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Arnold School of Public Health

Core Team


Daniela Friedman, Co-Director

Daniela Friedman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, is the new Co-Director of the Arnold School of Public Health’s Office for the Study of Aging.  She is a leader in gerontology and community- and partner-engaged health promotion in South Carolina, dedicated to improving health literacy and reducing health disparities among older adults across the state. Dr. Friedman’s federally funded research networks, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded South Carolina Healthy Brain Research Network and South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, are focused on the communication and dissemination of evidence-based health messages and programs.  Dr. Friedman also directs the university-wide Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communication.

Lee Pearson, Co-Director

Lee Pearson has more than 20 years of experience in addressing public health priorities in South Carolina, including a specific focus on the unique needs of the state’s aging population. Most recently, he helped to lead a statewide taskforce on long-term care. Dr. Pearson holds a doctor of public health degree in health promotion, education and behavior, as well as a graduate certificate in gerontology.  He serves as the co-director of OSA.  In that role, he works with the entire OSA team to advance the core mission and promote expanded opportunities with collaborative partners.  In addition to his role with OSA, Dr. Pearson is the associate dean for operations and accreditation in the Arnold School of Public Health, and he serves on the board of the SC chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and is a gubernatorial appointee to the Joint Legislative Committee to Study Services, Programs and Facilities for the Aging.

Mindi Spencer, Associate Director of Research

Mindi Spencer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, with a joint appointment in the Institute for Southern Studies. Broadly, her research focuses on how cultural and psychosocial factors influence health in older adulthood. She also continues to conduct research on caregiving and mental health among American Indian and African American elders. Dr. Spencer is the Principal Investigator of the “Youth Empowered Against HIV!” Project and a partner in the “Equalize Health” LGBT cultural competence training program for health care providers. Dr. Spencer serves on the Lt. Governor's Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center and on the Minority Task Force of the Gerontological Society of America.

Maggi Miller, Research Associate and Registry Manager

Maggi Miller received her MS in health promotion from the University of Delaware and a PhD in epidemiology from University of South Carolina University Arnold School of Public Health. Her primary responsibilities for the office involve research, grant writing, preparation and publication of scientific manuscripts, and evaluation of current research projects. She also manages the SC Alzheimer's Disease Registry. Her research interests include Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, social epidemiology, survey development, and qualitative data analysis.

Macie Smith, Program Development and Training Manager

Macie Smith is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Social Work Case Manager, and a Social Worker in Gerontology with over 16 years of experience working with the aging and vulnerable populations.  Dr. Smith holds a Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Leadership with a specialization in Adult Education from Nova Southeastern University.  She is the Program Development and Training Manager for OSA.  She provides research, development of training programs, and coordinates program design and implementation.  Dr. Smith also manages the Dementia Dialogues program.  She provides direction, guidance, oversight, and management of recruitment, training the trainers, and program evaluation.

Ana Teixeira, Research Assistant Professor

Ana Teixeira is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health.  Her research interests include aging, migrant health and aging, the economic and social determinants of health, Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, end of life decision making, and program evaluation.

Seul Ki Choi, Postdoctoral Fellow

Seul Ki Choi is currently a postdoctoral fellow for the Healthy Brain Research Network and at the OSA. She earned her Ph.D. in public health from the University of South Carolina. Her research interests include health policy process, health communication, health literacy, and Alzheimer’s disease awareness and caregiving practices.

Gelareh Rahimi, Graduate Research Assistant and Doctoral Student

Gelareh Rahimi, PhDc, is a graduate student pursuing a major in Biostatistics. She is now working with OSA as a graduate research assistant helping with statistical analysis and providing reports about ADRD Registry data. As for her dissertation, she is currently developing a method for misreporting adjustments in count models.

Kristie Kannaley, Masters Student

Kristie Kannaley is a 2nd year student in the Master of Speech Pathology program in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD). She is a student scholar of the Healthy Brain Research Network and also works as a research assistant at the university’s Aphasia lab. Kristie completed her MA degree in linguistics and earned a graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. She transitioned to COMD to develop skills and competencies for working with older adults in a clinical setting as a speech-language pathologist. Kristie is interested in caregiver support/education, patient advocacy, cognitive retraining, and feeding and swallowing interventions. She is also interested in the development of clear strategies and techniques to help individuals with dementia live more empowered lives. Kristie plans to pursue a career in the medical field following graduation. 

Kate Olscamp, Masters Student

Kate Olscamp, a masters student in public health, is interested in the connection between physical activity and brain health, specifically how being active promotes positive mental health and cognitive functioning across the lifespan. She looks forward to studying the relationship between exercise and dementia, particularly in terms of how the connection is communicated to target groups. After graduation, Kate hopes to work within a government agency or nonprofit organization that strives to increase physical activity as a means of promoting optimal aging and cognitive health.

Weizhou Tang, Doctoral Student

Weizhou Tang is a PhD candidate from the College of Social Work who works with Dr. Friedman's team as a Healthy Brain Research Network scholar member. She also completed the Certificate of Graduate Study in Health Communication from the Arnold School of Public Health in Fall 2016. Weizhou’s current research interests are around family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease. She is mostly interested in using quantitative research methods to understand caregivers’ mental health across ethnic populations, and how it relates to coping skills, perceived social support, and care recipients’ behavioral problems. In addition, she would like to promote public awareness of cognitive health through effective health communication techniques.

Jameson Sofge, Doctoral Student

Jameson Sofge is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health.  He received an MS in Biomedical Sciences from Auburn University in 2014.  He has also completed the Dementia Dialogues training program. Jameson’s current research interests focus on the impact of poor sleep, chronic stress, and chronic inflammation on Alzheimer's disease risk.