There are four different Scholar groups the Center for Women’s Health Research holds, the Women’s Health Fellows, Postdoctoral Research Associates, R-25 TEAM-Science Scholars and the Shapiro Scholars. Open the panels to learn more about the scholars and their research!

Current Scholars

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VA Women's Health Fellows

Arpita Ghosh, PhD
VA Women’s Health Fellow

Education: Earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She completed her predoctoral psychology internship at the University of Akron and a clinical postdoctoral fellowship at Marquette University. She earned her MA in Community Counseling and BS in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago.

Research: Dr. Ghosh’s main area of interest is in vocational psychology, specifically investigating the career development processes of underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups. Her research has explored the role of family influence in the career decision-making process, instrument validation, retention in college, and how the transition from military to college life impacts career choices. Her dissertation focused on the role of family influence on careers for Asian American parent – college student dyads, focusing on intergenerational conflict, adherence to cultural values, and acculturation. She is interested in investigating women veteran’s career transitions in higher education post military service in addition to understanding lived experiences through mixed methods research designs.

Mary F. Wyman, PhD
VA Women’s Health Fellow
Education: Mary obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Wyman completed her predoctoral psychology internship and a research postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California-San Francisco, with further training at the Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Research: Dr. Wyman’s primary area of interest is in gerontology, specifically investigating the interplay of psychiatric and physical conditions. Her research has explored subthreshold depression and medical burden in community-dwelling white and African-American older women as well as daily functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. During the fellowship, her research will focus on the association of depression with dementia and the impact of these conditions on the management of chronic medical illness.

Madelyn Alvarez
VA Women’s Health Fellow

Education: Dr. Alvarez earned her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

Research: Dr. Alvarez is interested in improving the education experience for residents. Her goal is to investigate how empathy and a growth mindset affect the patient-physician relationship and quality of communication. She is currently enrolled in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis program and the University of Wisconsin School of Education.


Jessica Tischendorf
VA Women’s Health Fellow

Education: Dr. Tischendorf earned her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She went on to internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Wisconsin.  She is completing her master’s degree in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison.

Research: Much of her graduate work is focused on interprofessional collaboration in healthcare teams, work she will be continuing during her fellowship. She is an active educator of medical students and residents and also participates in infection prevention research at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.


Postdoctoral Research

R25 TEAM-Science Scholars

Harris Krause
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar

Education: BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of Florida. I’m working towards a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering.

Research: My current research deals with chemotherapy resistance in ovarian cancer. I look at signaling networks that might be involved in chemotherapy resistance and see how quantitative perturbation of proteins effects the signaling network. Additionally, I investigate how microenvironmental cues can lead to the development of chemotherapy resistance.

What led Harris toward this research: Ovarian cancer is an incredibly deadly and complex disease. The challenge of investigating such a disease and the potential benefit it can have on patients’ lives is what led me to this research.

Dream Job: The PI of a large lab.

Hobbies: I like to run (especially racing half marathons), scuba dive and ski.

Ivan Cabrera
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: My current research interests include: Understanding how individual identity and mental health are affected by discrimination, bias and stereotyping in marginalized communities and how college students of color cope with institutional racism and navigate higher education. In addition, I am interested in understanding and developing effective ways to train individuals to work with diverse populations in ways that are culturally competent and responsive. Finally, I am interested in investigating the power of counter-spaces for underrepresented minority students in order to create intentional spaces that empower students of color.

What led Ivan toward this research: My research interests stem from my personal experience as a student of color navigating the Academy and struggling to find access and guidance at different points in my academic career.

Dream Job: My dream job would be to work at a University in an academic capacity where I can both teach and help develop effective programs that amplify participation for underrepresented students and help them navigate the academy.

Hobbies: I enjoy listening to music, I consider myself a hip-hop historian. I enjoy cooking and I like to stay active by playing sports especially basketball.

Kristal Gant
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: My current research interests include, but are not limited to, reproductive endocrinology, reproductive toxicology, environmental toxicology, maternal and fetal health and development, reproductive organ development and physiology, epigenetics, and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. I want to understand the influence the maternal and paternal environments (both internal and external) have on the development and survival of the fetus, and how the parents’ exposures, diets, and habits before, during, and after pregnancy affect their offspring. I would also like to research pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, spontaneous abortion, and recurrent miscarriages to identify novel markers that may aid in predicting (and possibly decreasing) the likelihood of a woman experiencing those during her lifetime.

