Astha Bista, MPH
Astha Bista is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Department. She graduated with a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in 2023. Her educational journey also includes a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from Nepal Medical College, Kathmandu, Nepal. While at SIUE, she conducted multiple research projects focused on oral health. She delved into the complex world of a caregiver's oral health literacy, dental anxiety, and its influence on their child's oral health status. Her responsibilities included comprehensive literature reviews, survey development, grant proposal creation, participant recruitment, data analysis, and meticulous record-keeping. Her research findings were presented to academic audiences at SIUE and featured in a project poster presentation at the Graduate Research Symposium. She also participated in an Applied Public Health experience at SIUE, collaborating with an Assistant Professor at SIUE School of Dental Medicine on a research paper. Together, they focused on assessing the influence of oral health education during pregnancy, promoting oral health hygiene practices, and raising awareness about the importance of oral health throughout pregnancy and infancy. Her background as a dentist provides her with a deep insight into the clinical aspects of health, enabling her to navigate complex research projects with a practical understanding of medical procedures and patient interactions.
Outside of work, she enjoys exploring new places and food and binge-watching Netflix shows. Overall, she is passionate about improving healthcare through scientific research and community engagement.
Justine Budhram, MA
Justine Budhram is the Executive Assistant for the Department. She has a BA and MA in vocal performance. In addition to her work for DHDPS, she has been teaching yoga for 13 years. In her spare time, she enjoys singing and playing keyboard with her rock band, riding her motorcycle, reading, and traveling with her husband and son.
Naomi Diaz, MPH
Naomi Diaz is a Research Ambulation Orderly at the Department. She graduated from the University of New England with a Master of Public Health and was the 2021-2022 president of the American Public Health Association-Student Assembly at UNE. As president, she created social media content to raise awareness of public health issues and helped organize a World AIDS Day event on campus. During the same year, she was a research and communications intern for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. There, she aided their 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment. Naomi recently gained her first publication working under Dr. Keisha Jones on a retrospective cohort study reporting perioperative outcomes of colpocleisis.
Naomi is currently working at the DHDPS on a research project studying ambulation and its effects on improving mobility and health outcomes in older adults. She will also be assisting projects regarding smoking cessation and cardiac rehabilitation improvements. Outside of work, Naomi enjoys baking, traveling, and reading.
Aubri A. Drake, MSW, MLS
Aubri Drake is the Research Manager for the Department. They graduated summa cum laude from Southern Connecticut State University with a BA in Psychology, and earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Library Science degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
Aubri has a background in social-behavioral research, and they manage all aspects of projects and administration within DHDPS—such as federal grant submissions, grant management, budgets, IRB, data requests, and project management. Outside of work, Aubri is an ardent ultrarunner, backpacker, and thru-hiker.
Julianna Eve, PhD, MS
Juli Eve is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Department. She has a PhD in Kinesiology from UMass Amherst where she specialized in balance and movement training to improve quality of life in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). During her time at UMass she worked as a graduate researcher on a number of different MS studies ranging from: measuring the balance and walking changes that occur due to MS; assessing the dual task impact on standing balance while texting in MS; analyzing possible measures for earlier detection of MS progression; and evaluating the use of mindfulness training (Tai Chi or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) to improve well-being and standing balance in people with MS. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing martial arts (Tae Kwon Do and Yang style Tai Chi), reading, and going on adventures with her family.
M. Kamal Faridi, MPH
Kamal Faridi is a biostatistician at the Department. Kamal has a master’s degree in Public Health in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from Boston University School of Public Health. He has previously worked at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Kamal has experience with creating and managing large databases, including diverse study designs and statistical analyses. His work includes using large administrative data sets such as Medicare, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) family of databases as well as survey data including Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registries, the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS).
Kobe Haizel is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Department. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience. While at Skidmore College Kobe worked in the Neuroscience lab researching the link between iron deficiency and disturbances in circadian rhythms in mice, and the effect of light intensity on sleep lost or gained in fruit flies.
Outside of work, he enjoys thrifting, photography, and playing squash. He is passionate about utilizing neuroscience to improve people’s day to day lives.
Briana Jurkowski is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Department. She graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Pre-Medical Studies. While studying at UMass, Briana participated in Baystate’s Summer Scholars Program, worked as an intern to Dr. Peacock-Chambers, and completed a student practicum with her. During that time at Baystate, she worked on several research projects, focusing on interventions to promote early childhood development among families with history of substance use.
Briana is currently working for the Department on multiple grants implementing a program for mothers in recovery from substance use disorders, 'Mothering from the Inside Out,' into existing home-visiting services such as Early Intervention. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family and her cat Lilo, watching ice hockey (UMass and the Colorado Avalanche), and reading.
Rajashree Kotejoshyer, ScD, MS
Raj Kotejoshyer is a Research Project Manager at the Department. She has a background in Physical Therapy, with a master’s degree in Allied Health Sciences/Health Promotion from UConn Storrs. Her doctoral work at UMass Lowell and post-doctoral fellowship work at UConn Health focused on occupational injury, epidemiology, and occupational health interventions for healthcare and correctional workplaces. Raj is a mixed methods researcher with experience in intervention evaluation and has published numerous scientific journal articles. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, photography, and adventures with her family.
