Meet the Health Disparities Research Training Fellows

Meet our 2019 Health Disparities Fellow

Guillermo J. Escaño, Criminal Justice

Guillermo Jesús Escaño is a doctoral student at the University at Albany, SUNY in the department of Criminal Justice; he also completed his M.A. as part of his capstone, he explored anti-homicide strategies on Mexico’s state murder capital: Guerrero. In addition, he recently presented his research on Honduras’ homicide trends in Mexico City, Mexico at the VII Latin American Conference and II Mexican Conference on Drug Policy. His most recent professional experience was with the New York Police Department as a Summer Graduate Intern with the Office of Crime Control Strategies. As part of the Rx Initiative, he analyzed the trend of opiate overdose in New York City in collaboration with other state agencies to strengthen tools to capture real time data. After completing his undergraduate career, Guillermo has worked in various capacities in the public health and criminal justice sector.

His main interest of topics are: Homicide Trend; Time-Series Analysis; Intersectionality of Criminology & Public Health; Drug Trafficking; Organized Criminal Groups; Drug Policy; Homicide Spatial Analysis; Anti-Crime Strategies; Urban Sociology; & Mixed Method Methodology. His research focuses mostly on factors that influence homicide trends in the United States and Latin America. In addition, Guillermo has a deep interest in the intersectionality of public health and the criminal justice system; such as how drug policy and homicide can impact life expectancy in concentrated disadvantage communities. His interest arise from the role that violence and crime played in his upbringing in the South Bronx, and working directly for years with communities impacted on said interest. Furthermore, the role that crime and violence also greatly affected his family’s native countries situated in Latin America. Guillermo has been able to study abroad in Brazil, Chile and Argentina exploring the role that violence has had on these respected nations and the surrounding region.

Through the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship for Research Training in Health Disparities, as well as his training as a doctoral student, Mr. Escano hopes to promote anti-crime measures that considers humane public health methods to avert adverse consequences.

Meet Our 2018 Health Disparities Fellows:

Simone Seward (left) and Ola Kalu (right)

Simone Seward, Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior

Simone Seward earned her Master of Public Health (MPH) from Boston University School of Public Health. In addition, she is a scholar of the Public Health Leadership Institute of Florida (PHLIF) and the SUNY SAIL Summer Leadership Institute. With over 10 years of training and diverse experiences in health promotion and disease prevention programs at the federal, state, and local level, Ms. Seward has developed a repertoire of skills to tackle complex public health challenges.

She began her career in public service in 2004 with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as a Public Health Prevention Specialist. She completed several assignments at CDC Headquarters and her first field assignment at the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa, FL. She led the development and implementation of a Community Health Advisor (CHA) Program aimed at training lay health workers to promote health education messages in low-income and medically underserved communities.

Ms. Seward considers herself both an educator and a community health advocate. In her current position, she is an instructor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Upstate Medical University, in Syracuse, NY. Her vision is to train socially responsible health care professionals to address health disparities related to the unequal treatment received by minority populations as documented by the 2003 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. Her research interests are focused on increasing the capacity of academic medical centers to effectively recruit, retain and train a diverse biomedical workforce equipped to provide quality health services to an increasingly diverse patient population.

By facilitating a mutually-beneficial community engagement process, Ms. Seward also is able to address community priority areas by harnessing the resources and expertise of the University to tackle issues such as food insecurity, inadequate transportation and housing instability. Through shared decision making, she ensures community members have a voice in the design and implementation of community-based research, interventions, and programs. Ms. Seward firmly believes that such collaborative efforts can lead to sustainable, community-driven solutions.

Ms. Seward plans to pursue her Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior. Through the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship for Research Training in Health Disparities, she hopes to infuse training in transdisciplinary research into her teaching, scholarship, and community engagement, which can translate into sustainable public health practices, effective public policies and transformational leadership.

