Assistant Professor, Applied Health Sciences

Dr. Angela Rose Black is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining the faculty at UIC, she fulfilled a CDC-funded three year postdoctoral training program at the School of Public Health at UIC. Dr. Black received her PhD in Child and Family Development at the University of Georgia. In both her pre- and post-doctoral training, Dr. Black focused on the personal and social stressors salient to African American mothers’ depressive and anxious symptomatology. Dr. Black now enlists her interdisciplinary background in Psychology, Women’s Studies, Family Science, and Public Health to explore gender norms and expectations as they relate to daily life management and preventive health care decision making among African American women. She has particular interest in gendered expectations of “strength” among African American women, specifically the extent to which African American women embody self-reliant, self-sacrificing, and self-silencing behaviors in fulfillment of strong black womanhood.


Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology

Dr. Aerika S. Brittian is an Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research broadly focuses on investigating risk and protective factors among African American and Latino youth and families, and she provides recommendations for culturally informed youth practice, prevention, and policy.

Dr. Brittian is a developmental researcher with interdisciplinary training in human development, prevention science, and psychology. She received her PhD in Human Development and Child Study from Tufts University, and completed postdoctoral training in the Prevention Research Center at Arizona State University. As an NIMH-funded T32 research fellow, her work focused on Latino adolescent’s health and development. Her current NICHD-funded R03 study examines the effect of racial stress on comorbid health issues (mental health, substance use, and risky sexual behavior) among African American adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system.

Dr. Brittian’s BIRCWH research project will focus on the adaptive and maladaptive ways that African American female youth offenders cope with racial discrimination. She will also explore the implications of positive racial and gender identities for these young women’s health and development. Collectively, findings from her research projects are intended to inform culturally relevant and gender-specific adaptations to prevention / intervention programs designed for African American females and males. Dr. Brittian’s long term goals are to (1) continue to conduct culturally informed prevention research with urban youth of color, and (2) further investigate associations between risk behaviors, health disparities, and positive development for African American youth.


Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy

Dr. Joanna Burdette is an Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Teresa Woodruff in the Department of Neurobiology and Physiology at Northwestern University. Her research interests include understanding how ovulation-induced wounding is associated with early events in ovarian cancer, the engineering of steroids as intracellular magnetic resonance contrast agents, and the role of steroid and peptide hormones to regulate each other in breast cancer cells. Past research projects have focused primarily on the role of hormones in reproductive process and aging including characterizing several botanicals as alternatives for menopausal symptoms, ovulation’s contribution toward ovarian cyst formation, and the stimulation of ovarian cellular proliferation in response to gonadotropins. Dr. Burdette and her laboratory team developed a novel three-dimensional organ culture system using hyrogels and artificial wounding as a model for studying normal ovulation. Dr. Burdette has received research support from a wide variety of sources including the NIH, Ovarian Cancer Rsearch Fund, the American Cancer Society Illinois Division, the UIC Cancer Center, and the UIC CCTS.


Associate Professor, College of Nursing

Dr. Corte received her PhD in nursing from the University of Michigan. Her dissertation was focused on identifying specific disturbances in the structure of the self-concept that characterized young adults with alcohol dependence and distinguished them from social drinkers and young adults in recovery from alcohol dependence. Dr. Corte completed a 2-year interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship at the Addiction Research Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan where she focused on disturbances in the structural properties of the self-concept as a predictor of early drunkenness in a high risk sample of adolescents, as well as gender differences in these effects. Dr. Corte’s work at UIC began with a focus on urban minority youth who are at an earlier developmental stage (preadolescence) to determine whether disturbances in the structure of the self-concept are related to risk factors for alcohol use (conduct problems and parental alcohol problems) and whether these self-concept disturbances are associated with drinking initiation. As a BIRCWH scholar, she extended her work to explore the role of identity development, including sexual minority-specific identities, on risk behavior in LGBT youth. Dr. Corte has been funded by the UIC Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of LGBT Issues and the Lesbian Health Fund. The long-term goal of her research program is to develop gender-, race/ethnicity- and developmentally-specific interventions aimed at the configuration of identities to prevent risk behavior in adolescents.


