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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, Pediatrics
    –  Division Chief, General Pediatrics
    –  Senior Associate Dean for Clinical 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, M.D., M.P.H.

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, M.P.H.
  • 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, R.N.
  • 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, Ph.D.
  • 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, B.A.
  • Amanda Drobnica, M.P.H. – Senior Health Project Coordinator
  • Derek D’Arcy – Health Project Coordinator​
    “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
  • Erin Davis – Health Project Coordinator​
    “Watching so many unique minds work together on a project to help the Rochester community is amazing. The energy and passion of our team members is a large piece of what makes the Asthma Studies so successful.  We are able to help children better control their asthma and provide the care necessary to achieve positive outcomes.  I love the family centered aspect of working with the entire household to help a child be well. I leave work feeling satisfied with the things I've done and the children I've encountered.” –Erin Davis
  • Ignacio Sanchez  – Human Subject Research Coordinator
  • Stephanie Betts – Human Subject Research Coordinator
    "I feel very fortunate to be able to work with a team of passionate and dedicated individuals. I am grateful to be in a position to work with families and schools around the Rochester area to help children have better control of their asthma and overcome barriers.​" – Stephanie Betts
  • Kylee Bartlett  – Research Support Associate​
    “Working with this team has been a very humbling and rewarding experience.  It is an honor to work with such compassionate people who strive to help improve asthma care for the children and families of the Rochester community.  I enjoy being able to connect with our families while also learning what it takes to make research studies like these successful.  Every day brings a unique experience and I am grateful to be a part of something so great!” – Kylee Bartlett
  • Sang Lee – Research Support Associate
    "It is such a pleasure to work with the Rochester community, a city so vibrant and special. My interactions with the families, schools, community organizations and the children themselves have all been an incredible experience. Each encounter has contributed to a perspective that what we’re building is bigger than just research. And I have the privilege of establishing relationships and improving public health in our community. And It’s hard to lose sight of the goal when you’re surrounded by such passionate and hard-working team members! It’s all very rewarding to look back on a busy season, knowing that we collaborated to build something special. Our communication, accountability, and respect for one another drives our goal of helping families and their children improve their overall health and overcome healthcare barriers!" – Sang Lee
  • McKenzie McLaughlin – Research Support Associate
    “I enjoy being able to come to work each day and know I am bettering the lives of others. I may have only been here for a short time, but I feel as though I have made so many connections out in the community and even among my coworkers. One of my favorite things to do on this job is interact with the kids. They always want to take pictures with me and some of them even hug me. That is all the thanks I need.” – McKenzie McLaughlin
  • Halle Platten – Research Support Associate​
  • Jessica Metelski – Research Support Associate​
  • Akimi Sasaki - Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2020
    – Hometown: Dobbs Ferry, NY
    – Major: Neuroscience
    – Minors: Clinical Psychology
    – Personal Interests: Exercising, designing clothing, creating art and traveling​
    “Being a member of the Asthma team has been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences I have had while in college. I am honored to be part of such a dedicated and driven group of people that strives to better healthcare in an underserved population. I love getting to know families in the Rochester community, and it brings me joy to be able to direct them to resources that positively impacts their lives.” – Akimi Sasaki
  • Natalie Lebedko – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2020
    – Hometown: Rochester
    – Majors: Environmental Health
    – Minor: Spanish and Psychology
    – Personal Interests: skiing, traveling, and trying new foods
    "Hearing about the experiences of our participants, their caregivers, and my coworkers has given me a unique glimpse into the complexities and challenges of medicine in underserved communities and the health inequities many families face. My new position as a member on the Asthma team has shown me the importance of education and outreach in local communities, and the difference increased knowledge of asthma can have both on the child and the family’s well-being. I feel so thankful to be part of such a passionate team and for the opportunity to have a positive impact on the Rochester community!" – Natalie Lebedko
  • Justin Halterman – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2020
    – Hometown: Penfield
    – Majors: Biochemistry
    – Minor: Pyschology
    – Personal Interests: Music, water polo, and nature
  • Mackenzie Steen - Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Rochester, NY
    – Majors: Biology and Brain and Cognitive Science
    – Minor: Spanish
    – Personal Interests: Spending time with family and friends
  • Joshua Rosario – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Hilton, NY
    – Major: Biomedical Engineering
    – Personal Interests: swimming, playing guitar and traveling
  • Jorge Matute - Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Honduras
    – Major: Microbiology
    – Minors: Psychology and Spanish
    – Personal Interests: trying new foods, rollerblading, biking and CANDY!
