Cohorts from Past Years

Fall 2017 Cohort

The Ph.D. in Health Sciences program began its fourth cohort on August 18, 2017 at NIU's Hoffman Estates Campus.
Nine students and several faculty from fields across the College of Health and Human Sciences kicked off the evening with a dinner and a reception.

NIU Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Brad Bond, welcomed the students and Dr. Michael O’Rourke delivered the evening's keynote address.

The 2017 cohort at the August Ph.D. in Health Sciences event

Fall 2016 Cohort

The Ph.D. in Health Sciences program began its second cohort on August 12, 2016 at NIU's Hoffman Estates Campus.  

Fourteen students and faculty from fields across the College of Health and Human Sciences kicked off the evening with a dinner and a reception.  

NIU Vice President of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, Anne Kaplan, welcomed the students and Dr. John A. Vozenilek III delivered the evening's keynote address "Interprofessional Collaboration: Taking Academic Programs Across Departmental and Clinical Boundaries".

The 2016 cohort at the August Ph.D. in Health Sciences event

Fall 2015 Cohort

The inaugural PhD in Health Sciences cohort program began on August 14th at NIU's Hoffman Estates Campus.

Fifteen students and faculty from across the College of Health and Human Sciences kicked off the evening with a panel discussion followed by a dinner and reception.

CHHS Dean Derryl Block welcomed the students and Dr. David Stone delivered the evening's keynote address.

"I feel experimental research is essential in its own right. However, as much as I fully support the detailed technical work of these scientists, my pursuit of a Ph.D. in basic science was twice thwarted because I could not see the forest through the trees. I was not convinced that my basic science research at the bench on one tiny protein would have any impact on the< quality of life for cancer or malaria sufferers. Consequently, as health scientists, we are charged with a different, yet equally significant calling. In order to improve health outcomes, we need to take each of those paradigms we learned in Biology, Psychology, Statistics, Microbiology, and Social Behavior and bring them and their representatives together to the same research table. Only then can we truly begin to see each tree in thecontext of the forest and not be confined by our individual paradigms"by Dee Dee Downie, 2015 Ph.D. in Health Sciences cohort member

The 2015 cohort at the August Ph.D. in Health Sciences event

Current Student Biographies


Crystal Carel

Most recent degree(s): Master of Public Health, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Current professional position: Systems Analyst (Programmer/Quality Consultant)

Research goals: Investigating outcomes related to quality among supportive and palliative care and non-palliative care clinicians and interactions with seriously ill patients.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jinsook Kim

Shubhagata Das

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science-Profession Program in Biotechnology, Texas A&M University

Current professional position: Scientific Affairs Manager, Luminex Corporation

Research goals: Evaluating the role of biostatistics in clinical trials design and analysis, particularly understanding how to optimally design a clinical study based on available data, which would reduce risks, and improve the quality of results and submissions. Investigate how to determine the suitable variables to be measured based on the study objectives and to learn efficient ways to interpret and analyze data. Additionally, exploring how early, accurate, and rapid diagnosis, along with an efficient healthcare management system, can lead to high-quality, cost-effective patient care; how transforming complex healthcare and diagnostic systems to simpler user-friendly platforms can eliminate diagnostic and human errors thus providing timely results and improving the overall clinical workflow.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Ping Yao

Deauna Froneberger

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science-Mental Health Counseling (Rehabilitation Counseling) & Post Masters Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling and Behavioral Addictions

Current professional position: Vocational expert and rehabilitation counselor

Research goals: Prepare students and clinicians in the delivery of health care via Telehealth through the development of interpersonal skills and use of technology, developing useful options to enhance quality of life and efficacy of chronic disease management, and public and private sector rehabilitation counseling service delivery.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Matthew Sprong

Hannah Johnson

Most recent degree(s): Doctor of Physical Therapy

Current professional position: Staff Physical Therapist-Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Research goals: Enhancing the interdisciplinary team within a skilled-nursing facility setting; optimize student and clinician knowledge of physical therapy treatment strategies for persons with mental health disorders.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jennifer Gray

Donna Kruse

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science-Nursing, Northern Illinois University

Current professional position: Registered Nurse (Stroke Coordinator and Magnet Coordinator), Advocate Sherman Hospital, Elgin, Illinois.

Research goals: Study patients who suffer a stroke but delay in seeking medical treatment (is the delay due to lack of knowledge, denial, severity of symptoms, etc.).

Faculty advisors: Dr. Kari Hickey

Olivia Lemberger

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science- Nursing

Current professional position: Clinical Educator- Rush Copley Hospital

Research goals: Health care innovation-interdisciplinary use of simulation.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jeanette Rossetti

Audra Moore

Most recent degree(s): Master of Occupational Therapy

Current professional position: Occupational Therapy Supervisor, Wood County Educational Service Center, Bowling Green, Ohio.

Research goals: Meeting the needs of clients with social and health disparities with specific interest on the family dynamics related to the opiate crisis as well as youth mental health. To utilize developing research to advance access to community health programs by establishing a sample model using telehealth practices in conjunction with face to face interaction with clients.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Thomas Pavkov

Nathan Taylor

Most recent degree(s): Master of Public Health/Master of Science-dual degree with a concentration in Health Information Systems

Current professional position: Clinical Informatics Consultant

Research goals: Using healthcare data and technology to find the best practices and techniques that drive high quality care at low cost within chronic diseases.

