2019-2020 Interdisciplinary Fellows
Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
Department of Pediatrics
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Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health
MSW Degree Program, School of Social Work
University of Minnesota
Pooja Brar, PhD, MS, is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. She received her BS in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from University of Wisconsin-Stout. She went on to have a decade long career as a family therapist in the U.S. and India. Her international clinical work with youth and families prompted her return to academia. She completed her PhD in the Department of Family Social Science. Her research focuses around intimate relationships and sexual health of youth nationally and internationally. Her dissertation research examines sexual self-efficacy among sexually active adolescent women. Her long-term research agenda is to examine the role of contextual factors (e.g., families, partners, culture) on youth health and wellbeing.
Calla Brown, MD, FAAP, is a third-year fellow in Academic General Pediatrics and is funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care (IRTCAPC) grant. She is an internist and a pediatrician, and is pursuing a master’s degree in human rights at the University of Minnesota during the fellowship. She majored in women’s and gender studies while an undergraduate student at Columbia University, and following college graduation joined the Peace Corps, serving for two and a half years in southern Ecuador. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, spending a fifth year as a medical student volunteer in rural El Salvador with Doctors for Global Health. She then completed residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. During the past academic year, she and her family lived in Malawi as volunteer physician educators at the Malawi College of Medicine with Seed Global Health. She is interested in the intersection of health, human rights, and immigration/migration.
Marci Exsted, BA, is a fellow funded by the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) grant. She received her B.S. in Social Work from North Central University and is currently pursuing a master’s of Social Work at the University of Minnesota with a concentration in community practice. She has worked for over three years as a MSHO/MSC+ Care Coordinator, working with geriatric clients who have Medical Assistance. Her work consists of conducting health assessments and providing supports for clients to stay healthy and safe in the community. She has also participated in multiple opportunities for policy advocacy with the Minnesota Social Service Association, both on the general Policy Advocacy Committee and the 7% Work Group addressing home and community-based services, and through direct community engagement. Her primary research interests are centered on issues of race and gender equity in society, particularly related to systems.
Laura Hooper, MS, earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Western Washington University in 2002. She earned an M.S. in Nutritional Science and registered dietitian credential from the University of Washington in 2007. She worked as a clinical dietitian in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital for 10 years prior to moving to Minnesota. In this position, she worked with adolescents and their families in outpatient and inpatient settings to treat eating disorders, obesity, and everything in between. Her clinical passions were developmental, patient-centered, and evidence-based approaches to care; promoting health equity; motivational interviewing; culturally competent care; and health literacy. She also loved precepting clinical trainees and collaborating with interdisciplinary colleagues on a daily basis. She is now pursuing a PhD in Nutrition with a doctoral minor in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Her current research focuses on nutritional health for the adolescent and young adult (AYA) age group. Specifically, she is interested in the intersection between disordered eating and obesity and how external factors such as weight stigma and food insecurity impact related health outcomes in AYAs. Future goals include leading youth-informed research which promotes self-efficacy and nutritional health among AYAs.
Katy Miller, MD, FAAP, is an Adolescent Medicine Fellow through the LEAH program with a background as a pediatrician. She is completing a three-year fellowship to become board certified in Adolescent Medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree in Spanish Literature from the University of St. Catherine, and then spent a year with a volunteer corps working at a free clinic in East Los Angeles. She went on to spend 12 months volunteering in Latin America before starting medical school at the University of Iowa. During medical school, she continued to work with immigrant and refugee communities, including co-founding a mobile clinic site in a nearby rural community that was home to many Latinx immigrants and families. During medical school, Katy completed the Global Health Distinction Track and Service Distinction Track, completing volunteer work and research investigations in Brazil, Tanzania, India, Haiti, Nicaragua, and locally. Katy completed her pediatric residency at the University of WI, where she participated in the Global Health Track. She taught pediatric and neonatal care in Ecuador and Uganda during residency, and was selected as the Pediatric Global Health Chief Resident after finishing residency. In that capacity, she began working with Atlas International, a non-profit in Eastern Uganda that promotes capacity building for health care organizations and hospitals. As a medical fellow at the University of Minnesota, her interests include global health, immigrant/refugee health, LGBTQ health, and trauma-informed care. She is strongly passionate about immigrant/refugee health, LGBTQ health and advocating for vulnerable populations, including undocumented patients. Katy continues to work with Atlas International as the Clinical Field Liaison Officer, and looks forward to visiting Uganda each year during fellowship.
