Meet the Team
The Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research welcomes your questions and comments. Please contact us at:
750 N Lake Shore Drive, 6th Floor – Room 633
Chicago, IL 60611
Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH
Founding Director, Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR)
Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH
Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Clinical Attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Founding Director, Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research
Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, has 18 years of experience as a board-certified pediatrician and health researcher and serves as the founding director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
She completed her undergraduate and medical education at the University of Louisville and completed her medical residency at Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center, University of Washington in Seattle. She completed her pediatric health services research fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and went on to receive her Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Gupta is world-renowned for her groundbreaking research in food allergy and asthma epidemiology, most notably for her research on the prevalence of pediatric and adult food allergy in the United States. She has also significantly contributed to academic research in the areas of food allergy prevention, socioeconomic disparities in care, and the daily management of these conditions. To reduce the burden of these conditions and improve health equity, she and her team develop, evaluate and disseminate interventions for families and conduct work to inform local, national, and international health policy.
Dr. Gupta is the author of the Food Allergy Experience and Food Without Fear, has written and co-authored over 180 peer-reviewed research manuscripts, and has had her work featured on major TV networks and in print media. She speaks to a global audience to share her research with experts and families, and as a physician, food allergy researcher, and food allergy mom, her driving passion is to improve the lives of children and their families through discovery, clinical care, outreach, and education.
Fun Fact: Dr. Gupta coaches basketball in her free time!
Hometown: Louisville, KY
CANDO Study Coach
Reema joined the team as a CANDO Study Coach in April 2023. She has extensive experience as a patient service supervisor and food production and diet supervisor at institutions such as Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, DuPage County Jail, and Lahey Hospital. She has a vast knowledge of modified diets, allergens, and therapeutic diets. Reema received her B.S. in Nutrition from Benedictine University..
Fun Fact: Reema has lived in three countries – India, Australia, and the U.S. She has run 15 full marathons, 25 half marathons, and two ultra-marathons around the world. She has lived in the Chicago area for over 20 years, and her son is currently a junior at Northwestern University.
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Salma Alabduljabbar, MPH
Research Data Analyst
Salma Alabduljabbar joined CFAAR in October 2022 as a Research Data Analyst. She has worked at the University of Illinois Chicago as a Data Manager since 2017 where she managed all stages of the data life cycle for the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center’s projects. She also led evaluation, needs assessment, and quality improvement projects for healthcare professionals’ education programs. She brings over eight years of experience working with large datasets and using them to build interactive data visualizations. Salma is passionate about using data for research and making the findings easily accessible and useful for research team members and the community. Salma earned her Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and Master of Public Health from DePaul University.
Fun Fact: In her free time, Salma enjoys volunteering at local cat shelters, drawing, painting, and doing puzzles.
Hope joined the CFAAR team as a Program Assistant in November 2022. Prior to joining CFAAR, Hope worked in development roles mainly within the nonprofit sector. Within her career, she has experience as a project coordinator for large scale fundraising initiatives. In addition to a variety of development work, she also has experience providing administrative and executive support, as well as assisting with database management. Hope attended Northern Illinois University with a major in Nonprofit and NGO Studies, where she studied a diverse range of topics encompassing philanthropy, nonprofit management, and community engagement.
Fun Fact: Hope solo traveled through Europe and parts of the Middle East for three months. She also has a pet rabbit named Gizmo, named after Gizmo from the movie Gremlins.
Hometown: Oak Lawn, IL
Manager of Research Operations
David joined the CFAAR team in June 2022 as the Manager of Research Operations. David has worked in the non-profit world for 20+ years. He started at the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has spent much of his career working for HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ organizations. David was introduced to the world of research while working at the Howard Brown Health Center, and has since worked as the Finance Operations Manager for the Smith Child Health Outcomes, Research, and Evaluation Center (SCHORE) at Lurie Children's Hospital.
Fun Fact: A few years ago, David went back to school at DePaul University to focus on non-profit management and art therapy. His goal is to someday open up his own non-profit that houses art therapy programs for autistic children and their families. For now, that's on the back burner, but hopefully someday!
Tami Bartell, MPH
Tami joined the CFAAR team in the summer of 2021 as a Scientific Writer. She has worked as a scientific writer for over 20 years and has served as an editor on over 100 scholarly manuscripts that have appeared in peer-reviewed academic journals. Over the summer, she served as a coach for the CFAAR Summer Scholars to conduct literature reviews, engage in manuscript writing, and think like scientists. Tami received an MPH in Community Health Sciences from DePaul University in 2017.
Fun Fact: Tami once read her poetry on the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Stage at the Printers Row Book Fair.
Hometown: Buckley, IL
Lucy Bilaver, PhD
Faculty Researcher, Public Health Data Repository Core: Director of Health Services and Informatics Research
Dr. Bilaver has successfully coordinated a number of CFAAR's research projects including being the co-investigator on the Medicaid project, the Peanut Allergy Guidelines Assessment Clinician, Pediatrician, and Parent surveys project, and Understanding Preferred Precautionary Allergen Labeling (PAL) Language Among Food Allergy Stakeholders project. She also assists with analysis of the Natural History study’s severity and family history data. Dr. Bilaver earned a PhD from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and completed her post-doctoral training in health services research through an Integrated Fellowship at Feinberg. As an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern Medicine, her child health services research program spans several areas of children with special health care needs including autism, asthma, obesity, and food allergy.