Faculty advisor: Dr. James Ciesla

Paris Willis

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science-Health Education & Promotion, with an emphasis in Community Health, University of Cincinnati.

Current professional position: Quality Improvement Facilitator, Telligen.

Research goals: Analyzing approaches to health disparities in unserved and underserved communities, specifically exploring low levels of access and/or use of mental health services, including community stigma.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Kathleen Musker


Shovonna Burcham

Most recent degree(s): Master in Health Sciences from Indiana State University

Current professional position: Supervisor, Diagnostic Development Services 

Research goals: To further understand the impact of health disparities for women

Faculty advisor: Dr. Derryl Block

Michele Crase

Most recent degree(s): MPH from Northern Illinois University

Current professional position: NIU Laboratory Safety Manager

Research goals: Understanding the motivation factors in personal laboratory safety

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jeanne Isabel

Pamela Durr

Most recent degree(s): Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy from St. Ambrose University

Current professional position: Assistant Professor at Bradley University, Peoria, IL

Research goals: Effects of learning cultural sensitivity in health science students through the use of short term mission trips (or through clinical exposure in a pro bono clinic). 

Faculty advisor: Dr. King Chung

Celeste Hendricks

Most recent degree(s): Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the College of Saint Scholastica

Current professional position:  Academic Clinical Instructor at University of Saint Mary Doctor of Physical Therapy Program; also PRN Clinical Physical Therapist

Research goals: Ascertaining characteristics of adherence of wellness recommendations by involvement of multi-disciplinary collaboration, including dietician, physical therapist, and physician in obesity reduction. 

Faculty advisor: Dr. Beverly Henry

Cindy Hrdi

Most recent degree(s): MS in Communication Sciences and Disorders from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Current professional position: Assistant Professor, Department of Speech-Language Pathology at Concordia University Wisconsin

Research goals: Develop a plan of research in pediatric feeding and swallowing.  I am especially interested in how caregiver responses to infant cues affects growth and development. 

Faculty advisors: Dr. Allison Gladfelter and Dr. Janet Olson

Kim Milano

Most recent degree(s): MS in Dietetics and Nutrition from University of Kansas

Current professional position: Pediatric Dietitian Consultant

Research goals: To study food selectivity in young children - characteristics associated with selectivity and/or interventions to increase acceptance of foods.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Priyanka Ghosh Roy

Ryan Orrison

Most recent degree(s): MS in Physical Therapy from Andrews University

Current professional position: Assistant Professor and Foundations Sciences Coordinator, Andrews University, Department of Physical Therapy.

Research goals: My research goals, as they apply to the NIU PhD in Health Sciences, are focused on strengthening the skills necessary to combine a strong research agenda with my current teaching responsibilities.  By taking advantage of the curriculum at NIU I expect to improve my understanding of research design, data analysis, and funding.   Through an inter-professional approach I will develop a plan to carry out research in one of my areas of interest that includes but is not limited to the following: use of prediction rules to improve clinical decision making; the role of the physical therapist in preventative healthcare interventions;  nonsurgical interventions for femoroacetabular impingement;  clinical outcomes in a bundled payment system; the use of comprehensive exams as an indicator for success on national board exams; and improving student learning in the foundation sciences with the use of case scenarios.   In deciding on my dissertation topic the goal will be to develop original research that on dissemination will contribute to improved patient care, healthcare outcomes and or student learning. 

Faculty advisor: Dr. Christina Odeh

Tan Pham

Most recent degree(s): MS in Clinical and Population Health from UMASS Medical School, MPH in Epidemiology from University of Connecticut

Current professional position: Biostatistician/Psychometrician in patient centered outcomes research at Mapi

Research goals: To further develop my analytic thinking and skillset to further improve my career in pharmaceutical consulting

Faculty advisor: Dr. Ping Yao

Sara Samuel

Most recent degree(s): Pharm.D. from University of Illinois at Chicago, MBA from DePaul University

Current professional position: Clinical Pharmacist

Research goals: The use of health information technology to improve the quality of patient care.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jaeyong Bae

Katherine Schultz

Most recent degree(s): M.S. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from Northwestern University

Current professional position:  Assistant Director, Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology and MS in Speech, Language, and Learning Programs at Northwestern University

Research goals: Exploring issues in curriculum design, teaching methodology, and learning assessment in medical and health professions education.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Beverly Henry

Amanda Spraggs-Hughes

Most recent degree(s): Master of Arts in Historial Studies from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Current professional position: Clinical Research Coordinator in Orthopaedic Trauma, Washington University School of Medicine

Research goals: I plan to investigate the patient rehabilitation process post traumatic orthopaedic injury

Faculty advisor: Dr. Daniel Boutin

Richard Sroka

Most recent degree(s): Master of Physical Therapy from Midwestern University

Current professional position: Physical Therapist

Research goals: 1) Ethnic and Gender Disparities in manual physical therapy 2) Effects of joint mobilization on muscle activation

