The mission of the Research and Grants committee is to work with a diverse group of researchers and students to produce evidence-based practices and programs focused on maternal health and reproductive justice. We aim to call out and eradicate systemic racism, improve maternal health outcomes within communities of color and implement policies that pave the way to health equity.
The Research and Grants Committee is a diverse coalition of researchers coming from many professional and cultural backgrounds seeking to address racial inequities in maternal and reproductive health. The committee’s research targets Black maternal health and disparities, access to doula care, maternal morbidity and mortality, the impact of racial discrimination on mental health, family planning, and reproductive justice. The focus is researching health outcomes, clinical practices, and legislation on all levels with a health equity lens, with the goal of calling out systematic racism and bringing interventions that address maternal and women’s health into fruition. Additionally, we hope to make the findings of our research accessible to the communities that it affects and anyone who is interested in the field. We support our varied research endeavors by applying to public and private grants and by mentoring future clinicians, advocates, and academics.
Keri Carvalho is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Psychosocial Determinants of Health Lab in the Department of Community Health at Tufts University. Her research primarily uses quantitative methods to examine the role of psychosocial stress (e.g. discrimination, financial strain, relationship strain) on health outcomes, with a particular focus on obesity. Other research interests include the intersectionality of race and weight, and psychosocial factors that contribute to health and racial disparities. She received her PhD from Tufts University in Experimental Psychology and has extensive teaching experience in psychology and community health undergraduate courses. When Keri is not researching or teaching, you can find her exploring her passions for baking, yoga, and running.
Anna Kheyfets is a first-year dual-degree MD/MPH student at the Tufts University School of Medicine. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the University of Chicago in March of 2019, where she studied Anthropology and Biology. She began studying public health and women’s health at UChicago, where she was part of a lab studying female sexual dysfunction and health disparities. She spent her gap year working as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Women’s Health Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her research focused on maternal and child care health disparities and hospital quality, as well as, the impact of racism and discrimination in maternal health care. This experience influenced her decision to pursue an MPH in medical school, with the hope of conducting research in public health and health policy throughout her medical career. She is excited to serve as a co-chair of the research and grants committee and to mentor undergraduate students looking to pursue a career in medicine. She is keenly interested in health equity, racial and reproductive justice, and urban health, and hope to apply the principles she learns from Dr. AO and the rest of the team in her practice as a physician.
Yoann Sophie Antoine
Yoann Sophie Antoine, MPH, is a public health professional with ample expertise in community outreach, substance use and misuse, health education, survey development, data analysis and environmental health. Her research interests include migrant health, minority health, mental health, quality improvement, chronic disease prevention, environmental infectious diseases, and reproductive health. Ms. Antoine earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic and Iberian studies with a concentration in translation and interpretation from the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Master of Public Health from Nova Southeastern University. In joining the MOTHER lab, Ms. Antoine is interested in investigating issues such as incompetent cervix, postpartum depression, preeclampsia, etc. Ms. Antoine is an avid and lifelong learner; she enjoys working hard towards issues that are meaningful. Ms. Antoine aims to use her public health and multilingual skills to address the inequities and social injustice that many are faced with. When she is not teaching herself a new skill, Ms. Antoine enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new eats and go for a run.
Blessing Chidiuto Lawrence
Blessing is a Data Coordinator at Partners in Health and also serves as a Research Associate for Amaka Consulting & Evaluation Services. She earned her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology & Biostatistics from Tufts University School of Medicine. Her current areas of interest are centered on improving systems of care, addressing disparities in maternal & child health, and promoting effective contextualization and interpretation of scientific data. As such, she has conducted independent and collaborative projects in line with her interests.
Inspired by her experience as an international student, she is passionate about promoting innovation through diversity and inclusion- as is evident in her role in helping create the Tufts Black Student Alliance, serving as a peer-mentor for first generation college students, and vice-president of the public health and professional degree programs student senate at Tufts.
As an aspiring future physician, she has a strong commitment to create lasting social impact through addressing health and wellness from the perspective of the individual as well as the community. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, pretending to be an influential blogger, and putting her non-existent vocal skills to good use- only from the comfort of her home!
