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Center of Excellence in MCH

Who We Are

Center of Excellence Leadership

Cheryl Vamos, PhD, MPH

Cheryl Vamos, PhD, MPH

Center Director
Associate Professor
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: MCH Oral Health, Family Planning, Health Literacy, Implementation Science

Abraham Salinas-Miranda, MD, PhD, MPH

Abraham Salinas-Miranda, MD, PhD, MPH

Center Associate Director
Research Assistant Professor
Director, Harrell Center for The Study of Family Violence
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Family Violence, Mixed Methods Research Designs, Structural Equation Modeling

MCH Faculty

Chighaf Bakour, MD, PhD, CPH

Chighaf Bakour, MD, PhD, CPH

Assistant Professor
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Maternal and Child Health, Sleep Epidemiology, Chronic Diseases

Ellen Daley, PhD, MPH

Ellen Daley, PhD, MPH

Professor
Associate Dean for Research, Practice, and Doctoral Training 
Senior Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Women's Health, Adolescent Health, Sexuality Education

Amanda Elmore, PhD, MPH

Amanda Elmore, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor

Research Areas: Maternal and Child Health, Perinatal Substance Use, Birth Defects Research and Surveillance, Translational Research

Russell Kirby, PhD, MS

Russell Kirby, PhD, MS

USF Distinguished Professor and Marrell Endowed Chair
Strategic Area Lead, Population Health Sciences
Senior Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Perinatal Epidemiology, Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Epidemiology and Prevention

Karen Liller, PhD, CPH

Karen Liller, PhD, CPH

Distinguished USF Health Professor
Strategic Area Lead, Policy, Practice, and Leadership
Director, Activist Lab

Research Areas: Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention, Unintentional Injury Prevention, Health Education, Program Planning and Evaluation, Violent Death Surveillance and Prevention

Stephanie Marhefka, PhD

Stephanie Marhefka-Day, PhD

Professor
Senior Assistant Dean for Research, College of Nursing
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Services, Breastfeeding, Adolescent Sexual Health

Jennifer Marshall, PhD, MPH

Jennifer Marshall, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor
Strategic Area Lead, Interdisciplinary Science and Practice
Director of Planning & Evaluation, Sunshine Education and Research Center
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Child Health & Development, Developmental Disabilities, Community Based Research

Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH

Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH

Senior Associate Vice President, USF Health
Dean, College of Public Health
Professor

Research Areas: maternal and child health, educational innovation in public health, systems change and leadership, needs assessment

Dinorah Martinez Tyson, PhD, MPH, MA

Dinorah Martinez Tyson, PhD, MPH, MA

Associate Professor

Research Areas: Health disparities and community engaged research, Latino and immigrant health, Cancer survivorship and chronic disease management

Richard Powis, PhD

Richard Powis, PhD

Assistant Professor
Faculty Affiliation in Women's and Gender Studies

Research Areas: Maternal and Child Health, Father Involvement, Reproductive Justice, Political Economy of Health, Ethnographic Research

Jason Salemi, PhD, MPH

Jason Salemi, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Maternal and Child Health, Birth Defects, Public Health Surveillance and Data Systems

Bill Sappenfield, MD, MPH, CPH

Bill Sappenfield, MD, MPH, CPH

Distinguished USF Professor
Director, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families
Director, Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative

Research Areas: Maternal and Infant Health, Applied Epidemiology Practice, Health Data Linkages

Roneé Wilson, PhD, MPH

Roneé Wilson, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor
Fellow, Chiles Center for Women, Children and Families

Research Areas: Maternal and Child Health, Community Engaged Research, Quality Improvement and Program Evaluation

MCH Postdoctoral Fellows

Vickie Dugat, PhD, MPH

Vickie Dugat, PhD, MPH

Vickie Dugat is a Maternal and Child Health Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health. She earned her Ph.D. in Health Education from the University of Toledo with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health and Diversity. In 2015, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences and her Master’s in Public Health from Morehouse School of Medicine. Her research interests include exclusive breastfeeding, racial and ethnic health disparities, and stressful life events during pregnancy. She has also taught undergraduate public health courses and served as a certified Diversity Ambassador for the School of Population Health at the University of Toledo. As a first-generation Haitian American and college graduate, she aims to aid in reducing breastfeeding disparities in underrepresented populations and advance the overall health of mothers.

