Who We Are | Staff

Zabin Marediya
Senior Research Coordinator

Lark Needham
Administrative Specialist

Eileen Nehme, PhD
Assistant Professor

Daniel Oppenheimer, MFA
Communications

Divya Patel, PhD
Assistant Professor

Jair Soares, MD, PhD
Chancellors Health Fellow

Melissa Valerio, PhD, MPH
Chancellors Health Fellow

David Lakey, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

Nagla Elerian, MS
Director of Population Health Strategic Initiatives

Jon Gibson, MS CS
Data Architect and Developer

Mary Isichei, DNP, MSN, MPH, CHES, RN
Program Director

Em (Mohamad) Karimifar
Graphic Designer

Sheila Kuschke
Senior Administrative Associate

Dorothy Mandell, PhD
Assistant Professor

 


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David Lakey, MD

Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer
The University of Texas System
Isadore Roosth Distinguished Professor,  UT Health Northeast

David Lakey is Associate Vice Chancellor for Population Health and Chief Medical Officer for The University of Texas System. He is also Senior Vice President for Population Health, Isadore Roosth Distinguished Professor, and Dean of the School of Community Health and Health Professions with UT Health Northeast. He serves on a federal public health advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Defense Health Board.

Dr. Lakey served as Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services from January 2007 to February 2015. As Commissioner, Dr. Lakey led one of the state’s largest agencies with a staff of 12,000 and an annual budget of $3.3 billion and oversaw programs such as disease prevention and disaster preparedness, family and community health services, environmental and consumer safety, regulatory programs and mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. During his tenure as Commissioner, Dr. Lakey served as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) in 2011‐2012, and received several national awards including the AMCHP President’s Award, the March of Dimes President’s Public Health Leadership Award, and the Arthur T. McCormack Award. 

As ASTHO president, Dr. Lakey issued ASTHO's 2012 Healthy Babies President's Challenge focused on reducing infant mortality and prematurity in the United States. Dr. Lakey was awarded the 2015 HHS Innovates award as part of a collaboration that also included ASTHO, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, CityMatCH, March of Dimes, HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau, CDC, and CMS for their partnership on the CoIIN to Reduce Infant Mortality. In 2015, Dr. Lakey was elected by the March of Dimes to a five‐year term on its board of trustees.

He earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, graduating with high honors from Rose‐Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, and received his medical degree with honors from Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Lakey was a resident in internal medicine and pediatric medicine and completed a fellowship in adult and pediatric infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.


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Nagla Elerian, MS

Director of Population Health Strategic Initiatives
University of Texas System
Email: nelerian@utsystem.edu

Nagla Elerian is the Director of Population Health Strategic Initiatives at the Office of Health Affairs at UT System.  Prior to joining the UT System, Nagla was the Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Department of State Health Services. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology and a Master of Science in Health Statistics with a minor in Geography.  She has 25 years of work experience in public health, health statistics and program management.  Nagla worked in the areas of maternal and child health, birth defects, mental health and substance abuse, Medicaid managed care, and healthcare quality.  In 1995, Nagla established the first electronic Birth Defects registry in Texas. In 1998, she established an evaluation program for Medicaid managed care where she initiated many improvements to the Medicaid managed care data and reporting.  In 2000, she joined the NorthSTAR program where she initiated many reporting mechanisms to allow the use and sharing of data for program improvements.  In 2007, Nagla joined the Decision Support unit at the Mental Health and Substance Abuse, where she developed through a multi-stakeholder collaboration the risk assessment tools to allow the state to evaluate and manage mental health centers and substance abuse providers using financial, access, quality and outcome indicators.  She provided information and recommendations to the Texas Resiliency Disease Management workgroup for migration of the mental health assessment tool and worked with various stakeholders as she developed the algorithms for placement of eligible children into mental health services using the newly adopted Children and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS). 


