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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

Araceli Estrada

Araceli (she/hers) is a Program Assistant in the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). She provides administrative, program and research support for 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.

Cassandra A. A. Osei

Cassandra Osei (they/them) leverages over six years of interdisciplinary research and professional experience in population health, maternal health, and public policy and administration to promote social and health equity and inclusion as the Clinical Research Project Manager at Northwestern’s Center for Health Equity Transformation. Their experience supports a passion for investing in the success and resiliency of historically underserved and underrepresented populations. Cassandra holds an MPH from Boston University School of Public health in Social Behavioral Sciences and Epidemiology. Currently, they are a Ph.D. student at KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration with a specialization in Public Policy and the Social Determinants of Health, and a secondary focus in population health and health disparities. Their research assesses the role and impact of collaborative governance and innovation on maternal health and mortality.

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.

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 Senior Project Administrator, she supports infrastructure development and research initiatives for the NU-CHERS grant. 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.


Ivy Leung

Prior to moving to Chicago, Ivy was a medical and court interpreter and a community organizer in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and in Ohio. Through her experiences, she became particularly interested in medicine and health disparities. Joining the Simon Lab enabled her to fulfill her desire and passion for helping limited-English proficiency speakers become acclimated to their new lives in the United States. In addition to her efforts in improving access to healthcare and health education, she is also involved with educating and helping domestic violence survivors.

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.

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.

Nihmotallahi A. Adebayo

Nihmotallahi Adebayo recently joined the Simon lab as a Research Assistant following her time in the T37 Research Training Program. She primarily works on the National Library of Medicine projects and holds both a BA in Neuroscience with a minor in Global Health and a MS in Health Communication degree from Northwestern University. She previously worked in CPS as a Science Education Fellow through NU’s Science in Society and has an extensive background in research having worked as a research assistant in fields ranging from Global Health to Health Communication throughout her entire undergraduate career. She is dedicated to mentorship, health & educational equity and increasing BIPOC representation in STEM. Her ultimate career goal is to become a Primary Care Physician with a focus in community and global mental health.

Rabih Dahdouh

Rabih Dahdouh joins the Simon Lab with an extensive background in behavioral health, technology and preventive medicine. Most recently he worked with over 40 clinical partners delivering mental health services with an integrated digital platform to underserved populations across the country. 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 (KYHH) program. He also served as Director of Communications & Engagement with the All of Us Research Program at Northwestern with a mission to enroll 1M people to speed up health research breakthroughs to advance precision medicine. Rabih completed his BS in Child Learning & Development and MS in Psychological Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. He will be working on multiple projects at the Simon Lab under the Center for Health Equity Transformation.

Sankirtana Danner

Sankirtana is an experienced Project Manager and Certified Clinical Research Professional with expertise in community based research. Her passion is working in health equity spaces to address the root causes of health disparities, including a focus on the social determinants of health, racism, socioeconomic situations, and other contextual factors that affect health and wellbeing. She is also particularly interested in maternal health and mental health, including how culture, upbringing, society, and experiences affect these parts of people’s lives. Sankirtana has a Bachelor of Science with Distinction in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy from the University of San Diego. In her “free” time, Sankirtana chases around her two young children and does her best to teach them how to be good people in this big world.

Sharon Post

Sharon Post (she/hers) brings her background in health policy and advocacy to her role as Scientific Editor at the Center for Health Equity Transformation. She has previously served as the Director of the Center for Long-Term Care Reform at Health &Medicine Policy Research Group and the founder of Paterson Healthcare Writing & Research, which specializes in health policy writing on deadline. Sharon received her BA in Social and Historical Inquiry at the New School and is currently completing her Global Master of Public Health at Imperial College London.


Will Dunne

Will is a Research Assistant with the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). Prior to joining the CHET Team, Will worked as an intern at Lurie Children's Hospital and the Erie Family Health Centers in Chicago assisting with clinical research and community health program design and implementation. Will is eager to contribute to the pursuit of health as a human right and is passionate about purposeful, empathetic, and community-based research. Originally from Oak Park, Will received his BA in American Studies from Amherst College.

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