Marshara Fross Headshot

Marshara Fross, PhD, MPH, CPH

Marshara Fross is a dedicated perinatal and birth equity researcher with over 10+ years of experience working in the field of maternal and child health. Marshara engages in mixed methodological research broadly centered around mitigating the intersectional oppression of African American/Black Mommas, birthing people, babies, and their families. Her work incorporates both qualitative and quantitative approaches to explore the underlying mechanisms that manifest as adverse health outcomes for minority populations. As a passionate and driven perinatal justice scholar, she is committed to conducting rigorous, innovative research to inform data-driven strategies, and recommendations to transform structural systems of disadvantage and promote racial equity in the birthing environment. Previously, Marshara was employed as an undergraduate instructor who taught within the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health, as well as a Graduate Research Associate for Florida’s Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee and Florida’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative Evaluation, among other projects. In her career, she strives to promote equitable perinatal health outcomes through the provision of respectful maternity care in the birthing environment, systems of obstetric care, and societal infrastructure.

2023-2024 MCH Epidemiology Doctoral Trainee

Justin Swanson Headshot

Justin Swanson, MPH

My short career has moved from sterile areas of research to the more human and social topics of this field, where I have found a lifelong passion in contributing to the wellbeing of children and youths. I majored in Microbiology during my undergraduate studies, and I spent a few years as a laboratory scientist. I came back to University of South Florida to pursue an MPH in Global Communicable Disease, but I soon fell in love with the perspectives, tools, and stories of Epidemiology, and I eventually completed a dual concentration MPH. After graduating, I worked as a researcher in the county-level K-12 public education system. Crossing over into this field led to a daily appreciation of the overlap in interests between public health and public education, yet these fields remain woefully insulated from each other. Now that I am back at USF pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology, my dissertation research is dedicated to describing and improving the circumstances of students with disabilities: answering public health questions with public education data! I have a deep appreciation for the field of Public Health as an intersection between the most interesting and noble pursuits of our times, and I look forward to the time I get to spend with the wonderful faculty, staff, and students of the Center of Excellence in MCH.

2023-2024 MCH Scholars

Dowensly Jean Brice Headshot

Dowensly Jean Brice

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health & Epidemiology

I am in my second year of my MPH concentrating in Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology. My background is in Anthropology, specifically medical Anthropology and people have told me it shows in how I approach topics/research. My interests are somewhat all over the place with women’s health being the string that seems to tie it all together. My primary interests are reproductive justice, reproductive and sexual health, children with special needs, and family violence. I love doing research on topics I am familiar with along with new ones that take me out of my little bubble which has landed me in some interesting projects/jobs. I have been an administrative assistant for an educational program called HIPPY, worked on various projects on topics such as ASD and tobacco cessation (amongst others), worked on a few committees for the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) and am currently a part of the Diversity and Inclusion Student Action Committee (DISAC). I hope to get my PhD after my MPH and hopefully will become a professor or work for the federal government as an MCH epidemiologist/Analyst/Advisor (haven’t decided which one yet). I am excited for this year and can’t wait to see what it brings me.

Kiannyz Morales Rios Headshot

Kiannyz Morales Rios

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health

I have always had an interest in maternal and child health (MCH) growing up, but I never knew what facet. I dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, to an OBGYN, to a family medicine doctor but then once the pandemic hit, I fully dived into the world of public health and its importance for prevention. Afterwards, I took Foundations of Maternal and Child Health and knew exactly what to do, which led me to applying for my MPH with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. Living in a world where many marginalized women are dying from preventable deaths due to health disparities has furthered my passion to eliminate these inequities. Throughout my program I have also grown interested in breastfeeding promotion, fourth trimester, and childbirth education. At the University of South Florida, I have completed an internship at the Healthy Start Coalition under their Safe Baby Plus program, became the Research and Education Chair for the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO), and for my sorority, Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. volunteering at the Spring, a shelter for women who have experienced Domestic and Sexual Violence. In the future I hope to become a Director of a Coalition and initiate programs to further support maternal health. After my program, I hope to move to the Triangle Area of North Carolina and further my knowledge of MCH and hopefully find a job! 