Fun Fact: Lucy’s home away from home is Croatia!
Hometown: Wauwatosa, WI
Research Study Assistant
Alondra Camacho joined CFAAR in September 2022 as a Research Study Assistant supporting CANDO (primarily) and FORWARD. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign where she studied psychology with a concentration in cognitive neuroscience and molecular cellular biology. Her interest in allergy research stemmed from her own experiences with allergies and learning about the underlying biological process during an allergic reaction. Through volunteering at different hospitals and previous research experiences, she has become interested in learning about various health disparities that impact the quality of healthcare. She plans to pursue a career in healthcare as a nurse practitioner and hopes to have a positive impact by providing culturally competent care for her future patients.
Fun Fact: Alondra has two turtles named Michelangelo and Donatello!
Perry Catlin, MS
Perry is CFAAR's inaugural dissertation fellow for the 2023-2024 year and supports the FORWARD Study. Perry began working with the FORWARD team in 2017 as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s. He has since matriculated on to graduate school, and is currently in his 5th year of the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Marquette University. Perry’s research program focuses on understanding the psychosocial aspects of pediatric chronic illness management, and identifying factors that influence shared decision-making processes and outcomes. He is also interested in uncovering the underlying mechanisms that lead to health disparities, and addressing these issues via community-academic partnerships. For his master’s, Perry collaborated with the FORWARD team to evaluate factors associated with interest in clinical trial participation for the treatment of pediatric food allergy. This project led to a follow-up study exploring how caregiver attitudes affect health management behaviors and psychosocial outcomes. For his dissertation, Perry will build upon his doctoral work to further characterize the shared decision-making process for caregivers of children and adolescents with food allergy.
Fun Fact: If Perry were a fruit he’d be a mango.
Hometown: Toledo, OH
Research Study Assistant
Kyle joined the CFAAR team a Research Study Assistant in May 2023 following a gap year in which he spent 9 months traveling solo to 9 different countries around the globe. This gap year came after the completion of his undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University, where he majored in Environment and Sustainability Studies as well as minored in Spanish and Anthropology. Bringing prior research experience in the fields of Spanish language and environmental sustainability, Kyle has a deep interest in working towards solutions to intersectional issues, such as those that lie at the crossroads of class, race, and public health. He is thrilled to be a part of the CFAAR team on the FORWARD study where he will have the opportunity to learn more about food allergies broadly and is specifically curious about the problems and potential solutions concerning quality of and access to care.
Fun Fact: During his travels abroad, Kyle hiked the entire Camino de Santiago route from the south of France to the west coast of Spain, walking over 550 miles in 36 days.
Hometown: Western Springs, IL
Research Study Assistant
Jessika is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.S. in Biology, where she helped initiate a Planned Parenthood organization on campus. Her passion for health sciences derived from her own experience in a long-term hospital stay. During that time, Jessika discovered the many components that it takes to aid someone back to good health and that is when her interest in research began. She has spent time interning at Claude Mendel Medical Center learning the basic components of research studies, geared towards gastroenterology. Jessika is excited to join this team where she will continue to learn about research and healthcare pertaining to asthma and food allergies at CFAAR.
Fun Fact: Jessika loves the card game UNO. She has collected 12 variations of the game and counting.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Priyanka Dadha, PhD
Dr Priyanka Dadha earned a doctorate in the field of allergy and asthma from King George Medical University, Lucknow, India and completed her ICMR postdoctoral fellowship program in the area of food allergy from ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India. She has great acumen for research and teaching; her expertise includes dietetics, clinical and community nutrition, nutrigenomics, and food allergy related investigations and research. She has delivered many guest lectures as an invited speaker at various institutes and colleges and is a life member of the Indian Science Congress, National Dietetic Association, and Nutrition Society of India. She is a recipient of the Young Scientist Award from Indian College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (ICAAICON-2018) for presenting the best paper and has been working on multiple food allergy related research projects.
Fun Fact: Priyanka likes to travel and explore new horizons.
Hometown: Lucknow, India
Bonita Davis, RDN
CANDO Study Coach
Bonita is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who joined CFAAR in October 2022 as a CANDO Study Coach. Bonita is passionate about working with children and families to help them obtain optimal nutrition in an environment that supports nurturing relationships. The importance of healthy nutrition is something that Bonita learned firsthand growing up on a farm where whole foods were readily available, and family meals were part of the daily routine. Years later, this continues to be an important foundation in her work with children and families, as she helps children experience and explore whole foods in creative ways incorporating the importance of a nurturing environment. Bonita received her BS in Home Economics Education and worked for the Vermont Cooperative Extension Service before receiving her Masters in Adult and Occupational Education along with obtaining her certification as an RDN. Bonita has worked in pediatric nutrition through programs such as Early Intervention, Preschool Special Education, Head Start, as well as working with children and families in private practice. Recently she earned a certificate in Pediatric Food Allergy Nutrition sponsored by Food Allergy Research and Education.