Faculty advisor: Dr. Prisca Collins

Corey Ungaro

Most recent degree(s): M.S. Biotechnology and Chemistryy

Current professional position: R&D Scientist in charge of Biochemistry Department

Research goals: Ascertain the potential for behavior change using activity/sleep trackers

Faculty advisor: Dr. Christina Odeh


Leah Ames

Most recent degree(s): M.S. MLS from Michigan State University

Current professional position: Adjunct Professor and Medical Laboratory Scientist

Research goals: Focusing on the different branches of patient care to develop a collaborative educational environment and to promote inter-professional exchanges and development in healthcare facilities.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Beverly Henry

Erick Amick

Most recent degree(s): M.P.H. and M.A. (African Studies) from Indiana University

Current professional position: Program Manager, Helping Babies Survive Initiative American Academy of Pediatrics

Research goals: Exploring health disparities, health programs in low-resource environments, evaluating program outcomes, and the role public-private collaborations play as innovators in health services.

Faculty advisor: Dr. James Ciesla

Brian Anderson

Most recent degree(s): M.S. Advanced Clinical Practice from National University of Health Sciences, MPH from Benedictine University and Doctor of Chiropractic from National University of Health Sciences

Current professional position: Assistant Professor and Attending Clinician, National University of Health Sciences, Lombard, IL

Research goals: Clinical application of low back pain classification systems.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Mary Jo Blaschak

Dee Dee Downie

Most recent degree(s): M.P.H. from University of Pittsburgh

Current professional position:  CDC Public Health Advisor, USPHS, Madison, WI

Research goals: Investigating community resilience in mitigating international disasters.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Lin Shi

Lisa Gagliano

Most recent degree(s): M.A. Com.D. from Northern Illinois University

Current professional position: Forensic Rehabilitation Counselor

Research goals: Exploring the development of disability identity and the factors that affect psychosocial adaptation to disability, especially in persons living with acquired or non-apparent disabilities.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Greg Long

Amy Gootee-Ash

Most recent degree(s): Masters of Health Science from James Madison University

Current professional position: Visiting Instructor at Delaware State University Dept. of Public and Allied Health

Research goals: Examine the relationship in meal consumption and food grazing on blood glucose levels of Type II Diabetics

Faculty advisor: Dr. Lynn Herrmann

Ann Guernon

Most recent degree(s): M.S. S.L.P. from Northeastern University

Current professional position: Clinical Research Coordinator

Research goals: Exploring 3 distinct but potentially related areas including:  neuromodulation, measurement and management of chronic needs for brain injury survivors and informal caregivers/family.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Christina Papadimitriou

Hana Hinkle (graduated)

Most recent degree(s): Ph.D. from NIU

Current professional position: Associate Director, National Center for Rural Health Professions, UIC-Rockford College of Medicine

Research goals: Examining inter-professional workforce needs, through a public health systems context, in addressing Hispanic health disparities. 

Faculty advisor: Dr. Derryl Block

Steven Hinojosa (graduated)

Most recent degree(s): Ph.D., NIU

Current professional position: Lead Epidemiologist, Hidalgo County

Research goals: Examining the varying socioeconomic factors and their contribution to a community’s health, such as in vaccine acceptance and host-pathogen interactions of infectious diseases.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Jinsook Kim

Debra Kimberlin

Most recent degree(s): M.S. N.D. from Eastern Illinois University

Current professional position: Assistant Professor, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences, Olivet Nazarene University

Research goals: Further exploring the relationship between posttraumatic stress disorder and eating patterns among veterans.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Beverly Henry

Brandon Male

Most recent degree(s): M.S. Ed. from Northern Illinois University

Current professional position: Instructor of Biology, Aurora University, Head Weightlifting Coach Moose L Up Strength Gym.

Research goals: Further investigating the role nutrition plays in the performance of competitive athletes in power based events.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Judith Lukaszuk

Felicia Mobley

Most recent degree(s): M.H.A. from Washington University in St. Louis

Current professional position:  Manager for Physician Assistant Program at Emory University, School of Medicine

Research goals: Analyzing the effectiveness of current approaches to address health disparities from an educational, economic, and social justice perspective.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Prisca Collins

Quentin Moore

Most recent degree(s): M.P.H. from University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University

Current professional position: Chair, Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Program at Mercy College of Ohio

Research goals: Seeking to intertwine public health principles into medical imaging practice.  Intended focus includes management of radiation concerns and screening procedures, and application of quality improvement methods.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Sarah Geiger

Pamela Taylor

Most recent degree(s): Master of Science in Nursing from Northern Illinois University as a Family Nurse Practitioner (2002) and a Post Masters Certificate in Nursing Education (2009)

Current professional position: Interim Director of Nursing Graduate Studies at NIU and a Family Nurse Practitioner at the Dyson Wellness Center at North Central College

Research goals: Investigating adolescent and young adult care and underserved communities.  Finding what evidence based programs and education would have the greatest impact to influence this group on making on making life style changes.

Faculty advisor: Dr. Donna Plonczynski