Ola Kalu, Sociology

Ola Kalu is a Sociology doctoral student in the College of Arts & Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Hayward Horton. Raised in North Florida, Ms. Kalu has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Florida State University, Master of Early Childhood Education and Graduate certificate in Community Planning from Florida International University and a Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction (Ed.S) from University of Florida. While teaching in Title I schools in South Florida, Ms. Kalu began to take an interest in how literacy curriculum could boost agency and mental and emotional wellness of African American students (girls, adolescents, and women specifically). Ms. Kalu’s own identity as a first generation Nigerian- American has contributed to her two research focuses: addressing mental health disparities in African American students and developing awareness regarding the intricacy of which race, gender, and socioeconomic status can influence academic success and achievement with African American students.

Ms. Kalu has worked on several research projects related to attaining educational equity working in partnership with various public school systems with critical stakeholders, such as social workers, guidance counselors, special education teachers, pre-service teachers, tenured teachers, faculty and staff, and marginalized student populations. Alongside, her mentor Dr. Horton, she has also examined incidences of cancer placed in the context of changes in the social structure relative to access to societal resources. Ms. Kalu’s latest project has been the creation of a writing group at University at Albany that deals with self-identification and perception. The writing group worked with African American undergraduate women using a Critical Pedagogy framework that emphasized a safe space outside of traditional mainstream education through providing empowerment, love, and support for the African American women. Through the Presidential Doctoral Health Disparities Fellowship, Ms. Kalu believes that she will become a more proficient researcher, social justice advocate, and contribute to the growing health disparities research that examines social and behavioral determinants of health through the lens of schooling and academics.


From left to right: Bottom left- Dr. Lawrence, Schell, Yajaira Cabrera-Tineo, Erica Tyler, and Wayne Lawrence. Top left- Kaydian Reid, Melissa Noel, Hnin Wai Lwin Myo and Katheryn Roberson.

Kaydian Reid, School of Public Health

Kaydian Reid is currently a doctoral student in the University at Albany’s School of Public Health in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior, in which she is being advised by Dr. Julia Hastings. Ms. Reid’s identity as a first-generation Caribbean immigrant from Jamaica influences her work. She strives to bring more attention/awareness of challenges and unique experiences of immigrant families and adolescents.

Ms. Reid’s current focus is her dissertation, titled “Psychosocial Wellbeing and Caribbean Black Adolescents’ Initiation of Sex”. The primary goal of the investigation is to determine the independent relations among elements of psychosocial wellbeing (i.e., perceived family support, self-esteem, personal control influence, school involvement, and religious involvement) and sexual initiation in a national representative sample of Caribbean Black adolescents. She is utilizing secondary data analysis and applying an adapted risk-taking behavior model for adolescents that incorporates predisposing and protective factors that are either endogenous or exogenous. Her project’s findings will fill a gap in the literature and allow her to develop her research career on minority adolescent health disparities while engaging the community and its leaders.

Based on her knowledge of the small community of Caribbean Blacks in the Capital District, Ms. Reid feels she is well-positioned to expand knowledge and help strengthen behavioral health outcomes of adolescents in the community. In the future, she would like to collect primary data from the population and ultimately support community participatory research to help promote positive youth development in the local community of Albany. This will not only add to the body of literature on minority health and health disparities but will also promote the use of mental and public health interventions that addressing adolescent health risk behaviors, specifically for Caribbean Black adolescents in the Capital District.

Recent Publications:

Reid, Kaydian S., Sekhobo, Jackson P., Gantner, Leigh A., Holbrook, MaryEllen K., Allsopp, Marie., Whalen, Linda B., & Koren-Roth, Amy. April 2018. A mixed-method evaluation of the New York State Eat Well Play Hard Community Projects:Building local capacity for sustainable childhood obesity prevention.Evaluation and Program Planning. 67, 79–88.

Recent Presentations:

Self-esteem the Mediator: Caribbean Black and African American Adolescents’ Initiation of Sex

Accepted to provide an oral presentation at the 31st Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health (March 5, 2018)

Accepted to provide a poster presentation at 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (March 14, 2018).

Wayne Lawrence, School of Public Health

Wayne Lawrence is a doctoral student in the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, under the advisement of Dr. Barry Sherman and Dr. Allison Appleton. His research interests lie principally in the field of minority health and health disparities. Throughout his graduate experience addressing health disparities, his research has integrated epidemiological, biological, environmental, and behavioral approaches to understanding the complexity in which race and socioeconomic status influences health outcomes.