Fun Fact: Bonita enjoys going on pilgrimages. So far, these have been in the US, with future plans of overseas trips.
Hometown: Little Falls, MN; lived in New England for several years; currently resides in Ithaca, NY
Susan Dennehy, PhD
As Center Administrator Susan manages finance and administration for CFAAR, ensuring smooth daily operations so that the entire research team can focus and do their best work. Susan brings 15 years of experience as a university administration professional to her role and prior to joining CFAAR she led daily operations for various academic and research departments at UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, DePaul University, and Northwestern. In 2019 she earned an executive scholar certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.
Fun Fact: Susan loves to ride her bike along Lake Michigan and explore Chicago neighborhoods.
Hometown: New Windsor, NY
Joanna joined the CFAAR team as a Program Coordinator. She spends the majority of the time working on the iREACH project study which looks to improve physician adherence to the 2017 PPA Guidelines regarding the early introduction of peanuts to infants. Before joining CFAAR, she was a rental and office manager and had been practicing finance/administration work for the past 5 years. Joanna loves to travel as much as time will allow, and lived in the UK before moving to the US. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, watching movies, and spending time with her family.
Fun Fact: Joanna enjoyed dancing in a folk group when she was a teenager.
Hometown: Roselle, IL
Ariane Elizalde, MS, RDN/LD
CANDO Study Coach
Ariane is a registered & licensed dietitian, nutrition coach, editor, and online course creator. She joined the CFAAR team in October 2022 as a CANDO Study Coach. She has a master’s in science with a concentration in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and a BS in Nutrition Science from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, a Certificate in Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Diploma in Sports Nutrition. She is working on earning a certificate in Pediatric Food Allergy sponsored by Food Allergy Research and Education. Currently she provides one on one nutrition counseling in her private practice “The Joy of Healthy Eating” where she sees a lot of food allergy related cases, as well other chronic degenerative diseases.
Fun Fact: This past summer, Ariane discovered her love for gardening, and she now has tomatoes, several herbs, guava, lemon, and coconuts growing very happily in her backyard.
Behavioral Research Associate
Mayra joined CFAAR in March 2023 as a Behavioral Research Associate. She is a first generation college graduate, born and raised in Chicago. Mayra's interest in research stems from contributing to different projects during her undergraduate studies, as well as providing legal interpretation services for Spanish-speaking communities. Her focus includes addressing different contemporary health and political topics in America including disparities in adolescent health, homelessness, and immigration policy. Through this bilingual role, Mayra aspires to be a resource for different communities and is excited to continue to learn more about food allergies and asthma.
Fun Fact: Mayra has studied abroad in two different countries including Ecuador and South Korea.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Director of Communications + Outreach
John Fyolek, PhD
John joined CFAAR in September 2022 after completing his PhD in Environmental Health from Indiana University-Bloomington where his research was primarily focused on investigative toxicology. His interest in food allergies started during his undergraduate studies while working as a research assistant in an immunology laboratory studying food allergy sensitization. He then went on to obtain an MS in Nutrition Science before pursuing his doctorate. John is excited to be a part of the CFAAR team and pursue his interest in evaluating the impact of environmental contaminants on food allergy, asthma, and other atopic diseases.
Fun Fact: John spends much of his free time coaching his sons’ soccer and basketball teams.
Hometown: Cary, IL
Senior Research Study Coordinator
Gail joined the team in Spring 2022 after working as a field interviewer for several years on many federal research studies that measure the impact of various social service programs. She has traveled to communities around the country observing and collecting data in schools and private homes, and she has enjoyed engaging with people who are seeking solutions to their challenges. She is excited to meet and work with CFAAR families. In her free time, she enjoys frisbee and cycling.
Fun Fact: Gail loves baking and is learning to decorate cookies. She hopes to share her hobby with her new teammates.
Hometown: Streamwood, IL
Research Study Assistant
Ximena joined the CFAAR team in July 2023 as a Research Study Assistant. Ximena graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where she majored in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Political Science with a Citizen Politics concentration. As an undergraduate, Ximena volunteered at numerous free health clinics and hospitals where she grew her passion for increasing accessibility to healthcare, breaking language barriers, and decreasing health disparities. She developed an interest in allergy and asthma research while working in the pediatrics department as part of the Northwestern Medicine Pre-Med Internship, and hopes to attend medical school in the future. Ximena is excited to join the team as part of the FORWARD study and continue working to increase quality of care.
Fun Fact: Ximena enjoys film photography in her free time!
Hometown: Cicero, IL
Hannah joined CFAAR in Fall 2022 as a Program Assistant. She received a B.S. in Animal Science with a minor in Environmental Studies from Iowa State University and has since been an administrative professional in a variety of fields such as investment banking, veterinary health, and as an AmeriCorps member. Hannah is excited to assist the team and learn more about food allergy and asthma research.
Fun Fact: In her free time, Hannah enjoys yoga, running, making ice cream, and spending time with her beloved cocker spaniel.
Hometown: Lake Zurich, IL
Research Project Manager
Brenda joined the CFAAR team in September 2022 as a Research Project Manager. She has worked in research at Northwestern since 2013 and has focused on studies involving patients with type two diabetes, lupus, kidney transplant, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, she has collaborated with communities and health centers on the West, South, and North of Chicago. Her biggest interest in research is strategic recruitment. She enjoys making research easy to understand for all. In her free time, Brenda can be found cycling, bike touring, running, hiking, and watching movies.
