Current Fellows


2016-2017 Interdisciplinary Fellows

Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
Department of Pediatrics
Center for Adolescent Health, School of Nursing 
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health 
MSW Degree Program, School of Social Work 
University of Minnesota

Eunice M. ArebaEunice M. Areba, PhD, PHN, RN, is a second-year Nursing post-doctoral fellow funded the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. Eunice earned her PhD in Nursing from the University of Minnesota and her BSN from Winona State University. Her professional experience includes, neurology and orthopedic postoperative care, community based research with refugee women and youth and teaching at the collegiate level. Her dissertation explored the associations between religious coping, mental health and well-being among Somali college students. As a public health nurse, her research interest lies in the micro to macro level issues at the nexus of health, community, environment and development, especially among refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa. Eunice is interested in developing community-based programs to promote physical and emotional well-being, prevent inter-personal violence and identify effective coping mechanisms for refugee and immigrant youth and their families. Currently, she teaches Public Health Nursing courses at the University of Minnesota, School of Nursing.

Mary ChristophMary Christoph, MPH, PhD, is a first-year postdoctoral fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) program. She received a BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MPH/PhD in Community Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mary’s doctoral research focused on the impact of nutrition label use on dietary intake in a sample of over 3,600 college students surveyed in university dining halls, and utilized digital photography to assess food intake. Working with Professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, she examines how social and environmental factors impact dietary behaviors in adolescents in Project EAT (Eating and Activity among Teens and Young Adults), a longitudinal cohort study investigating dietary patterns and health in adolescents transitioning to adulthood. When not researching, Mary enjoys hiking, art, and overly-complicated cooking experiments.

Laurel Davis, PhD, is a first-year post-doctoral fellow in Family Science funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. She was graduated from Macalester College (B.A.); then earned her M.A. and PhD in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Davis’ research focuses on risk and protective factors that affect children’s development. In particular, she is interested in the science of prevention as it applies to family and children in high-risk contexts (homelessness, combat, incarceration). While at the Minnesota Dept of Health, she was Data Manager for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), the goal for which is to provide funding to public health agencies across Minnesota to improve the health of Minnesotans by changing policies, systems, and environments in order to encourage healthier behaviors in the area of tobacco use, healthy eating, and physical activity. She works as Program Coordinator for Dr Rebecca Shlafer’s study of children’s visits with incarcerated parents. As the primary recruiter for the study, she meets with incarcerated parents to conduct informal consent about the study.

Jennifer DotyJennifer Doty, PhD, is a second-year postdoctoral fellow in Family Science funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. She received her doctorate from the University of Minnesota in Family Social Science with an emphasis on prevention. Jennifer’s research interests are built around the idea that parentchild relationships are a key leverage point for improving both parent and adolescent health and well-being. She views the online environment as a potential outlet for the dissemination of parentbased prevention programming for families. She has authored eleven journal articles (six as first author) and five book chapters (three as first author). In her dissertation research, she focused on the relationship between parents and adolescents prospectively over three generations in the Youth Development Study. She was awarded a Kappa Omicron Nu Research Award for this work. Her long-term goal is to build bridges between basic research and applied prevention settings. A native of Chicago, she makes a point to visit the windy city a couple times a year. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys her field work with two teenagers and a pre-teen at home.

Myriam Forster, PhD, MPH, is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in Preventive Medicine funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. Myriam received her doctorate in Preventive Medicine, with an emphasis in health behavior research, from the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. Her research interests center on adolescent trauma, substance abuse, violence perpetration/victimization, and risky sexual behavior. Her dissertation studies explored the role of psychosocial and sociocultural factors in unidirectional and bidirectional intimate partner violence among Hispanic adolescents and emerging adults. Myriam’s future interests include research that (i) investigates the effect of sociocultural and community stressors on access to, and utilization of, prevention and intervention services, and (ii) the interplay between risk and protective factors across contexts that can advance the development of evidence-based programs implemented in community care settings.

Diego Garcia-HuidobroDiego Garcia-Huidobro, MD, is a third-year post-doctoral fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care grant. He is a family physician from Chile pursuing a second doctoral degree in Family Social Science with minors in Epidemiology and Prevention Science at the University of Minnesota. He received his medical training and specialty at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (2006, 2009), where he collaborated developing and evaluating a family-centered healthcare delivery system. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care, where he conducts transdisciplinary community-based translational research. His investigations focus on how family and other psychosocial factors influence health outcomes, and how family interventions could promote healthier behaviors to prevent chronic and mental illnesses. At the moment, he is adapting a group parenting intervention into a one-to-one format to expand the reach of these programs and contribute reducing smoking initiation and substance use among Latino youth. He has received national and international funding, his work has been recognized at national and international scientific conferences, and his studies have been published in several peer-reviewed journals, including Family Medicine, Family Practice, and the British Journal of General Practice.

Kari GloppenKari Gloppen, PhD, is a third-year post-doctoral fellow funded by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant. She earned her doctorate in social welfare from the University of Washington. Her research interests center on social and environmental factors that influence adolescent and young adult health and well being, with a focus on sexual health. She is also interested in exploring ways to more effectively disseminate evidence-based programs and practices to ensure their adoption and implementation in communities.