Mr. Lawrence’s current work focuses on two specific topics. Specifically, he is examining the association between metformin and risk of cancer recurrence and mortality among diabetic women undergoing breast cancer adjuvant hormone therapy. The results of this study will provide healthcare professionals with greater knowledge on the effectiveness of metformin in combination with adjuvant hormone therapy on reducing cancer recurrence and mortality. The study’s findings will provide recommendations for clinicians on treating diabetic patients with breast cancer. Moreover, these findings will identify vulnerable groups and assist public health practitioners in developing tools to reduce disparities in breast cancer mortality.

Mr. Lawrence’s second area of focus investigates disparities in risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease in relation to environmental pollutants and climatic effects. The findings from this study will allow health professionals to identify population/areas that are susceptible to environmental pollutants and severe weather effects. This study will also assist in developing innovative prevention methods to reduce morbidity and mortality. The overall purpose of Mr. Lawrence’s research projects is to apply a translational approach of “Research to Practice.” He hopes his findings will identify vulnerable populations, and inform health professionals and policy makers on resources needed to reduce morbidity and mortality.

His passion for addressing minority health and health disparities is not exclusively derived from his academic training and research experiences. Mr. Lawrence feels his identity as an African-American male, motivates him to take action on these issues and encourage productive dialogue. He has experienced and witnessed the impact of exclusion and discrimination and their ability to shape patterns of disease distribution and preventable mortality within his community.

Recent Awards:

MCH Student Fellow, Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Committee, Maternal and Child Health Section, American Public Health Association, Washington D.C. The fellows program was established in 1998 to foster the development of leaders in science, policy, and practice related to the health of women, children and their families. Each year about 10 outstanding graduate students are selected, and to date over 100 students have participated in the program.

Student Fellows serve for a one-year term and participate in the MCH Leadership Skills Development Training program. Each Student Fellow will have an opportunity to learn more about APHA and the MCH Section by participating in business meetings, serving on various Section committees, and working on Section policy statements among other activities.

Recent Positions:

Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Committee Member

Recent Publications:

Lu Y, Lin S, Lawrence, WR, Lin Z, Gurzau E. Evidence from SINPHONIE project: Impact of Home Environmental Exposures on Respiratory Health among School-age Children in Romania. Science of the Total Environment. 2018 April 15; 621: 75-84. PMID: 29175623

Lucero A, Addae G, Lawrence W, Neway B, Credeur C, Faulkner J, Rowlands D, Stoner L. Reliability of Muscle Blood Flow and Oxygen Consumption Response from Exercise Using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy. Experimental Physiology. PMID 29034529

Zeng J, Zhang X, Yang J, Bao J, Xiang H, Dear K, Liu, Q Lin S, Lawrence WR, Lin A, Huang C. Humidity may Modify the Relationship between Temperature and Cardiovascular Mortality in Zhejiang Province, China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2017 Nov 14; 14(11). PMID: 29135955

Bao WW, Qian ZM, Geiger SD, Liu E, Liu Y, Wang SQ, Lawrence WR, Yang BY, Hu LW, Zeng XW, Dong GH. Gender-specific Associations between Serum Isomers of Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Blood Pressure among Chinese: Isomers of C8 Health Project in China. Science of the Total Environment. 2017 Dec 31; 607-608: 1304-1312. PMID: 28738507

Lin S, Lawrence WR, Lin Z, Francois M, Neamtiu IA, Lin Q, Csobod E, Gurzau ES. Teacher Respiratory Health Symptoms in Relation to Home and School Environment. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. 2017 Nov; 90(8): 725-739. PMID: 28600748

Yang BY, Qian ZM, Vaughn MG, Nelson EJ, Dharmage SC, Heinrich J, Lin S, Lawrence WR, Ma H, Chen DH, Hu LW, Zeng XW, Xu SL, Zhang C, Dong GH. Is Prehypertension More Associated with Long-term Ambient Air Pollution Exposure than Hypertension? Findings from the 33 Communities Chinese Health Study. Environmental Pollution. 2017 Oct; 229: 696-704. PMID: 28711568