Fun Fact: Brenda rode her bike along the entire coast of California and has been vegan since 2006.
Natalie Hnatiuk, MS, RN, CBC
Natalie joined the CFAAR team in March 2023 as a Research Nurse. She studied Biology at James Madison University and earned her Master’s in Nursing from DePaul University. Natalie worked in the NICU at Lurie Children’s for six years before joining Dr. Sai Nimmagadda in the allergy world in 2020. Natalie also works part-time for Bumblebaby, a company dedicated to helping support new parents adjust to parenthood through feeding, sleeping, safety, and mental health consulting. Natalie lives in Libertyville with her husband and three boys. They love to travel and spend as much time outdoors as possible.
Hometown: Greenville, DE
Frances is a a third-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She is interested in specializing in pediatrics. Frances attended Northwestern for undergrad and studied Biology and Science and Human Culture. She is originally from the Bay Area, California.
Fun Fact: Frances and her family foster rescue dogs until they get adopted!
Khalid Ibrahim, MS
Research Data Analyst Senior
Khalid is a Senior Research Data Analyst on the CFAAR team. He holds a Master's degree in epidemiology from Michigan State University, where he spent the past ten years providing in-field and remote research support for observational studies and clinical trials focused on bacteremic infections in Nigeria and cerebral malaria in Malawi. While his work primarily centers on quantitative analysis, in 2018 he helped launch a project that utilized photography and audio interviews to better understand issues regarding home healthcare aids in Michigan; this project is now part of the Library of Congress. Khalid's graduate fieldwork explored how physicians diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders in Karachi, Pakistan, which became the first published study on this topic in Pakistan in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Fun Fact: Khalid loves bicycling and, in the winters, you might see him in a head-to-toe waterproof outfit biking around Chicago.
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI and Islamabad, Pakistan
Research Project Manager
Jialing is the Research Project Manager for the iREACH study. She also supports the FORWARD study, CANDO/SEED study, FACE India studies, and the Food Allergy Prevalence study. Her research interests include early food allergy prevention, the role of microbiome in food allergy development, and food allergy in a global context. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also underwent the Pre-Medicine track and minored in Spanish.
Fun Fact: Jia can speak 5 languages!
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Research Study Assistant
Ria joined the CFAAR team as a Research Study Assistant in June 2023. She recently earned her B.A. in Neuroscience and Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University and interned as a CFAAR Scholar in Summer 2022. As someone with eczema and food allergies, she is excited to be a part of the CANDO team to continue learning about and advancing the prevention of food allergy. Ria hopes to pursue a career in allergy medicine and cannot wait to delve into the theories of allergy development and treatments.
Fun Fact: Ria has served in primary care clinics in both Honduras and Guatemala.
Hometown: Naperville, IL
Kristin Kan, MD, MPH, MSc
Kristin Kan, MD, MPH, MSc is a faculty researcher for the CFAAR team. She is a primary care pediatrician and health services and health policy researcher and completed pediatric residency at Seattle Children's Hospital/University of Washington and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship at University of Michigan. As a physician-investigator at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital/Northwestern University, she aims to inform the design of health policies and programs that optimize health care access and quality of care for children with chronic diseases, in particular asthma. Her current research has focused on the population health management of pediatric asthma by leveraging digital technology in outpatient care.
Director of Research & Education
Madeleine Kanaley is a senior research manager and director of research and education initiatives at the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research (CFAAR). Since 2016, Madeleine has helped to oversee CFAAR’s portfolio of 20+ epidemiological, clinical, and community-engaged research studies. Her particular expertise on the team includes research project management, grant administration, food allergen labeling policy, school-based asthma and food allergy interventions, and educational programming for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.
Madeleine is currently completing her Master’s in Public Health at Northwestern University with a concentration in community health research. She is passionate about creating accessible resources and informing equitable policies to improve the health and well-being of individuals with atopic conditions through every stage of their lives.
Fun Fact: Madeleine loves to dance in her free time!
Hometown: Glenview, IL
John rejoined CFAAR in October 2022 as a part-time Research Assistant after completing the CFAAR Scholars Program in June 2020. He received a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. John is currently in his gap year before medical school and hopes to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. John is interested in both access to and disparities within healthcare, disability, food insecurity, and homelessness.
Fun Fact: John had appendicitis twice! (He was treated with antibiotics the first time, appendectomy the next)
Sherri Loeb, RN, BSN, BCPA
Senior Research Coordinator
Sherri is a registered nurse and board-certified patient advocate. Her nursing experience has encompassed everything from office-based medicine, med/surg, ICU, and most recently clinical research. In her spare time, she is very active in promoting patient safety and quality in all aspects of healthcare. She received her nursing degree from Northwestern University and is thrilled to be back where it all started. Personally, Sherri has raised two daughters, both with significant food allergies who are now young adults. Being part of the CANDO study feels like a perfect match.
Fun Fact: In addition to her daughters, Sherri currently has two grandchildren, Liam and Madelyn, and two loving Havanese boys, Hero and Halligan.
