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URMC / Labs / Jill Halterman Lab / Lab Members

Lab Members

The Preventive Care Program for Urban Children with Asthma team has the fortunate opportunity to work closely with the Rochester community while emphasizing the importance of continued learning. The following quotes are reflections on how our experiences have affected us.

Principal Investigator

Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H.
Professor of Pediatrics
Co-Vice Chair for Research

"In my view, our greatest privilege has been the opportunity to develop the relationships that we have with the community. In particular, the city school district and the nurses have been so supportive of our programs, and have worked diligently to improve care for children with asthma." – Jill Halterman

Study Team

Maria Fagnano, M.P.H.
Associate Director of Clinical Research
Senior Health Project Coordinator

"I feel very fortunate to work with a wonderful research team that cares about children’s health with great enthusiasm. Our research team always seeks to better understand the families that we work with to ultimately provide better health care to these children." – Maria Fagnano

Paul Tremblay, R.N. – Project Nurse

"To be in a position to contribute as a nurse within this dynamic research team is both meaningful and rewarding. Our work together leads to a better understanding of significant gaps and disparities in the asthma care of urban underserved children. Thanks to visionary leadership we are in a unique position to test community-based interventions that address children’s relievable suffering and improve quality of life for Rochester families. Many memorable experiences with bright-eyed children, concerned parents, committed school nurses and local pediatric providers have left their impressions. One former elementary school child was particularly enthusiastic. Through meetings with his mom and dad, I heard about their struggles with long-standing smoking habits. He was able to breathe noticeably better when he received his preventive asthma medicine through school and his parents wanted to take steps to eliminate smoke exposure at home. At the end of the school year we asked this child if he would pose for a picture; he could not contain his excitement and performed cart wheels for us on his front lawn. His mother smiled big too, sharing his joy and looking very proud. The upside down image of this excited boy later became part of the logo we designed for our School-Based Preventive Asthma Care Technology (SB-PACT) study. We’re able to make a difference for real people and learn what it takes to make asthma a chronic condition that children can live well and lead full lives with." – Paul Tremblay

Susan Blaakman, Ph.D. – Project Nurse

"I have learned a great deal about what it takes to run a major research project while upholding the highest respect both for science and the care of the families who participate. It was my greatest honor to be invited to a home by a family participating in the NICU study pilot and to be introduced to a now healthy and thriving baby who was at birth ‘the smallest baby ever born at Strong Memorial Hospital.’ I’ll never forget being able to hold a miracle (dressed in pink) in my arms that day!" – Susan Blaakman

Heather Holderness – Health Project Coordinator

"It is a true privilege to be a part of such a dynamic research team that not only conducts the highest quality research but also serves to provide the utmost care and compassion for our community. The families in our community with whom we work experience significant barriers to good health, but the relationships and interactions we are able to build with them help us to better understand these gaps so that we are ultimately able to help break down these barriers and improve their, and our community’s health." – Heather Holderness

Reynaldo Tajon, B.A. – Health Project Coordinator

"Watching our school-based programs evolve into what will potentially be a new model of care for childhood asthma is both challenging and rewarding. In some ways, our approach to asthma care is much like taking apart an outdated vehicle and rebuilding it with more efficient and economical parts. What is very exciting at the moment is that some schools and state health departments across the country are starting to take notice of our approach to school-based asthma care and are trying to implement similar programs! Our overall goal is for these programs to be sustained and disseminated elsewhere, and while we know we have our work cut out, we are looking forward to the challenge. With every study, we are exploring new grounds to provide high-risk children with asthma with the best possible care." – Reynaldo Tajon

Hillary F. Goldman – Research Analyst

"Just about the greatest feeling in the world is to hear firsthand from families and nurses that our program has benefited their children. This feedback fuels my motivation to continue working for the ever evolving Preventive Care Program for Urban Children with Asthma. What a joy it is to work for a program whose outcomes are so in line with my personal values!" – Hillary F. Goldman