Jon Gibson, MS CS

Data Architect and Developer
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of The University of Texas System
Email: jgibson@utsystem.edu

Jon Gibson joined Population Health in 2016 in the role of Data Architect and Developer to support research needs with incoming and generated data as well as any IT system needs the group might have.  He also serves as the Population Health Information Security Administrator.  Jon earned a  BA in History as well as a BS and MS in Computer Science from The University of Texas at Austin.  Prior to Population Health, Jon spent seven years as a Software Developer/Software Engineer with the University of Texas Libraries helping develop large data repositories for digital collections such as the Guatemalan National Police Archive (ahpn.lib.utexas.edu) and the Latin American Digital Initiative (ladi.lib.utexas.edu) containing millions of objects and their associated metadata.  He has over 20 years of experience in IT in a variety of areas including user support, technical training, network administration, server support and SQL and web development.


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mary isichei, DNP, MSN, MPH, CHES, RN

Program Director
Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers & Babies
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of The University of Texas System
Email: misichei@utsystem.edu

Dr. Mary Isichei is the program director for TCHMB and the staff lead of the Community Health Subcommittee. She is an RN, Clinical Nurse Specialist (APRN – CNS) with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and an MPH degree. Part of her training and work experience took place in England, United Kingdom. She has several years of experience in the population health arena both locally and internationally. She helped establish the first Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) program in Longview, East Texas area and worked with Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Division of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health in California. She has managed evidence-based community health programs that provided home visitation services to pregnant women, mothers and babies. She has also managed community and public health programs overseas and facilitated the setting up of rural health systems in collaboration with UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, World Health Organization and Community Based Organizations. Some of the services, schemes, projects and programs she facilitated included but were not limited to; the provision of mobile health clinics/services, health infrastructures, vaccines, portable water schemes, school health service, capacity building through the training of community based health workers and volunteers who provided health services in hard to reach communities.


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Em Karimifar, MFA

Graphic Designer
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of The University of Texas System
Email: mkarimifar@utsystem.edu

Mohamad "Em" Karimifar received his MFA in design from The University of Texas at Austin. His design practice spans both 2D and 3D design, including the fields of interaction design, typography, architectural design, and instructional design. As a part of his works with Population Health team, he develops websites and redesigns the user experience with the Population Heath's digital media outlets.


Sheila Kuschke

Senior Administrative Associate
University of Texas System
Email: skuschke@utsystem.edu
Phone: 512-499-4529

Sheila Kuschke is the Senior Administrative Assistant at the Office of Health Affairs at UT System. Prior to joining UT System, Sheila was the Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services. She has over 30 years of high level administrative experience at the state and federal levels as well as with non-profit and for-profit organizations.


 

Dorothy Mandell, PhD

Assistant Professor
Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies
Safe Babies Research Initiative
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of The University of Texas System
Email: dmandell@utsystem.edu

Dr. Mandell received her PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle in Developmental Psychology and her BA from The University of Texas at Austin. She also served as a post-doctoral fellow at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of Amsterdam. Her research has spanned multiple topics in maternal and child health including understanding long-term effects of a variety of perinatal and post-natal insults and intergenerational transfer of traits. She has also conducted analyses and research on a variety of public health topics, including work that has supported the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force, Healthy Texas Babies, and the strategic plan to align prevention resources between the Department of Family Protective Services and the Department of State Health Services in Texas. She served as the primary investigator for the Texas Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and is currently a research consultant for Texas PRAMS. She is currently an Assistant Professor at UT Health Northeast and supports the Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies and is the Primary Investigator for the Safe Babies project in Population Health.


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Zabin Marediya

Senior Research Coordinator
Safe Babies Research Initiative
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of the University of Texas System
Email: zmarediya@utsystem.edu

Zabin Marediya earned both her BS in Human Development and Family Sciences and her BS in Nutrition from The University of Texas at Austin. Her research experience includes issues related to child health and development. She has worked on studies focusing on the nutritional value of preschoolers’ packed lunches, the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia in children with autism spectrum disorder, and the nutritional, anthropometric, and growth status of children with autism spectrum disorder. She is currently the Research Coordinator for the Safe Babies project in Population Health within the Office of Health Affairs at UT System.


