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Meet the Team

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Katrina Ellis

Principal Investigator

Katrina R. Ellis is an assistant professor at the School of Social Work. Her research interests include family health interventions, cancer survivorship, racial and ethnic disparities in health, and family management of chronic health conditions. An overarching goal of her research is to support the health of families facing multiple, coexisting illnesses, with a specific focus on African Americans. Dr. Ellis employs a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies in her work with families, clinicians and community groups.


Her published research includes examinations of the influence of co-occurring illnesses on the psychosocial and behavioral health and well-being of cancer survivors and their family caregivers using quantitative dyadic data analysis techniques. She has also published research investigating psychosocial factors that influence the health behaviors and well-being of African Americans.


Dr. Ellis' future program of research includes the design and implementation of interventions to support the quality of life and healthy lifestyle and coping behaviors of individuals and families at increased risk of hereditary cancers and managing cancer survivorship.

Feyisayo Wayas

Research Project Coordinator

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Dr Feyi Wayas is the Research Project Coordinator for the Kindred Research Study and other projects within the Ellis Research Team at the School of Social Work, University of Michigan. Dr Feyi Wayas has a PhD in Food Security from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her research interests are on assessing and alleviating food insecurity unhealthy diet, obesity and physical inactivity, especially in underserved communities for a healthier lifestyle and lower risk to chronic diseases. Her long-term goal is to be instrumental in the achievement of sustainable development goals 3 (good health and well-being), 10(reduce inequalities) and 12 (responsible consumption) and promote health equity. She has been actively involved in several international research programs either as a co-investigator or program coordinator and has published several articles in high-impact peer-reviewed journals and presented in local and international conferences. She is a NIH-Fogarty Global Health Equity Scholar fellow alumna, a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Our Voice Global Research Network, and Global Diet Activity Research Network. 


Sierra Perez

Research Assistant

Sierra Perez is a graduate student at the School of Public Health. Her research interests include neurological disorders, injury science, and health disparities. She is a current research assistant at the School of Social Work.

Alexis Contreras

Research Assistant


Alexis Contreras is an undergraduate rising junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor studying Public Health Sciences and minoring in Sustainability. She has a passion for improving the overall health of populations by examining the relationship between people, policy, education, and their environment.  

She has previously worked on research that examined how a person's environment, race, and SES impacted neural anatomy. Alongside her research with Dr. Ellis, she is an intern working to increase health outcomes for immigrant youth populations in Washtenaw County. Her future goals include being involved in the curation of health policy, as well as further examining how population health is impacted by the environment. 

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Charlotte Vincent

Research Assistant

Charlotte Vincent is a rising junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor pursuing a Bachelors in Arts degree in Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and minoring in Sustainability.


She has previously worked with the Environment and Policy Lab at the School of Kinesiology, looking at the ways in which historical segregation policies have impacted stroke outcomes for communities in the southern United States. Charlotte’s research interests include assessing the ways in which research on the social determinants of health can be used to drive data-driven policy solutions and unpacking the reproductive healthcare as well as firearm injury prevention. She plans to pursue a career in generating innovative policy solutions in healthcare that drive health equity. 


Madeline Smith

Research Assistant

Madeline is an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University studying biology and psychology with a minor in chemistry. She has a passion for supporting others in times of need, especially those surrounding a medical diagnosis.


While her previous research experience is primarily in a molecular genomics laboratory at Western Michigan University, she is excited to combine her love for genetics and her passion for people as a Research Assistant for the Kindred Research Study and other projects within the Ellis Research Team. Outside of research, Madeline is involved as a Resident Assistant on her campus as well as a Crisis Counselor through Gryphon Place in the Kalamazoo community. She also serves as the secretary of the Genetic Counseling Prospective Student network. Madeline’s future goals include earning a master's in genetic counseling.

Former Team Members


Dolapo Raji

Research Assistant

Dolapo is currently a health data analyst at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health, Epidemiology.


She graduated from the MHI (Masters of Health Informatics) program at the School of Information (2021) and a Dow Fellow (2020). Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, she graduated from Central Michigan University with a Masters degree in Public Health where she was launched into research analysis; honed her research skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis; and published three article papers. She is interested in health-related research and the interpretation of data to improve the processes and quality of healthcare services as it relates to health and well-being of individuals particularly under-served populations. Her future aspiration is to work with global health organizations like World Health Organization, UNICEF, USAID, Population Services International among others as a data analyst to harness the power of data/information for the sole purpose of reducing health inequities and disparities. 


Carly Jones

Research Assistant

Carly is currently working at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Michigan Medicine as a Social Worker.


She earned her MSW (Masters of Social Work) degree at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (2022). She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Administration of Justice. She is currently on the Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Pathway and an Integrated Health Scholar. Previously, she worked in the Biobehavioral Oncology and Technology Lab at UPMC Shadyside to help increase the well being of cancer patients as they go through cancer treatment. Her interests are in cancer treatment and care, grief and bereavement, and caregiving.


Hillary K. Hecht

Research Assistant

Hillary is currently a PhD student at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Health Policy and Management program with a focus on Organization and Implementation Science. 


She graduated with an MSW degree in 2019 at the University of Michigan School of Social Work studying individuals and families living with chronic illness or disability and experiencing the effects of their intersectional social identities when trying to access health care. She is interested in the role of organizations' policies on equitable access to health care, and data ethics in shaping inclusive policy. Previously, she worked as a recruiter advocating for access to lucrative careers across corporate finance and healthcare technology industries for underrepresented groups. She received a Bachelors of Arts in Organizational Sciences and Dance from The George Washington University. 

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Fonda Smith

TIDR Project Coordinator

Fonda is currently a Clinical Research Coordinator at Michigan Medicine and a PhD doctoral student in Social Work at Walden University.


Her research looks to understand how African American men with type 2 diabetes conceptualize and cope with stress. She is interested in identifying factors associated with health disparities, exploring behavioral health issues in African Americans, and delivering community-based interventions to underrepresented communities. Before her doctoral studies, she worked in healthcare, outpatient mental health and child health research to cultivate her passion to better support vulnerable populations.


Fonda has coordinated a wide range of projects within the Treatment Innovation and Dissemination Research Group at the University of Michigan School of Social Work to address the untreated mental health needs of underserved individuals. She is also an experienced clinical interviewer and assessor of cognitive functioning. Fonda holds a Bachelor of Arts in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University and a Masters of Social Work from Eastern Michigan University. 


Seyoung Oh

Research Assistant


Seyoung (say-young) is currently working as a research assistant for a longitudinal study on child development at the National University of Singapore. 


She graduated in 2019 from the MSW program at the University of Michigan School of Social Work with a focus on Social Policy and Evaluation. She was also a Global Activities Scholar, which allowed her to concentrate in international social work. Before moving to Ann Arbor, she was at the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill where her research journey began as part of the McNair scholar program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and English from UNC in 2018. Her interests are in anti-poverty and anti-racist research in different aspects of life, including health, housing, and finance. 

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Kelli is currently an analyst at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, California.


She graduated in May 2020 from the Master of Public Health in Epidemiology program. She received her B.A. in psychology from Miami University and worked as a research assistant at Wayne State University between undergrad and graduate school. Her current research interests include social determinants of health, mental health, and chronic diseases. 

Kelli Peterman

Research Assistant

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