Alison Moky is an MPH candidate at Tufts Medical School with a concentration in Health Management and Policy. She currently resides in Westchester County, NY, New York City’s backyard. Her passion to become the intersection of women’s health in third world countries stems from her Cameroonian culture and educational background. With this foundation, Alison co-founded the Benevolence Outreach Inc allowing her to provide solicit donations, school supplies, and toiletries for underprivileged children in Cameroon, Africa. Amongst her passion to help others, Alison immersed herself within the Tufts community throughout her undergraduate career as a research assistant, dancer, and athlete. Alison has a strong passion for research and has worked in the Kao lab at Tufts University using songbirds as a model system in order to study the neural mechanism underlying vocal learning. As an African dancer on COCOA (Children of Cultures of Africa), she created different dances with her team drawing inspiration from different parts of the African diaspora to perform on stage. When she was not on the stage performing with her dance team, you can find her running up and down the lacrosse field as well as competing on the Track & Field team in her undergraduate years at Tufts.
Nichole grew up in Southern Maine and then completed her undergraduate education at Boston College with a degree in International Studies in 2016. While in school, she focused on global health, both through her studies and via international service trips. However, Nichole also served the local Boston community, volunteering often in women’s shelters. Nichole was also able to get a first-hand experience working in healthcare while studying abroad in Ecuador. These experiences spurred her to pursue a position as a Health Extension Volunteer for the Peace Corps in Senegal. While in Senegal, she primarily focused on maternal and child health and family planning, leading trainings and projects centered on reducing the maternal mortality rate in rural Senegal. Since she completed her Peace Corps service in 2019, Nichole has been travelling around the world, spending as much time as possible soaking up sunshine and attending outdoor concerts before starting medical school. She is currently a first year MD/MPH candidate at Tufts University. She intends to specialize in primary care, with a focus on underserved populations. Nichole is passionate about women’s health, behavior change communication, integrative medicine…and cheese (she really loves cheese). In her free time,you can catch her cooking vegetarian meals, reading a good story or catching up with friends!
Marwah Kiani is an undergraduate student at Tufts University, studying Community Health and Religion on the pre-medical track. Born and raised in the Bronx, she was lucky enough to be a part of Prep for Prep, a pipeline program geared towards low-middle class children of color in NYC. Through this program, she was able to attend the Dwight-Englewood School for middle and high school. She has always been interested in pursuing medicine, but her senior year thesis presentation on healthcare delivery to cancer patients piqued her interest in public health. After enrolling in a class called “Women and Health” in her first semester at Tufts, she realized her passion for women’s and maternal health. At Tufts, she is involved with Peer Health Exchange as a health educator, teaching health classes to students in Boston Public Schools. She is also a member of Strong Women Strong Girls, through which she mentors girls in 3rd-4th grade from the surrounding Tufts community. In her prior research experience, she has worked in many biology labs, assisting in projects ranging from the effects hyper-profusion in rats, to Natural Killer cell development. These experiences have sharpened her critical thinking and quantitative data analysis skills. She recently interned at the New York Academy of Medicine, where she assisted the Center for Evaluation and Applied Research in their public health work, working on literature reviews and coding projects. Through her work with MOTHER, she hopes to gain a stronger understanding of maternal health disparities and inequities in the United States, sharpen her research and qualitative data analysis skills and apply her knowledge through action In the future, she hopes to pursue an MD/MPH, where she hopes to implement that she has learned and will learn towards equitable practices in healthcare delivery. In her free time, Marwah enjoys spending quality time with friends and family having goofy and/or intellectual conversations. Her guilty pleasures include bad quality reality TV, HGTV and comedy specials. In quarantine, she hopes to also start writing spoken word poetry again. She is very thrilled and grateful to be a member of the MOTHER lab team!