Lark Needham

Administrative Specialist for Population Health
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of the University of Texas System
Email: hneedham@utsystem.edu
Phone: (512) 852-3245

Haley "Lark" Needham is an accomplished, versatile procurement and planning coordinator with more than 20 years experience with a global/public company. Her experience includes procurement and planning, management of purchases of over $20 million in inventory annually, supply chain management, vendor relations, public relations, commodity driven market analysis, process improvements, and administrative support.


Eileen Nehme, PhD

Program Director, Texas Health Improvement Network
Assistant Professor for Population Health
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of the University of Texas System
Email: enehme@utsystem.edu

Eileen Nehme earned her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan in 1993 and PhD in epidemiology from UT Health Science Center in Houston, Austin Regional Campus in 2015. In the interim, she worked in violence and injury prevention, and youth development and advocacy at local government and non-profit organizations. Her work has focused on the connections between health and place, the impact of policies and environments on health behaviors, and equitable access to healthy environments. She was the lead author on the 2015 South Lamar Corridor Study Health Impact Assessment, the first HIA conducted in Austin, Texas. Dr. Nehme also taught an undergraduate epidemiology course for two years through the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Texas at Austin.


Daniel Oppenheimer, MFA

Senior Communications Lead for Population Health
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of the University of Texas System
Email: doppenheimer@utsystem.edu
Phone: 
(512) 852-3269

Daniel Oppenheimer joined population in 2016 to oversee communications. He received his MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is the author of Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century (Simon & Schuster 2016). Before coming over to UT System he was Director of Strategic Communications for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at The University of Texas at Austin. As a freelance writer and short documentary filmmaker, his articles and videos have been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Tablet Magazine, the History News Network, and Salon.com. Dan oversees the communications track of the Population Health Scholars program.


Divya Patel, PhD

Assistant Professor
Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies
UT Health Northeast
Affiliate of the University of Texas System
email: dpatel@utsystem.edu

Divya Patel joined the Texas Collaborative for Healthy Mothers and Babies (TCHMB) in November 2015 as Assistant Professor.  She is an epidemiologist (Ph.D., 2003, University of Michigan) with a broad interest in women’s health research.  Previously, she served on the faculty in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan (2004-2010) and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University (2010-2012).  She received a 5-year career development award from the National Cancer Institute for her research focused on the prevention and early detection of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers in women.  She has also worked at the Texas Department of State Health Services and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on population-level maternal and child health projects.  Dr. Patel holds an adjunct position at the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston - Austin Regional Campus, has taught several graduate-level courses in Epidemiology, and has provided research mentorship to students ranging from undergraduates to medical residents and fellows.


 

Jair Soares, MD, PhD

Chancellor's Health Fellow
The University of Texas System
Chair and Professor
McGovern Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Jair C. Soares is chair of McGovern Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pat R. Rutherford Chair in Psychiatry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He has been named a 2016 Chancellor’s Health Fellow for The University of Texas System Office of Health Affairs. The UT System Office of Health Affairs established the Chancellor’s Health Fellowship program in 2004 to recognize high-impact innovative work at individual health institutions that are aligned with the overarching mission of the UT System and have potential for broad societal impact on health care, education and research. The work of previous Chancellor’s Health Fellows has focused on patient care quality, as well as public health and health care ethics, among other topics.

Soares has edited or co-edited three textbooks, has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in psychiatric literature, and he co-edited the peer-review journal “Bipolar Disorders-An International Journal of Psychiatry and Neurosciences.” He has extensive clinical research experience in the field of mood disorders, as well as brain imaging modalities and neurocognitive methods to investigate the pathophysiology of bipolar disorder and the mechanisms of action of pharmacological treatments.


Melissa Valerio, PhD, MPH

Chancellor's Health Fellow
The University of Texas System
Dean and Associate Professor
UT School of Public Health at Houston San Antonio Regional Campus

Melissa Valerio is Regional Dean and an Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at the UT School of Public Health, San Antonio Regional Campus. Prior to returning to Texas, she spent five years as Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She obtained her Master’s degree in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and her PhD in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan. Dr. Valerio's interests include chronic disease management and prevention, the design and evaluation of effective health education messages and materials, and survey methods. She is particularly interested in health literacy and cultural competence issues related to health education and communication in minority underserved communities.