ACEs RFP Selection Committee

Learn more about the ACEs Request For Proposals.

Melissa T. Merrick, PhD

President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America
Areas of expertise: Child Abuse/Early Adversity Prevention

Dr. Merrick has nearly 20 years of clinical, research, and leadership experience related to the etiology, course, and prevention of child abuse and neglect. She is currently the President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, the nation's oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Previously, Dr. Merrick was a senior epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, and served on a detail in the Office of the Commissioner at the Children's Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, she served as the lead scientist for the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study at CDC for 8 years. Dr. Merrick successfully leverages her clinical and research experiences to communicate and disseminate the critical public health importance of preventing early adversity to key stakeholders with diverse priorities, backgrounds, and knowledge, including legislators, business and civic leaders, and members of the academic and medical communities.

Dr. Merrick received her BA in Psychology, magna cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, and her master's and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego, joint doctoral program in clinical psychology, where she served as a program coordinator for the San Diego site of the Longitudinal Studies on Child Abuse and Neglect Consortium. Dr. Merrick was a National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami Child Protection Team (CPT), where she was involved in a multi-site program of research that examined child maltreatment risk and protective factors in families evaluated by CPTs across the state of Florida.

Dr. Merrick is married and has two young children who keep her grounded, thankful, and hopeful for a brighter future for all children.

Saida Abdi, PhD, MSW, LICSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Minnesota
Areas of expertise: Refugees, Trauma Systems Therapy, Resilience

Dr. Abdi is a Clinical Social Worker and an expert in refugee trauma and resilience. She has worked for more than 20 years with refugee youth and families in the diaspora. Her areas of focus include building individual, family, and community resilience, improving systems of care responsiveness to the needs of refugee and immigrant communities, trauma systems therapy, and culturally responsive interventions. She is the co-developer of Community Connect, a multidisciplinary team-based intervention that worked with youth up to the age of 24 years of age who are at risk for violence of any type. She is also the Primary Investigator of the project, RAJO (Somali for hope) in Canada, funded by the Public Safety Agency in Canada to support positive outcomes for Somali-Canadian youth. This 5-year, multi-million-dollar project will be evaluated to test the impact of the intervention on youth outcomes.

Dr. Abdi previously served for over 12 years as Associate Director for Community Relations of the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center at Boston Children's Hospital and Adjunct Professor of Boston College. She earned her PhD in Sociology and Social Work and a Master's degree in Social Work from Boston University and a second Master’s degree in Communications and Media Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

She is the co-author of the recently published book, Mental Health Practice with Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Socioecological Framework (APA, 2019).

Larissa Avilés-Santa, MD, MPH

Director, Division of Clinical and Health Services Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
Areas of expertise: Latinx/Women's Health, Healthcare Systems

Dr. Larissa Avilés-Santa is the Director of the Division of Clinical and Health Services Research at National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In her current role, she works with her great team on fostering research aimed at improving health outcomes of health disparities populationswithin the context of healthcare systems.

Prior to joining NIMHD, she worked at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute from 2006 to 2019 as the Project Director for the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. In addition, she has participated in multiple NIH-wide committees and working groups addressing minority health, diabetes mellitus and its complications, and women's health. In 2015, she founded the NIH Hispanic Health Research Scientific Interest Group.

She has coauthored multiple publications on different Hispanic health topics and is a frequent guest lecturer at academic and other scientific venues within and outside of the NIH. In 2017, Dr. Avilés-Santa was the field coordinator of the post-hurricanes Irma and María recovery of the health and social services of the entire country of Puerto Rico. She worked in this capacity during the first six and a half months of recovery work coordinated by the HHS.

Dr. Avilés-Santa earned her medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, and completed a residency in internal medicine at the University Hospital in San Juan. She completed her fellowship in endocrinology at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center, where she joined the faculty of the Endocrine Division. She also earned a Master's degree at the UT School of Public Health.

