Meet the Team
The Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research welcomes your questions and comments. Please contact us at:
750 N. Lake Shore Dr. Suite #600D
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 17 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 150 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
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!
Research Study Coordinator
John Choi joined CFAAR as a Research Study Coordinator supporting FORWARD in August 2022. John first joined the team as a Research Study Assistant in 2020 and loved it so much he decided to come back for more! He graduated from Emory University in 2014 with a business degree. He has lived all over the US, in Atlanta, Charlottesville, Southern California, Phoenix, and Chicago!
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
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
Research Study Assistant
Eirene graduated from Northwestern University where she studied Biology, Science in Human Culture, and Global Health. She developed her interest in research while studying protein aggregation in neurodegenerative disease in a molecular biology lab at Northwestern University. Her research interest extended towards public health as she learned more about health disparities. Her interest in healthcare also grew as a volunteer at Lurie Children's Hospital. She hopes to continue to learn more about how to bring together healthcare, public health, and research to address health inequity and specifically that relating to asthma and allergies throughout her time at CFAAR. Outside of her studies, Eirene loves swimming and cooking.
Fun Fact: Eirene was in a cut scene of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith when she was four years old.
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
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 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.
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
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.
Program Coordinator Senior
Ms. Kanaley joined the CFAAR team in December 2016 has assisted in coordinating the team's asthma clinical trial, ITRACC (Improving Technology- Assisted Recording of Asthma Control in Children), as well as studies about food allergy stakeholder preferences for food allergen labeling, understanding the prevalence of food allergy among Medicaid enrolled patients, and assessing the psychosocial impact of food allergy on families. In addition, Madeleine also leads the team's Community Research and Medicine (CRM) program and works to implement asthma and food allergy-related interventions in Chicago schools. She graduated from Marquette University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Health Studies.
Fun Fact: Madeleine loves to dance in her free time!
Hometown: Glenview, IL
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, Illinois and now River North, Chicago
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 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
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
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
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
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
Fritzie Shinohara, MA, PharmD
Fritzie joined the team as an adviser to CFAAR’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) in the Spring of 2022. In addition to advising CAB, she supports Dr Lucy Bilaver’s research team. Prior to joining CFAAR, she 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. Her 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
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!
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
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