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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 Clinical 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.

Edgardo Ramirez

Edgardo is a Research Project Coordinator in the Simon Lab working with the ChicagoCHEC and other projects. He holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Iowa and has spent the last 6 years working in the cancer research and health disparities realm. His exposure has ranged from basic science to behavioral, community-based, and population-based research. He previously served as a Research Specialist at the University of Illinois Cancer Center as well as an RA on a randomized trial aimed at reducing tobacco use disparities among smokers who attend FQHCs in Chicago. He also completed a yearlong cancer research training fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. Ultimately, he plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology and has interests in stress, sociocultural processes, and mental health inequities among underrepresented communities experiencing chronic illness.

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.

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.

Samantha Alonis

Samantha Alonis leverages the leadership, project management, networking, and capacity-building skills that she developed through her cross-sector work experience to promote health equity and inclusion as the Strategic Operations Director at Northwestern’s Center for Health Equity Transformation. Additionally, she teaches Ethical Leadership in Public Service with a focus on inclusion and cultural awareness at DePaul University, where she obtained her Master’s in Leadership and Public Policy with distinction. In her free time, Samantha engages in civic leadership to assist in developing and promoting policies that aim to prevent child sexual abuse, such as youth development and equitable access to comprehensive sexual health education.

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.

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