Meet the Health Disparities Research Training Fellows

Our Recent Graduates

Dr. Katheryn Roberson

Congratulations to Katheryn Roberson for successfully defending her doctoral dissertation in Counseling Psychology. Following her degree conferral in August, she will begin a post-doc under Dr. Sidney Hankerson, the Vice Chair for Community Engagement in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of Mental Health Equity Research at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  His research focuses on reducing racial/ethnic disparities in mental health. The National Academy of Medicine recognized Dr. Hankerson as an “Emerging Leader in Health and Medicine”.

Dr. Hnin Wai Lwin Myo

Congratulations to Dr. Hnin Wai Lwin Myo for successfully defending her dissertation and receiving her doctorate from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Recently, Dr. Myo and colleagues explored the differential impacts of the pandemic on food security experiences by race and ethnicity, household income, job disruptions, and households with and without children. Complete results can be found at .

Dr. Wayne Lawrence

Currently, Dr. Lawrence is a Cancer Prevention Fellow for the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He is primarily in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, with a secondary appointment in the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch.

Current Projects: "Metabolic analysis of serum alpha-tocopherol among men in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Study"; "Trends in cancer mortality among Black individuals in the United States"; "A Prospective study of circulating serum vitamin E, vitamin E-related genetic variation, and 28-Year Risk of Prostate Cancer"; "Perspective on analysis of metabolomics data, challenges faced, and future directions".

Dr. Lawrence was recently elected to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Associate Member Council, which develops programs that address the needs of early-career scientists and advises leadership on issues of concern to the next generation of cancer researchers.

On June 22nd, 2020 Dr. Wayne Lawrence published article in the Times Union "Commentary: Public Health Experts Can't 'Stay Out of Politics', Nor Should They". Read here.

Dr. Melissa Noel

Currently, Dr. Noel a Postdoctoral Fellow for Justice, Law, and Criminology at the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Noel recently accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at Temple University in the Criminal Justice Department beginning in Fall 2022.

Dr. Kaydian Reid

Dr. Kaydian Reid published in an article in the Hartford Courant "Why the Coronavirius Hits Harder in Communities of Color". Read here.

Congratulations to Dr. Kaydian Reid our first Health Disparities Alumnus for completing her program and attaining their PhDs!

Hearst Foundation Health Disparities Fellows

Ruth Murcia

Ruth Murcia is entering the doctoral studies program in the Department of Latin America, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies after pursuing a M.A. and B.A. in History with a minor in Sociology at UAlbany. Ms. Murcia’s interest in health disparities grew while attending an interdisciplinary course in LACS and discovering the intergenerational and cross-national enduring inequalities migrants face despite of their essential contributions. During the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed the persisting health disparities affecting minority communities, Ms. Murcia became aware of the contradiction of minorities being essential for the country but lacking fundamental necessary support in adequate housing, transportation, and employment safety and security. With the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship for Research Training in Health Disparities, Ms. Murcia plans to investigate the underlying conditions of health disparities affecting immigrant communities.

Esperanza Rosas

Esperanza Rosas, a 2021 graduate of San José State University, has joined the Ph.D. program in the Biological Sciences Department. . During her coursework, she developed an interest in health disparities that Latinx communities face due to systemic barriers and lack of adequate health resources. Ms. Rosas has been active in organizations focused on supporting BIPOC students in STEM and established a chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Her awareness of these disparities, academically and personally, has fueled her pursuit of a Ph.D. in hopes of contributing meaningful findings that may lead to more effective treatments. Her current research interests include investigating the development and applications of stem cells and how molecular signaling changes can lead to systemic diseases. As Presidential Doctoral Fellow, she hopes to strengthen the communication between biomedical researchers and BIPOC communities.

Kennedi Weston

Kennedi S. Weston is a new Ph.D. student in the Biological Sciences Department. She earned a bachelor’s in Chemistry from University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. During her freshman year, she interned at Washington State University in the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance research program where she conducted a study of research in the Bioengineering/Chemistry field. Following that, she interned with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education program, working at the U.S Food and Drug Administration at the National Center of Toxicological Research under the Microbiology Department for two years. Her research interests are in virus host interactions, evolution of infectious diseases, and molecular mechanisms of diseases. She feels it is important to increase opportunities for underrepresented populations. Her goal is to be transparent with the information and solutions given to disadvantaged communities, mainly the African American Community, about research studies. Furthermore, she believes that the interdisciplinary training throughout the Fellowship program will allow her to become a more knowledgeable advocate for racial and ethnic minority groups.

