Michael Dulin, MD, PhD is the Director of the Academy for Population Health Innovation. He is a Professor within both the UNC Charlotte College of Health and Human Services and the Carolinas Healthcare System’s Department of Family Medicine. Over his 30 year career, Dulin’s work has spanned the technology industry, biomedical and health services research, transformation of clinical care delivery, and community-based participatory research. His work has focused on improving access to services for vulnerable populations in Mecklenburg County highlighted by one of his publications being selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as the most impactful health disparities initiative in 2015. Dr. Dulin is a nationally recognized leader in the area of health services and outcomes research designed to advance community health. He has received over $15 million in grant funding and served as the PI for large federally funded grants from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Duke Endowment, and NIH.
Chanel Cureton, MPH, CPE, CHES is the Health Educator and Program Manager for APHI. In the past she has worked for Mecklenburg County Public Health in Community Engagement with the Village HeartBEAT Program, where she continues to volunteer her time. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Master of Public Health from Mercer University. She is also a certified program evaluator and certified health education specialist. Her topics of interest include behavioral health, environmental health, and public health policy. She enjoys spending her time reading a good book and spending time with her cat Tiger. .
Advisory Board Members
Cardra E. Burns, MBA, PhD has worked in local public health for 13 years and is currently the Assistant Health Director for Mecklenburg County. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition/Food Science from Georgia Southern University, a Master of Business Administration from Webster University, a Master of Public Administration and a Doctorate in Business Administration with a specialization in Information Systems Management both from Walden University. In addition, she is a certified lactation counselor. Being an active and valued member in the community is extremely important to Dr. Burns. She is involved in various community initiatives which include unintended pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, breastfeeding awareness and support activities, and promoting healthier lifestyles for North Carolina citizens. When Dr. Burns has spare time, she enjoys cooking, spending time with family/friends, and caring for her spirited Chihuahua “Brutis”
Diane Gavarkavich, MPH serves as the director of research services at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Diane manages survey, program evaluation, and needs assessment work as well as serves as the primary grant and proposal writer. Her research interests include data-informed decision-making and the social determinants of health. Prior to graduate school, Diane was an algebra teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Diane holds her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from UNC Chapel Hill, graduate certificates in Middle Grade Mathematics from UNC Charlotte and Nonprofit Management from UNC Chapel Hill, and her bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Human and Organizational Development and Medicine, Health and Society. Diane has five-plus years of experience in program evaluation and applied research focusing on public health and education issues.
Brisa Hernandez serves as Research Program Manager and Community Medicine Instructor in the Department of Family Medicine, Carolinas HealthCare System. She also coordinates the Mecklenburg Area Partnership for Primary Care Research group. Brisa serves on multiple community boards, including Care Ring Nurse Family Partnership and Harris YMCA Community Development. Brisa has participated in the development and implementation of research studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, National Institute of Minority and Health Disparities and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Although the primary focus of the research has been engaging the new immigrant Latino population in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, she also works with many community partners to address issues of health disparities and equity for all residents. Her research interest includes health disparities, utilizing participatory research methods, community development, interdisciplinary collaborations, program evaluation and the impact of urban restructuring on access and utilization of health and social services. Brisa is also a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the UNC-Charlotte.
Autumn Watson, MPH Autumn Watson is a Plans Examiner with the Mecklenburg County Public Health department bringing 10 years of experience developing and leading innovative public health initiatives throughout county programs. Autumn is a graduate of UNC Charlotte where she received a bachelor of science degree in Biology and UNC Chapel Hill where she received her Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in innovative leadership and management. Autumn’s research interests include, adolescent use and access to contraception, community health, and proactive approaches to environmental health. She has extensive research experience in adolescent behaviors towards long-acting reversible contraception, policy, and access as well as utilizing social marketing approaches in environmental health. Autumn resides in Denver, NC with her husband and two daughters.
Ashley Ronay, MPH is a PhD student in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UNC Charlotte. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Public Health from East Carolina University. Her research interests include family and child nutrition, and using lifestyle changes to affect health outcomes. Prior to beginning the PhD program in Fall 2016, she worked in hospital settings, as a research regulatory coordinator for adult drug and device clinical research, and a research assistant for multiple pediatric health research studies in Columbus, Ohio.
Michael E Thompson MS, PhD is an Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences and Director of UNC Charlotte’s CAHME-accredited and nationally ranked MHA Program. He has over 20 years’ experience in actively developing, leading, and seeing accredited public health and health administration programs domestically and internationally. Dr. Thompson earned his PhD in 2002 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, specializing in Health Services Research and Evaluation through the Department of Health Policy and Management. His professional practice focuses on competency-based workforce development and assessment as well as community-driven programmatic interventions. Through his competency-based, global workforce development initiatives, he currently serves as a Visiting Associate Professor of Public Health at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Health and external advisory board member at the American University of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia. Past efforts include supporting public health and health administration program development in Pakistan and Lebanon, among other locations.
Maren Coffman, MSN, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She earned a PhD in Nursing from the University of Connecticut. She has been awarded several internal and external research grants including the American Nurses Foundation Presidential Scholar award. In 2009, she was one of 15 nurse educators from around the country to receive a three-year $350,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar award. This award is given to junior faculty who show outstanding promise as future leaders in academic nursing. Dr. Coffman has been a co-investigator on a 5-year National Institutes of Health funded study to examine social determinants of health in the Latino community in Charlotte. Her research interests include health literacy, chronic disease self-management, and access to health care in Latino immigrants. Dr. Coffman has extensive experience working in the Latino community and is fluent in Spanish. She is passionate about international education and has developed and led numerous study abroad programs to destinations including Mexico, Costa Rica, and Cuba. Dr. Coffman is a Certified Nurse Educator and enjoys teaching courses on health disparities and research methods.
Laura Simmons currently serves as a social research specialist at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Laura manages the Charlotte Regional Indicators Project and the accompanying Indicators Partners Program. In addition, Laura oversees multiple client-based research initiatives for various organizations in the Charlotte community. She also works on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Study and is involved with the Mecklenburg Area Partnership for Primary Care Research (MAPPR). Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Macalester College (St. Paul, Minn.) in 2006 and received a master’s degree in geography from UNC Charlotte in 2009. Her professional interests include demography, immigration, urban social geography and program evaluation.
Connie C. Mele, MSN holds a Master’s Degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing from UNCC and did all of her course work in substance abuse. She is certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing and as an Advanced Practice Certified Addictions Nurse. She is also a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist and is certified as a Nurse Executive. Having worked in Addictions and Mental Health for over 37 years, she has been focused on improving the quality of care for persons with substance use disorders and mental health illnesses. She has held various positions over the years as a staff nurse, nurse manager, Director of Nursing, Faculty Member, Program Director/Administrator, and Department Director. Connie is passionate about assisting nurses who suffer from SU Disorders. In the late 80’s she was part of the NC Nurses Association’s Task Force to form a program to assist nurses from across the State that suffered from addiction. She started the first nurses support group in North Carolina in 1996 and continues to facilitate the weekly group. It remains the only support group for nurses in North Carolina.