Women’s Health Research Scholars Program

The Women’s Health Research Scholars Program is a mentorship program at UIC for MD clinician scientists led by Dr. Pauline Maki, CRWG Senior Director of Research. The program has its origins in the UIC’s K12 NIH-funded Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program. The goal of the program is to train a cadre of MD clinician scientists to advance women’s health and sex/gender-based science. The College of Medicine Dean’s Office and the Scholar’s department provide funding to support the Scholar’s independent research program, including protected time and a research stipend. The Women’s Health Research Scholars Program uses a team- and peer-based mentoring approach to achieve the goal of submitting a K- or R-level NIH grant at the end of the training period.



Associate Professor, Division of Endocrinology

Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul is an Associate Professor at the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at UIC. She completed her medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand. Subsequently, she completed Internal Medicine Residency at Loyola University Medical Center, and Endocrinology Fellowship at the University of Chicago. She has a special interest in diabetes care and diabetes education. Her research focuses on the relationship between sleep and circadian regulation and glucose metabolism. She is currently investigating the effect of sleep extension on glucose levels in women with a history of diabetes during pregnancy. Her long term goal is to seek improvement in glucose metabolism and health through sleep optimization.



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 of Clinical Medicine

Dr. Bernice Mann is an Assistant Professor within the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry here at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her clinical interests include chronic disease management, women’s health and health promotion. She received her MD from Stanford University and an MS at the University of Illinois – Chicago in Clinical Translational Science.

As 2017 Associate, Dr. Mann’s research focuses on diabetes prevention in women with prior gestational diabetes and the role of the gut microbiome in the development of gestational diabetes. As an Associate, her goal was to continue to develop and implement diabetes prevention interventions targeting women with prior GDM.


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, 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.