Hometown: Wilmette, IL
Research Associate, Communications
Joining the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research team in 2019, Caroline Moassessi supports the team remotely from Reno, NV. In her role, she focuses on the work of the communications team to help bridge the gap between research and decision makers, patients, the community and food allergy and asthma advocates. Caroline is the Founder of the food allergy and asthma blog Gratefulfoodie and is an active food allergy and asthma advocate, which includes impacting policy, legislation, and the food industry. She is passionate about healthcare and uplifting communities. Caroline earned her Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Fun Fact: Caroline can cram a dozen grapes into her mouth!
Hometown: Albany, CA
Research Study Assistant
Olivia joined the CFAAR team in October 2022 as a Research Study Assistant. Olivia is in her third year of medical school at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She is most interested in the fields of dermatology and female sexual health. At Rush, Olivia serves as a Student Ambassador for the admissions team, leads a student-run initiative focused on addressing the evolving needs of persons experiencing homeless in the COVID pandemic, and is an executive board member for the Rush Restorative Justice Initiative and the American Medical Women’s Association. She was a previous CFAAR Scholar and employee before starting medical school and looks forward to working on projects related to atopic dermatitis with the amazing CFAAR team members.
Fun Fact: Olivia was a competitive baton twirler for 17 years and was able to perform each week for 110,000 fans as a twirler at the University of Michigan. She is now a coach and certified judge for the sport.
Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Research Project Manager, Co-Director of Clinical Research
Pamela joined CFAAR in 2016 with a primary focus on recruiting patients for the team’s many research studies. Her role as the primary recruiter for The Natural History of Food Allergy study was the springboard to her role as the project manager for the multi-site FORWARD Study. While both of these studies aim to understand the progression of food allergy in children as well as predictors of severity and tolerance, FORWARD also examines racial and ethnic disparities in food allergy. She also recruited and educated patients for the iTRACC Study, a clinical trial incorporating the use of technology to improve adherence of asthma medications in children. Additionally, she coordinates CFAAR's food allergy conference, FACES (Food Allergy Conference for Education and Science) and asthma conference (Conference for Asthma Research and Education). Pamela received a BA in Communications from University of Wisconsin. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, watching movies and spending time with her family.
Fun Fact: Pamela was once featured on the Today show!
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Alexa Nimmagadda, BSN, RM, CBC
Alexa joined the CFAAR team as a Registered Nurse in September 2023. Alexa attended the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, where she successfully obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Currently, she is actively pursuing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, with aspirations of becoming a skilled Family Nurse Practitioner. Alexa's professional background consists of a wealth of caring for pediatric patients across various specialized units, including NICU, PICU, CCU, Emergency Department, General Medicine, Surgery/Transplant, Hematology Oncology, and Neurology/Endocrine. She presently serves as a Registered Nurse within the Resource Team at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, where her responsibilities encompass the care of inpatient pediatric patients. Alexa frequently witnesses the profound effects that food allergies and asthma can exert on pediatric patients and their families, gaining firsthand insight into the challenges they face. This experience serves as a strong motivating factor driving her commitment to reducing health disparities and enhancing health literacy, particularly in the context of conditions related to allergies and asthma.
Fun Fact: Alexa enjoys going to concerts in her free time and most recently saw Taylor Swift!
Hometown: Long Grove, IL
Sai Nimmagadda, MD
Allergy Research Specialist
Sai Nimmagadda, MD serves as an Allergy Research Specialist on the CFAAR team. He is a board certified allergist who’s had nearly 30 years of clinical experience. For the past twenty years, Dr. Nimmagadda has been a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Medical School. He practices Allergy/Immunology with Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and serves as a member of the executive committee of the Illinois Society for Allergy, Asthma and Immunology as well as a committee member in the section on food allergy for the American Academy and American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. During his career, Dr. Nimmagadda has seen over fifteen thousand food allergy patients and has designed and implemented several food allergy studies.
Angela Oest, PA-C, MPH
Angela joined CFAAR in early 2022 as a part of the clinical team of the CANDO/SEED project. She is a certified physician assistant with 10 years of clinical practice experience in allergy/immunology and family medicine. In her role as a provider, she is passionate about patient education especially as it pertains to successfully managing food allergy and asthma. Prior to becoming a physician assistant, Angela obtained her Master of Public Health and was involved in food allergy and asthma research both at the former Children's Memorial Hospital and University of Iowa.
Fun Fact: SCUBA diving is an old hobby that Angela hopes to resume with future travel!
Hometown: Odebolt, IA
Caglar Onal, MA
Senior Research Data Analyst
Caglar joined the CFAAR team in April 2023 as a Senior Research Data Analyst. He received a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Istanbul University and earned a Master's degree in Economics from the University of Missouri. Currently, Caglar is finishing up his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. His research is primarily concerned with developing and applying econometric and statistical methods to study the causal relationships between public policies and labor market outcomes.
Fun Fact: In his free time, Caglar enjoys making watercolor paintings.
Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey
Jessica Palmieri, DO
Dr. Jessica Palmieri, a native Michigander, studied music performance and biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI during her undergraduate education, attended Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine for medical school, and completed her pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, MI. She then continued her training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX where she completed her allergy and immunology fellowship. She joins the faculty at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine as an assistant professor and is an academic pediatric allergist and immunologist at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Her primary clinical and research interests are in food allergy prevention and treatment and decreasing pediatric health disparities.
Fun Fact: Dr. Palmieri studied oboe performance in undergrad and performed in orchestras throughout medical school and residency. She plans to continue her oboe playing in Chicago.
Hometown: West Bloomfield, MI
Research Study Assistant
Kassidy joined the CFAAR team as a Research Study Assistant in July of 2022. She attended the University of Kentucky and graduated with a B.A. in Health, Society, and Populations. Because of her environmental and severe food allergies, she has always had an interest in food allergy safety and early allergy prevention. She’s excited to be a part of CFAAR and to be able to contribute to iREACH.
Fun Fact: She used to play the flute and the French horn.
Hometown: Tinley Park, IL
Kailin Potter, MS
Kailin is a program coordinator primarily supporting the Education and Training Program led by Ashley Dyer. She assists with planning for CFAAR Scholars, CFAAR Ambassadors, and CPS Student Health Leaders. Kailin previously worked in higher education as an academic advisor for various programs. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Carthage College in Environmental Science and a Master of Science in Education from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Kailin loves getting to talk to students at any level, and then help guide them to find the best path to maximize individual higher education experiences. She is excited to continue work with and help extend the reach of the education and training programs within CFAAR.
Fun Fact: Kailin swam competitively in college. She now enjoys recreational swimming, jogging, and yoga, but she is at her happiest when eating an entire pizza by herself.
Hometown: Granger, IN
Research Study Assistant
Joe joined CFAAR in July 2023 as a Research Study Assistant. They graduated Carleton College with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology and minors in Spanish and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. Originally from Chicago, Joe is interested in studying social determinants of health, and they are excited to work on the FORWARD Study.
Fun Fact: Joe loves to do creative makeup.
Emily Richardson, MSN, RN, CNL
Emily is a certified Registered Nurse (RN) and Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL). Her journey with CFAAR began in June 2020 as a Community Advisory Board (CAB) member. Her primary focus is on the Childhood Activities Nutrition and Development Oversight (CAN DO) study. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Sports Science and received her Master’s degree in Nursing at Rush University in Chicago. Her goals with CFAAR are to disseminate the research conducted into communities and provide equitable and empathetic care to CFAAR’s patients and caregivers.
Fun Fact: Emily loves dogs and has a yellow lab named Susie!
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Behavioral Research Fellow
Corwin Rolling joined CFAAR in December 2022 as a Behavioral Research Fellow. He supports Dr. Samady in her research and the iREACH Study. Corwin graduated from Northern Illinois University, majoring in Rehabilitation and Disability Services. Since graduating he has spent nearly 3 years in the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy, working with young children who were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In the last year, he worked as a Training Specialist, teaching new employees how to implement behavioral corrective strategies. He is looking forward to learning more about food allergies and asthma and also more about healthcare in general.
Fun Fact: Corwin spends much of his time outside with his son and his dog Romo.
Waheeda Samady, MD, MSCI
Faculty Researcher, Co-Director of Clinical Research
Waheeda Samady, MD, MSCI is a faculty researcher for the CFAAR team. She completed her pediatric residency and hospital medicine fellowship at University of California San Diego before joining Northwestern in 2013. As a junior faculty member at Northwestern, she completed a masters in clinical investigation at Northwestern and began work in the areas of inpatient asthma and infant anaphylaxis. She has published on the low-severity of infant anaphylaxis, early peanut feeding introduction guidelines, and the importance of early diagnosis of eczema in relation to food allergy prevention. She hopes to study these further with support from an NIH Career Development Award. At CFAAR she is involved in evaluating food allergy prevention approaches, the prevalence of eczema and other associations in children with food allergy, and developing supportive tools to help families and medical providers prevent and manage food allergies (SEED, iREACH and FAMILY studies).
Fun Fact: During medical school, Waheeda learned American Sign Language and participated as a summer student at Gallaudet University in Washington DC.
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Samantha Sansweet, MPH
Research Study Coordinator
Samantha has joined the CFAAR team after interning during the summer of 2021. She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Psychology, Community Health, and a Master’s in Public Health. She was drawn to CFAAR due to her own life-threatening food allergy and her passion for food allergy education, advocacy, and research. Her other public health interests involve food insecurity, mental health, children’s health, and environmental health. She will be contributing to CFAAR’s food insecurity work, iREACH study, and more!
Fun Fact: She loves gymnastics and used to be a competitive gymnast, her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz, and she loves doing puzzles!
Hometown: Deerfield, IL
Senior Administrative Assistant
Carly joined the CFAAR team in January 2021 as an Administrative Assistant. She graduated from Hope College with a B.A. in Communication and English with a Creative Writing Emphasis. At CFAAR, Carly assists with daily office administration and communications.
Fun Fact: Carly loves reading, doing crossword puzzles, and spending time along Chicago's lakeshore.