What led Kristal toward this research: When I was in 6th grade, students had to take a reproduction and sexual education course. The teachers showed videos all of the time but the video going through the stages of pregnancy stuck with me. It showed all of the steps and stages required before the fetus would fully develop and if anything were to go wrong during any stage, the fetus and possibly the mother would be in danger. I always wondered how a woman and her baby communicated with one another, how the body knew what changes to make and when to make them, and what environmental cues initiated (or blocked) those changes.

Dream Job: I am open to all career paths. I just want my research to answer questions about pregnancy and reproductive organ functioning and development in men and women. Once those questions are answered or there is novel insight given, I hope to implement government policy changes and initiate protocols in the public health sector that hold chemical developers more accountable in the development of pregnancy complications and reproductive deficiencies we now see in our society due to chemical and toxicant exposure. I’d also like to be involved in community outreach and lead information symposiums to poverty stricken communities with little to no access and exposure to scientific research. Last, but not least, I’d like to mentor and motivate underrepresented students and scientists in poverty stricken communities in the United States and in other countries.

Hobbies: Reading, traveling, cooking and writing poetry.


Yousra Mohamoud
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: My current research interests are in maternal-child health. My research focuses on understanding the contributors to disparities in perinatal outcomes particularly infant mortality. I am also working on evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of federal/state level programs focused on improving perinatal outcomes. More generally, I am passionate about epidemiologic methods I am always excited to learn new epidemiologic and statistical analytical methods to apply to my research which often means borrowing from other fields including social science, demography and economics.

What led Yousra toward this research: My belief that “prevention is better than cure”-especially at a population level, my love for children and the first-hand experience of feeling the loss due to an adverse perinatal outcome in the family lead me to this area of research. Further, in their role as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and aunts women always put the health of their loved ones ahead of their own health; this observation was the initial spark that spurred my passion for preventative research in the field of Women’s Health in general.

Dream Job: My dream job is one that combines my love for teaching and my passion for research. So ideally an academic job at a top-tier research institution, or a federal position that involves the conducting of research and training workshops for state and local health department on how to translate said research into interventions programs.

Hobbies: World music and filmography, traveling, reading science fiction, spending time with my nieces and nephews (of which I have nine!).

Onyekachi Nwoke
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: My current research focus is on the Human Connectome Project (HCP) and the Epilepsy Connectome Project (ECP). I conduct clinical research at the Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) and UW Hospitals and Clinics Neurology Department. We collect functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data and gather health and medication histories of patients who have been diagnosed with catamenial epilepsy, an exacerbation of seizure symptoms during menstruation that occurs in some women.

What led Onyeka toward this research: I have always been fascinated by medical imaging techniques and their role in diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

Dream Job: I am currently working on a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. I plan to be a research scientist in industry and be involved in pharmaceutical science drug research development and design.

Hobbies: My favorite hobbies include traveling, listening to music, and watching movies.

Leroy Williams
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: I am currently conducting research with Dr. Prabhakaran and Dr. Bendlin in the Human Connectome Alzheimer project. The research is design to investigate aging through machine learning such as FMRI scan. My current research focus includes behavioral analysis and educational neuroscience as it relates to human behavior and their learning abilities.

What led Leroy toward this research: My passion for research was ignited when I was employed at Kenny Krieger Institute and John’s Hopkins Hospital. At Kennedy Krieger, I worked with children diagnosed with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorder. In addition, I worked at John’s Hopkins Hospital as a research lab assistant in the neurosurgical department. Both positions gave me the insight that there was a huge lack of communication between different domains of research and practice regarding ASD. Therefore, I want to focus my research on bridging the gap between machine learning research, clinical practice, and community implementation of interventions.

Dream Job: My dream job is to become a licensed Neuropsychologist in a hospital setting that is officiated with a university. My goals are to conduct behavioral and neuroimaging research with children with ASD.

Hobbies: My favorite hobbies are to basketball, ruby, working-out and Beyonce.

Youhung Her-Xiong
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Research: My current research interests are in health care, aging, end of life care, hospice-related disparities/intervention/education, bias reducing education, LGBT, Hmong, and other racial/ethnic minority community-related interventions/education, and increasing diversity and inclusivity in all contexts.

What led Youhung toward this research: Personally and professionally, I have been around issues towards minority communities that are related to healthcare, aging, and end of life care. I have also experienced and witnessed bias, discrimination, and racism issues on a personal level, at the community level, and as a professional. I noticed that gaps existed in the healthcare system that prevented minority patients to receive quality care. I worked with people who had difficulty understanding and honoring other cultural practices surrounding healthcare, aging, and end of life care services. The challenges produced more negative consequences such as poor-quality of care and culturally inappropriate care for the patients. I have also seen the patients’ perspectives where they do not understand the western healthcare system, and how to navigate it. Within these convoluted conundrums, I noticed that other factors come into play, particularly gender and its influence on decision-making. Through these experiences, I learned that research, education and interventions may be vital in closing the gaps for minority patients to receive quality care as well as reducing biases, discrimination, and racism while providing such care.

