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Arnold School of Public Health

Core Team

Daniela Friedman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, is the Co-Director of the Arnold School of Public Health’s OSA. She is a leader in gerontology and community- 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 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 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 conducts 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 received her MS in health promotion from the University of Delaware and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of South Carolina. She is a research assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. At the OSA, Dr. Miller manages the SC Alzheimer’s Disease Registry and focuses on aging research and program evaluation. Her primary responsibilities for OSA involve research, grant writing, preparation and publication of scientific manuscripts, and evaluation of current research projects. 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.

Megan Byers began her career in the aging field in Adult Protective Services with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources then as an Adult Services Program Specialist for the State. Miss Byers now serves as the Program Coordinator for the Office for the Study of Aging with the University of South Carolina. She has developed and revised policies and training curriculum, monitored legislative sessions to determine its impact on vulnerable adults, coordinated program design and implementation, and educated professionals on topics such as adult maltreatment and dementia. Miss Byers is a graduate of Marietta College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and West Virginia University with a Master of Social Work and a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. She is also a Licensed Master Social Worker in the State of South Carolina.

Dr. Lohman is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and is a core faculty member of the OSA. His primary research areas are in psychiatric epidemiology, gerontology, geriatric mental health services, and the epidemiology of adverse health outcomes such as falls, hospitalizations, and acquired disabilities among older adults. Dr. Lohman is particularly interested in the role of long-term care services and settings, such as nursing homes and home health care nursing, in the prevention of age-related cognitive and physical decline. He currently teaches epidemiological methods and scientific writing for masters and doctoral students.

Katherine Leith has been working and teaching in the fields of social work, aging, and public health for more than 20 years. She has extensive experience in both academia and community practice. Initially, Dr. Leith worked as social work case manager for the NC Department of Mental Health, as coordinator of an adult day program for persons with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. Later she served as medical social worker at a SC dialysis clinic. Her most recent clinical practice was with the SC Department of Mental Health, as social work supervisor at Bryan Psychiatric Hospital, Forensics. After joining the University of South Carolina, Dr. Leith collaborated with several SC state agencies, where she served as evaluator on a number of evidence-based community prevention programs, primarily in the areas of mental health, chronic disease self-management education, and falls prevention. She also taught, and continues to teach, Social Welfare and Policy, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Social Work Research, Aging, and Advanced Practice courses in the College of Social Work and in Public Health, as well as for Simmons College, Boston, MA. Dr. Leith also serves as course lead and tutor for Apollon University in Bremen, Germany and grant reviewer /panel chair for ACL, ACF, and CMS. She is an associate editor for Frontiers in Public Health.

Stephanie Ureña is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and the Office for the Study of Aging within the Arnold School of Public Health. Her research centers on the ways social factors shape population health and well-being, with an emphasis on aging, life course processes, health disparities, and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. A special focus of her research is on the implications of military service for the long-term health of U.S. veterans, which received federal funding from the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Ureña holds an MPH, is trained in sociology, gerontology, and demography, and is an affiliate of the Carolina Consortium on Health, Inequalities, and Populations (CHIP) at the University of South Carolina.

Dana AlHasan is a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and an Arnold School of Public Health Graduate Scholar in Aging Research. She is interested in the role neighborhood characteristics play in influencing incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as well as depression among dementia caregivers. As an Arnold School of Public Health Graduate Scholar, Dana is working to understand how neighborhoods can be designed to accommodate those with dementia.

Chelsea Larsen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Exercise Science and an Arnold School of Public Health Graduate Scholar in Aging Research. She received her Master of Public Health in Physical Activity and Public Health from the University of South Carolina in 2013. Her research interests include the health of caregivers of individuals with dementia and effective technology utilization in behavioral lifestyle interventions.

Collin Perryman is a PhD student in Education Administration, and a predoctoral trainee/fellow with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Division of Intramural Research, National Institutes of Health. His research interests include: (1) The relationship between racism-related stress, from racial and ethnic microaggressions experienced on college and university campuses, and the risk of Alzheimer's disease late in life. (2) The relationship between racial and ethnic microaggressions and mental health outcomes like depressive symptoms. (3) Socially supportive, culturally responsive academic and social counterspaces buffering against poor late-life health outcomes. (4) Psychometrics and methods that relate to racial and ethnic microaggressions, education, and health. He hopes that his work will contribute to educational and health policies towards Affirmative Action.

Nicholas Resciniti is a PhD student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and an Arnold School of Public Health Graduate Scholar in Aging Research. He has a passion for the field of Aging and Alzheimer’s, with a focus on early life factors and bio-behavioral markers. Nicholas is also with a student researcher with OSA.

Sydney Smith is a first year Master of Science in Public Health student in Biostatistics at the Arnold School of Public Health. She is working with the OSA as the SC Alzheimer’s Disease Registry Assistant. She graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Mathematical Science with emphasis areas in statistics and financial mathematics and with a minor in Business Administration.

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