Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Meet the Team


Get to know our team and find a subject matter expert who can help you.


Director, Melissa Simon, MD, MPH

Vice Chair of Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
George H. Gardner, MD, Professor of Clinical Gynecology
Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology-General/Preventive Medicine and Medical Social Sciences
Director of the Center for Health Equity Transformation
Founder and Director of Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC)

View Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine faculty profile

View Dr. Simon's biography

Anastasia Harris

Anastasia (she/her) joins the Simon Lab as a Clinical Research Associate with over 5 years of research experience. Having obtained a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Maternal and Child health she is passionate about health equity and improving perinatal health outcomes for Black birthing people. Prior to joining the team, she worked at NorthShore University HealthSystem on a perinatal mood and depression study as well as the University of Chicago on the Monogenic Diabetes Registry. She is from St. Louis, MO and loves running, travelling and movie watching.

Anna Yang

Anna is a Research Study Assistant and former T37 Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Trainee at CHET. She primarily works on the Chinatown Patient Navigation and Well Mama Maternal Health programs, where she brings an extensive background working across non-profit sectors, interdisciplinary research, and project management roles. Her work has spanned various subfields in health equity, including HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, cancer disparities, mental health, global health, rural health, and immigrant/refugee health. As an aspiring medical professional-researcher-activist, she hopes to integrate her interest in design and systems thinking to one day reimagine health systems towards more equitable futures. She is committed to becoming a catalyst for change in the health equity sphere by combining medical praxis with research and policy work. Originally from NYC, Anna is a FGLI graduate with dual degree in Health Equity (SHC) and Anthropology from Northwestern University.

Ann Yau

Ann Yau joined the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as a patient navigator for the Chinatown project. She previously worked at Mercy Hospital for 7 years and gained experience in a variety of different positions such as Oncology Patient Navigator, Health Insurance Navigator and Research Assistant. Ann supported limited English proficiency speakers when they came to Mercy Hospital, assisted community partners and conducted education sessions to showcase insurance options. In this new role, she will initiate communication with cancer patients to help them, their families, and their caregivers in overcoming any barriers they may be facing in the healthcare system. She will also help facilitate timely and quality access to care through all phases of the cancer journey.

Araceli Estrada

Araceli (she/hers) is a Research Project Coordinator in the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET).  Araceli received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Chicago native and volunteers locally as a Spanish interpreter at CommunityHealth.

Catherine O'Brian

Catherine O’Brian comes to the Simon Lab with a broad background in scientific research and writing in academic biomedicine, the pharmaceutical medical communications industry, and the nonprofit healthcare sector. In her role as Scientific Editor, she works in conjunction with other Simon Lab team members and collaborators to bring Simon Lab research findings to publication in a timely manner. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago and postdoctoral training from Columbia University in New York.

Cayla Iwaniuk

Cayla Iwaniuk (she/her) joins the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as a clinical research project manager for multiple projects. Prior to joining CHET at Northwestern University, she worked as a research specialist at the University of Illinois Chicago supporting projects that investigated occupational lung disease in US coal miners as well as supported program initiatives to connect US coal miners to quality care to receive their federal black lung benefits. Cayla has received her MPH in Social Epidemiology and her BS in Health Sciences.

Denisha R. Brown

Denisha R. Brown (she/hers) comes to CHET with a background in clinical trial and project management specific to the implementation of oncology studies and programs.  In her role as Clinical Research Associate, she supports infrastructure development and research initiatives for various CHET projects. Her passion is to help facilitate equitable access to quality oncologic care and clinical trials for underrepresented communities.  Denisha obtained her Master’s in Public Health from DePaul University and BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  As a Chicago native, she enjoys maximizing patio season, playing with her pup, tending to her garden, and coloring her woes away.


Emilia Ferreira

Emilia is a Research Assistant at the Center for Health Equity and Transformation (CHET) working primarily on the Well Mama and OPTIMIZE Maternal Health projects. Emilia received her BA in Neuroscience and Medicine, Health, and Society from Vanderbilt University. Before joining CHET, Emilia worked as an Undergraduate Researcher at the Psychophysiology Lab at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Here, she conducted research that examined the associations between social cognition and behavior in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Emilia’s future goal is to become a physician, and she is passionate about alleviating health disparities for marginalized communities. Emilia is originally from the Southside of Chicago she enjoys spending her free time exploring the city with friends and family.

Erin Chen

Erin is a Research Assistant working with the Center for Health Equity Transformation. He received his BA in History and Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prior to working with CHET, Erin was working as an undergraduate Pre-Medical Intern at the Northwestern Hospital. There, he assisted in conducting research involving patients and their health-related social needs. Erin is passionate in researching and reducing health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Erin also enjoys mentoring students and promoting diversity within the STEM community. His future goal is to become an epidemiologist to understand and reduce negative disease outcomes amongst communities. In his free time, Erin loves to explore local restaurants and cafes while reading a good book or listening to podcasts.

Ivy Leung

Ivy Leung has over nine years of experience in community-based research in cancer health disparities and health equity at the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). She has presented on health disparities and patient navigation efforts at academic institutions and national conferences. Ivy continues to be committed to improving access to healthcare for underserved communities, particularly for immigrants facing language barriers. She is also a strong advocate for food justice and intimate partner violence (IPV). She is passionate about sustainable living and supporting the local food system. In addition to her efforts in promoting cancer screenings and health prevention, she volunteers at local food pantries, cancer organizations, and an adaptive climbing group. Ivy is a certified Domestic Violence Professional and a certified Mental Health First Aider. She is happy to provide support and resources for cancer, mental health, IPV, and local farms anytime!

