Skip to main content

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 #680
Chicago, IL 60611

Ruchi Gupta

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

Read Ruchi’s Bio
Tami Bartell

Tami Bartell, MPH

Scientific Writer

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

Read Tami’s Bio
Anna Beadleston

Anna Beadleston

Research Study Assistant

Anna joined the team in the summer of 2021. She graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2019 with a B.A. in Psychology and Math and has worked in a variety of research positions in community and mental health settings. She is passionate about all things data and is excited to be able to join the data analysis team. She spent the last year in New Orleans working on her master's degree in Epidemiology and has now transitioned back to Chicago as a master's candidate at UIC. On the weekends, Anna can be found hanging out with her new pup Archie! 

Fun Fact: Anna plays the cello!

Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Read Anna’s Bio
Lucy Bilaver

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

Read Lucy’s Bio
Maya Bonner

Maya Bonner

Research Study Assistant

Maya joined CFAAR in early 2022 after working primarily in the non-profit sector. She graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in Sociology and Education & Child Study, specializing in educational inequality. Maya works with SEED and as a liaison to Top Box Foods, where she has worked for two years after interning there in 2019.

Fun Fact: Maya read 200 books in 2021! Her reading goal for 2022 is smaller. Much smaller. 

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

Read Maya’s Bio
Kathy Boon

Kathy Boon, MPH

Program Administrator Senior

In her role as a Senior Program Administrator, Mrs. Boon manages the CFAAR team as well as all aspects of the Improving Technology-Assisted Recording of Asthma Control in Children (iTRACC) study, such as coordinating patient recruitment, clinic participation, IRB submissions, and environmental lab testing. In addition, Mrs. Boon managed the Student Media-based Health Research Team (SMHRT) study. Throughout her career, Mrs. Boon has served as a public health advocate, especially for under-served Chicago communities. Mrs. Boon earned a Master of Public Health with a focus in Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fun Fact: Kathy dances salsa and mambo professionally and has traveled internationally to perform with her husband/dance partner :)

Hometown: Humboldt Park, Chicago, IL

Read Kathy’s Bio
Emily Bontorin

Emily Bontorin, MSN, RN, CNL

Project Manager

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

Read Emily’s Bio
Priyanka Dadha

Priyanka Dadha, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar

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

Read Priyanka’s Bio
Susan Dennehy

Susan Dennehy, PhD

Center Administrator

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

Read Susan’s Bio
Joanna Deryniowska

Joanna Deryniowska

Program Coordinator

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

Read Joanna’s Bio
Eirene Fithian

Eirene Fithian

Research Study Assistant

Eirene is a senior at Northwestern University where she is studying 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

Read Eirene’s Bio
Elizabeth  Folger

Elizabeth Folger

Director of Communications + Outreach

Elizabeth joined CFAAR in June 2021 as the Co-Director of Community and School Outreach Core and the Director of Communications + Outreach. In her previous role, Elizabeth led communications and engagement efforts for an applied research center. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Michigan State University, and is currently working towards an M.S. in Information Design at Northwestern University. On a personal note, she lives with asthma and a life threatening allergy, and feels a deep commitment to making research accessible and purposeful for the people who are impacted by their medical diagnoses the most. 
Read Elizabeth ’s Bio
Gail Garcia

Gail Garcia

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

Read Gail’s Bio
Nora Good

Nora Good

Program Assistant

Nora joined CFAAR in February 2022 as a Program Assistant who provides administrative support to faculty and CFAAR generally. She comes to us from the All of Us Research Program in the Feinberg School of Medicine where she had been working since July 2021. Nora is from Evanston, Illinois and earned a BA in Anthropology from Concordia University in Montreal. She loves fashion, big bodies of water, and her dog, Joey!

Fun Fact: Nora can lick her elbow!

Hometown: Evanston, IL

Read Nora’s Bio
Khalid Ibrahim

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 

Read Khalid’s Bio
Jialing Jiang

Jialing Jiang

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

Read Jialing’s Bio
Kristin Kan

Kristin Kan, MD, MPH, MSc

Faculty Researcher

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. 