Madison Mutzman Headshot

Madison Mutzman

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health

My dedication and passion for public health, specifically maternal and child health (MCH), began long before my undergraduate degree. Growing up, my life was surrounded by amazing women who, unfortunately, had been stricken with various chronic diseases, specifically Breast Cancer. At a young age, I soon realized there is more than just medicine and tests we can do to help people. While I did not know the field for this was public health, I started participating in advocacy/education projects for various health conditions and finding ways to give back. As I entered my undergraduate career at the University of Miami, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree that would allow me to help people find the “why” behind certain diseases. By studying global public health, I was able to precisely do that. Fast forward to now, where I am embarking on the next steps in my MCH future at University of South Florida, where I am eager to continue to foster my love for public health. My lived experiences within my family and in organizations such as Camp Kesem and Sharsheret, two groups that focus on those affected by various cancers, have helped shape my current interest in MCH of cancer prevention and education. As for my professional goals, I hope to work with national cancer institutes to create prevention and educational programming for our country to continue lowering cancer mortality rates in our communities. I genuinely want to be a part of a team where I can see the impact on the community and be a leader/role model for many generations. I am excited to be an MCH scholar and continue to learn about various topics in MCH and more about my interests!

Morghan Hyatt Headshot

Morghan Hyatt

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health 

Early in my career, I learned that the health of a community depends on the health of its mothers and babies. As a result, I became increasingly devoted to community care, especially for women, birthing people, and children. Before entering the academic world of public health, I worked in the non-profit sector where I explored the various forms of community care, discovering what communities need to thrive and flourish. From being a Volunteer Engagement and Mobilization Intern at the March of Dimes to working as a Data Policy Associate at Children’s Defense Fund – Ohio, I worked at the intersection of maternal and child well-being, political advocacy, and racial justice to advocate for health equity as an enabler of living. I gained a deeper understanding of community engagement by participating in the Hillsborough County "Racism Is A Public Health Crisis" Resolution, which birthed community-led workshops addressing social determinants of health and social justice in the Tampa Bay area. In entering this degree program, I trained my focus on my areas of interest: restorative and reproductive justice, racial and health disparities in pregnancy-related outcomes, and adverse events throughout the life course. I aim to engage, learn, and grow as the current president of the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) and as a student leader in the USF Reproductive Justice Coalition. My goals long-term are to pursue perinatal health research both in the field as well as in higher education (PhD), become certified as a doula, and contribute to the building and healing of all communities.

Paula Hernandez Headshot

Paula Hernandez

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health & Epidemiology

My public health passions first began from working as a research assistant in work related to reproductive health. Starting this experience as a freshman in undergraduate quickly changed my course, as previously, I had only considered a career in medicine. From my experience in research, I quickly decided to major in public health and purse public health opportunities such as volunteering, study abroad and internship work with companies such as planned parenthood. Working with Planned parenthood helped me get a sense of what the real world of maternal and child health (MCH) and public health were while also being able to work with the community and see the impact of such organization. Additionally, when given the opportunity to scribe, I was able to see the importance of preventive health care and public health daily. Every day I was able to see different effective techniques such as screenings and health literacy strategies helping people have the best care possible. Topics related to reproductive health, preventive health, chronic conditions, and perinatal health quickly became my interest topics and areas I want to be dedicated to. I want to be able to help women and children everywhere receive the access to care that they deserve and need. My future career goals include to become a practicing physician, such as an OB/GYN, to help provide reproductive career to women across the U.S. in efforts to decrease reproductive health disparities in underserved communities. I also hope to be able to continue work within research i the MCH field on a clinical level. I am eager to be serving as the Vice President of the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) and help bring and connect more students to the field of MCH. 

Yadhira Maldonado Headshot

Yadhira Maldonado

MPH Student, Maternal and Child Health

My passion for population health began when I established myself as an exercise and nutrition coach 12 years ago. My AS and BS degrees are in public health and nutrition and laid the foundation for my master's program in maternal and child health. This experience has expanded my comprehension of interdisciplinary approaches and socio-ecological determinants in population health. I learned the significance of the life course perspective and how social determinants of health directly impact the trajectory of families on an intra and interpersonal level. I co-led a research team on a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program serving minority older individuals during my bachelor's program. Through this experience, I gained practice in qualitative analysis, shareholder reporting, and manuscript contribution. The experience gained as a master’s student and Center of Excellence in MCH Scholar has broadened my understanding of health literacy and communication. Studying maternal and child health has allowed me to identify how we can contribute to women’s research and raise the need for family resilience research in same-sex parent household families. As a mature Hispanic woman and mother, I have the privilege of integrating life experience with academia to better serve the community with cultural competence and awareness. I am a big proponent of capacity and resilience-building so that individuals can elevate self-efficacy in their decision-making. I plan to use my skills to work with grant writing and program evaluation. I believe equitable opportunities contribute to healthier societies. 

Staff

  • Kristina Hamp, MPH, CPH, CHES Kristina Hamp, MPH, CPH, CHES
    Kristina Hamp, MPH, CPH, CHES
    Program Planner Analyst

Past Scholars