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, PhD, MBBS

Inaugural Robert Harding Chair in Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children
Inaugural Ibn Sina Scholar in Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children
Co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health
Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University
Areas of expertise: Global Child/Community Health, Nutrition

In addition to his leadership roles at the Hospital for Sick Children, the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, and Aga Khan University in Pakistan, Dr. Bhutta holds adjunct professorships at several universities, including Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Dr. Bhutta is a Distinguished National Professor of the Government of Pakistan, Co-Chair of the Maternal and Child Health Oversight Committee of the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Region, Chairman of the Coalition of Centres in Global Child Health, Past President of the International Pediatric Association, and a leading voice for health professionals supporting integrated maternal, newborn, and child health globally.

Dr. Bhutta leads large research groups in Toronto, Karachi, and Nairobi with a special interest in scaling up evidence-based, community setting interventions and implementation of RMNCAH&N interventions in humanitarian contexts. His work with community health workers has influenced maternal and newborn outreach programs for marginalized populations internationally, and his group’s work with the WHO and PMNCH is guiding global policy on essential interventions for women, children, and adolescents.

Dr. Bhutta obtained his MBBS from the University of Peshawar and his PhD from the Karolinska Institute. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Pakistan Academy of Sciences. He was recently awarded the honour of Fellow of the Royal Society and honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Among many honors, in 2016, Dr. Bhutta received the World Academy of Sciences 2016 prize in Medical Sciences.

Keith Dobson, PhD

Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Calgary
Areas of expertise: Psychological Interventions, Depression, Professional Ethics

Dr. Keith Dobson is a professor of Clinical Psychology who leads University of Calgary’s Depression Research Laboratory. His research interests are in Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Depression and stigma. Dr. Dobson also examined psychological approaches and treatments for adults in primary care with Adverse Childhood Experiences. Further, he has written about developments in professional psychology and ethics, and has been actively involved in organized psychology in Canada, including a term as President of the Canadian Psychological Association. Dr. Dobson is also a Principal Investigator for the Opening Minds program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, with a focus on stigma reduction related to mental disorders in the workplace. His work has yielded more than 300 peer-reviewed published articles, 80 chapters, 17 books, and presentations in many parts of the world. He is a Past-President of both the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy. Among other awards, he has been given the Canadian Psychological Association's Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Profession of Psychology, the Donald O. Hebb Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Science of Psychology, and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Development of Psychology. Dr. Dobson received a PhD and Master's degree in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario, London and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology/Sociology from the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Willarda Edwards, MD, MBA

Internal Medicine Physician
Member of the Board of Trustees, American Medical Association
Areas of expertise: Health Equity, Trauma, Migrant Communities

Dr. Edwards has been committed to organized medicine for over 30 years, holding prominent positions in local, state, and national associations. She is past president of the National Medical Association, MedChi, Baltimore City Medical Society, and Monumental City Medical Society.

Putting patients first has been this physician's mission in her 10-year tenure on the board of CRISP, the regional health information center in Maryland.

Joining AMA in 1994, Dr. Edwards was appointed to the inaugural governing council of the Women Physicians Congress and has served on reference committees, task forces and chaired the AMA Council on Constitution and Bylaws.

After completing active duty in the Navy, Dr. Edwards founded an internal medicine practice in Baltimore, where she is the managing partner. She retired from the U.S. Navy Reserves at the rank of commander after 24 years of service. In addition to her busy private practice and AMA responsibilities, Dr. Edwards held senior management positions at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Health Advocacy Division and at the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.

Elected to the Board of Trustees in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, Dr. Edwards has demonstrated hard work, leadership skills, and consensus building. She chaired the Task Force on Health Equity, resulting in the establishment of the AMA Center on Health Equity.

Dr. Edwards knows the balance needed in a physician's work life and the need to always be an advocate for patients in the delivery of quality care.

