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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

View Dr. Simon's biography

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

Michaela Beamon

Michaela, a proud Milwaukee native, joins CHET as a Project Coordinator with an interest in community-based participatory research to improve racial health disparities. After completing her BS at the University of Minnesota, she gained much of her clinical research experience at the Medical College of Wisconsin before relocating to Chicago to pursue her MPH at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In her free time, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and watching the Packers beat the Bears.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Yesenia Uribe (She/Her)

Yesenia Uribe (she/her) is a Research Study Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). Yesenia graduated from Lake Forest College with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience with a Chemistry minor. She is driven to address the current disparities that exist for marginalized populations and prevent health equity. Yesenia is a Spanish-interpreter for the Interprofessional Community Clinic at Rosalind Franklin University for underserved community members. Her goal is to pursue a career as a scientist-practitioner and aid marginalized populations. In her free time, she enjoys weightlifting, watching vlogs, and binge-watching docuseries. 

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