Dream job: My dream job is to be a professor in a prestigious university to educate others to become culturally sensitive providers, to advocate for more inclusive and accepting environments, and to innovate practices for individuals to become leaders in this field.

Hobbies: I enjoy reading, walking, running, fishing, travelling, and photography.

Rachel Lane (picture to come)
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar

Education: I am in my first year in the Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program!

Research: I studied at the University of Findaly where I completed research in Swine IVF. We were able to develop a new maturation media which lowered levels of reactive oxygen species in and around the maturing oocyte while also reducing the rate of polyspermy. The culmination of this four year project has peaked my interest in both cell culture and in the possibility of switching gears toward human challenges.

What led Rachel towards this research: Originally, I aimed to complete IVF in exotic and endangered species. I had several internships and time behind the scenes at different AZA institutions. After a lot of thought into the Earth’s current ecological state, I had a hard decision to make. I struggled to justify creating more animals and keeping a lineage alive when there is not enough safe ecological space to currently reintroduce these individuals. I briefly considered diving into the ecological side of this battle but found that my passion lies elsewhere. Instead I switched focus. I have always dreamed of helping people. The last five years I have spent a lot of my time with Habitat For Humanity building homes for deserving and hard working families. I realized that I might still be able to peruse my dreams by help deserving couples start a family or by trying to solve a tough challenge many women face everyday. I am currently rotating though several labs in order to find a good fit here at UW Madison. The specifics of my work may change but, I have one main goal that I am sure it will fall under: I want to help people.

Dream job: I have always dreamed of teaching! Over the last few years I have loved mentoring and helping advise students on their goals and tracts. I love checking in to see where my mentees are now, and everything they have accomplished. I feel I learn just as much from them as they do from me. My dream job title often changes but, I have always wanted it to have a large teaching or mentoring component.

Hobbies: I love reading, watching romantic comedies or anything Disney, and running.

Amanda Vanderplow (picture to come)
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar

Education: I am currently working toward my Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology.

Research: My current research interests include: Understanding sex differences between males and females to improve prevention, treatment, and policy initiatives for both sexes. In addition, I am interested in understanding how steroid hormones influence sexual dimorphisms in the brain and behavior.

What led Amanda towards this research: I’ve always thought of myself as a huge advocate for translational research that investigates sex and gender. Basic and preclinical research has historically been more often focused in males, which results in health care for women being based solely on findings from studies of men. I believe that to truly understand the biological processes that underlie human disorders, it is of value to scientific research to consider sex as a biological variable and thus how sex influences these same biological processes. Focusing on sex difference research will inform numerous fields and clinical areas to better understand the ways in which males and females differ in biology and lead to improved health outcomes in humans.

Dream job: I aspire to work in the field of academia. Ideally, I would like to find a position at a small university that allows for the option to conduct research without the pressure of continuously producing publications.

Hobbies: My favorite hobbies include: hanging out with my cats, reading, traveling, running, riding my bike, drinking wine, and taking naps.

LaTonya Simon (picture to come)
R25 TEAM-Science Scholar



What led LaTonya towards this research:

Dream job:


Shapiro Scholars

The cornerstone program offered by the school is the Shapiro Summer Research Program. More than half of the medical students in the MD Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison participate in the program between their first and second years. The program funds student stipends for 8-12 week research projects under the direction of faculty members in any of our departments, centers, and institutes.

Projects span a broad range of scientific investigation, including basic science, clinical, translational, health services, global health, public health, quality improvement and medical ethics.

To enhance their experience, students also participate in research skills training sessions, roundtable discussions, journal clubs and clinical shadowing opportunities.

Former Scholars

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VA Women's Health

Kristen Pecanac, PhD

Lindsey Byom, PhD

Melissa Dattalo, MD, MPH

Alicia Weeks, MD

Kristin Berg, MD

Belinda Gutierrez, PhD VA

Nicole Rogus-Pulia, PhD, CCC-SLP

Tonya Roberts, PhD, RN

Sandra Schumacher, PhD, MSN, CNM, WHNP, RN, APNP

Meghan Brennan, MD, (2011-2014) focused on HIV screening as well as outbreak investigation.

Andrew Katz, PhD, (2012-2013) studied Multicultural Counseling Competence (MCC) theory and healthcare provider factors that lead to outcome disparities among minorities, women, and other stigmatized groups.

