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Meet The Team

Megha Ramaswamy

Megha Ramaswamy, PhD, MPH

Principal Investigator

What does (S)HE mean to you? 

Sexual health empowerment. The acronym comes from the parent grant that supports our primary research efforts: Sexual Health Empowerment for Cervical Health Literacy and Cancer Prevention (National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute R01CA181047). This project was renewed for another 5 years, making it a 10-year long study. We are using the (S)HE name and website to describe our work in the community and with people currently incarcerated and leaving jails. This includes health department and jail linkage programs, reproductive health education and research, social justice and health literacy programs, and even voting registration projects we are doing in minimum security jails. It's all under the umbrella of empowerment.

3 things about you?

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

My primary contribution to public health is the development of evidence-based health promotion programs for implementation in jails. I worked on such projects in New York City (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2963792/), and have been successful independently leading that work in Kansas City (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4306642/). I'd like to move my work into the development of more systemic interventions that focus not on changing individuals' behavior, but concentrate instead on changing the practices of systems, for example, criminal justice and public health systems. One such project in the works is to create a local health department-corrections linkage to facilitate HPV vaccine for those who want it. Ultimately I'd like my work to have broader public policy implications, but that's more of a 10-year plan.

Follow Megha on Twitter @Vaginographer.


Patricia J. Kelly, PhD, MPH, APRN

Patricia J. Kelly

Co-Investigator & Primary Collaborator

What does (S)HE mean to you?

It is humbling to meet amazing women who choose to share their stories about their lives with us. To share knowledge about the health and strategize together what how to get what people need from the health care system. To share the voices of women who are not generally heard in academic circles.

3 things about you?

  • Hoping to "retire" (okay, okay, shift focus!) one of these days
  • Love to travel, to hike and to wear great earrings
  • Editor of journal Public Health Nursing

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

Being a public health researcher is a great privilege, I have worked with girls in juvenile detention, with promotoras and community groups in San Antonio, with women in the National Guard and now, in addition to this amazing project with women in our local jails, with dental hygienists who work in expanded roles in public health settings. Public health is about improving health for all and to me, this means health in its broadest context, with special emphasis on populations that are often forgotten, overlooked or simply trashed. I'd love to see every public health and health science student read Pedagogy of the Oppressed and really think about how they could implement it in their daily lives.

 


Joi Wickliffe, MPH

Joi Wickliffe, MPH

Project Director

(Formerly Health Educator and current Ethnographer)

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE started out as a project that focused on cervical cancer literacy and prevention.  Because cervical cancer is impossible to discuss without talking about sexual health, (S)HE has become an opportunity to freely share and discuss various sexual health-related issues in a way that is safe and non-judgemental. 

3 things about you?

  • I won female Class Clown my senior year of high school. 
  • My favorite animals are snakes.
  • The only time I am not singing is when I am asleep. 

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

I am very comfortable working with vulnerable populations. When I was the health educator, I always tried to remind our participants that they do not have to be ashamed of their life history especially as it pertains to sexual health. These relationships built over the past four years have allowed our team to learn and adapt our program to make it increasingly beneficial to our participants.  We are always looking for new opportunities to expand our work to not only include incarcerated populations, but those leaving jails, those who may be domestic violence survivors, and other highly vulnerable populations.  I am excited at the possiblity that in 5 years, we can show that these types of programs have long term successes that can be replicated.


Molly Allison, MPH

Molly Allison, MPH

Project Manager

(Formerly Graduate Research Assistant and current Data Manager)

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE means that every person should have confidence and empowerment in caring for their sexual health and general well-being. We are here to hopefully see it through that people in the Kansas City area as well as a wider audience are served with sexual health knowledge, news, programming, and support. And to have fun along the way!

3 things about you?

  • My favorite musical talent is Tom Petty – I won a radio contest in college and got tickets to one of his concerts!
  • I enjoy public speaking and would LOVE to do a TED Talk someday.
  • I’m very passionate about animals and how they impact our lives on emotional and physiological levels. I’m always inspired by my dogs, Scout, Josephine, and Maggie, and my cats, Daisy and Lucy.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

I really respect the challenge and power that epidemiology can have in public health. My desire is to enhance public health research by providing data analyses for studies that focus on vulnerable populations. In 5 years, I would like to be exploring human-animal interaction research, especially as it pertains to targeting trauma-related health outcomes.