Kyle McAnally is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Department. He has a BS in Geographic Information Systems from the University of North Alabama and is working towards his MPH at the University of Arizona. Kyle previously spent 5 years working on multiple Urologic quality of life and biomarker research studies for prostate, kidney, and bladder cancer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He enjoys oddly complicated board games, most racket/paddle sports, and checking out live music in new places.
Kyle is currently working at the DHDPS on a grant focused on improving the physical activity of hospitalized older adults through assisted ambulation, in addition to assisting with projects looking at tobacco cessation and cardiac rehabilitation improvements.
Aruna Priya, PhD(c), MA, MSc
Aruna Priya has been a biostatistician with the department since 2009. She is currently a PhD candidate in Biostatistics, working on her dissertation, at UMass Amherst aiming to graduate in Summer of 2024. Prior to this, she brings extensive and deep academic training at top universities with a Masters in Statistics and Operations Research (from HCU) as well as Masters in Biostatistics (from UB).
Aruna also has been contributing to major areas of analytics, delivering on statistical solutions for several years. These span areas of RCTs, RWE, HEOR, Observational Research, Health Services improvement and more using databases that could be developed in-house, large administrative databases (CMS, Premier Perspective, Cerner Health facts, NHANES, FARS/NHTSA, NIS). This journey took her through individual physician researchers, physician research groups, academic centers, non-profit, hospital research and the consulting world. As a consultant, she has contributed heavily to grant proposals, study designs, statistical appropriateness, evaluations, and manuscripts while also mentoring interns, junior colleagues, onboarding team members via increasing responsibilities over time.
She has been working closely with several investigators at the department and over time has been an author, coauthor, mentor, peer reviewer for various journals of significance. While her work aims to solve a variety of challenges, Aruna’s interests include statistical modeling, multivariate statistics, experimental design, causal inference, AI/ML and emerging analytic technologies and research areas.
Karen L. Riska, PhD, MS
Karen Riska is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Department. She holds a PhD in Kinesiology from UMass Amherst where she received a grant from the American College of Sports Medicine to examine AKT1 single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with body composition. She received a Master’s of Science in Exercise Science from St. Cloud State University in MN.
Prior to her arrival at DHDPS, she was teaching classes in Anatomy, Motor Learning, and Kinesiology at Smith College. While there, she also advised graduate and undergraduate research projects; the most recent was focused on examining the validity and reliability of a wireless EEG system during eccentric exercise and as an outcome measure of delayed onset muscle soreness. When not at work, she enjoys volunteering with Girls on the Run and being active with her family.
Meng-Shiou Shieh, PhD
Meng-Shiou Shieh is a biostatistician with the Department. She received her PhD in statistics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Before coming to DHDPS, she worked as a statistical consultant, where she proofread and verified formulas for the study "Measurement Error: Models, Methods and Applications,” published March 4, 2010 by John Buonaccorsi. She is also a coauthor with Charles M. Schweik and Robert English for Chapters 9 and 10 of “The Success and Abandonment of Open Source Commons,” MIT Press, Spring 2012.
She has worked on many projects with external collaborators and is adept at performing data analysis on remote systems managed by these collaborators using VPNs (virtual private networks) and other technology. Her recent work focuses on the application of analytic methods appropriate for use with large observational databases like the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, Premier, Inc.’s Perspective, HCA-HealthCare, and All-Payer Claims Databases.
Sumsen Thapa, MS
Sumsen Thapa is an Exercise Physiologist with a strong background in Kinesiology and a focus on research. He completed his undergraduate studies in Physical Therapy from Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India, 2017. He recently graduated with a Master of Science in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2023. He also worked as a Graduate Research Assistant at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he utilized 3D Slicer software to trace and label cardiac MRI scans of study participants and worked on the methodology and technique for the physical measurement of the cardiac fat.
He is currently working as a Research Exercise Physiologist at the Department of Healthcare Delivery and Population Sciences at Baystate Health. His work involves collaborating on diverse projects, which focus on improving outcomes from cardiac rehabilitation among older adults, smoking cessation, and studying ambulation and its effect in improving mobility and outcomes in older adults. With a deep passion for research and exercise physiology, he is thrilled to be a part of these projects and to contribute to enhancing patients' quality of life through evidence-based practices.
Besides his academic pursuits, he has a passion for exploring the world through traveling and immersing himself in different cultures and experiences. During his graduate and undergraduate studies, he found joy in staying active and engaged in sports, particularly football and cricket.
Chisom Unegbu is a Clinical Research Assistant at the Department. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2022 with a Bachelor of Sciences in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. While at UMass Dartmouth, Chisom worked in a plant Biology lab researching plant foraging habits and plants’ responses to their soil microbial community. During her last year of college, Chisom participated in Dana-Farber/Harvard CURE summer program where she worked in a Thyroid cancer lab researching on CREBBP/EP300 deficient anaplastic thyroid cancer. Chisom is also a certified nursing assistant and does a lot of direct patient care in nursing facilities part time.
Outside of work, she enjoys watching supernatural drama series and spending time with family. Chisom is passionate about community and using science to improve health care.