Ph.D. in Health Sciences Cohort

Newest Students 2022

The Ph.D. in Health Sciences program welcomed its eighth cohort on Aug. 12, 2022 at NIU’s Naperville Campus.

Seven students, numerous CHHS faculty, and administrators from across the university kicked off the event with a dinner. The guest speaker was Dr. Paul Priester, chair of the School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions.

Students from previous cohorts were excited to meet their fellow classmates at this in-person event. For some, it will be the last time they attend face-to-face events as they move forward in their program.

The 2022 cohort at the August Ph.D. in Health Sciences event

Current Student Biographies 2022

Get more information and view member biographies from previous year cohorts

Liza Bashambu

Most recent degree: Master of Science in Physician Assistant

Current Professional position: Director of Didactic Education/Assistant Professor – South University Physician Assistant Program – Savannah, GA

Research goals: Examine the correlation between GRE scores of Physician Assistant (PA) students and subsequent success on the PA national board examination – Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE)

Faculty Advisor: Bette Montgomery, Ph.D.

Grace Wilson Biokoro

Most recent degree: Master of Public Health

Current professional position: Nurse and Public Health Educator

Research goals: I am interested in health education initiatives aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality and morbidity rates among women of reproductive age. I propose to do so by examining how the attitudes of healthcare practitioners toward lactation impact exclusive breastfeeding.

Faculty advisor: Julie Patterson, Ph.D.

Donald Grant

Most recent degree: Master of Jurisprudence (MJ) in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago

Current professional position: Independent Consultant 

Research goals: I am interested in conducting research pertaining to moral injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including policy, interventions, and outcomes to improve diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes.
I plan to consider these topics from two perspectives: the first perspective (e.g., veteran, first-responder, healthcare professional), and second perspective is their family/support system, whom are often adversely impacted health-wise…often exposed to stress, anxiety, and injury by proximity to their suffering loved one, but the wellness of family/support system can often be neglected in research, intervention, and funding.
Faculty advisor: Thomas Pavkov, Ph.D.

Stephanie Lipira

Most recent degree: Masters in Human Development and Family Sciences
Concentration in Child Development and Child Life

Current professional positions: Certified Child Life Specialist in a Pediatric Emergency Room
Instructor at Northern Illinois University in the HDFS Department

Research goals: How mental health has affected school age children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other research interests include children's responses to hospitalization, family dynamics, play therapy, child abuse 

Faculty advisor: Tom Pavkov, Ph.D.

Niaya McCleave

Most recent degree: Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, Howard University, 2016

Current professional position: Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist

Research goals: Publish research focused on reducing the racial gap in mental health treatment and improving mental health quality of life amongst minority adolescents. 

Faculty advisor: Nahal Salimi, Ph.D.

Silvia Orsulic-Jeras

Most recent degree: M.A. Community Counseling

Current professional position: Research Associate, Center for Research and Education, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, Cleveland, OH

Research goals: Development, testing, implementation and translation of a variety of psychosocial interventions for persons living with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias (ADRD) and their family caregivers as well as for those managing multiple chronic health conditions. Other specialties include: counseling and strength-based methods, dyadic research, clinical readiness and intervention development and activities programming in both individual and group forums, specifically, music and arts-based interventions.

Faculty advisor: Jamie Mayer, Ph.D.

Casey Reed

Most recent degree: Doctor of Pharmacy and M.S. in Health Economics and Outcomes Research

Current professional position: National Payer Account Medical Lead - Outcomes Liaison 

Research goals: Quality Improvement and Implementation Science Research 

Faculty advisor: Jie Chen, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Williams

Most recent degree: Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from Rush University

Current professional position: Occupational Therapist/Certified Hand Therapist/Resource Clinician at Loyola University Medical Center

Research goals: Health disparities and access to care for underprivileged, low SES, rural or non-native individuals. My goal is to identify barriers in education provided to patients regarding their prognosis, injury status, return to work, medical procedures completed, etc. By identifying both organizational (physician, medical staff, etc.) barriers as well as patient barriers (health literacy, language barriers, etc.), my research will aim to decrease the gap of understanding and affect positive change on the patient's outlook and understanding.
Faculty advisor: Shondra Clay, Ph.D.