Read Kristin’s Bio
Madeleine Kanaley

Madeleine Kanaley

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

Read Madeleine’s Bio
Lisa Lombard

Lisa Lombard, PhD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Co-Director of Community/School Outreach

Lisa Lombard, a licensed clinical psychologist, has been providing general psychological services and specialized mind-body treatment to children, families, and adults for over 25 years. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology/human development from the University of Chicago. In her private practice, she provides psychotherapy to children, teens, and families with a particular emphasis on anxiety, stress-mediated health concerns, and pain management. She also consults to a preschool/elementary school and supervises psychology graduate students. She is excited to integrate her expertise in pediatric psychology with her specialized training in mind-body practices as she develops interventions that support children and families coping with food allergies. As a member of CFAAR, she collaborates on manuscript writing and the development of psycho-educational materials to meet the psycho-social needs of children and families with food allergies.

Fun Fact: Lisa loves to walk along the beach in Delaware and look for dolphins!

Hometown: Tonawanda, NY

Read Lisa’s Bio
Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long, NREMT

Research Study Assistant

Jennifer joined the CFAAR team as a full-time Research Study Assistant in June of 2021. She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in May 2020 with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in child development and family studies. Jennifer is currently working on the FORWARD food allergy project and CANDO/SEED project. She is excited to be a part of such a collaborative team and engaging with different communities throughout Chicago.   

Fun Fact: Jennifer is internationally scuba certified and a nationally registered EMT. 

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Read Jennifer’s Bio
Caroline  Moassessi

Caroline Moassessi

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

Read Caroline ’s Bio
Pamela Newmark

Pamela Newmark

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

Read Pamela’s Bio
Sai Nimmagadda

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.

Read Sai’s Bio
Angela Oest

Angela Oest, PA-C, MPH

Physician Assistant

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

Read Angela’s Bio
Kailin Potter

Kailin Potter, MS

Program Coordinator

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 

Read Kailin’s Bio
Waheeda Samady

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

Read Waheeda’s Bio
Samantha Sansweet

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

Read Samantha’s Bio
Carly Schweppe

Carly Schweppe

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, communications, and event planning. 

Fun Fact: Carly loves reading, doing crossword puzzles, and spending time along Chicago's lakeshore.

Hometown: Geneva, IL

Read Carly’s Bio
Shruti Sehgal

Shruti Sehgal

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

Read Shruti’s Bio
Stephanie Shigo

Stephanie Shigo, MS.ed RDN LDN

Research Study Coordinator Senior

Stephanie Shigo is a registered dietitian who joined the CFAAR team April 2021 as a Senior Research Study Coordinator. She completed a B.S. in Nutrition Sciences at Boston University and the Dietetic Internship at Loyola University in Chicago. Most recently, in 2019 she completed a master's degree in Nutrition at the University of Miami. In the last two years, Stephanie has focused on helping patients with weight management and navigating through their food allergies and intolerances when needed. Stephanie is fluent in Spanish and has been able to provide nutrition education to the Latinx community in Chicago. She is excited to contribute her expertise in The Start Eating Early Diet (SEED) study and other projects.
Fun Fact: Stephanie is always trying to adopt sustainable practices by using eco-friendly products, reading labels, and reducing waste. 
Hometown: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Read Stephanie’s Bio
Neil  Thivalapill

Neil Thivalapill, MS

Data Analyst

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

Read Neil ’s Bio
Sarah Valaika

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!  

Read Sarah’s Bio
Eileen Vincent, MS, RDN

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 projectsShe 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

Read Eileen’s Bio
Christopher Warren

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

Read Christopher’s Bio
Mark Wlodarski

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!)


Read Mark’s Bio
Justin Zaslavsky

Justin Zaslavsky

FARE Liaison

Justin was born just north of Chicago and lives in New York City. He has had food allergies since childhood, specifically to tree nuts, sesame, and chickpeas (and has grown out of pineapple and peanut allergies). He attended Tufts University where he studied Community Health and Philosophy and conducted research on food allergies. Justin started working for CFAAR in 2016, which he continued to do throughout his time in Boston. After graduation, he participated in the New York City Urban Fellows Program. After the Fellowship, Justin was hired by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to serve as the Chief of Staff to Dr. Ruchi Gupta, FARE’s Chief Medical Officer for Public Health. Justin supports CFAAR’s many FARE partnerships.

Read Justin’s Bio

Follow CFAAR on