Jazmin High

Jazmin High is an incoming PhD student in the Department of Anthropology with a focus in medical anthropology. Her primary research interests are health-care disparities and health disparities, including maternal, sexual, and reproductive health. She is interested in exploring how culture, class, the built environment, and race intersect and influence health outcomes among minorities. She has worked as an intern at Roanoke Valley Community Health Initiative, and her master’s research focused on two small counties in North Carolina, where she was able to conduct extensive interviews about minority experiences with seeking healthcare in the small communities. This is one of the ways that she was able to assess health-seeking behaviors and strategies employed by low-income and minority communities in the absence of health resources. Her academic progress and training in both qualitative and analytical research has earned her praise from her previous professors and collaborators.

Rosie Love

Rosie Love is a PhD student in the School of Social Welfare with an interest in how policy in the workplace enable and mitigate inequalities. Her academic goals are to explore strategies to bring together micro- and macro-level social work principles and practices within policy setting environment. Her professional accomplishments include work with the NYS Department of Health, AIDS Institute in 2017. She initiated conversations with executive leadership to advocate for greater attention to prioritize populations including Black/African America, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities. She aided in advocating for the integration of comprehensive health equity principles into every aspect of organization work due to documented health disparities in these populations. In this area, she also aided in her groups’ successes with the development of best practices in addressing racial inequality and assessing staff knowledge and workplace capacity on advancements in health equity.

S-21 Health Disparities Fellows

Radhika Prasad

Radhika Prasad is an incoming Ph.D. student in the Sociology Department. Her primary research interests include social determinants of health, deviant behavior and social control, health disparities, and wellbeing throughout the life-course. Her interest in health disparities research was strengthened through her work with Dr. Ming Wen at the University of Utah, where she worked on a research project using the Adolescent to Adult Health longitudinal data set. Ms. Prasad seeks to develop health-care delivery systems that are more culturally sensitive than those that prioritize a Western approach. With the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship for Research Training in Health Disparities, she plans to continue studying topics related to health and well-being outcomes across different trajectories and life stages, with a particular interest in exploring cultural barriers in access to health-care services among racial and ethnic minorities.

Renae Williams-Atkinson

Dr. Renae Williams Atkinson, a Dental Surgeon from Jamaica and an aspiring dental scientist is pursuing her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. She has seen first-hand many dimensions and effects of health disparities and the need for transdisciplinary training to tackle the oral, dental, and craniofacial health problems of this generation and those to come. Dr. Atkinson believes that the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship for Research Training in Health Disparities will empower her with expert, multidisciplinary training in research and advocacy and as an opportunity to advance society and dentistry through public health advocacy and regenerative research as well as an opportunity for more inclusive dentistry and dentistry research diversity.

Justin Clayton

Justin Clayton is a native of Durham, North Carolina. He is a second-year PhD student at the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice, as well as a graduate certificate student in Economic Forecasting. Justin previously attended North Carolina Central University, earning a MA and a BA in Psychology. He became interested in health disparities research while working at Duke University on a team-based ethnography. The project sought to understand inequality in public and private healthcare settings, while examining how patients navigate barriers to service. Justin used the data he collected for this study to write his Master’s thesis. As a Presidential Doctoral Fellow, he plans to continue studying the health disparities and inequality that un(der)insured blacks and Latinos face. He is particularly interested in the relationship between minority health outcomes and contact with the criminal justice apparatus. Additionally, Justin would like to study this relationship cross-nationally.

Guillermo J. Escaño

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.


Simone Seward (left) and Ola Kalu (right)

Simone Seward

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

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 an assistant professor and program director for the Master of Public Health Program at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. 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.

Melissa Noel, School of Criminal Justice

Melissa E. Noel is a PhD Candidate at the University at Albany School of Criminal Justice. Ms. Noel currently holds the position of a Presidential Doctoral Fellow for Research Training in Minority Health Disparities. She has developed a research interest involving incarcerated parents and their children.

Ms. Noel is currently a Graduate Research Assistant for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), an internship provided through the DCJS Office of Justice Research and Performance (OJRP). Ms. Noel’s internship allows her to support the Community Corrections Research Team by supporting ongoing reporting projects including the threshold report, monthly probation report, quarterly activity report, milestone achievement report, and the data quality assurance report. Recently, Ms. Noel has been assisting in the development of a DCJS Fidelity System for Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs.

Along with supporting New York's criminal justice system, the outcome of Ms. Noel’s extracurricular work is to gain valuable knowledge on how to effectively address vulnerable and specialized populations within this system. She has been involved in several community service initiatives and campus student organizations to support her dedication towards criminological research. By living day by day through faith in God, Ms. Noel expects to excel in her dissertation research and improve the quality of life for men, women, and children who have been impacted by incarceration.

Wayne Lawrence, School of Public Health

Dr. Wayne Lawrence, Health Disparities Fellowship Program alumnus, and Cancer Prevention Fellow, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.His research interests lie principally in the field of minority health and health disparities. Throughout his graduate experience addressing health disparities, his research 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.

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.

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.