Assistant Professor, Division of Transplant Surgery

Dr. Danielson is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Transplant Surgery, and a departmental affiliate in the Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UIC. She received her PhD in Population Health, with a focus in Epidemiology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and subsequently completed postdoctoral training in Endocrinology at the University of Chicago and Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UIC. Building upon her research on interrelationships between diabetes, bone, and sex hormones in women, her goal is to establish an independent research program in diabetes epidemiology and women’s health at UIC, initially focused on two interrelated and synergistic tracks: the bidirectional association between diabetes and bone and sex-based differences in islet transplantation. For the first aim, Dr. Danielson will describe the prevalence and etiology of sex-based differences in bone fragility due to type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes; and following islet (insulin-producing cells) transplantation to cure type 1 diabetes. In light of recent experimental evidence demonstrating lack of the bone protein osteocalcin leads to diabetes in mice, she will determine whether bone metabolism is prospectively associated with the disease course in humans with type 1 diabetes and islet transplantation outcomes; and if there are sex-based differences. For the second aim, Dr. Danielson will explore whether there are sex-based differences in islet function and clinical outcomes following islet transplant to cure type 1 diabetes. Islets grow during pregnancy and estrogen enhances their function. However, there have been no systematic comparisons of islet function in vitro and following transplant by sex of donor or recipient. Dr. Danielson focuses on chronic diseases because they encompass major public health challenges, and diabetes and bone fragility are examples of chronic diseases with differences in prevalence and outcomes by sex. Elucidating potential sex-based differences is critical for individualized medicine in preventing, treating, and curing chronic diseases.


Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Dr. Bethany Everett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012. During her training at the University of Colorado, Dr. Everett served as a researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Sciences Population Program and was selected as Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Fenway Center for Population Research in LGBT Health. Her R03-funded dissertation research focused on the social determinants of health disparities and emphasizes the synergistic impact of individual, interpersonal, and contextual factors for shaping health behaviors and outcomes among sexual minorities. Dr. Everett’s research has also received funding the National Science Foundation and the American Psychological Foundation. As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Everett will continue to investigate the role of social environments, discrimination, and gender expression on sexual minority women’s health behaviors and outcomes using two longitudinal data sets, the National Study of Adolescent Health and the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women.


Assistant Professor, School of Public Health

Dr. Faith E. Fletcher, PhD is an Assistant professor in the Division of Community Health Sciences and a faculty member with the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health. Prior to joining the UIC faculty, Dr. Fletcher completed a National Cancer Institute R25T-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Behavioral Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The overall goal of Dr. Fletcher’s research program is to develop and implement community- and clinic-based social and behavioral research to reduce disparities across the HIV continuum among African American women, a population disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Dr. Fletcher’s work is grounded in methodological and theoretical approaches from bioethics, public health, and behavioral science disciplines. Her primary areas of research focus on disparities in cervical cancer screening, smoking cessation, and reproductive health among HIV-positive women with attention to the ethics of research on stigmatized populations.

Dr. Fletcher is currently part of a Society of Family Planning-funded collaborative effort with AIDS Foundation of Chicago to ultimately increase the integration of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) education and service delivery into existing health service systems for HIV-vulnerable women of reproductive age. This collaborative effort aligns with her ultimate goal to translate HIV-focused women’s health research into clinical practice and policies.

Dr. Fletcher’s research has been funded through the Kaiser Permanente Burch Minority Leadership Program, UIC’S Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, Fordham University’s HIV Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute, and jointly through Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research and Center for Clinical and Translational Science.


Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Sadia Haider has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology since September 2011. Dr. Haider received her MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and her Masters in Public Health in maternal and child health at Harvard School of Public Health. She then completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School in 2005, which was followed by a two year Fellowship in Contraceptive Research and Family Planning at the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to her arrival at UIC, Dr. Haider worked at BIDMC, Harvard Medical School where she was the Director of the Division of Family Planning and the Ryan residency program in Family Planning from 2007 to 2011. Dr. Haider is currently the Medical Director of Family Planning for the Illinois Department of Public Health. Dr. Haider has received foundation funding to conduct research during her fellowship and as a junior faculty which has focused on the consequences of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. and abroad. She has conducted research in Afghanistan evaluating contraceptive practices and decision-making among Afghan couples and evaluated the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Mexican abortion providers. She is currently a co-investigator on a qualitative study funded by Boston Children’s Hospital evaluating adolescents’ knowledge, attitudes and use of long-acting reversible contraception and the principal investigator on a study evaluating the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of primary care providers in relation to adolescent contraception.

