heart of a public health practitioner," he graduated from the Mailman School of Public Health in 2008 with an MPH in Urbanism and the Built Environment. The Black LIFE study has enabled him to dust off his undergraduate degree from UCLA in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. Prior to serving as Project Director, Nelson was a Senior Research Associate, assisting in the development of the biannual California Health Interview Survey at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. He hopes to eventually pursue a doctoral degree in Sociology to give his obsession with all things neighborhood related a proper outlet. In his free time, he enjoys doing yoga.

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Azure Thompson, DrPH

Postdoctoral Fellow

Azure B. Thompson is postdoctoral trainee in mental health service research at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. She holds a DrPH in sociomedical sciences from Columbia University and a B.A. in journalism from Howard University. She was a W.K. Kellogg Fellow in Health Policy Research from 2003 to 2008. Her research focuses on the social determinants of racial differences in psychiatric and substance use conditions. She is particularly interested in studying life course risk and protective factors for psychiatric and substance use problems, and the intersection of these factors with neighborhood environment. She has published papers on the relationship between early life course factors and racial disparities in women's smoking cessation, and racial disparities in access to and quality of psychiatric and substance use treatment.

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Amparo Abel-Bey, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Amparo Abel-Bey graduated from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, in the department of Sociomedical Sciences, Aging and Public Health Track. She has received her BA from SUNY Stony Brook University in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology with a minor in Africana Studies. She has worked as a research assistant at the Family Translational Research Group at SUNY Stony Brook University. She currently volunteers at the Washington Heights CORNER project, a harm-reduction syringe exchange facility.

Brenda Senyana, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Brenda Senyana holds an MPH from Columbia University with a concentration in Health Promotion & Disease Prevention and a BA in Psychology with a minor in African & African American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to working on the BlackLIFE study, she worked as a Program Assistant II at Children's Home Society & Family Services's Cedar Riverside Student Support Program promoting literacy amongst immigrant youth. She has worked on the BlackLIFE study for approximately one year and recently accepted a Research Coordinator position at NYU School of Medicine's Center for Healthful Behavior Change, where she will be working on a intervention research study looking to explore community-based approaches to treating hypertension & colon cancer prevention in African American men throughout New York City. In her spare time she enjoys traveling (especially with her sisters), shopping, hanging out with friends, singing, and listening to spoken word and music.

Brennan Rhodes, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Brennan Rhodes, MPH has worked in the issues of health promotion and disease prevention ranging from improving access to affordable housing to diabetes prevention. Ms. Rhodes' particular areas of interest include conducting community based participatory research, understanding and promoting healthy nutrition options, the impact of the built-environment on health outcomes, and health promotion policy. Brennan is currently the Assistant Community Project Coordinator  for "Project HEED" (Help Educate to Eliminate Diabetes), a community based participatory research project through the joint partnership of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Union Settlement Association and Institute of Family Health at North General Hospital to prevent diabetes in East Harlem residents.

Peter Gillo, MRP

Research Project Coordinator

Peter is a Field Director (Harlem) for the Black LIFE study. He brings genuine heart and a deep passion for finding solutions to America's most pressing African-American housing and urban issues. Before joining the Black LIFE team Peter studied at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he earned a Masters in Regional Planning (MRP) with a concentration in Social, Policy, and Community Development. Prior to this he earned a BA in Political Science and Sociology from Clark Atlanta University. Though Peter's concern with the plight of African-Americans flourished during his academic career, his interest in such issues can be traced all the way back to the economic and social disparities he experienced as an adolescent in his hometown of South Side Chicago. As an avid promoter of African-American education and entrepreneurship, active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and founder of Northampton Massachusetts' first Black History Month event, Peter always makes sure to be influential within the areas that need it most!

Monete Johnson

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Monete Johnson is a graduate student in the Masters of Public Policy program with a concentration in Community Development at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. She graduated Trinity College (CT) in 2011 with a B.A. in Sociology and Economics. After undergrad Monete, was a Leadership Fellow at SquashBusters, a youth development program Sports-based program in her hometown of Boston, MA. Her time as a fellow motivated her to pursue an education in community development, in hopes to research and help address the economic decline of urban communities. Monete is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated

Sharese Porter, MPH

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Sharese Porter is a graduate student in the Joint PhD program in Urban Systems at Rutgers University, the University of Medicine of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), where her area of concentration is in Urban Health. She graduated from Temple University with a Master of Public Health degree in Community Health Education and Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University, with dual majors in Public Health and Sociology and a minor in Africana Studies. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Her research interests include neighborhood effects on the health of African Americans and the role of race, nativity, and gender as contributing to the social and environmental construction of health disparities within an urbanized context.

Matthew Kirson

Undergraduate Student Research Assistant

Matt is an undergraduate in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University completing his B.S. in Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior, with a minor in Environmental and Business Economics. His research interests include environmental and economic sociology at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender and class. Matt is a native of New Jersey and is interested in studying urban issues in New York City. In the fall, he will begin a Master's in City and Regional Planning at Rutgers' Bloustein School.