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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

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

Amanda Drobnica, M.P.H. – Health Project Coordinator

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

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 – Information Analyst
“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 – Information Analyst
“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

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 conducting large-scale research in the community, I am continuously 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

Gina Cunningham – Research Associate

Erin Fleming – Research Associate

Julia Weaver – Research Associate

David Chaves Lopez – Research Associate
"The greatest benefit of being part of The Preventive Care Program for Urban Children with Asthma is that I have the opportunity of working directly with caring parents, kind and enthusiastic youth and sincere school nurses. In addition to this, my co-workers are supportive and professional, making our research become more significant and beneficial for our Rochester Community, particularly the families whom we work with." – David Chavez Lopez

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: Traveling 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

Ashima Sharma – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2019

Amogh Kare – Undergraduate Research Assistant
Class of 2015
Hometown: Westford, MA
Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Epidemiology
Personal Interests: photography, music

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