During her time as a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Haider focused on the reproductive health disparities that affect adolescent women in the U.S. Her goal was to create effective strategies to prevent adolescent unintended pregnancy focusing on the complex interplay between the health care system, primary care providers, and adolescent women’s perspective and behaviors. Dr. Haider investigated adolescent females’ perceived barriers and enhancers in the prevention of unplanned pregnancies and provider’s perspectives on adolescent pregnancy prevention.


Associate Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Bryna Harwood is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Director of the Family Planning Fellowship. She graduated from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco, California. She then completed a Fellowship in Contraceptive Research and Family Planning and a Masters degree in Epidemiology under the direction of Dr. Daniel Mishell at the University of Southern California from 1999 to 2001. In her fellowship, Dr. Harwood participated in epidemiological research and Phase I, II, and III clinical trials in contraception and medical abortion and completed an independent research project investigating the use of buccally-administered misoprostol as a single agent for medical abortion. Her masters thesis entitled “Life Table Analysis to Estimate the Efficacy of Misoprostol in the USC Medical Abortion Trials” was the first such analysis of the largest dataset of misoprostol used as a single agent for medical abortion. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Harwood was Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and collaborated on clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of new methods of contraception and microbicide clinical trials. Dr. Harwood received a five-year K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research award in 2008 to continue her research activities aimed to improve women’s health through preventing unplanned pregnancies. She is currently exploring the factors important to contraceptive decisions, quantifying women’s preferences for contraception and developing an intervention to optive contraceptive decision-making.


Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

For the first 10 years of her career, Dr. Hershberger actively cared for women who were experiencing reproductive health concerns as a registered and advance practice nurse. In the spring of 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in Nursing Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she examined the life experiences of donor oocyte recipient women. Following her doctoral work, she completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan Center for Enhancement and Restoration of Cognitive Function where she focused on understanding naturalistic decision making theory and methods. While at the University of Michigan, she designed and developed a research project examining the decision making processes of young women with cancer who were contemplating the use of novel and experimental fertility preservation treatments such as cryopreservation of oocytes and ovarian tissue. Her interest in the decision making processes of women as they interface with novel and emerging reproductive treatments has expanded to include the innovative and far-reaching use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. In preparing for her recently funded R03 study examining the decisions of women and their partners surrounding the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, Dr. Hershberger completed the 2006 Summer Genetics Institute Fellowship that takes place on the NIH campus. Dr. Hershberger envisions her research plan ultimately addressing the development and testing of targeted and tailored decision support interventions that are based on a comprehensive understanding of women’s decision making regarding medical options for fertility management, most particularly when emerging reproductive or genetic technologies are involved, and the ‘quality of life’ effects of those decisions. Further, she plans to learn more about health policy with the intent of engaging in work to mitigate health disparities in the use of medical options for fertility management that involve advanced technologies.


Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy

Dr. Hyunyoung Jeong is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacy Practice and Biopharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Jeong received both her PharmD and PhD from the UIC College of Pharmacy, and completed postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Drs. William T. Beck and James Fischer at UIC. Her research interests are in understanding how female hormones regulate expression and function of hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes and transporters, and the clinical impact on pharmacokinetics of drugs. Accordingly, her current projects involve characterization of hormonal effects on hepatic drug elimination, and investigation of potential clinical outcomes of the hormonal regulation, with special interests in drug therapy in pregnant women or oral contraceptive users. The long-term goal of her work is to develop a model to better predict altered pharmacokinetics of drugs in women during the life cycle.


Assistant Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Michelle A. Kominiarek returned to UIC in September 2008 after being an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Indiana University. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology (2003) and fellowship training in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (2006) at UIC. She earned her medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago. At Indiana University, she was the Principal Investigator of a NICHD-sponsored Consortium on Safe Labor which generated a database of electronic obstetrical medical records from multiple sites. The purpose of the project was to characterize labor and delivery in a contemporary group of women experiencing current obstetrical clinical practices. Dr. Kominiarek’s interest in maternal obesity prompted her to further evaluate the impact of weight on delivery route and labor patterns. She is first author on one of the analysis from this project – “The Maternal Body Mass Index: A Strong Association with Delivery Route.” Her knowledge of maternal obesity is diverse and her focus to date has included surveys of patient knowledge regarding the risks of maternal obesity, publication of review articles including an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin on pregnancy after bariatric surgery, addressing the risk of cesarean in a large NICHD multi-centered study, and multiple “grand rounds” presentations regarding maternal obesity, its risks, and implications for clinical practice.