Kathryn Hiolski



Kathryn Hiolski, BS, is a first-year predoctoral fellow funded by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant. She received her BS in Psychology with a minor in Human Physiology from the University of Iowa. She is currently a Master's of Public Health Student in the Community Health Promotion Track, focusing on developing interventions at the community level to promote healthy behaviors. Working with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, Kathryn is involved in various projects focusing on children and families involved in the criminal justice system. She also has experience working with preschools and day care centers to introduce local foods into their curriculum and promote healthy eating at an early childhood age. Kathryn currently has a position as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Division of Health Policy and Management (Dr. Sarah Gollust). Following this fellowship, she plans to pursue a career dedicated to the health and well-being of children through community-based interventions.

Kristen M.A. KesslerKristen M.A. Kessler, MD MPH, is a third year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. In addition, she is a fellow in the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program. She received her BA in Hispanic Studies with a concentration in Biomedical Studies from St. Olaf College. She received her MD and Masters in Public Health in International Maternal and Child Health from the University of Arizona. She completed Pediatrics residency at the University of Minnesota in 2014. She enjoys clinical work with children and families with a variety of complex developmental and behavioral challenges. She has particular interest in parenting and the parent-child connection and how these relate to developmental and behavioral outcomes.

Leslie KummerLeslie Kummer, MD, is a first year fellow in Academic General Pediatrics and is funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. She is a pediatrician and plans to pursue an MPH in Maternal Child Health as part of her fellowship. Leslie received her BA in Biology from Carleton College, and subsequently lived and studied in Bergen, Norway for a year as a Fulbright Scholar. She received her MD from Dartmouth and Brown University and completed a Pediatrics residency at the University of Massachusetts in 2013. Since moving back to the Twin Cities the same year, she has been practicing as a primary care pediatrician with HealthPartners. Leslie enjoys caring for children and families from a variety of backgrounds, and plans to utilize her fellowship training to develop innovative clinic and community-based programs to improve families’ knowledge, confidence and efficacy around a variety of parenting and pediatric health issues. Her interests include breastfeeding education and advocacy, parenting in early childhood, and adolescent mental health.

Gabriela LazaldeGabriela Lazalde, BS, is a pre-doctoral fellow funded by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant. She was awarded a BS in Human Biology and Society from UCLA and is currently working on a Masters in Public Health degree in Public Health Administration and Policy (UMN School of Public Health). Lazalde provides data analysis and collection assistance on North Sky Health Consulting’s suite of evaluation projects, including, most recently, work on the American Lung Association’s Tobacco Free Communities grant and technical assistance programs across Minnesota. Working with Dr Veronica Svetaz and Aqui Para Ti (Hennepin County Medical Center), Lazalde provides freelance research assistance to ongoing advocacy project on Medicaid and Emergency Medical Assistance funding expansion for undocumented youth. Her research reflects her long-standing interest in advancing health equity through effective, culturally sensitive policy and environmental changes, with a particular focus on minority youth. Her future plans are to help design, carry out, and evaluate ethically and analytically sound research on public health or health care issues that influence urban youth communities.

Christopher J. MehusChristopher J. Mehus, PhD, LAMFT, is a secondyear post-doctoral fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. His PhD is in Family Science and Couple and Family Therapy, and he is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. Chris's research focuses on the prevention of negative child outcomes through family-focused prevention programs. His current research is aimed at increasing the reach of evidence-based parenting programs by embedding these programs in primary care settings.

Lena Carla Palacios


Lena Carla Palacios, PhD
, is a first-year postdoctoral fellow; and is also an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies and Chicano & Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Lena’s research and teaching focuses on critical prison studies, Black, Indigenous, Chicana/Latina queer and trans feminisms, girls’ and girlhood studies, community accountability and transformative justice, and research justice. As a IRTCAPC fellow, she plans to jump-start a youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) project analyzing how interpersonal and sexual violence interlock with various forms of state violence (administrative, carceral, and enforcement violence) to produce and further perpetuate endemic health disparities. Lena wants to learn more about how to effectively speak within and across disciplines and fields about her own interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on how adolescents’ exposure to (and resistance to) intersecting and interlocking forms of violence is a key social determinant of health. Her current action research agenda is to address critical social justice and public health issues and promote the leadership capacity of criminalized and marginalized girls, queer, and trans youth in both Canada and the United States. Lastly, Lena is writing a book titled “Weaponizing Safety: Indigenous and Race-radical Feminist Transformative Justice Praxis” focusing on transformative justice movements in Canada and the U.S., particularly around sexual and carceral state violence.

Christen PentekChristen Pentek, BS, is a pre-doctoral fellow in Social Work funded by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant. She was awarded a BS in Youth Studies from the University of Minnesota; and is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work (Community Practice) at UMN. Pentek is a Graduate Research Assistant with the Search Institute; and has previously worked on participatory research and evaluation with the Center for Youth Development, the Community Health Initiative, Simpson Housing Services, and courageous heARTS. Upon completion of the fellowship, she would like to work as a community-engaged researcher and critical educator, at the intersection between youth work, peace-building, and research justice. Long-term, her goal is to be a college professor at a research university.

April Wilhelm


April Wilhelm, MD
, is a first year Primary Care fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care grant. April completed her undergraduate education at Carleton College, and then spent two years as a Community Health Education Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Mauritania. April received her medical degree from Brown University. She completed her medical residency training at the United Family Medicine Residency Program in Saint Paul in 2015. Her primary research interests include adolescent health and refugee and immigrant health disparities. April is particularly interested in applying CBPR principles to guide community program design and implementation aimed at improving the wellbeing of refugee and immigrant youth. In her clinical practice, April is interested in full spectrum family medicine in underresourced settings.