Christine Kolehmainen, MD, (2011-2013) focused on how doctors-in-training experience leadership in the setting of medical emergencies.

Noor Husain, MD, (2010-2012) researched reasons of CPAP compliance and non-compliance in the VA patient population.

Jeniel Nett, MD, PhD, (2010-2011) studied infectious disease, particularly drug resistance and immune response to Candida ablicans.

Allison Bearden, MD, MPH, (2009-2010) researched the use of probiotic agents in decolonization of patients with emerging organisms.

Erica Roberson, MD, (2008-2010) focused on the effects of bariatric surgery on urinary and fecal incontinence.

Aubrey Smith, MD, (2008-2010) studied the differences in energy requirements in obese and lean women with and without Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Nasia Safdar, MD, (2005-2009) researched the use of a probiotic preparation in hospitalized patients as a new means of preventing infection by drug resistant bacterial.

Ahmed Al-Niaimi, MD, (2007-2008) focused on research in ovarian cancer. Heather Certain, MD, (06-08) studied interactions of alcohol and the ethical issues this presented.

CWHR Postdocs


Elizabeth Pier
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Education: Dr. Pier earned her PhD in Education Psychology in 2017 and an MS in Education Psychology in 2014 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as earning her MA in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University in 2010.

Research:My research examines the multimodal and embodied nature of how people solve problems and make decisions within various STEM domains. My current research focuses on how expert scientists engage in collaborative decision-making in the context of NIH grant peer review. In particular, I study how reviewers write about, speak about, and communicate their scientific knowledge and expert opinion to the peers during grant review, how multimodal communicative practices such as hand gestures shed light on reviewers’ thinking, and how agreement among reviewers fluctuates as a function of collaboration.

Anna Kaatz, PhD, MPH, (2012-2013) focused on understanding reasons why women physicians and scientists are more likely than men to leave biomedical research careers.

Wairimu Magua, PhD, MS focused on identifying and applying techniques to reduce statical bias in evaluating cluster randomized controlled trials.

R25 TEAM-Science


Samuel Acuna (2015-2017)

Marcos Navarro (2015-2017)

Rocio Norman (2015-2017)

Tyson Pankey (2015-2017)

Jessica Vazquez (2015-2017)

Yaidi Cancel-Martinez (2014-2016)

Natasha Crooks (2014-2016)

Leonardo Rivera (2014-2016)

Jennifer Valdivia (2014-2016)

Jorge Jimenez (2014-2016)

Mariajose Bedoya, PhD Candidate (2013-2015)

Adriana Rodriguez, PhD Candidate (2013-2015)

Clem Samson-Samuel(2013-2015)

Theo Braden, PhD Candidate (2013-2015)

Marissa Kraynak, PhD Candidate (2013-2015)

James Garcia, BS, (2012-2014) researched the role of the hypothalamus in precocious puberty in female rhesus monkeys.

Porsha Howell, BS, (2012-2014) studied the impact of caloric restriction and aging on white adipose tissue metabolism and structure.

Patrice Leverett, MS, (2012-2014) focused on increasing minority representation and retention in the STEMM fields through enhancing the mentor/mentee relationship and decreasing the impacts of stereotype threat.

Tolu Oyensanya, MS, (2012-2014) researched rehabilitation outcomes and quality of life for persons who have had a traumatic brain injury.

Erika Starks, BS, (2012-2014) studied the function and anatomical brain alterations that accompany corrective electrical tongue stimulation in patients with balance disorders.

Yacob Tedla, MS, MSc, (2012-2014) researched the association between pulse wave velocity and hypertension, and the independent risk of arterial stiffness on different cardiovascular events and examining the sensitivity and specificity of different drug-adherence-measures, and the effect of drug-adverse-effects and drug-complexity on medication compliance among patients taking anti-hypertensive drugs.

Rosalina Villalon Landeros, BS, (2012-2014) focused on the effects of estrogen on uterine artery endothelial cell mitogenesis and tube formation.

Bryan Ampey, MS, (2011-2013) studied shear stress regulation of endothelial cell gap junctions and the role of Cx43 in endothelial cell function.

Fatou Jallow, BS, (2011-2013) focused on how cancer cells acquire resistance by lookingat the close linkage between prolactin and the pathogenesis and therapeutic responsiveness of ERalpha+ breast cancer.

Dennis Paiz-Ramirez, MA, (2011-2013) researched what commercial videogames do well and tried to find out why they do well.

Belinda Gutierrez, MEd, (2010-2012) studied unconscious bias and how it may prevent women and underrepresented minorities from rising within the ranks of academic departments within STEMM.