Qiu C, Lawrence W, Gelaye B, Stoner L, Frederick I, Enquobahrie D, Williams MA. Risk of Glucose Intolerance and Gestational Diabetes in Relation to Maternal Habitual Snoring During Early Pregnancy. PLoS ONE. 2017 Sep 19; 12(9): e0184966. PMID: 28926639

Lawrence W, Neway B, Addae G, Lanford J, Orta O, William MA, Stoner L. Can an Ecosystems Approach to Health Promotion Succeed Where Reductionism Fails? Perspectives in Public Health. 2016 Aug; 136(5): 266-268. PMID: 27528638


Hu LW, Lawrence WR, Liu Y, Yang BY, Zeng XW, Chen W, Dong GH (2017). Chapter 6: Ambient Air Pollution and Morbidity in Chinese. In: Dong GH. (eds) Ambient Air Pollution and Health Impact in China. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol 1017. Springer

Yajaira Cabrera-Tineo, Psychology Department

Yajaira Cabrera-Tineo’s identity as a Latina immigrant contributes to her research on Latina/o mental health. She received her bachelor’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is currently concluding her first year in the University at Albany’s Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program. As a doctoral student under the advisement of Dr. Frank Dillon, Ms. Cabrera-Tineo has been working on several research projects related to social and cultural determinants of mental health and health-risk behaviors among Latina immigrants.

Specifically, Ms. Cabrera-Tineo is examining the link between discrimination-based acculturative stress, depression and alcohol use, and within-group differences between peer attachment and its predictors among Cuban and non-Cuban recent Latina immigrants. Her work brings attention to the role of ecological factors on the experience of mental health and health behaviors among the understudied population of newly-arrived Latina immigrants. Ms. Cabrera-Tineo elucidates these sociocultural-health relationships because she believes this understanding could inform the development of new programs and services tailored towards preventing and improving health outcomes overtime among Latina/o immigrants.

Ms. Cabrera-Tineo took on this work because she believes there is a need to provide services and programs that are culturally sensitive for recent Latina/o immigrants. As an immigrant, I have experienced firsthand the struggles of adapting to a new society. I find that the first months of residency are crucial in the wellbeing of newly arrived Latina/o immigrants because it is during this time when they are confronted with what it means to be a minority and the challenges associated with their social status.

Recent Awards:

2017 APA Division 50 Poster Award –First Place ($200), August, 2017 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) R13-funded Travel Award ($750), August 2017

Recent Positions:

2017-18 APA Division 45 Campus Representative

Recent Presentations:

Ertl, M. M., Dillon, F. R., Cabrera Tineo, Y. A., Verile, M., Jurkowski, J. M., & De La Rosa, M. (2017). Social and cultural factors related to sexual risk behaviors during initial months in US among Latina young adult immigrants. AIDS Care. 2017 Aug 28:1-8. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2017.1368442.

Recent Publications:

Cabrera Tineo, Y. A., Dillon, F.R., Ertl, M. M., & De La Rosa, M. (2017, November). Discrimination-based acculturative stress, depression and alcohol use among Latina emerging adult immigrants during initial months in US. Paper presented during the Annual Datablitz at University at Albany –State University of New York, Albany, NY.

Cabrera Tineo, Y. A., Dillon, F.R., Ertl, M. M., & De La Rosa, M. (2017, August). Discrimination-based acculturative stress, depression and alcohol use among Latina emerging adult immigrants during initial months in US. Paper presented during the Addiction and Behavioral Science Datablitz at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC. 

Cabrera Tineo, Y. A., Dillon, F.R., Ertl, M. M., & De La Rosa, M. (2017, August). Discrimination-based acculturative stress, depression and alcohol use among Latina emerging adult immigrants during initial months in US. Poster presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Ertl, M. M., Dillon, F. R., Cabrera Tineo, Y. A., Verile, M., Florentin, D., & De La Rosa, M. (2017, August). Sociocultural factors related to sexual risk behaviors among Latina young adult immigrants. Poster presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.

