The team

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Co-PI

Elizabeth "Libby" Salerno Valdez

Dr. Elizabeth Salerno Valdez is a community engaged scholar focusing on using participatory methods to investigate and address health inequities. She is a Postdoctoral Pathway Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and serves as a core faculty member within the Center for Community Health Equity Research. Her research program fosters ethical and mutually beneficial academic-community partnerships using participatory, social justice-oriented approaches to examine the structural and environmental characteristics of particular “risk environments” that influence adolescent health among historically marginalized communities, including Latinx/o/a, Black or African American, and LGBTQ+ youth. Prior to her work at UMass, Dr. Valdez worked as an assistant research social scientist with the Southwest Institute for Research on Women at the University of Arizona on research related to adolescent substance use and reproductive health. She received her PhD in Health Behavior Health Promotion with a minor in Maternal and Child Health from the University of Arizona.

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Graduate Research Assistant 

Tiarra Fisher (She/Her)

Tiarra Fisher (She/Her) is a recent graduate ('22) receiving her MPH from the University of Massachusetts as well as a BA in anthropology ('20) and A BS in Public Health ('20). Tiarra is interested in using participatory action research as well arts-based research methods to explore the relationships between structural barriers and health outcomes in folks with marginalized racial/ethnic, sexual orientation, and gender identities. Tiarra has a particular interest in working with youth. Her own identity and research experiences have shaped her pursuit in health equity. In the STRIVE study Tiarra has contributed to the facilitation of photovoice sessions, data collection and analysis, manuscript writing, and survey development of an online survey examining efficacy and self-esteem in STRIVE participants. 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Jazmine Chan, MPH (she/her) 

Jazmine Chan, MPH (she/her) is a Community Health Education doctoral student in the 

Department of Health Promotion and Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is 

a committed student of the University receiving both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in 

Public Health from here as well. Jazmine’s research interests include trauma, chronic disease, 

health inequities and refugee and immigrant health with particular interest in Southeast Asian 

refugees. Her prior experiences as a first generation Cambodian American and child of Khmer 

Rouge refugees has led her to work on various projects including creating a culturally adapted 

diabetes self-management program for Cambodians at a refugee clinic. With a commitment to 

social justice, Jazmine has also ran a social justice enrichment with middle school students in 

Salem using photovoice to highlight the change they want to see in their community. As part of 

the STRIVE team, her roots in Lynn have connected us to our community partner there and she 

also assists in qualitative data collection and analysis. 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Mira Weil

Mira Weil, MPH, DTM (she/her) is a current doctoral candidate and Spaulding-Smith Fellow in Community Health Education at UMass, Amherst. In addition to her work at UMass and with the STRIVE team, she is a doctor of Tibetan medicine, sexual health educator and lead author of a queer and trans affirming, body-positive sexuality and gender curriculum for elementary students called LETS! Teach, Affirm, Learn, Know (T.A.L.K.). As a queer non-binary femme, Mira's advocacy and justice work to improve sexual health among youth, both with STRIVE team and in her own research, is close to her heart.  In the STRIVE study, she is working on data analysis and dissemination with a focus on the impact of structural violence on queer youth health.  Her doctoral research is an arts-based ethnographic study looking at the effect of a liberatory sexuality curriculum within a public school community.  See more about Mira at miraweil.com and liberatoryeducation.com. 

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Undergraduate Research Assistant

Jada Evora (She/Her)

Jada Evora is an undergrad research assistant from UMASS Amherst Class of 2023 with a Major in Public Health with a Pre Med focus. She is interested in investigating health inequities among racial/ethnic and sexual minorities. After graduating, she is looking to pursue a career in Women’s Health Medicine and sexual education. She joined the STRIVE project as part of a UMASS program called Public Health Equity Research Scholars and is responsible for transcribing and analyzing interviews. 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Eddie Gory

Eddie Gorry (they/them) is a Community Health Education graduate student and staff member with the Office of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Eddie received their Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Wyoming in 2007 and worked for reproductive justice organizations including NARAL and Planned Parenthood of the Columbia Willamette before embarking on a career in Public Health. Eddie began working as a Medicaid enrollment advocate after their eldest child developed a rare infection at a time when the family was uninsured. They put the experience they gained navigating insurance systems to work, collaborating with community leaders to expand Medicaid coverage for trans health care and undocumented children in Oregon. Later, they managed the insurance enrollment of several thousand HIV+ clients for the Oregon Health Authority CAREAssist program. Eddie moved to Western Massachusetts to pursue their MPH and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. Eddie is interested in sexual and reproductive justice, health inequities, and transgender health. 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Alya Simoun

Alya Simoun (she/her) recently completed her Masters in Public Health in Community Health Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she also received her BS in Public Health. She is primarily interested in investigating the intersections of health inequities, sexual and reproductive health, and criminal justice. Alya is particularly interested in the relationship between art and health and hopes to continue investigating this relationship in future research endeavors. Alya assisted in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of Photovoice, individual interview, and group discussion data for the STRIVE study and prepared a manuscript focusing on Photovoice data. After graduating in May 2022, Alya is conducting behavioral health integration research at Columbia University.  