Elise Wiesenthal, B.S., R.N. – Research Analyst

"Working with the asthma study team has given me so many opportunities to grow, both professionally and personally. I have had the chance to work with and learn from an amazing group of dedicated, compassionate individuals. I have gained an understanding of the effort that goes into each large scale project, and I am really enjoying the opportunity to become involved in many different aspects of research. Additionally, the interactions we have with families in our programs allow us to shape our studies to the needs of the community. It is so rewarding to be welcomed into the home of a subject, and see the positive effects of our asthma research on a child's life." – Elise Wiesenthal

Charles Gillett – Research Analyst

"During my time here with the study team, my understanding of what it takes to conduct 'good' research has expanded far beyond the scope of just having 'good' data printed on a sheet. Good research is about the development of theories and the experience of taking those ideas and materializing them. Good research is about the people who work together on that process. In research, it not only takes a good idea, but just as importantly is requires a good team of individuals to nurture those ideas and help you to develop better ones. Working here has been a great experience as I have had the chance to work with individuals who are always seeking to improve themselves and the quality of their work. The dedication to the work and to the community has definitely been a major contributor to the team's past successes and it will continue to promote future success. It’s such an honor to be a part of this team." – Charles Gillett

Peggy Collins – Research Associate

Lamie Nguyen – Research Associate

"The unique relationship that our research team has with the community and Rochester City School District has made it possible for us to do what we are passionate about and try to give back to Rochester.It is inspiring to come to work every day and be surrounded by people who care deeply about the work they do, and work hard to meet the needs of the people we serve. We work hard and challenge ourselves and each other every day to be innovative, empathetic, and dedicated team members." – Lamie Nguyen

Kerry Blauvelt – Motivational Interviewing Counselor

"In the Asthma Team, I have found an environment that is helping me to grow immensely as a professional. Along with the experience I am gaining as a Motivational Interviewing Counselor, I have encountered a variety of opportunities to expand my skills. Whether it’s trying to figure out how to present abstracts and data in a clear, concise poster, or facilitating a presentation and discussion about a research project with a diverse audience of community members, or finding creative solutions to connect with teens and caregivers that are difficult to reach, I am continuously being challenged to think and act in new ways. I’ve only been with the team for a few months and I am eager to see what challenges and opportunities the rest of my time here will hold!" – Kerry Blauvelt

Cinthia Welch – Research Associate

“Speaking from the heart, I believe research has the ability to establish innovative knowledge and power to influence policies that can make a real difference in the world, and what better place to start using that knowledge than in your own community. I think it is important to give back to your community in order to make a positive impact in the world around you, especially in Rochester, because we have such a large underserved urban population. Knowing that I have this outstanding opportunity to be out in my native community, be involved in children’s health, and reach out to families is just an incredible honor. The asthma study team has been leading phenomenal research over the years, and is constantly evolving. It is inspiring to be surrounded by team members who all strive towards research that could make a change in the way we care for childhood asthma and genuinely care about our community. I find this experience very rewarding and am extremely proud to be a part of this legendary team.” – Cinthia Welch

Derek D’Arcy – Research Associate

“I consider myself very lucky to be able to work with such caring and driven people on the Asthma Team. The opportunity to help families in the community alongside a wonderful team is something I am extremely grateful for.  Although I have only been a member of the Asthma team for a short time, I’m excited to continue to meet and help wonderful families throughout Rochester!” – Derek D’Arcy

Dana Belles – Research Associate

"The asthma program is the perfect place for me to combine two of my passions: improving public health, and working with largely underserved members of the Rochester community. It is a joy for me to come to work every day, where I am privileged enough to work with a great, compassionate team, and meet with so many enjoyable families, teens, children, and providers around the city." – Dana Belles