Dylan G. Gee, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Yale University
Areas of expertise: Child Development, Stress, Mental Health

Dr. Gee directs the Clinical Affective Neuroscience and Development Laboratory at Yale University. She received her BA in Psychological and Brain Studies from Dartmouth College and her PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA. Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, Dr. Gee completed her clinical internship and postdoctoral training at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her research focuses on child and adolescent mental health, with primary goals to delineate typical and atypical trajectories of brain development, elucidate how early adversity influences sensitive periods of development, and translate knowledge of the developing brain to optimize interventions for children and adolescents with anxiety and stress-related disorders. Dr. Gee's research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Jacobs Foundation, and the American Psychological Association. She has received broad recognition for her work, including an NIH Director's Early Independence Award, the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association of Psychological Science, and the American Psychological Association's Early Career Award for Outstanding Contributions to Children, Youth, and Families.

Jacob Ham, PhD

Director of the Center for Child Trauma & Resilience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Areas of expertise: Trauma, Child Development, Psychotherapy, Evaluation

Dr. Ham is a Clinical Psychologist, Associate Professor in Psychiatry, and Director of the Center for Child Trauma and Resilience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He receives federal and local grants to create and advance trauma-informed practices throughout multiple service systems including education, foster care, medical health, and criminal justice. His most recent funding from SAMHSA, the NYC DOE, and the Manhattan District Attorney's office are being used to create a trauma-informed adolescent substance abuse recovery and prevention program, a complex trauma treatment program inside the Mount Sinai Health System, crime victims treatment centers and trauma-informed community schools. He is a highly sought trainer and consultant on trauma-informed engagement and maintains an active clinical practice at Mount Sinai Beth Israel for children, families, and adults with a particular focus on using moment-to-moment relationship-based interventions that enhance attachment to overcome trauma and improve mental health. He received his PhD at the University of Massachusetts Boston and completed an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship at Children's Hospital Boston, both of which were also part of Harvard Medical School.

H. Eugene Hoyme, MD

Medical Director of the Sanford Children’s Genomic Medicine Consortium
Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Arizona
Senior Advisory in Genetics/Genomic Medicine, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
Areas of expertise: Pediatric Genetics, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Dr. Hoyme serves as Senior Advisor in Genetics/Genomic Medicine at Sanford Health, the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, and the University of Arizona Health Sciences. He also serves as Medical Director of the Sanford Children's Genomic Medicine Consortium, a formal collaborative in pediatric precision medicine among ten major children's hospitals. Previously, he functioned as Department Chair of Pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine, President of Sanford Research and Chief Academic Officer for Sanford Health. He has held academic and leadership posts at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

He earned his BA summa cum laude from Augustana University in Sioux Falls and his MD from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Pediatrics and Clinical Genetics fellowship training at the University of California, San Diego. He is board certified in Pediatrics, Clinical Genetics, and Clinical Cytogenetics.

He is the recipient of myriad awards in research, teaching, and mentorship, including the Western Society for Pediatric Research's Joseph W. St. Geme Jr. Education Award, the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Excellence Award, the American Academy of Pediatrics David W. Smith Education and Mentorship Award, and the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Study Group's Henry Rosett Award for Lifetime Contributions to FASD Research. His research focuses on Pediatric Genetics/Precision Medicine and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Recently, he was first author of revised expert consensus diagnostic guidelines for FASD based on evaluation of over 10,000 children world-wide spanning more than 20 years.

Patricia Kerig, PhD

Director of the Risk to Resilience Laboratory, University of Utah
Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Utah
Co-Director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice, University of Utah
Areas of expertise: Trauma, Juvenile Justice, Developmental Psychopathology

Dr. Kerig received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley with a specialization in children and families and currently is a Professor in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Utah where she directs the Risk to Resilience Laboratory. She also serves as the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Dr. Kerig is an author of over 185 scholarly journal articles, books, chapters, and journal special issues devoted to understanding the developmental psychopathology of risk, recovery, and resilience among children, adolescents, and families coping with adversity in the context of a range of traumatic stressors, including childhood maltreatment, exposure to interparental conflict and violence, and intimate partner abuse. Her current program of research is focused on investigating the mechanisms accounting for the link between childhood trauma exposure and adolescent delinquency, with attention to potential underlying psychophysiological, cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal processes. She has a special interest in risk factors specific to traumatized girls in the justice system and the roles of intersectionality in regard to gender, race, class, and sexual minority status. Dr. Kerig also is a co-Director of the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice, a National Child Traumatic Stress Network center whose mission is to develop and disseminate trauma-informed assessment and intervention strategies to the systems that serve at-risk youth, while protecting staff from the potential adverse effects of secondary traumatic stress.