Hometown: Geneva, IL
Shruti Sehgal, MD(Hom), MS
Senior Research Data Analyst
Shruti Sehgal joins the CFAAR team as a Senior Research Data Analyst. Her current focus is on the FAREDATA study with the long-term goal of building a comprehensive “Food Allergy Data Commons”. She is also assisting the team with writing research publications. Previously, she worked at the Central Research Institute(H) as a Senior Research Fellow for the ministry of AYUSH’s ‘Homoeopathy for Healthy Child’ program. She also served as a practitioner for their Pediatric OPD that aimed at early diagnosis and management of common diseases of children and adolescents. As a Business Project Manager for a chain of clinics, she spearheaded the execution of clinical training workshops on a complementary system of medicine, with a focus on chronic diseases and lifestyle disorders for improving patient outcomes. She also developed tools, as ROH Mobile App and delivered ROH e-books for users on Amazon Kindle. Ms. Sehgal completed her education in Homoeopathic medicine from the University of Delhi, India. With an analytical mind and passion to add value to the healthcare delivery system through technology, she graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics. She strives to apply informatics principles to healthcare research for promoting patient-centered care.
Fun Fact: Shruti is a Kathak dance scholarship holder and has performed at numerous stage presentations and classical dance festivals in solo capacity.
Hometown: Delhi, India
Research Study Assistant
Paranshu Shah joined CFAAR as a Resesarch Study Assistant in September 2023. He recently graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in May 2023 with a degree in Pre-Medicine and feels fortunate to be a part of the Pre-Medical Medical (PMM) program with Penn State and the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University. During his time at Penn State he was first exposed to scientific literature and was shown the immense impact of scientific research through Dr. Anderson's Plant Biology Lab, and is extremely excited to learn more about clinical research and its relation to healthcare with the CANDO study and CFAAR as a whole!
Fun Fact: Paranshu once stood 46 hours without sleeping or sitting for Penn State's THON Dance Marathon, on behalf of Club Water Polo, to help raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer!
Hometown: South Elgin, IL
Fritzie Shinohara, MA, PharmD
Senior Project Coordinator
Fritzie joined the team as an adviser to CFAAR’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) in Spring 2022 and additionally supports Dr. Lucy Bilaver’s research team. She currently supports the Childhood Activities Nutrition and Development Oversight (CAN DO) Study and serves as a Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) liaison for all things related to the CAN DO Study. Prior to joining CFAAR, Fritzie served in varying leadership roles as an active duty Air Force spouse for over 20 years, which allowed her to gain community building experiences and unique perspectives of the strategic vision that ensures unit and family readiness, resiliency, and cohesion. Inspired by her children with multiple food allergies, she has worked in bringing food allergy awareness in the military community and building a network of support for families in various volunteer capacities.
Fritzie is a Doctor of Pharmacy with a background in Analytical Chemistry. She completed her undergraduate education at Concordia University Irvine with a degree in Biological Sciences and a minor in Chemistry. She also completed a master’s degree in Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, a graduate certificate in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases at Georgetown University, and later proceeded in professional and graduate studies in Pharmacy at Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Fun Fact: Fritzie used to sing as a cantor for church. While she continues to share her island culture through hula, the passion for music is rekindled by her children who love to sing and play ukulele and piano.
Hometown: Mangilao, Guam (the westernmost territory of the US)
Neeha Shrestha, MPH
Research Project Manager
Neeha Shrestha, MPH joined CFAAR as a Research Project Manager in Summer 2022. Neeha brings over 10 years of project management and IRB support experience to her role. Prior to joining CFAAR, she managed research projects that focused on health literacy, health communication and medication safety at the Center for Communications and Health at Northwestern. Neeha graduated from Knox College with a BA in Environmental Studies and received her MPH degree from DePaul University.
Fun Fact: Neeha attended an international boarding school in India for high school where she made friends from all over the world.
Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Adrianna (Annie) Siebenaler joined CFAAR in September 2022 as a marketing and communications coordinator. Before coming to CFAAR Annie led operations and marketing efforts for the North American Neuromodulation Society and helped organize their annual conference. She holds a B.S. in integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Mississippi. Annie lives in Chicago and enjoys running on the lakefront, reading, and spending time with her friends and family especially her nieces and nephews!
Fun Fact: Annie loves to dance and takes ballet and bachata classes!
Research Study Assistant
Isabelle joined the CFAAR team in March 2023 as a Research Study Assistant. She graduated from Gettysburg College with a B.S. in Biology and was a CFAAR Scholar in Summer 2021. Her research interest in food allergies has grown from her own personal experience living with allergies. She is also passionate about equitable access to healthcare and environmental health. In her free time, Isabelle loves to explore the outdoors through hiking, biking, and swimming.
Fun Fact: Isabelle spent two college semesters abroad: one on a tall ship (sailing/research vessel) and one in Amman, Jordan.
Hometown: Pocasset, MA
Neil Thivalapill, MS
Neil Thivalapill is a Data Analyst at CFAAR. His research primarily focuses on leveraging real-world evidence and causal inference approaches in order to guide clinical strategy. At CFAAR, Neil works on analyzing disparities in food allergy reactions and treatments across the life-course among children enrolled in the FORWARD Study. Prior to his work at CFAAR, Neil worked as a consultant in the Health, Nutrition, and Population Practice at the World Bank Group. His graduate research focused on developing approaches to estimating the external validity of randomized controlled trials. He holds a B.A. in Biology and Human Rights from Columbia University, an M.S. in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, and is currently a medical student at Northwestern.
