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Arnold School of Public Health

Core Team

Daniela Friedman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, is the Co-Director of the Arnold School of Public Health’s OSA. She is a leader in gerontology and community- engaged health promotion in South Carolina, dedicated to improving health literacy and reducing health disparities among older adults across the state. Dr. Friedman’s federally-funded research networks, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded South Carolina Healthy Brain Research Network and South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, are focused on the communication and dissemination of evidence-based health messages and programs. Dr. Friedman also directs the university-wide Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communication.

Lee Pearson has more than 20 years of experience in addressing public health priorities in South Carolina, including a specific focus on the unique needs of the state’s aging population. Most recently, he helped to lead a statewide taskforce on long-term care. Dr. Pearson holds a doctor of public health degree in health promotion, education and behavior, as well as a graduate certificate in gerontology. He serves as the co-director of OSA. In that role, he works with the entire OSA team to advance the core mission and promote expanded opportunities with collaborative partners. In addition to his role with OSA, Dr. Pearson is the associate dean for operations and accreditation in the Arnold School of Public Health, and he serves on the board of the SC chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and is a gubernatorial appointee to the Joint Legislative Committee to Study Services, Programs and Facilities for the Aging.

Mindi Spencer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, with a joint appointment in the Institute for Southern Studies. Broadly, her research focuses on how cultural and psychosocial factors influence health in older adulthood. She also conducts research on caregiving and mental health among American Indian and African American elders. Dr. Spencer is the Principal Investigator of the “Youth Empowered Against HIV!” Project and a partner in the “Equalize Health” LGBT cultural competence training program for health care providers. Dr. Spencer serves on the Lt. Governor's Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center and on the Minority Task Force of the Gerontological Society of America.

Maggi Miller received her MS in health promotion from the University of Delaware and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of South Carolina. She is a research assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. At the OSA, Dr. Miller manages the SC Alzheimer’s Disease Registry and focuses on aging research and program evaluation. Her primary responsibilities for OSA involve research, grant writing, preparation and publication of scientific manuscripts, and evaluation of current research projects. Her research interests include Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, social epidemiology, survey development, and qualitative data analysis.

Megan Byers (she/her/hers) is the Program Coordinator for the Office for the Study of Aging. Ms. Byers has developed policies and training curricula, monitored legislative sessions to determine their impact on vulnerable adults, educated stakeholders on issues of adult maltreatment and dementia, taught at universities as an adjunct instructor, presented at state and national conferences, and is a published author. She holds a Master of Social Work, a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, and Certificates in Research Administration, and in Innovative and Experimental Learning. Ms. Byers is a Licensed Master Social Worker in South Carolina.

Dr. Lohman is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and is a core faculty member of the OSA. His primary research areas are in psychiatric epidemiology, gerontology, geriatric mental health services, and the epidemiology of adverse health outcomes such as falls, hospitalizations, and acquired disabilities among older adults. Dr. Lohman is particularly interested in the role of long-term care services and settings, such as nursing homes and home health care nursing, in the prevention of age-related cognitive and physical decline. He currently teaches epidemiological methods and scientific writing for masters and doctoral students.

Katherine Leith has been working and teaching in the fields of social work, aging, and public health for more than 20 years. She has extensive experience in both academia and community practice. Initially, Dr. Leith worked as social work case manager for the NC Department of Mental Health, as coordinator of an adult day program for persons with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. Later she served as medical social worker at a SC dialysis clinic. Her most recent clinical practice was with the SC Department of Mental Health, as social work supervisor at Bryan Psychiatric Hospital, Forensics. After joining the University of South Carolina, Dr. Leith collaborated with several SC state agencies, where she served as evaluator on a number of evidence-based community prevention programs, primarily in the areas of mental health, chronic disease self-management education, and falls prevention. She also taught, and continues to teach, Social Welfare and Policy, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Social Work Research, Aging, and Advanced Practice courses in the College of Social Work and in Public Health, as well as for Simmons College, Boston, MA. Dr. Leith also serves as course lead and tutor for Apollon University in Bremen, Germany and grant reviewer /panel chair for ACL, ACF, and CMS. She is an associate editor for Frontiers in Public Health.