Amanda Emerson, PhD, BSN

Amanda Emerson

Co-Investigator

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE means many things to me. I am a researcher, a writer, a nurse, a feminist, and a staunch believer in social justice. (S)HE has meant the opportunity to do socially and morally inflected research that touches on just about all of those identifications and investments. I view (S)HE as an opportunity to do socially constructive research with people rather than just “on” or about them. (S)HE acknowledges that in order to change dysfunctional systems, like the systems that marginalize people with criminal justice histories or people with mental health, addictions, or trauma issues—or simply people whose sexuality or skin color or social class don’t coincide with the dominant categories, it may first be necessary to cultivate community and build knowledge. (S)HE has meant being with people, simply talking, passing along some info, and then getting critical and forming action-mobilizing questions together. Now that SHE has become (S)HE I am excited to participate in the extension of our method into projects in new settings and with new populations!

3 things about you?

  • I have no children, but I have an eleven-year-old niece with whom I share initials, a birthday, and a soccer habit.
  • When I was in fourth grade, I led a grade school group of friends in a playground campaign in which one of our platform items was the Equal Rights Amendment and our main activities were carrying signs, chanting slogans, and kicking boys we didn’t like.
  • I have a prior PhD (2004) in American literature for which I wrote a dissertation on the myth of equality and American exceptionalism as it was developed in the letters of the Revolutionary through the antebellum period.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

In addition to—and in connection with—my work as research associate on the (S)HE team, I am also researching for my nursing PhD dissertation how stories about relationships told by women with trauma exposure and criminal justice involvement enact what I call survival work. My intention is that this research will lead—in 5 years—to social justice and research projects that combine storytelling and activism as means to improve reproductive health.


Jason Glenn, PhD

Associate Professor

What does (S)HE mean to you?

For me, (S)HE means women, who have previously been knocked down, standing up, finding their voice, and building new lives better than the ones that were broken.

3 things about you?

  • For the past 10 years I've helped run the Alcohol/Drug Abuse Women's Center in Galveston Texas for indigent women seeking recovery in a long-term residential setting.
  • I have also filmed, produced and edited two short documentary films related to my work.
  • I'm also a bass player, playing all things funky.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

My contribution to public health is to work toward the decriminalization of substance use disorders, which are grounded in histories of trauma and social neglect, and which has been the major contributor to mass incarceration over the past 40 years. I have worked on this goal by expanding access to drug courts, residential treatment centers, and community re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated. Over the next 5 years I would like to see the gradual obsolescence of these services with the expansion of rich life opportunities and community mental health centers in underserved communities. For me, (S)HE means women, who have previously been knocked down, standing up, finding their voice, and building new lives better than the ones that were broken.


Sharla Smith, PhD, MPH

Research Assistant Professor

What does (S)HE mean to you?

SHE is an opportunity to destigmatize sexual health among a very vulnerable population. The SHE project also presents an opportunity to remove system barriers and stereotypes to assure reinstatement into the community and improve women's health. It is a privilege and an honor to become a voice for women and create a healthy more equitable community for vulnerable women.  

3 things about you?

  • In high school, I wrote poetry and won the award for best actor in a summer camp play.
  • I love to travel, watch movies, and bake
  • My first research project was in the field of cancer biology

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years? My primary contribution to public health is examining public health delivery system's financing, collaborations, and association with health outcomes. In five years, I would like to expand my research to examine the impact of incarceration on the sexual health of children. Additionally, I would like to identify and remove systematic barriers that prevent these children from the receipt of HPV preventive treatment.


Michelle Pickett, MD, MS

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

What does (S)HE mean to you?

As a pediatrician SHE means empowering women about sexual education who can in turn empower their children/teenagers. I want all people, especially teens, to be more knowledgeable and self-efficacious about sexual health, especially sexually transmitted infections.

3 things about you?