Hello! My name is Siwaar Abouhala (she/her/hers) and I’m a rising sophomore at Tufts University where I’m studying Arabic, community health, and sociology. I want to explore and further develop culturally and religiously competent healthcare methods for non- Western populations living in the Western world. Most of my current research deals with Arab-Americans, but I would love to expand my research and work to populations across the Arab diaspora, especially in regards to survivors of forced migration. I’m a Refugee Resettlement Intern at the Intensive Case Management (ICM) department of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where I serve as an Arabic interpreter and help clients access resources within mental health systems, physical healthcare systems, and benefit services. I’m also a Research Intern at the Arab Health Initiative (AHI) under the Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities (IHCD) Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). I survey Arab patients and collect data for two main studies: (1) “Predictors of Receipt of Cervical Cancer screening and HPV Vaccination among a Diverse Sample of Arab Americans in NYC” and (2) “HPV Vaccine Recommendations among Providers serving Arab-American Populations.” I also develop COVID-19 presentations for cancer patients under the Immigrant Breast Health Access (IBHA) program. Additionally, I’ve designed and launched a study titled “Essential Work, Forgotten Perspectives: Arab-Americans in New York’s Food System Amid COVID-19,” which is fully funded by the Tisch Student COVID Response (TSCR) Summer Program under the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. Lastly, I’ve been involved in grassroots work such as organizing and leading the Tufts + Birthing Project USA (BPUSA) summer working group, so I’m excited to be a part of a research team fully dedicated to addressing maternal health disparities through the MOTHER Lab. Thank you to Dr. AO for putting this incredible group together!
Maria Gabriela Ruiz
My name is Maria Gabriela Ruiz, but I go by Gabby. I am a first year MPH student at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and I am in the Maternal and Child Health program. I have a BSc in biology with a concentration in molecular cell physiology, as well as a minor in gender studies. These areas of study have prepared me to pursue my passion for public health and closing healthcare disparities for women and families of color both domestically and around the world. My internship experiences have been in women’s health, specifically in the medical field, so I have a solid understanding of the clinical, biological, and technical aspects of health.
My main interests in public health are maternal and infant mortality, reproductive health, and female genital mutilation. Though narrowing my career choices down has been difficult because I want to do it all, I would probably like to go into something like research and policy, consulting, or even start my own NGO one day.
Being a first-generation college student as well as a first-generation American has given me a significant toolkit to deal with the issues concerning women and families today, like my ability to communicate with a broad range of people. I am fluent in both English and Spanish and can do my best with some remedial French. My hobbies include spending time with my family, going for long walks, and trying my best to learn new languages (I am on Italian right now!). I am so excited to be a part of the MOTHER Lab and I plan on learning as much from this amazing team.
Shubhecchha Dhaurali (pronounced Sue-betcha Dur-all-e) is from Medford, MA attending Tufts University as a first-generation student originally from Kathmandu, Nepal. She is currently on the premedical track double-majoring in Community Health and Spanish. She feels being a member of the Maternal Outcomes for Translational Health Equity Research (MOTHER) Lab is a great privilege where she will work with experienced professionals and her peers to investigate, research, and publish findings on the US healthcare system’s observed inequalities for Black women and women of color.
Shantiera Taylor is a first year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. She was born and raised in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, IL. Shantiera graduated from the University of Illinois in 2019 with a Bachelors of Kinesiology and Public Health. During her undergraduate career she conducted research with favorite being in occupational health at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,GA. Her long standing interest in reproductive justice was heightened during her gap year as an Emergency Medicine Scribe. The lack of access to timely emergency maternal health resources, and the mistreatment of Black, and Brown, mothers lead to a number of adverse outcomes for the mothers and children. Many of the patients did not have access to maternal resources, or prenatal care, but they were not educated nor provided with assistance. I believe all mothers of any age or background should have equal access and treatment without judgement or bias. Working with the MOTHER Lab she hopes to gain skills, and knowledge, to share with the health sector and the public. Shantiera aspires to become an Emergency Medicine Physician to be a patient advocate and educator to all. Her passions lie within reproductive justice, social determinants of health and health equity. In her free time she enjoys listening to music, exercising, and volunteering with the youth.