Hnin Wai Lwin Myo, School of Public Health

Hnin Wai Lwin Myo was born in Burma (Myanmar). She graduated from Myanmar’s University of Medicine (II) 1999. Ms. Myo has been a medical doctor and public health specialist for over 16 years. Her work has been centered on epidemiological research on communicable diseases. Her attention to matters of public health became more focused after she earned her master’s degree in public health and tropical medicine in 2005.

Ms. Myo has worked in a variety of capacities within the healthcare system, including Research Officer and District Health Officer of the Yangon Region, and Assistant Director of the Ministry of Health. Additionally, she was a national survey coordinator for the Disease Control Department’s National Tuberculosis Control program, which emphasized the presence of health disparities, particularly in military conflict zones.

Her experiences and research interests led her to prioritize public health issues among minority groups as a Deputy Project Manager of the Mobile Medical Services Project. Ms. Myo proposed a project focused on providing basic healthcare to socially marginalized ethnic minority groups along the underserved Thai-Myanmar border, necessitating considerable funding from the Japanese Nippon Foundation. Her mission was to narrow the wide gap between perceived healthcare coverage and reality- characterized by the absence of resources resulting from long-term mismanagement in the conflict zone and insufficient knowledge of the population. Ms. Myo became so closely watched by junta agents that she and her husband, a physician and military commander, faced being court martialed in the context of the political conflict regarding the Kachin ethnic group. They fled from Myanmar to seek asylum through which they were resettled here in Albany, NY.

Upon resettlement in Albany, Ms. Myo immediately began contributing to her new community through volunteering for the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants and Trinity Alliance’s Refugee Community Health Partnership Program. As a doctoral student at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, Ms. Myo wishes to pursue her dream of being an infectious disease epidemiologist; Dr. Phil Nasca will be acting as her academic advisor. Ms. Myo plans to continue her efforts in addressing health disparities, helping disadvantaged populations “no matter wherever or whoever they are”.

Katheryn Roberson, Psychology Department

Ms. Roberson hopes to address health disparities through her doctoral studies at the University at Albany’s Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program, under the mentorship of Dr. Alex Pieterse. Her research goals are to develop the body of knowledge around racial discrimination and its impact on health, and to identify methods of responding to and reducing health disparities associated with racism. She would also like to address racial disparities through identifying factors on how racial prejudice is maintained, and how racial discrimination can be interrupted. Ms. Roberson believes that through these two avenues, intervention strategies can be created to promote health and reduce disparity, and prevention strategies can be created that dismantle factors contributing to disparities.

Katheryn Roberson grew up in Harlem, New York. She currently works as a mental health therapist in an outpatient center in the South Bronx. She completed her Masters of Education and Masters of Arts at Teachers College Columbia University. It was at Teachers College that she realized the role of research in producing knowledge and promoting system-level change. She co-authored an article published by Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, a journal of the American Psychological Association. The research presented in the article focused on how race-based traumatic stress, coupled with racial identity, impacts general mental health outcomes for People of Color. Through her own experiences, as well as those of the clients she works with, it became evident that there are both physical and mental health concerns associated with being a Person of Color. Although these health concerns were often apparent, less apparent was the preventability of these disparities.

Erica Tyler, Anthropology Department

Ms. Tyler is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Ms. Tyler comes to UAlbany with a master’s degree and on the heels of two personally influential life stressors: a job layoff and the sudden death her father, both within 10 months of each other. Her main interest is in the impact of psychosocial stressors on human growth and development. Such early influences are important because of the long-term damage early life experiences can cause to individuals and society. She uses a lifespan perspective on health and incorporates the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease framework that has developed in many over the past 10 years. She is particularly interested in the combination of economic and health disparities as they encroach upon all aspects of one’s life while trapping many in a cycle they may never escape. She expects this work to benefit the community by showing that chronic stress has long-term economic consequences that impact not only the individual, but the city, county, state and country. Dr. Lawrence Schell chairs her dissertation committee. Ms. Tyler is now completing her second year of doctoral study. She expects to graduate in 2019.