  • I'm the only SHE team member that lives in Wisconsin. I work as a pediatric emergency medicine physician in Milwaukee.
  • I'm a huge Wisconsin sports team fan. I love the Milwaukee Brewers, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Green Bay Packers. I even did a 1000 piece puzzle of each of their stadiums/fields, framed them and hung in my office. They make great unique artwork.
  • I'm a reality TV junkie.


What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

I have a medical degree and masters in clinical and translational research--public health is new to me. I think I bring a different perspective to public health and can help merge the public health-individual health realms. My interest in managing and researching adolescents sexually transmitted infections really does play a huge role in public health. Adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections and in five years, I would like to see the numbers starting to decline as we, as a whole, provide better education and prevention to this age group.

 


Sherri Anderson

Research Associate

What does (S)HE mean to you?

SHE represents opportunities. The opportunity to work with a supportive, cohesive team. The opportunity to reach out to an underserved population. The opportunity to teach, share, learn and grow. The opportunity to make a difference.

3 things about you?

  • I like to name my pets after food. I currently have two Cavachon dogs named S'mores and Chocolate Chip.
  • I love reading and have been in the same book club for over 20 years.
  • I sing as a tenor in my church choir.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

Although I am new to the field of women's sexual health, I have worked in the field of public health for eight years as a tobacco cessation counselor. I would like for the foundation that we are laying today to manifest itself in women using the information we provide in a way that not only represents an increase in knowledge but will allow them to take control of their own sexual health and well-being for the betterment of themselves and those around them. It would be wonderful, if in 5 years, to know that we were a part of an overall increase in preventive measures used around sexual health and a decrease in sexual diseases and cervical cancers.


Bernard Schuster

Research Associate 

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE means that the public health education and research community is reaching out to women, who may have previously made mistakes or been ignored, to help them improve their health situation and enjoy greater success in their future. It provides some of their input, experience, priorities, and knowledge to the healthcare system and its decision-makers in a scientific format.

3 things about you?

  • I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane...while it was in flight!
  • I was a full time sports photographer for three years.
  • I completed seven virtual 5Ks in 2019.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

As a volunteer, I once helped a non-profit public health organization design a needs assessment survey, and I provided a report of the results. I was on the research team for the Army Integration of Human Service Support Activities/Quality of Life project, and wrote the human service needs assessment survey for it which as later published by the Army. I worked as a psychometric Research Associate helping to develop certification tests for nursing specialties. I served as a volunteer CPR instructor for the American Red Cross in Colorado Springs. In 5 years I would like to see the meaningful findings that we are generating applied and implemented to make this world a better place.


Robert P. Armstrong Jr

McNair Scholar Intern

(Current student at KU-Lawrence)

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE represents our responsibility to educate and implement strategies about sexual health to improve sexual experiences. We have the fortitude to present sex as a vital health topic and to change negative connotations associated with it through discourse, research, and cultivating a progressive culture.

3 things about you?

  • I am addicted to Ice cream
  • I once scored 53 points in a basketball game.
  • I am a percussionist but have recently started to learn how to play the piano.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

In the next 5 years, I would like to study health law and epidemiology to optimize my ability to contribute to public health. I hope to use my education to reform policies and research ways to best bolster disease prevention and rehabilitation especially in minority, disadvantaged, and high risk populaces. 


Ashlyn Lipnicky 

Graduate Research Assistant

(Current MPH student) 

What does (S)HE mean to you?

(S)HE means acceptance and working alongside others for a common purpose, which is to provide support and resources to empower women to live their lives as they want to. It represents a judgement-free space for everyone to learn about and from each other.

3 things about you?

  • I share a birthday with my niece.
  • I used to make balloon animals when I was younger.
  • I have lived in 4 different states.

What is your contribution to public health and where would you like to see it in 5 years?

I have contributed in small ways -- I've dedicated many volunteer hours to supporting mental health in the elderly, helping with free health clinics and in emergency departments. I hope to one day be able to make more concrete contributions by practicing medicine and supporting health policy changes that impact vulnerable populations. In 5 years, I would like to see public health and medicine have a more complementary dynamic in order to better serve people on a population level.

Last modified: Jan 13, 2020
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