Liliana J. Lengua, PhD

Director of the Center for Child and Family Well-being, University of Washington
Maritz Family Professor of Psychology, University of Washington
Areas of expertise: Adversity, Stress, Child Social-Emotional Development

Dr. Lengua is a Child Clinical Psychologist studying the effects of stress and adversity on children, examining risk and protective factors that contribute to children's resilience or vulnerability. She examines children's neurobiological stress responses, temperament, coping, parenting, and family contexts as risk and protective factors that account for the effects of adversity on children's social, emotional, and academic well-being.

Dr. Lengua has been an investigator on several federally-funded projects examining the development of executive function (NICHD), the effects of low income, neighborhood, family, and parenting on neurobiological systems of self-regulation, and their effects on preschool and preadolescent children's social, emotional and academic development (NICHD, NIMH), neighborhood, family and peer effects on adolescent substance use (NIDA), and childhood risk factors for the emergence of adult mental health problems (NIDA). Dr. Lengua is the author of over 100 published papers. She serves on the steering committee for the CDC-funded Washington State Essentials for Childhood Initiative, collaborated with the Harvard Center for the Developing Child's Frontiers of Innovation, and has served on the Board of Trustees for Neighborhood House, a nonprofit anti-poverty organization.

Lloyd Michener, MD

Professor of Family Medicine & Community Health, Duke School of Medicine
Areas of expertise: Community Engagement, Family Health, Equity

Dr. Lloyd Michener serves as a Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at Duke School of Medicine; Clinical Professor at Duke School of Nursing; and Adjunct Professor at UNC Gillings School of Public Health. He also serves as Chair of the Board of the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation and is a member of the National Academies of Medicine Workgroup on Assessing Meaningful Community Engagement.

He has served as Director of the "Practical Playbook", with the support of the deBeaumont Foundation, CDC, and HRSA, linking health care, public health, and communities across the country. In addition, he served as Chair of the Department of Community & Family Medicine at Duke for more than two decades and was the founding director of the Duke Center for Community Research.

Nationally, Dr. Michener has served as the founding Co-Chair of the Community Engagement Steering Committee for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards of the NIH, and as President of the Association for Prevention, Teaching and Research (APTR). He has been a member of the National Academies Institute of Medicine Committee on Integrating Primary Care and Public Health, the Board of Directors of the Association of Academic Medical Colleges, and the NIH Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Awards include Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, the Mead-Johnson Award from the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Duncan Clark Award from APTR.

Dr. Michener is a graduate of Oberlin College, Harvard Medical School, and residency and fellowship in Family Medicine at Duke.

Charles A. Nelson III, PhD

Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School
Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry,Harvard Medical School
Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research, Boston Children's Hospital
Director of Research, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital
Areas of expertise: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Childhood Adversity

Dr. Nelson's research interests center on a variety of problems in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, including the development of social perception; developmental trajectories to autism; and the effects of early adversity on brain and behavioral development. He chaired the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development and served on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels that wrote From Neurons to Neighborhoods, and New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. In total, Dr. Nelson has published over 400 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, has edited eight books, and written three books. Among his many honors he has received the Leon Eisenberg award from Harvard Medical School, an honorary Doctorate from Bucharest University (Romania), and the Ruane Prize for Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. He was a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy) and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the British Academy.

Kenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD

Alkek Chair of Medical Genetics, Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology
Professor of Translational Medicine, Texas A&M College of Medicine
Professor of Oncology, Houston Methodist Research Institute
Executive Director, Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Texas A&M University Health Science Center
Associate Vice President, Texas A&M Health
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health Services, Texas A&M University System
Areas of expertise: Precision Medicine, Genomics, Clinical Pharmacology

Kenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD, is an accomplished physician-scientist and transformational leader, with designations in the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine. He is recognized throughout the world for his scientific contributions in the areas of Genomics, Precision Medicine, and Toxicology.

With formal training in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicine, Dr. Ramos is helping to steer the changing landscape of medicine and healthcare. He leads several translational, clinical, and educational programs that integrate diverse approaches to elucidate genomic mechanisms of disease. Dr. Ramos has provided academic, executive, administrative, and scientific leadership in Genetics and Genomic Medicine and Toxicology at several institutions, and over the course of his career has influenced the career of numerous clinicians and scientists engaged in medical, veterinary, and pharmaceutical practice. He is committed to initiatives that advance modern technological applications to improve quality of healthcare and reduce disease burden and health-associated costs.

Dr. Ramos's research has paved the way for ground breaking research on LINE-1 retroelements and their role in chromatin remodeling, DNA damage and repair, and genetic reprogramming. His group was the first to establish a role for retinoblastoma proteins as master regulators of epigenetic silencing of LINE-1 and later characterized novel targets for regulation of cancer cells. He is currently examining the utility of circulating LINE-1 protein as prognostic and diagnostic biomarkers of lung cancer, which combined with imaging may improve precision for early cancer detection. This knowledge is being used to develop targeted therapies for lung cancer.

Arash Shaban-Nejad, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor, Center for Biomedical Informatics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Oak Ridge National Lab
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Areas of expertise: Precision Medicine, ACEs, Big Data

In addition to his work at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at UTHSC-ORNL, Dr. Shaban-Nejad is also an adjunct faculty at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Before joining the faculty at UTHSC, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the McGill Clinical and Health Informatics Group at McGill University. Dr. Shaban-Nejad received his PhD and MSc in Computer Science from Concordia University, Montreal and Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. Additional training was received at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Shaban-Nejad's primary research interest is Population Health Intelligence, Precision Health and Medicine, Epidemiologic Surveillance, and Big-Data Semantic Analytics using tools and techniques from Artificial Intelligence, Knowledge Representation, and Semantic Web. Dr. Shaban-Nejad is an associate editor of BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making and a guest editor of Nature - Digital Medicine, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, and IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics journals. His research has been supported by the Canada Institute for Health Research (CIHR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Gates Foundation, Microsoft Research, and Memphis Research Consortium (MRC). Dr. Shaban-Nejad is the Co-Chair of Health Intelligence workshops, which has been an integral part of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence annual conference since 2014.

Cancer RFP Selection Committee

Elaine Mardis, PhD

Ohio State University

Areas of expertise: Cancer, Genomics, Immunogenomics

Shawneequa Callier, JD, MA

George Washington University

Areas of expertise: Health Disparities, Ethics

Rachel Ceballos, PhD

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Areas of expertise: Health Disparities, Behavioral Health

Yvonne Yu-Feng Chan, MD, PhD, FACEP

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Companies

Areas of expertise: Digital Health

Elizabeth Gross Cohn, RN, PhD

City University of New York–Hunter College

Areas of expertise: Ethics, Health Disparities

Meg Gaines, JD, LLM

University of Wisconsin

Areas of expertise: Health Advocacy, Care Co-Creation

Ernest Hawk, MD, MPH

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Areas of expertise: Cancer Prevention & Treatment, Disparities

Mark A. Rubin, MD

Weill Cornell Medicine

Areas of expertise: Genomics, Precision Oncology

Stanley Y. Shaw, MD, PhD

Harvard Medical School

Areas of expertise: Functional Genomics, Digital Health

Sharon F. Terry

Genetic Alliance

Areas of expertise: Community Advocacy & Engagement

Pingkun Yan, PhD

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Areas of expertise: Medical Image Analysis

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Megan Varvais
Megan Varvais is the Science Communication Specialist for the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. She coordinates CIAPM's publications and web content.