Amidst an epidemic of obesity in the United States, obesity among pregnant women has risen dramatically. The obstetrical patient population at UIC has an alarmingly high number of overweight and obese gravidas (63% based on 2009 data). Everyday we observe the tremendous morbidity that can occur as a result of obesity in our practice including preeclampsia, diabetes, a skyrocketing cesarean delivery rate, and infectious complications. Now as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UIC, Dr. Kominiarek proposes to tackle the problem of maternal obesity with two approaches: (1) Determine the association between morbidities unique to pregnancy (preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, post-term birth) and biomarkers (leptin and other adipokinins) and (2) Develop and pilot a specialized prenatal care program for obese patients at UIC to determine if it helps improve perinatal outcomes.


Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Kristine Molina is an Assistant Professor in the Community and Prevention Research area of the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received a joint Ph.D. in Psychology (Personality & Social Contexts) and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Prior to joining the UIC faculty in 2013, Dr. Molina completed a NHLBI-funded postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami’s Behavioral Medicine in Cardiovascular Disease Training Program.

Dr. Molina’s program of research is broadly directed at elucidating the psychosocial and behavioral causal pathways that underlie the relationship between social stressors and cardiovascular-related outcomes, particularly on how discrimination exerts its effects on different segments of the Latino population, including youth and adults. She also focuses on stress resilience, aiming to uncover the psychosocial and contextual factors that protect against the deleterious effects of discrimination on health and how targets of discrimination cope with and manage the health challenges posed by such experiences. In all of her research, Dr. Molina takes an interdisciplinary and feminist approach to understanding the role of power dynamics and intersecting identities in shaping the health of Latina/os. Her work holds potential promise for the development of prevention and intervention efforts that are sensitive to the range of experiences faced by Latino men and women from different backgrounds, and that are designed to reduce and ultimately eliminate health inequities for this population.


 Assistant Professor, Department of Obstertrics and Gynocology

Dr. Nuriya Robinson received her medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine and completed an OB/GYN residency at the University of California, San Francisco. During medical school and residency, Dr. Robinson had the opportunity to delve into research pursuits within South Africa and West Africa, respectively. These ventures laid the foundation for her global health research career and she remains committed to improving the health and well-being of women worldwide as a globally-minded women’s health physician. Dr. Robinson joined the UIC community in 2011 to serve as the inaugural fellow in a two year Global Women’s Health fellowship. As a fellow, Dr. Robinson worked clinically at UIC’s inpatient and outpatient facilities, served as a clinical instructor for OB/GYN trainees and obtained a Certificate in Advanced Community Public Health Practice at the School of Public Health. During this time, she also conducted research in West Africa under the mentorship of Dr. Stacie Geller where she played an instrumental role in the piloting of a community-based misoprostol study for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage in rural Ghana. Additionally, Dr. Robinson conducted research on barriers to use of intrauterine contraceptive devices in rural Ghana and presented this work at The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health’s First Global Conference in Copenhagen in May 2013. Dr. Robinson received the AY11-12 International Development Fund Award to assist with her international research pursuits.

As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Robinson continued to focus on Safe Motherhood initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. She worked with her research partners at UIC and at the University of KwaZulu Natal to investigate maternal deaths resulting from postpartum hemorrhage at District hospitals in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Her research specifically identified delays in diagnosis and management of postpartum hemorrhage with a goal of developing feasible interventions to improve emergency obstetrical care.