  • David Niemynski – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
    – Majors: Molecular Genetics
    – Minor: Psychology
    – Personal Interests: 
    “Since joining the Asthma Team, I believe that I have been able to understand how important it is to address the needs of the children and teens enrolled in our studies. I feel that my experiences thus far have motivated me to continue playing a role in decreasing the negative effects of asthma. Interacting with these families has been the most rewarding part of my time here and I am fortunate to be able to contribute to this study by going out into the community.” – David Niemynski
  • Alexa Sanchez – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Dallas, TX
    – Majors: Health Policy
    – Minor: Spanish
    – Personal Interests: Playing and listening to music, family, softball, and making jokes about Texas
    “As a member of the asthma team, I am given the privilege of pursuing my passion of public health while also becoming a friend of the Rochester Community. Going out into the field and having these meaningful yet productive conversations with families to help them better understand their children’s asthma, is the most rewarding part of being on this team. I hope that our work inspires others to also befriend the Community and make a positive impact on it.” – Alexa Sanchez
  • Genevieve Putnam  – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Chicago
    – Majors: Molecular Genetics 
    – Minor: American Sign Language
    – Personal Interests: Exploring places to eat, nature walks, hammocking, and playing all different sports with my friends
  • Paola Ferreira – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2021
    – Hometown: Yonkers
    – Majors: Microbiology
    – Minor: Epidemiology
    – Personal Interests: cooking, watching movies, and biking
    "Being part of the asthma team is special to me because it has allowed me to get out of the campus bubble. Going into college I knew I wanted to get involved in the Rochester community and working here has allowed me to do so by working directly with families to help improve the health of children." – Paola Ferreira
  • Syler Blaakman - Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2022
    – Hometown: Pittsford
    – Majors: Digital Media Studies and Spanish
    – Minor: Psychology 
    – Personal Interests: Hanging out with friends, playing intramural sports and pickup basketball
    “Working for the asthma team has had a great impact on me in a variety of ways. First of all, the team itself is comprised of some of the most dedicated, passionate, and caring people I have met. They have been so nice and welcoming since the very first day I stepped foot in the office, and that is something that really resonates with me because of how important it is to have a positive workplace environment. The nature of my position as a Research Assistant for this team has been really rewarding and has certainly taught me a lot about myself as well. Being able to go to our participant’s homes to communicate with them directly about their asthma, connect them to the resources they need to help treat their asthma, and to even just get to know them and experience what their lives are like, has been really humbling. It feels amazing to have such an immediate impact on the lives of the people around us who would otherwise be struggling to stay afloat or just “get by” on their own. Ultimately, I could not be happier with my decision to expand my horizons and apply for this research position. I am honored to work with the asthma team in all that they do to give back to our Rochester community.” – Syler Blaakman
  • John Feldkamp – Undergraduate Research Assistant
    – Class of 2022
    – Hometown: Cincinnati
    – Majors: Neuroscience
    – Minor: Chemistry
    – Personal Interests: Power lifting, cooking, and reading
    "As a member of the asthma team, I’ve had the opportunity to cross the socio-economic boundary and see Rochester through the lens of healthcare inequality. This experience has put story to statistic and allowed me to observe the clinical and public health facets of pediatric asthma. I have a voice in weekly meetings and it furthers my knowledge, which translates into a better-educated approach to the community. This opportunity has made me a far more conscious individual." – John Feldkamp