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Co-PI

Aline Gubrium (She/Her)

Dr. Aline Gubrium has extensive experience in innovative research methodologies that focus on narrative, participatory, and arts- and culture centered approaches. She is a medical anthropologist with expertise in sexual and reproductive health inequities, specifically experienced by historically marginalized communities and families. Working in the field of community health education, Gubrium’s research lies at the intersection of ethnography, critical narrative intervention, and action. Gubrium was funded by the Ford Foundation for the “Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice” project, which centered digital storytelling as a critical narrative intervention for conducting sensory ethnography on sexual and reproductive health inequities and to advocate for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice in collaboration with young pregnant and parenting Latinx women. Gubrium has recently served as MPI on an NIMHD-funded project, “MOCHA Moving Forward: A CBPR Investigation of Chronic Disease Prevention in Older, Low-Income African-American Men,” which takes a CBPR approach to evaluate the effectiveness of a narratively enhanced intervention in lowering stress and risk of chronic diseases among men of color. Gubrium's 2013 and 2015 books explain participatory visual and digital methodologies for social research, health promotion and practice, and advocacy. 

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Graduate Research Assistant 

Saharra Dixon, MA, CHES (she/her) 

Saharra is an artist and health educator passionate about public health, social justice, and health equity. As a practitioner, she works with children, adolescents, and adults alike in using art as a tool for reflection, transformation, & radical healing. As a researcher, she explores the impact of art, arts participation and cultural engagement on health and health research. Saharra is a PhD student in Public Health at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her MA in Educational Theatre from New York University and BS from the University of Delaware. Saharra believes that the arts can be used as a powerful tool to facilitate behavioral and social change, as well as further community development and catalyze public engagement and critical dialogue around health, wellness, and healthcare. Saharra has partnered with numerous organizations, including the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors and the body: a home for love. She has also worked for Camba, Inc., Planned Parenthood of Delaware, United Way of Delaware, and various local health departments. With STRIVE, Saharra assists with workshop facilitation, data collection, analysis, and dissemination, specifically around the power of arts-based research with historically excluded youth. To learn more about Saharra and her work, please visit https://saharradixon.com/ 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Thupten Dolma Phuntsog 

Thupten, MPH (she/her) is a Tibetan-American PhD student in Community Health Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, interested in refugee and immigrant health disparities and inequities regarding sexual/reproductive health, maternal/child health, and chronic diseases. Thupten received her BA in Public Health Policy from the University of California, Irvine and Master's degree in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh. She has worked in both qualitative and mixed methods research at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care and at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Currently, she is the project coordinator for a mixed methods study through UCSD investigating smoking cessation support in clinical care settings for those living with HIV. With STRIVE, Thupten is assisting in qualitative data analysis and dissemination and is excited to contribute to research centering youth voices.

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Graduate Research Assistant

Gray Davidson Carroll

Gray Davidson Carroll (they/them) is a 4+1 MPH candidate in Community Health Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They are passionate about healthcare law and are investigating the potential of poetry and spoken word in public health education and action-research with sexual and gender minority youth. They have worked in progressive fundraising and grassroots organizing for over a decade (since age eleven), with individuals such as congresswoman Cori and congressman elect Greg Casar. In their free time they enjoy long distance swimming, writing poetry, and cooking community meals. As a part of the STRIVE study they are contributing to group facilitation in the areas of poetry, and photovoice, and audio transcription of group sessions. Following the completion of their MPH, they hope to complete a PhD to further their research on poetry and spoken word in public health education and action-research. 

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Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ryan Taylor Santiago

Ryan Taylor Santiago is an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst studying Public Health Sciences.  He is broadly interested in disease ecology, community health, bioethics, and their intersection.  After graduating from UMass, Ryan plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Health and begin doing his part in creating a healthier and more ethical world. Ryan’s contribution to the STRIVE project includes transcribing and coding research participant interviews. 

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Graduate Research Assistant

Camille Collins Lovell

Camille is a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Public Health at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After completing her MPH at Tulane University and a fellowship at the CDC’s Center for Global Health, she worked internationally on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including maternal health, HIV prevention and treatment, contraceptive access, and adolescent sexual health, developing expertise in qualitative research methods and entertainment-education methodologies. Turning her attention now to her own country, she is concerned with reproductive justice for undocumented immigrant families in the US. Her intended area of dissertation research is the health of Latina women working on dairy farms. As a member of the STRIVE research team she has conducted and analyzed interviews and is currently working on a manuscript about the importance of social connection for mitigating structural determinants of adolescent health. She is also a songwriter and musician, a gardener, and the parent of a teenager.