Mentors

Community Mentors

Amy Howie Haile

Associate Director: Champions for Children

Champions for Children (CFC) has a 35 year commitment and mission to prevent child abuse and neglect in the Tampa Bay community. We understand that babies are not equipped with instruction manuals making the child development and parent education services valuable to any parent; however, the greatest impact will occur with families experiencing stress. Our services are constructed on the foundation that the first three years of a child’s life is the greatest opportunity to take advantage of the rapid brain development that shapes a child’s future. Our key strategy is to provide experiential education opportunities so that parents can be actively involved with their children. CfC embraces the Touchpoints ™ Model of Development and use this a the guiding framework for this service strategy. Touchpoints is an evidence-based theory of child development, based upon more than 60 years of ground-breaking research by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and his colleagues at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

It is a practical method for strengthening parent-child relationships, beginning even before a child is born and continuing through the early childhood years. CfC recently completed requirements to be awarded the designation as the Brazelton Touchpoints Site of Tampa Bay. This designation certifies that we are committed to the Touchpoints approach and qualified to train others. Touchpoints are predictable periods of a child’s developmental regression and disorganization that occurs before a burst in a child’s development (learning). These periods of regressions are apt to frustrate the parent and place the child at risk for maltreatment. It is our intention that all Champions employed at our agency embed the Touchpoints philosophy within their service model.

As the Agency’s Associate Director I lead the agency’s programs and services to deliver a continuum of family education and strengthening supports throughout Hillsborough County. This represents more than $5million a year in services with 80+ practitioners. In this role I am responsible for program development, performance quality improvement and compliance to funder and regulatory requirements. This often requires intra and inter-agency stakeholder meetings. Lastly as a member of the agency’s Executive Team, I act on behalf of the Executive Director in his absence.

This is a participant observation experience with three overlapping foci of Governance Structures (internal and external), Program Leadership and Early Childhood services that compliment and extend the maternal child health system.

Strive to be authentic in your relationships and work and to approach your work by learning an emic perspective.


Leisa J. Stanley, PhD, MS

Associate Executive Director: Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County, Inc.

The Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women, children and families. Last year, the Coalition served 11,690 pregnant women, 14,187 infants, and provided 78,353 services to families. The Coalition is a private, non-profit maternal and child health organization dedicated to reducing Hillsborough County’s infant mortality rate and improving the health of pregnant women.

Dr. Stanley has over 20 years of experience in development and management of community-based needs assessments and planning; program development, continuous quality improvement and evaluation; research, surveillance and analysis of MCH data. Her current responsibilities include directing and developing a five-year needs assessment, community plan and fund allocation plan over the Healthy Start system of care funded through federal, state and local dollars. She is responsible for $5.5 million in contracts related to this system of care and developing CQI activities with funded providers. She is the Project Director for the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Project of Hillsborough County, Florida and received her training in FIMR through both the Florida Department of Health and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Stanley has been trained in the Perinatal Periods of Risk approach in investigating fetal and infant mortality by the Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention and CityMatCH and served on the Florida Perinatal Periods of Risk Practice Collaborative.

She writes grants for the Coalition and has recently co-authored the Center’s for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Strong Start for Mother and Newborns’ grant received by the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions and was the primary author for the Florida Maternal Infant Early Childhood Grant to implement Nurse Family Partnership in Hillsborough County. She Co-Chairs the Florida Healthy Start Evaluation Work Group, serves on the leadership committees for the Strong Start grant and MIECHV grant, serves as staff director for the FIMR Committee and Home Visitation Advisory Board and serves on the USF College of Public Health’s DrPH Advisory Committee. She has an Affiliate Faculty Appointment in the College’s Department of Community and Family Health.

Dr. Stanley and her mentee will be attending the Hillsborough County Fetal Infant Mortality Review Committee and Home Visitation Advisory Board meeting to observe community process, as well as the use of data in local decision making, and leadership styles and roles. Both will also be able to attend meetings on the implementation of Nurse Family Partnership in Hillsborough County and the development of a Centralized In-Take and Referral System.

Dr. Stanley advises future MCH leaders to: be grounded in the collection, analysis and use of data to inform decision making and evaluation of MCH programs. Be a resource for your community in the use of data, evidence-based practice and how to process decisions at the community level. Be willing to volunteer and get involved!


