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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

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, traveling and movie watching.

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. In this role, she will connect participants to cancer screening services. refer to other Heathcare needs (e.g., establish primary care physician. provide support in health insurance benefits. refer to other social service needs (e.g, transportation, financial and legal assistance, support group.) 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. Assisted in communication of care plans for patients with definitive or suspicious cancer findings.

Araceli Estrada

Araceli (she/hers) is a Research Project Manager in the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET)She supports the following projects, the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative as an Outreach Core Manager, Health for All — Real Talk: Clinical Trials, and Project Safe Space Chicago. Araceli received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Chicago native, enjoys walks in nature, and volunteers locally as a Spanish interpreter at CommunityHealth.

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 programsIn 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 communitiesDenisha obtained her Master of Public Health from DePaul University and BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignAs a Chicago native, she enjoys maximizing patio season, playing with her pup, tending to her garden and crafting her woes away.


Joanna Mendoza

Joanna (she/her) is the Research Project Coordinator for the NIH-funded, Northwestern University Recruitment to Transform Under-Representation and achieve Equity (NURTURE) grant. Holding a B.A. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Texas A&M University and an M.A. in Social Sciences from The University of Chicago, she has a diverse research background spanning child developmental psychology, attention and behavior, moral development, workforce diversity, and substance abuse. She is excited to support Northwestern's drive to enhance faculty diversity. Joanna is a born-and-raised Texan and looks forward to embracing the vibrant city of Chicago.

Erin Chen

Erin is one of the Research Project Coordinators 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

With over a decade of working in community-based research, Ivy Leung is experienced in cancer health disparities and health equity. She has a proven track record of conducting research that has led to improved 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). 
Ivy is passionate about sustainable living and supporting the local food system. She volunteers at local food pantries, cancer organizations, and an adaptive climbing group. She is also a certified Domestic Violence Professional and a certified Mental Health First Aider. Ivy is always happy to provide support and resources for cancer, mental health, IPV, and local farms.

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 Senior Clinical Research Associate who oversees the day-to-day scientific 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 (Maggie) Nava

Magdalena Nava is a Clinical Research Associate in the Simon Lab. She oversees various activities related to community engagement and underserved and underrepresented communities facing health disparities within the Center for Health Equity Transformation She currently serves as the Project Manager for NURTURE.   Ms. Nava has over 25 years of experience in the public health sector working within various communities in Chicago such as Pilsen, Little Village, Humboldt Park and Lakeview. Her work has been in the spheres of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, AIDS/HIV, domestic violence and cancer. She also has experience across several research studies, as she served as both a research coordinator and research assistant at Rush University Medical Center, as part of an NIH-funded study on community health workers where she assisted with the supervision of community health workers. Ms. Nava has research interests in health research coordination and training of community health; community engagement; health education; and the development of bilingual health program materials for Latinos. She obtained her Master’s in Public Health from DePaul University When she is not working on making a tiny difference in the health of individuals living in underserved and underrepresented communities, she is spending time with her lovely daughter Bellie, Snowie (the dog) and Maya (the cat).

Megan Morrell

Megan Morrell (she/they) is a Research Assistant at CHET, working on the Metals and Libraries Projects. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Denver and is currently working towards an M.A. in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. They have a passion for community organizing and mutual aid, and its ability to support health and wellbeing for all. In her free time, she loves yoga, fiber arts, and listening to podcasts.

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 teamMo 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 years old.

Rabih Dahdouh

Rabih Dahdouh joined the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as a Clinical Research Associate in 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.

Chisom Chima (She/Her)

Chisom Chima (she/her) is a Program Assistant at the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET). She received her Bachelor of Science in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience at Loyola University Chicago, with the trajectory of medical school and becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist. In her role as a Program Assistant, Chisom coordinates administrative processes and prioritizes, directs, and responds to matters involving administrative functions. She hopes to gather experiences and connections that will aid her in her journey to the medical field where she hopes to bridge the gap in female health disparities especially in the Nigerian community. In her free time, Chisom immerses herself in her small business where she cooks and caters homemade Nigerian dishes.

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. Sharon received her BA in Social and Historical Inquiry from the New School in New York and is currently completing her Global Master of Public Health at Imperial College London.


Tracy Kwan

Tracy Kwan (she/hers) comes to the Center for Health Equity Transformation with a background in community organizing and public service in the underserved immigrant communities in Chicago. In her role as a Patient Navigator for the Chinatown Patient Navigation Program, she assists participants with accessing healthcare resources according to their needs, including but not limited to resolving their health insurance issues and providing in-person medical interpretation services. Tracy volunteered as an Interpreter after moving from Hong Kong to the U.S. in 2019, and her work as a Patient Navigator allows her to continue giving back to the community that raised her family. Tracy has a bachelor’s degree with honors in English for Business and Professional Communication from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In her free time, you can find Tracy traveling, hiking, and doing yoga. 

Sanjitha Boobalan

Sanjitha Boobalan (She/Her) joins the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as a Health Equity Scholar. She is a Junior at Loyola University Chicago working towards a B.S. in Molecular/Cellular Neuroscience. By contributing to the OPTIMIZE and Well Mama study, she is able to apply her passion for health equity into her work and learn more about maternal health disparities. She is working towards her long-time goal of becoming a physician and increasing health equity. In her free time, you can find Sanjitha reading, singing, and taking walks in nature

Vibhu Kolli

Vibhu Kolli joins the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as an NIH T37 Postbaccalaureate Research Trainee in May 2023. She received a B.S. in Communication Studies and Data Science from Northwestern University this past spring. By contributing to the Well Mama and OPTIMIZE study, she is building toward her long-term goal of serving women, birth givers, and marginalized groups as a physician-scholar. In her free time, Vibhu enjoys gardening, dancing, and watching movies.

Gisely Torres

Gisely Torres (she/her) joins the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) as an NIH T37 Postbaccalaureate Research Trainee. She recently received her Bachelor of Arts in Global Health and Latina/o Studies from Northwestern University and is originally from Western Colorado. Through her contributions in the Well Mama Project and the OPTIMIZE study, Gisely is able to combine her passions for maternal health and health equity. Currently, she is applying to medical school, with the ultimate goal of becoming an OB/GYN and in her free time, you can find her in a coffee shop or walking her dog Luca.

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