Fun Fact: Neil is working on the second phase of his meal-prepping journey: eating the meals he prepares.
Hometown: Queens, New York City, NY
Valerie joined CFAAR in March 2023 as a REDCap Specialist. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Bradley University and a certificate in UX / UI Design from Northwestern University. Valerie is passionate about creating functional designs that put people first. She loves traveling, art, and music festivals, but she especially loves French Bulldogs.
Fun Fact: Valerie rescued a French Bulldog from Puerto Rico in August 2022. She is now a proud dog mom of two adorable French Bulldogs named Mason and Mailo (pronounced Milo). Valerie and her fiancé recently moved from the city to a new home in the Northwest suburbs and are enjoying having a yard for their dogs.
Hometown: Chicago, IL and Cidra, Puerto Rico
Sarah Valaika, MS
Early Childhood Educator
I learn. I do. I teach. I care. Sarah Valaika, MS is an Early Childhood Educator who joined the CFAAR Team in 2018. She currently serves as the Program Coordinator of early childhood food allergy education initiatives (videos, tip sheets, online training) and is passionate about developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood. She has over 25 years of experience working with young children, their families, and providers in early childhood programing as well as teaching in higher education and professional development settings. Sarah earned a MS in Child Development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago and has over 15 years of daily experience preventing and managing life threatening food allergies for one of her four children.
Fun Fact: In 2008 Sarah co-founded the annual “Try it Our Way Triathlon”– it involves sprint triathlon distances, no time recordings, coffee and scones, and ends with a pedicure!
Eileen Vincent, MS, RDN
Assistant Director of Clinical Nutrition Research
Eileen Vincent is a registered dietitian who has been involved in nutrition research for over two decades. She launched her career in research by working as a NASA research assistant in Clear Lake, TX while also completing her joint dietetic internship/Master’s degree in clinical nutrition at Texas Women’s University in Houston. At Northwestern, Eileen has served as a research interventionist, coordinating randomized clinical trials spanning from early life (pregnancy) through older adulthood. She is passionate about early intervention approaches to reducing pediatric obesity, food allergies and other common nutrition issues influencing children in the US. Eileen is applying her nutrition expertise to the SEED and FORWARD research projects. She also recently earned a certificate in Pediatric Food Allergy Nutrition sponsored by Food Allergy Research and Education.
Fun Fact: Eileen is an avid road cyclist who has had the pleasure of pedaling through 20 states in the US including her favorites: Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin, New York and New Hampshire.
Hometown: LaGrange, IL
Christopher Warren, PhD
Faculty Researcher, Public Health Data Repository Core: Director of Population Health Research
Chris has worked with CFAAR since 2011, when our merry band of allergy/asthma researchers was simply known as “Team Ruchi”. Over the past 10 years he has filled a variety of roles on the team including research project coordinator, biostatistician, consultant and music video producer. During this time he and Dr. Gupta's growing team have co-authored dozens of peer-reviewed manuscripts and presented their research at dozens of meetings around the world. As of May 2021 he is officially an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern Medicine and serves as CFAAR’s Director of Population Health Research. His research focuses on better understanding and ameliorating the public health burden of food allergy and other atopic diseases, both in the US and abroad.
Fun Fact: Chris worked for 2 years at a non-profit school for Mayan youth in the Western Highlands of Guatemala (El Colegio Miguel Angel Asturias).
Hometown: Belvidere, IL
Mark Wlodarski, MS
Research Data Analyst Senior
Mark is a Senior Data Analyst for the CFAAR team. His background is primarily in Computer Programming and Software Engineering. He received his Bachelor's Degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and a Masters Degree in Software Engineering from Depaul University in 2018. Previously he has worked for the financial industry in database management and in interpreting information flow for high-frequency trading. He is eager to take those skills and translate them into working with electronic health records and patient data. He started with Northwestern in 2020 working primarily on the Food Allergy Data Commons project and is working to design the Data Commons Database as well as working to translate the Food Allergy Data Dictionary into the OMOP Common Data Model. In addition, he is also assisting the CFAAR team in designing a database for the FORWARD study.
Fun Fact: Mark is an avid practitioner of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) and a member of the Chicago Swordplay Guild.
Hometown: Chicago, IL (Go White Sox!)
Sharon Wong, MEd
Research Associate, Communications
Sharon Wong joined CFAAR in 2022 to support the team remotely from San Mateo, CA. In her role, she focuses on the work of the communications team to help bridge the gap between research and decision makers, patients, the community, and food allergy and asthma advocates. Sharon is the founder of www.nutfreewok.com, the author of Chinese Instant Pot Cookbook, and is an active food allergy and asthma advocate, which includes impacting policy, legislation, and the food industry. She is passionate about advocacy, food allergy research, and cooking. Sharon earned her Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley and her Masters Education and teaching credential at UCLA.
Fun Fact: Sharon’s first TV interview was about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades.
Hometown: San Francisco, CA