top of page

Meet the Team

Ellis - Headshot - Feb 2020.jpg

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 

Project Coordinator

Feyi Wayas is a research project coordinator at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. Her research interests include assessing and improving the food and built environments and health-related lifestyle behaviors to alleviate food insecurity, obesity and physical inactivity, especially in underserved communities for healthier lifestyle and lower risk to chronic diseases. Her overarching goal is to promote translational research and community-based participatory research to promote health equity and behavioral health change across the life course using mixed-methods research.

Dr. Feyisayo Wayas had published many articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented in local and international conferences. Her future program is to develop more pathways to impact in translating research to practice and to empower vulnerable groups in advocacy for healthier people and the environment. 

Alexis Contreras

Research Assistant


Alexis Contreras is an undergraduate rising senior 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 has worked to increase health outcomes for immigrant youth populations in Washtenaw County through an internship with the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. 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. 

Untitled-1 (dragged).tiff

Charlotte Vincent

Research Assistant

Charlotte Vincent is a rising senior 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 graduated from Western Michigan University in 2024 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology. She is now pursuing a Master’s in Genetic Counseling from the University of Michigan. She previously worked in a molecular genetics lab at Western Michigan University where she gained first-hand insight into the effects of genetic mutations on protein function. Now, she is pursuing her passion for increasing awareness and equity of genetic counseling/testing services through her work with Dr. Ellis’ research team. Her future goal is to provide compassionate care to patients and their families as a genetic counselor. 

Former Team Members


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.


Mahalakshmi Thandalam Madapusi    

Research Assistant

Mahalakshmi is a passionate product designer, specializing in UX Research and Design at the School of Information. She joined Dr. Ellis' team as a Research Assistant, focusing on designing an e-health platform aimed at fostering conversations about cancer genetic testing with African-American families. With a passion for her craft, Mahalakshmi creates digital products that not only enable but also empower individuals, reflecting her deep desire to make a meaningful impact.

fonda smith-1 (4)_edited_edited.jpg

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. 



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. 

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. 

Kelli Peterman-1.jpg

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

bottom of page