Janna Gewirtz O’Brien, MD, FAAP, is a post-doctoral Adolescent Medicine Fellow through the LEAH Program. She is a board-certified pediatrician. She plans to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health and board-certification in adolescent medicine during fellowship. She obtained a BA in Public Health and Biology and then an MD at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. She completed Pediatric Residency at Mayo Clinic; after residency, she worked as a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Clinic. For the past 5 years, she has also volunteered at the Rochester Alternative Learning Center Clinic, a free school-based clinic for adolescents at high risk of academic failure. She has been involved in piloting a primary care-based approach to family-based treatment of adolescents with eating disorders. She serves on the Minnesota American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Board and served on the AAP’s Executive Board of the Council on Community Pediatrics. She hopes to take a deeper dive into community-based research and advocacy for adolescents. Areas of focus include runaway and homeless youth, adolescent mental health, and reproductive health, with a particular interest in providing school and community-based interventions and health care services.
Katie Querna, PhD received her doctoral degree in Social Welfare from the University of Washington in June 2018. She was recently a research fellow through the National Institutes of Health Institute of Translational Health Sciences, and a member of institutional and state policy boards related to health disparities and gender/sexuality related health and well-being. Katie is a mixed methodologist who uses feminist and community-based approaches to research conceptions of gender and sexuality norms with the aim of improving health. Her recent projects examine cis men and trans masculine individuals’ experiences of bisexuality as they transition out of adolescence. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Katie earned her MSSW from Columbia University in 2008 and moved to Seattle to work in HIV/AIDS and related research, practice, and policy. Katie has taught in higher education and community settings for over 15 years. Katie also teaches adaptive yoga, and loves to dance, ski, and ride her bike.
Christina Ross, PhD, RN is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Training in Child and Adolescent Primary Care. She earned her PhD in 2019 from the University of Virginia, School of Nursing and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (2013) from The University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut. Christina is also an emergency trauma prepared nurse. Her research interest involves health promotion and risk reduction among vulnerable adolescents locally and globally, sexual and reproductive health, and global health disparities. Her goal is to develop interventions to address the elevated rates of STIs and unintended teenage pregnancy, and ensure vulnerable youth have equal access to quality health care. Christina has a passion for global health and was the 2018 NIH Minority Health International Research Training Grant Scholar, where she mentored undergraduate students and conducted 2019-2020 Interdisciplinary Fellows - 4 - rev 8/28/19 research among young adults in South Africa to understand alcohol use and its impact on pregnancy and relationships. Her most recent study/dissertation looked at Female adolescents’ perspectives regarding their SRH needs while in foster care.
Mollika Sajady, DO, MPH, is a third-year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She completed her Pediatric Residency at the University of Minnesota with a focus on global health and child development. She attended medical school and completed a Masters of Public Health degree at Des Moines University. She also received a B.A. in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2009. As a fellow, Molly is interested in strengthening her advocacy skills for children with disabilities and to become familiar with services and interventions within the community that will better serve her patients in the future.
Maura Shramko, MPP, PhD, focuses her research and evaluation work on promoting well-being among diverse young people in the US and internationally using a positive youth development (PYD) lens. Specifically, she is interested in examining young people’s internal strengths as well as supportive resources in their families, schools, and communities that promote health, while acknowledging structural inequalities youth face. Maura has a PhD in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona, a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in American Studies and a Spanish minor from Macalester College. Before pursuing a PhD, as Research Associate at Search Institute, Maura conducted PYD-focused research and evaluation in Minnesota and internationally. In particular, she worked closely with international partners to develop and pilot cross-cultural PYD measures for youth programming in low-income countries, including technical assistance and training. Prior to this, she conducted and contributed to program evaluations in English and Spanish with the State of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development, and community-based organizations, as well as providing direct services for young people and their families in education and youth programming.