Patric Hernandez, PhD, (2010-2012) focused on comparing the white and grey matter brain volume differences between patients diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and healthy controls.

Anna Kaatz, PhD, (2010-2012) studied linguistic differences in grant reviews for male and female RO1 award applicants to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Jasmin Kristianto, BS, (2010-2012) researched the pleiotropy effect on bone and vascular phenotype in recombinant congenic mice.

Wairimu Magua, MS, (2010-2012) studied predictors of re-hospitalization of patients who developed nosocomial infections during index admission.

Ricardo Pizarro, MS, (2010-2012) focused on implementing an EEG-fMRI simultaneous acquisition for epileptic and stroke patients and finding novel ways to analyze the data acquired using multivariate approaches.

Bonnie Paris, MS, (2010-2011) studied the role of communication in medication safety in adult intensive care units.

Patrick Lee, BS, (2009-2011) researched mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) differentiation into orthopedic tissues.

Maigenete (Maggie) Mengesha, MS, (2009-2011) focused on mental health approaches for refugee and trauma exposed populations.

Mayra Pastore, BS, (2009-2011) studied the impact of estrogen on protein interactions with uterine arterial endothelial cells.

Olubukola (Bukky) Akinsiku, BS, (2008-2010) focused on the role of mathematics in success of minorities and women in engineering.

Doriane Besson, PhD, (2008-2010) researched effective treatment in psychotherapy for racial and ethnic minorities.

Athena Dunomes, BS, (2008-2010) studied image guided adaptive brachytherapy for gynecological cancers.

Sheikh Omar Jobe, BS, (2008-2010) focused on estrogen metabolism, pregnancy, and the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.

Ernise Williams, RN, (2008-2010) researched the socioeconomic inequalities and disparities in disease- related mortality among African Americans.

Jessica Crain, PhD, (2008-2009) focused on contributions of sex to purinergic receptor regulation in microglia.

Marjorie Curet, MS, (2008-2009) studied nucleotide modulation of microglia in breast to brain metastasis.

Aging T32 Scholars

Carol Isaac, PhD, (2007-2010) focused on women’s leadership in the biomedical sciences.

Allison Bearden, MD, MPH, (2008-2009) researched the use of probiotic agents in decolonization of patients with emerging organisms.

Curt Irwin, PhD, (2007-2009) focused on upper extremity strength, biomechanical variations, and motor control changes that occur as people age.

Maria Nikodemova, PhD, (2007-2009) studied the pathology of Alzheimer¿s disease.

Carolina Schlenker MD, MPH, (2007-2008) investigated how to improve healthcare systems¿ participation in translational research, especially in Mexico and Latin American countries.

Sayyida Abdus-Salaam (Martin), MD, MPH, (2005-2008) studied predictors of cutaneous manifestations of HIV-1/AIDS infection in blacks, disease progression, and response to therapy, as well as the establishment of protocols for routine HIV screenings.

Pamela Summers, MD, MBA, (2006-2007) focused on dermatological problems and Alzheimers disease.

Sabina Agrawal, DO, (2005-2006) researched vitamin D insufficiency and osteoporosis in nursing homes.

Heather Johnson, MD, (2004-2006) studied health disparities in cardiac risk factors in older women.

Francesca Couto, MD, (2004-2006) focused on molecular biology and research in diabetes

Jacqueline Wiltshire, PhD, MPH, (2004-2006) explored trust in physicians among older African American women.

Earlise Ward, PhD, (2003-2005) investigated improving mental health outcomes in the African American community.

Lisa Arendt, PhD, DVM, (2002-2005) studied interactions of aging and prolactin biology in mammary tissue in an ER-pos transgenic model.

Cristin Bruns, MD, (2002-2005) investigated metabolic measures with age and in male siblings of rhesus monkeys with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Barbara Loevinger, MD, (2002-2005) studied psychoneuroendocrinology and emotional dysregulation

Leah Whigham, PhD, (2000-2002) focused on biological mechanisms and clinical treatments of obesity, sex, and age factors.

Judith Houck, PhD, (2000-2002) investigated the history of menopause in the U.S.

Jessica Bartell, MD, PhD, (2000-2003) studied the impact of access to insurance on health outcomes in older women.

Terri Gomez, PhD, (2000-2002) focused on the role of a high fat diet in obesity and oxygen consumption.

Kimberly Price, PhD, (1999-2000) studied the effect of birth weight on glucoregulation with age in rhesus monkeys.

Jennifer Brockman, PhD, (1999-2000) focused on research in prolactin biology and breast cancer.