 

Students

Afsaneh Fallahi is a Ph.D. student in Epidemiology. She has an M.A. in Health Care Management from Tehran Azad University, Tehran Iran, and a B.A. in Health Care Management from Qazvin University of Medical Services, Qazvin, Tran. Afsaneh’s research interests are in health among the vulnerable population, aging and health challenges, and fall prevention and safety among the elderly. She grew up and studied in Iran, is bilingual in Farsi and English, and loves traveling, swimming, sweets, and animals.

Ally Hucek is a Ph.D. student in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, and the Certificate of Graduate Study in Aging program. Her research focus is on preventive screenings in breast, ovarian and cervical cancer. Although, her research interests further include dementia, and older adults impacted by COVID-19. Ms. Hucek attended the University of Kentucky where she obtained a Bachelor's and Masters degrees in Public Health. She was awarded the Arnold School of Public Health Fellowship for academic years 2021 – 2023 for her academic achievements and dedication to public health research.

Collin Perryman is a PhD student in Education Administration, and a predoctoral trainee/fellow with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Division of Intramural Research, National Institutes of Health. His research interests include: (1) The relationship between racism-related stress, from racial and ethnic microaggressions experienced on college and university campuses, and the risk of Alzheimer's disease late in life. (2) The relationship between racial and ethnic microaggressions and mental health outcomes like depressive symptoms. (3) Socially supportive, culturally responsive academic and social counterspaces buffering against poor late-life health outcomes. (4) Psychometrics and methods that relate to racial and ethnic microaggressions, education, and health. He hopes that his work will contribute to educational and health policies towards Affirmative Action.

Fanli Yi is a third year Ph.D. Candidate of Epidemiology. Her research interests are on evaluating the impacts of cardiovascular procedures on the trend of coronary heart disease in Western Australia; the Affordable care act and Medicare on the incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer in South Carolina; and the periodontal antibodies on the cognitive function. Fanli has expertise in unique data linkages, administrative data claims analysis, data management of complex data systems, creation of complex data coding algorithms for clinical procedures, and analysis and interpretation of scientific findings.

Glaucia Salgado is a Master of Science Candidate at Duke University, Institute of Global Health in North Carolina, US. She holds a Master’s degree in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada, and an undergraduate degree in Physical Education from the Adventist University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Glaucia has worked with community-based seniors services and has received six awards for academic excellence including an award for her thesis with ethnic minority immigrant older adults. Besides presenting her work with older adults on international conferences, she has eleven published articles and book chapters in Brazil and Canada. She is currently involved with a study on dementia among older adult incarcerated in US prison system and another project in Canada on gender-based violence.

Katherine is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Exercise Science.  She obtained her BS degree in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University and obtained her MPH in Physical Activity and Public Health from UofSC. Katherine is interested in behavioral interventions targeting physical activity, sedentary behavior and weight loss. Katherine was awarded the Graduate Scholar in Aging Award in 2020 to support her research on examining the agreement between accelerometers used to measure sedentary behavior and physical activity among older adults who have had knee replacement surgery.

Kelsey Rothera Day is a third year Ph.D. student in Exercise Science and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Prevention Research Center. She is a part of the T32-supported Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Program, a current Health GIS Scholar, and a former Arnold Fellow and Graduate Scholar in Aging Research (2019). Her research interests include disparities in physical activity, particularly among rural and older adults, and community-based physical activity interventions. Kelsey is also a yoga teacher and an avid runner. On most weekend you can find her exploring outdoors with her husband, Ian, and their dog, Whiskey.

Kim is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Promotions, Education and Behavior of the Arnold School of Public Health. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in Healthcare Management from The University of Texas at Dallas.  As an Arnold Fellow, she is interested in improving the quality of life of aging populations in diverse communities.

Nik Lampe is a PhD student in Sociology, a Graduate Certificate student in Women's and Gender Studies, and a junior scholar at the South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality. Their research interests include: (1) sexual and gender minority (SGM) health and aging in relation to health care access, utilization, and delivery, (2) social causes of and responses to health inequalities, and (3) applied research opportunities with programs that promote health equity and patient-centered care.

Samaneh Nemati is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Scienced and Disorders. She is a published author on topics of brain, cognition, genetics and behavior in healthy aging, electroencephalography (EEG) in older adults, and functional brain networks in the aging brain. Samaneh was awarded the Graduate Scholar in Aging Award in 2020.

 


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