Assistant Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Leah Rubin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Rubin received her PhD from the UIC Department of Psychology, and completed a NIMH-funded predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Drs. Pauline M. Maki and C. Sue Carter. Her current program of research is aimed at improving the cognitive and mental health of women with psychosis and women living with HIV. The majority of Dr. Rubin’s work to date has focused primarily on female-specific risk factors, including sex steroid hormones, glucocorticoids, and oxytocin, and their impact on cognition in healthy women and female psychiatric patients. This line of work aims to better understand sex differences in schizophrenia through the exploration of hormonal contributions to this mental illness. Dr. Rubin’s interest is in addressing the gap in knowledge about the role of endogenous neurohormones in modulating clinical symptoms as well as social/emotional and cognitive functioning in schizophrenia. The goal is to identify sex-specific, neurohormonal treatments for mental illness and to improve the lives of women with severe mental illness. In addition to to her work in healthy women and female psychiatric patients, she has extended her research program to investigate and better understand the impact of stress on cognition in HIV-infected women and the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Dr. Rubin received pilot funding from the Chicago Developmental Center for AIDS Research (D-CFAR) to begin focusing on these issues mechanistically. She works with the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), the largest longitudinal study of the natural and treated history of HIV disease in women, to address these issues epidemiologically. Her goal is to improve the cognitive functioning in HIV-infected women through a translational and interdisciplinary research approach brigding psychoneuroendocrinology, epidemiology, and biostatistics methods.


Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Dr. Julienne Rutherford is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women, Children, and Family Health Science in the College of Nursing. She received her MA and PhD in Biological Anthropology from Indiana University in 2007, conducted a two-year predoctoral research internship at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Anthropology and the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in 2009, and is in her second year in a faculty position at UIC. The overarching goal of her research program is to develop a “womb-to-womb” approach to life history studies, finding links between the intrauterine environment experienced by a female fetus and the intrauterine experience that female provides her offspring later in life. Her specific focus is on the placenta as the mechanism that connects maternal physiology to the developing fetus in an intergenerational loop, creating an environment with lifelong and evolutionary consequences for health and reproduction. She is currently exploring how mechanisms of placental nutrient transfer impact reproductive function in women in the Philippines through an R03-funded study of placental morphology and metabolic function from pregnancies of native Philippine women who are part of a birth cohort that has been studied since their mothers were pregnant with them. This study (in collaboration with colleagues at Northwestern University, Wayne State University, and the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines) seeks to determine whether a mother’s own developmental experience shapes the placental transmission of nutrients to her offspring. Dr. Rutherford is also collaborating with colleagues at UIC to investigate mechanisms of placental invasiveness that may predispose women to postpartum hemorrhage. In addition to working on studies of human biology, Dr. Rutherford has ongoing projects devoted to placental biology and function in two species of nonhuman primates, common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops).

For more information about Dr. Rutherford’s work in biological anthropology, please visit her blog.


Assistant Professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy

Dr. Laura Sanchez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy. She attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry.  Following a National Science Foundation (NSF) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (2006), Dr. Sanchez returned to receive her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).  She then pursued a NIH Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Postdoctoral Fellowship in Dr. Pieter Dorrestein‘s lab at UC, San Diego (UCSD).

Dr. Sanchez’s postdoctoral research focused on establishing methods for probing and characterizing metabolic exchanges in polymicrobial communities. Additionally, she was involved with the beta testing, documentation, and creation of in-house natural product libraries donated by the NIH for the open access online metabolomics workspace Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking.

As a BIRCWH Scholar, Dr. Sanchez will investigate the chemical language of metastasis by monitoring the spatial distribution of small molecules exchanged between ovarian cancer cells and healthy cells with the novel technique of imaging mass spectrometry. Her working hypothesis is that small signaling molecules are involved in the progression from healthy to cancerous cells. With this research, she aims to improve early diagnosis of ovarian cancer by identifying markers for intercellular signaling in ovarian cancer cells and connecting these signals to their genetic origins.


Associate Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Vajaranant is nationally recognized in glaucoma research and as an expert clinician-scientist. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including three Clinician-Scientist Awards from the American Glaucoma Society (AGS), a National Institutes of Health (NIH) career development award through the K12 program, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Achievement Award. She has been listed as a Best Doctors in America, SuperDoctors and an America’s Top Doctors. Dr. Vajaranant’s research program, supported by the National Eye Institute focuses on studying women’s eye health and factors associated with aging of the optic nerve and primary open-angle glaucoma. Her work with the Women’s Health Initiative, an NIH-sponsored prospective cohort aims at building a database regarding the genotype-phenotype influence on primary open-angle glaucoma in minorities. As an expert clinician, she is specialized in management of glaucoma, cataract surgery in patients with glaucoma, complex cataract and glaucoma surgery and glaucoma management after corneal transplants. She is a co-editor of Glaucoma Handbook and has over 100 publications (combined peer-reviewed articles and published abstracts). She directed the Ophthalmology Residency Program from 2007–2009, and became Director of the Glaucoma Service in 2010. Dr. Vajaranant is board certified in ophthalmology.



Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Natasha Crooks, PhD, RN is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing. She earned her BSN and PhD in Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed NIH-funded postdoctoral training at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Her research program centers on addressing sexual health disparities in Black girls and women. Findings from her grounded theory research entitled “The Process of Becoming a Sexual Black Woman” led to the development of a conceptual model describing the sociocultural processes and conditions that influence Black female sexual development and STI/HIV risk. She has extended this work in adolescents by investigating sociocultural conditions influencing Black girls’ sexual development. As a BIRCWH Women’s Health Associate, Dr. Crooks’ research project will focus on translating her conceptual model into practice and further exploring sexual pathways of Black female adolescents. Her future research goals include developing and conducting multi-level STI/HIV prevention interventions to improve Black female sexual and reproductive health across the life course.

Dr. Crooks’s Research Profile


Assistant Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Laura E. Hirshfield is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Education and Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and her B.A. from Swarthmore College, where she studied Sociology/Anthropology and Education. She was previously a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the New College of Florida and a research associate in the Departments of Surgery and Medical Education and for the ADVANCE program at the University of Michigan. Dr. Hirshfield’s research focuses on the “hidden labor” expected of women and numeric minorities in the workplace, specifically in the Academy. More broadly, she studies gender, identity, science/medicine, and professionalization. A key focus in her research is on cultural/identity taxation, or the extra burdens of service and mentorship that doctors and faculty members are expected to shoulder due to their membership in historically-marginalized groups beyond what is expected of others in the same university or clinical setting. As a BIRCWH Associate, Dr. Hirshfield will begin a project examining the effects of gender on doctor/patient interactions within simulated clinical interactions with Standardized Patients. In particular, she will investigate how gender impacts provider evaluations, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes, all key measures of success and mastery in medicine.


Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry

Dr. Melissa Lamar is an Associate Professor within the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry here at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been a BIRCWH Associate since the Spring of 2012. Dr. Lamar’s interest is in the underlying mechanisms for cognitive and affective declines in normal and pathological aging. As such, she uses cognitive testing, psychiatric interview and brain imaging to answer questions related to such disorders as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and late-life depression. With funding from the National Institute on Aging, Dr. Lamar has begun to investigate the impact of vascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes on brain structure and function and the risk such factors bring to bear on the development and progression of dementia and depression. She focuses on underserved minority populations disproportionately affected by vascular risk factors and further investigates for sex differences within and across these populations. Through the BIRCWH program, Dr. Lamar is expanding her work in women’s health to answer questions about the interaction between cardiac and brain health in women across the lifespan.


Assistant Professor, Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health

Dr. Molina is an Assistant Professor in the UIC School of Public Health’s Division of Community Health Sciences, a Senior Research Specialist at the UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender, and an Academic Partner/Early Investigator at the UI Cancer Center’s Office of Community Engagement, Research, and Implementation Science.  Over the last four years, Dr. Molina led three (3) studies and secondary analyses on over eight (8) trials concerning cancer health disparities. This work has occurred in domestic (e.g., Washington, Illinois, California) and international (e.g., Peru, Chile, Iran) contexts. Throughout these studies, Dr. Molina employed mixed method and community-based participatory research processes. Her research focuses on measuring and supporting patient- and community-level protective factors (e.g., self-efficacy, social norms) in order to improve screening uptake, promote timely diagnostic resolution following abnormal screening, and optimize psychological sequelae.

As a BIRCWH Cancer Center Associate, Dr. Molina plans to continue her local, cross-national, and international collaborations in order to pursue cancer equity.  She will establish her program in Chicago to compare the ‘added value’ of interventions that encourage Latinas to become involved in breast health promotion (e.g., volunteering in policy development, speaking to family and friends) on their own screening as well as their communities relative to standard education interventions.


Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy

Dr. Terry Moore joined the faculty at UIC in August 2013 as an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy. His Ph.D. is in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he worked with Dr. John Katzenellenbogen on on designing new compounds for potential use in estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. His postdoctoral studies in drug discovery and development were carried out at Emory University under the direction of Drs. Dennis Liotta and Jim Snyder. His lab at UIC focuses on synthetic medicinal chemistry, drug discovery and chemical biology, with a particular focus on estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer. One of the goals of the Moore Lab is to develop probes that inhibit the interaction of the estrogen receptor (ER) with a set of its protein partners, the steroid receptor coactivators; if successful, these probes may provide a basis for novel therapeutics for endocrine-resistant and metastatic breast cancers.


Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Dr. Schlaeger is an assistant professor at UIC College of Nursing in the Department of Women Children Family Health Sciences. She is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Chinese Herbalist. She received her PhD in Acupuncture Science from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province China. Her research has focused on developing acupuncture as a treatment for vulvodynia, a women’s chronic pain condition that affects up to 16% of Women. She is also a member of the UIC sickle cell research team where she is studying pain modeling and characterization in chronic disease. Dr. Schlaeger also intends to develop new treatments for women’s pelvic pain through the analysis and synthesis of Chinese herbs.

Dr. Schlaeger lectures on the use of acupuncture for the treatment of vulvodynia. She also lectures on the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which consists of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in obstetrics and gynecology, infertility, and on comparative Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM). She presents workshops on the use of acupressure for women in labor.


Assistant Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Tussing-Humphreys received her Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Dietetics from SUNY-College at Buffalo. She returned to UIC in July 2012 after a three year appointment with the USDA Agricultural Research Service with whom she conducted a church-based diet and physical activity efficacy intervention for African American adults in the Lower Mississippi Delta region. During her doctoral training at UIC, she examined the mechanisms linking obesity to dysregulated iron metabolism in premenopausal women. Under the mentorship of Drs. Marian Fitzgibbon and Giamila Fantuzzi, she will expand upon this area of research by examining how altered iron metabolism in obese individuals may be associated with greater intestinal and gynecologic cancer risk. In addition, Dr. Tussing-Humphreys is Assistant Director for the University of Illinois Cancer Center Diet and Behavior Shared Resource and is collaborating with UIC College of Nursing, USDA, and Louisiana State University researchers to examine the impact of maternal obesity on maternal and neonatal inflammation, iron status, and health outcomes.


Research Assistant Professor, College of Medicine

Dr. Wu is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Wu received her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in Dec 2009, and completed her postdoctoral training at Northwestern University in 2010. Dr. Wu has extensive experiences in developing innovative neuroimaging methods for functional and structural MR data. During her Ph.D. training at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Wu worked at the Geriatric Psychiatry Neuroimaging Lab of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) and developed Automated Labeling Pathway (ALP) for brain image segmentation, automated white matter hyperintensity segmentation and localization algorithms, and Optimum MRI Template Selection method for more accurate brain image segmentation/normalization (During her curricular practical training in the Section on Tissue Biophysics & Biomimetics (STBB), National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), Dr. Wu developed an image-registration based EPI distortion correction algorithm, which is included in the NIH diffusion MRI data processing software package: TORTOISE. During her post-doctoral training at the Department of Neurology, Northwestern University, Dr. Wu used high resolution DTI and resting state connectivity analysis method to study Parkinson’s disease.

Here at the Department of Psychiatry of UIC, Dr. Wu applies these cutting-edge neuroimaging methods to characterize normative brain development and aging, as well as developmental deviations in neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Minjie Wu received the NARSAD Young Investigator award (2013) and Creative and Novel Ideas in HIV Research award (2014). As a BIRCWH scholar, Dr. Wu will continue to focus on women’s mental health, investigating the effects of chronological aging, reproductive aging (i.e., menopause), and subclinical vascular risk factors on brain structure and function in midlife HIV-infected women. This study will be the first to examine the impact of reproductive aging on brain integrity, which will fill a critical research gap in the understanding of HIV and aging. Outcomes form this study will point to a sex-specific risk factor and can potentially inform sex-specific neuroprotective recommendations in HIV-infected women.