Faculty Mentors

Alicia Best

Alicia L. Best, PhD, MPH

Department of Community and Family Health

Dr. Best’s areas of research are cancer-related health disparities, primarily among African American women; the role of cultural and linguistic competence in reducing health and health care disparities; and health communication and health literacy as strategies for translating research into practice.

Her desire to pursue a career in health disparities research began when she was an undergraduate student working in a hospital’s Cancer Care Center. It was during this time when she observed firsthand the link between socioeconomic status, race, and health outcomes; namely how cancer disproportionately affects low-income populations and people of color. She decided to pursue graduate-level training in public health to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to address these issues. Her graduate and postdoctoral training – which combined behavioral science, health communications, and cancer disparities – prepared her to conduct applied health promotion research to better understand and address the many factors impacting the health of underserved communities.

She is currently PI on two pilot research projects, and co-investigator on several others. Specifically, leading a study funded by the American Cancer Society that focuses on the psychosocial impact and role of religion in patients with HPV-associated cancer. She also leads a study funded by the USF Women’s Health Collaborative which is exploring racial/ethnic differences in supportive care needs of women diagnosed with cervical cancer. Lastly, she collaborates on two CDC-funded projects aimed at increasing colorectal cancer screening rates among populations served by federally qualified health centers and works with the Southeastern Health Equity Council to inform policy related to cultural and linguistic competency training among providers serving vulnerable populations.

Her advice for graduate students on becoming a leader in public health is to follow your passion because it shows through in the quality of your work. When you do work in an area in which you are passionate: 1) it usually doesn’t feel like work; 2) you don’t mind continuing your education and training in that field as it evolves; and 3) you are willing to go the extra mile. Those 3 things help propel you to leadership in your chosen field.

Abraham Salinas-Miranda

Abraham A. Salinas-Miranda, MD, MPH, PhD

Department of Community and Family Health

Dr. Salinas’ research areas in Maternal and Child Health are adverse childhood experiences and juvenile violence.  He comes from an international background (Pediatrics, internationally trained) and was curious about interventions that could help very premature babies develop optimally despite their troubled medical histories. Thus, during his first semester of his MPH (2005), he volunteered at the Child Development Clinic at USF. There, he met families and young children with developmental delays and quickly realized that his career path was going to be in MCH. His MCH training provided the skills needed to plan and evaluate programs for families and children. After receiving his MPH, he continued with the PhD and then his current position at the Harrell Center.

Dr. Salinas is currently working on providing enhanced leadership training opportunities for MCH scholars and students as part of the Center of Excellence in MCH. He provides mentorship to one of our scholars to help her hone her leadership and public health skills. He conducts secondary data analyses of juvenile violence data (Safe & Sound Hillsborough Youth Outreach Survey) and mentor a doctoral student. He is co-teaching Child Health & Development this semester. Another project is a focus group study to understand family-centered care perspectives of families with genetic conditions. He participates in technical assistance projects to Title V agencies, and collaborates with the Florida network of MCH training programs.  He also is currently developing research manuscript for presentation in scientific conferences and peer-review publications (topics: father involvement, social cohesion and perceived safety, social cohesion and weapon-carrying behaviors). Other duties include supporting the activities of the Post-doctoral enhancement component of our grant and the MCH Epidemiology Doctoral traineeship program.

His advice for graduate students on becoming a leader in public health is be proactive and be prepared to seek the opportunities around you. Do not only seek ways to acquire knowledge or job skills, but also seek opportunities for personal growth (social, mental, physical). It’s important that you get to know your own personal strengths and how to use those to excel in your school and work settings. Your well-being should drive the selection of career paths, not the other way around. People are happy when they are able to use their own personal strengths to help others, are connected to a supportive network, and are able to find meaning in what they do. Thus, choose a career path where you can use your own personal strengths naturally – you will be happy and successful.

Department of Community and Family Health

Dr. Sayi’s research areas in Maternal and Child Health are family planning, fertility, and sexual and reproductive health. She is currently working with the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative (FPQC) on a quality improvement initiative to increase use of postpartum long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) in participating hospitals in Florida. She is working with a few students to synthesize toolkits and materials from other states which have implemented immediate postpartum LARC initiatives to inform the development of a toolkit.