Alex Hoey – Research Associate

“Working for the Asthma Team has provided me with invaluable insight into the worlds of both research and clinical care. It’s easy to come into work in the morning when you work with a group that is so passionate about aiding the Rochester community. What I love most about our program is the foresight, as we attempt to create new models of care that may benefit children with asthma for years to come.” – Alex Hoey

Allyssa Abel, M.P.H – Research Associate

“As a member of the asthma team, I have been able to connect with Rochester families who have children who are severely suffering from asthma. Asthma is a debilitating chronic illness, so working with a group of passionate clinicians, researchers, and students at the University of Rochester to optimize asthma care for youth in the surrounding neighborhoods has been an extremely rewarding and humbling experience. This work has grown very close to my heart because Rochester is my hometown. Therefore, I view it as a great privilege and honor to be serving on this team and serving my community.” – Allyssa Abel

Sarah DePerrior - Research Associate

" As a new member of the Asthma Team, I am incredibly inspired by the mission and passion of this amazing group of people. Not only am I always learning new things about all of the many parts and pieces that go into conductiong large-scale research in the community, I am continously inspired by the incredible drive and enthusiasm this team has for helping to improve the health and well-being of children and families throughout the city of Rochester." – Sarah DePerrior

Katelyn Cappotelli – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2016
Hometown: Caledonia, NY
Major: Molecular Genetics
Minor: Psychology as a Social Science
Personal Interests: watching or attending sporting events with my family and friends and finding the best deal at the Public Market

Angela Kluzniak – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2017
Hometown: Parker, CO
Major: English with a Creative Writing concentration
Minor: Brain and Cognitive Science
Personal Interests: novel writing and bouldering when in Colorado

Eleni Wechsler – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2017
Hometown: Warwick, NY
Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology .B.S.
Personal Interests: environmental health and health policy, avid sports fan and an animal lover (even though I am allergic to most of them)

Michelle Benassai – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2017
Hometown: Houston, TX
Major: Biology B.A., Psychology B.A.
Personal Interests: Playing soccer, running, attending alternative rock concerts, and traveling

Shivali Mukerji – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2016: Take Five 2017
>Hometown: Mumbai, India
Major: Neuroscience
Minor: Chemistry and Psychology
>Personal Interests: Reading books and blogs (especially on topics related to social justice) and watching medical and true crime documentaries

Lydia Goff – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2018
Hometown: Red Hook, NY
Major: English and Psychology
Minor: Brain and Cognitive Science
Personal Interests: writing, cooking and hiking

Ariel Weisman – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2018
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Major: Epidemiology
Minor: Spanish
Personal Interests: quidditch, swing dance and theatre

Makenzie Gabriel – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2017
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Major: Public Health
Minor: Psychology
Personal Interests: loves italian food, puppies and volleyball

Iman Ali – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2017
Hometown: Atlanta, GA/Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Major: Public Health-Bioethics
Minor: Chemistry

Devan Baijal – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2019
Hometown: Brentwood, TN
Majors: Environmental Health and Business
Minor: Biology
Personal Interests: Travelling with my family, being active, and not being active at the same time

Brianne Landwersiek – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2018
Hometown: Baldwinsville, NY
Majors: Public Health (Health, Behavior, and Society) and Studio Arts
Minor: Spanish
Personal Interests: visual arts (painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpting, finger-painting, etc.), paying guitar/ukulele/piano/singing, working with kids

Olivia Moutevelis – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2018
Hometown: Ipswich, MA
Major: Health, Behavior and Society
Minor: Biology

Tylia Johnson – Summer Intern
Xavier University of Louisiana; Class of 2017
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Personal Interests: playing pool, bowling, cooking, listening to music and watching action films

Carson Klasner – Summer Intern
University of Southern California; Class of 2018
Hometown: Webster, NY
Major: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Minor: Theatre
Personal Interests: theatre, reading and dogs

Leanne Garcia – Student Intern
Rising Junior at East High School
Hometown: Rochester, NY
Personal Interests: Dances and is interested in pursuing a career in medicine

Former Lab Members