Melissa Wu, MPH
Melissa Wu holds a BS in Human Biology from the University of California, San Diego and an MPH from Tufts University School of Medicine. Prior to attending Tufts, her work with her surrounding community in San Diego, CA involved helping women navigate childbirth as a volunteer birth doula with UCSD and mentoring marginalized youth at Stand Up for Kids, which have greatly shaped her vision to advance maternal and child health and advocate for health equity. She strongly believes healthy women and children are the fundamental blocks to building healthy families and communities. She has extensive research experience in clinical and basic science research, and is excited to extend her passion for discovery and community work with the vibrant MOTHER Lab family. At Tufts, she is the graduate research assistant for the Tufts Public Health and Community Medicine Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism Council to promote educational programming and initiatives that are both mindful of and responsive to the diverse voices and experiences of the greater institutional community. In her free time, she enjoys consuming (too much) coffee, curating music playlists, hiking, and embroidery.
Rauta Aver Yakubu, MHA, MPH
Aver is a public health doctoral candidate at Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice in the Department of Health Management and Policy in St. Louis, MO. Some of her research interests include the influence of organizational policy on patient outcomes, maternal and child health mortality/morbidity, health equity, community based participatory research and access to care. Prior to starting her doctoral program, Aver was manager at the leading maternal child health community-based organization in St. Louis where she led their perinatal behavioral health initiative and developed/ launched a multi-sector screening and referral network for mood and anxiety disorders. While manager she also contributed to the development/ launch of a community led collective impact initiative to reduce Black infant mortality in St. Louis. In her free time, Aver likes to travel, shop, read novels, watch rom-coms and explore new restaurants.
Kobi Vanessa Ajayi, MPH, MBA
Kobi Ajayi is a second-year Ph.D. student in Health Education at Texas A&M University. She earned her Master’s in Public Health from the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University in 2020. She is interested in global maternal and infant health, including maternal mental health. She is the Founder and President of Aggie Pregnant and Parenting Student Organization, a student-run organization at Texas A&M University catering for pregnant and parenting students. She is also the Founder and Director of EDEN Foundation Nigeria, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the health outcomes of preterm infants and maternal mental health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kobi volunteers her time as the Board Secretary of 2020 Mom. When she is not working, she spends quality time exploring with her daughters.
Pegah Maleki, MSW is currently a student at the University of Pennsylvania completing her dual graduate masters degree in public health, with the expected graduation date of May 2021. She is a part-time research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab focusing on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and an associate board member of Covenant House, Philadelphia. She’s worked in the anti-violence field broadly in multiple capacities, including direct service, crisis response, advocacy and prevention education in the sexual and domestic violence field, human trafficking field, as well as with refugee/immigrant survivors of torture. Her experience and interests are continuing work with marginalized communities, specifically LGBTQI+ survivors and racial and ethnic minorities. She values sex-positivity, health equity, wellness, and intersectionality; she hopes to continue both micro- and macro- work garnered towards decreasing violence, health disparities, and systemic inequality for marginalized populations, while aiding in research and programmatic work to advance policy changes.
Former Lab Members
Dara Lewis is a first year student at the Milken Institute of Public Health at the George Washington University. Her research interest is focused in Maternal and Child Health. Dara earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Geography with a concertation in Human Geography and GIS from the Pennsylvania State University in 2016. During her undergraduate career she studied abroad in Haiti, Peru, and South Africa. While abroad, Dara was exposed to the health disparities which ignited a passion for social justice and healthcare reform.
Her interest in understanding international communities led her to pursue a TEFL certification in order to teach in South Korea. To continue learning more about the health systems in other countries, Dara traveled to Sierra Leone where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she focused significantly on girl’s education and empowerment. She also worked at the local health clinic, in the maternal ward. There she developed a curriculum with fellow nurses from the clinic to educate and dispel myths about womanhood and reproductive health. While in Sierra Leone, she founded the Matotoka Library Project non-profit where she fundraised for the development of a library. Dara is interested in combating maternal and infant mortality rates in Black, Indigenous, and Communities of color through community intervention and health policy reform. She is a proud Trinidadian American who shares a particular interest in working with Caribbean women. In her free time, she is taking Spanish language courses, exploring doula certification classes, and spending time outdoors.