Joana Salievska

Joana is a Research Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). She received her BA in Anthropology from Middlebury College. She has worked at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in a preschool classroom and hopes to one day work as a pediatrician or an OB-GYN. Joana is passionate about reproductive justice, specifically contraceptive access and use in historically underrepresented communities. She’s excited to contribute to CHET’s various projects and research and is motivated by CHET’s mission to eliminate the insidious gender and racial biases that exist in biomedical research and health care.

Laura Tom

Laura Tom is a Clinical Research Associate who oversees the day-to-day operations of Dr. Simon’s research lab and team. Prior to joining the Simon Lab at Northwestern, she supported research projects in cancer prevention and control at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Laura received her MS in social and behavioral sciences and BA in sociology from Harvard University.

Lauren Petry

Lauren Petry is a research assistant closely working on P20 and other various projects with the team. She recently graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana with her Bachelor in Science in Public Health. Prior to starting with CHET, she came from a health background around diabetes preventative health and targeting underserved patients here in Chicago with healthcare. She looks forward to continuing working with Dr. Simon’s lab and hopes to make a significant difference in healthcare by continuing the education of health disparities among minorities.

Magdalena Nava

Maggie has an extensive background in community health within the realms of domestic violence, AIDS/HIV, diabetes education, cardiovascular disease and most currently cancer. She obtained her Master’s in Public Health from DePaul University and before joining the Simon Lab she was a Project Coordinator at the Ruth M. Rothstein Core Center. She has dedicated the last 25 years of her career working on making a tiny difference in the health of individuals living in underserved and underrepresented communities.

Megan Morrell

Megan Morrell (she/they) is a Program Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET), working on various projects. She recently earned her BA in political science from the University of Denver (DU). Prior to joining the Simon Team, they worked as a Peer Educator at DU’s Health Promotion Team, and as a Research Assistant at DU’s Corporate Human Rights Abuse Database. She has a passion for community organizing and mutual aid, and its ability to support health and wellbeing. Megan is steeped in critical theory and believes deeply in the power of rigorous research to help create a better world for all.

Mo Yan Leung

Mo Yan joins the team as a patient navigator for the Chinatown project. Prior to this challenging position, she worked in different settings that provided experience dealing with a wide range of populations who were underserved. Working in a group home of unaccompanied immigrant minors, she encountered children from around the world who suffered with atypical medical conditions. The work experience in a Chinatown clinic aroused her interest in patient advocacy, particularly for the under-resourced community. This passion was strengthened by the IBCCP team in Mercy Hospital while she worked as a data control specialist in the team.  Mo Yan graduated from Chinese University of Hong Kong with a Bachelor degree in Geography and obtained her M.S. in Administration of Justice from SIUC. Mo Yan enjoys spending time with her turtle family, Carl the dad, General Tso the mom and their baby turtle Max which is just two months old.

Rabih Dahdouh

Rabih Dahdouh joined the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as a Clinical Research Associate in February 2019. He manages multiple research projects focused on reducing health disparities across the spectrum of disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. He is also the Northwestern University Site Director for Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative – a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer partnership led by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Rabih has an extensive background in brain and behavioral science, innovative health interventions and community/preventive medicine. Previously he’s worked in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine as research project manager for the Keep Your Heart Healthy program and as Director of Communications and Engagement with the All of Us Research Program at Northwestern Medicine with a mission to enroll 1M people to speed up health research breakthroughs to advance precision medicine.  

At CHET he also works with the Chicago Public Library in co-designing a digital health learning tool focused on preventive services (Health for All: Navigating Wellness) and increasing diversity in clinical trials (Health for All: Real Talk Clinical Trials); as well as managing the massive open online course (Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare) directed by Dr. Simon and co-hosting on CHET’s podcast – Skinny Trees: Lift Health for All 

Rabih completed his Bachelors in Child Learning and Development and Masters in Psychological Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Salma Saavedra (She/Her)

Salma Saavedra (she/her) is a Research Assistant at the Center for Health Equity and Transformation (CHET). Salma received her BA in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Molecular Neurobiology and a minor in Public Health from Northwestern University. Before joining CHET, Salma worked as an Undergraduate Premedical Intern at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Here, she conducted research and helped implement strategies on improving patient and physician experience with Medicare Annual Wellness visits. Salma is passionate about diminishing health disparities for Chicago’s marginalized communities. Salma’s future goal is to become a Family Medicine physician primarily serving Chicago’s Spanish-speaking population. Salma is a proud Chicago native that enjoys spending her free time with her family and exploring local restaurants.

Sharon Post

Sharon Post (she/hers) is a Scientific Editor and coordinates the T37 NU-Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training program at the Center for Health Equity Transformation. Previously she served as the Director of the Center for Long-Term Care Reform at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group and the Research Director for the Service Employees International Union-Healthcare Illinois/Indiana/Missouri/Kansas. Sharon received her BA in Social and Historical Inquiry at the New School in New York and is currently completing her Global Master of Public Health at Imperial College London.


Sooin Choi

Sooin Choi (she/hers) is a Health Equity Scholar at the Center for Heath Equity Transformation (CHET), working on the Well Mama Maternal Health and Chinatown Patient Navigation programs. Prior to joining CHET, she volunteered as a hospital labor and delivery doula and later hopes to work as a pediatrician or OB-GYN. Sooin received her BS in Neuroscience with a concentration in Social Class and Inequality from the University of Michigan.

Tabitha Willis

Tabitha is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University where she studied Medical Anthropology and Biology. She began her T37 training in fall 2022 working on the Community Science Heavy Metal Exposure Project and the Health for All Library Partnership Programs. She hopes to continue her career in health disparities, medicine, and research in the future.

Back to top

Follow CHET on