She also has worked on various projects as part of the USF Evaluation Team for the Florida Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. She is currently leading analysis of data for the Coordinated Intake and Referral (CI&R) initiative for Florida’s universal prenatal and infant risk screens. Some goals of the CI&R system are to help streamline the process of referrals, and to use resources in ways that best serve families. This project uses a learning collaborative approach where participating Healthy Start Coalitions share information on implementing CI&R system changes and learn from each other. The USF Evaluation Team is evaluating these system changes.

Her advice for graduate students on becoming a leader in public health is there are not any hard and fast rules about becoming a leader in Public Health, since different pathways can lead you there. Leadership is about understanding your circumstances, the people you work with, and the populations you serve, and adopting your style based on such variables.

Dr. Schafer’s research areas in Maternal and Child Health are infant feeding, social support and network systems. She has always been interested in children’s health and wellness.  She was trained as a school health educator and was certified to teach (K-12).  However, as a PhD student, she was working on a project interviewing new moms about their infant feeding behaviors in Memphis, TN.  This was a very quantitative study using a survey.  However, as she asked mothers the questions, it quickly became apparent that there was a story to accompany each response on their surveys.  It was these stories that led to her interest in learning more about infant feeding experiences and behaviors.  Currently, she is an MCH postdoctoral fellow.

She is currently working on a secondary data project exploring the factors associated with the early introduction of solid foods and adding cereal to the baby’s bottle. She is also working on the role of stigma, donor screening, and social support on the emotional response of mothers who seek/receive human milk from informal, non-commercial milk sharing networks. She works with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition on perceptions of childcare administrators, staff, and clients regarding the implementation of the Breastfeeding Friendly Childcare Initiative.

Her advice for graduate students on becoming a leader in public health is before you can effectively lead others, you need to understand yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, likes, dislikes, and skills. Knowing and recognizing your own strengths and limitations will help you recognize these qualities in others and you can guide and help them grow along with you.

Roneé E. Wilson, PhD, MPH, CPH

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Dr. Wilson research areas in Maternal and Child Health are infant and childhood outcomes, health disparities/inequities, community-engaged research, and quality improvement. She has always been interested in the inequitable distribution of adverse health outcomes among certain populations. These disparities are most persistent in Maternal and Child Health and this phenomenon is what initially enticed her into this field.

She is the local evaluator for the Central Hillsborough Healthy Start program, a co-investigator on the MCH Training Grant and the MCH Pipeline program, the chair of the Data/Surveillance Committee in the Chiles Center, as well as a co-investigator on a Women’s Health Collaborative project to study the association between prediabetes and preeclampsia.

Her advice for graduate students on becoming a leader in public health is first to be mindful that a leader is not always the “head” of the company or organization. The neck determines the direction the “head” will turn. Second, pursue your passion always. Loving what you do makes it so much easier to get up each morning.

Past Mentors

Community Mentors


Faculty Mentors

Community Mentors

  • Alexandra Boyer
    Project Director: A Better Childbirth (abcPROGRAM)
    Baby Bungalow

  • Pat Grosz, RN, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    Infants & Young Children of WCF, Inc (IYC)

  • Lucille Harrington, RN, IBCLC, RLC
    Nurse and Lactation Coordinator
    Sarah Walker Women's Center at Morton Plant Hospital

  • Walter Niles
    Manager, Office of Health Equity
    Hillsborough County Health Department

  • Vanessa Rowland Mishkit
    Clinical Director for Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Project
    REACH UP

  • John Roth
    Program Director, Fathers Resource and Networking Center (FRANC)
    Child Abuse Council


Faculty Mentors

  • Charles Mahan, PhD
    Department of Community and Family Health

  • Carla VandeWeerd, PhD
    Department of Community and Family Health

  • Deanna Wathington, MD, MPH
    Department of Community and Family Health

Community Mentors


Faculty Mentors

  • Alfred Mbah, PhD
    Department of Community and Family Health
    Epidemiology and Biostatistics

  • Delores "Dee" Jeffers, RN, MPH
    Department of Community and Family Health

  • Eric R. Buhi, MPH, PhD
    Department of Community and Family Health