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People

Who We Are

The MH-RITES Research Center is led by a multidisciplinary team committed to driving evidence-based innovation in research and practice. Learn about our senior leadership, advisory board, and Center research fellows, and staff.

Connect with Us

Please reach out to us about shared research interests or to collaborate using the provided contact information below.

Founder Title & Research Interests Connect

Robin E. Gearing, PhD
Center Director: Robin Gearing

Director, The MH-RITES Research Center

Professor, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work

Research Interests:

1. Improving outcomes for adolescents and emerging adults with serious mental illnesses and their families.
2. Client engagement and adherence to evidence-based psychosocial and pharmacological treatments.
3. Service access and utilization for underserved racial, ethnic/cultural, and stigmatized populations.
4. Patterns of service delivery, service utilization, and treatment adherence.
5. Strategies for addressing barriers and enhancing promoters to mental health treatment and services.
6. Interventions to maintain clients in treatment and improve outcomes and recovery.

Bio
rgearing@uh.edu

Advisory Board

Board Members Title & Research Interests Connect
James M. Mandiberg, PhD 
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Associate Professor | Hunter College, City University of New York, NY

 

Research Interests: Community and economic development of highly stigmatized populations, such as those with serious mental health conditions (SMI) and those with long-term histories of homelessness.

Bio

jm945@hunter.cuny.edu
Sarah Narendorf, PhD 
Sarah Narendorf

Associate Professor & Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Mental health and mental health service use during the transition to adulthood for marginalized groups including youth aging out of foster care, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth involved in the criminal justice system.

Bio

sanarendorf@uh.edu
Steve Schnee, PhD
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Retired Executive Director of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD in Houston, Texas

 

Research Interests: Improving services provided by clinicians, improving connectivity within and across organizational components to positively engage seriously impaired, economically challenged individuals of diverse backgrounds with significant mental disabilities.

Bio

Jair C. Soares, MD, PhD 
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Professor & Chairman, Pat R. Rutherford, Jr. Chair in Psychiatry, Director, Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders, Executive Director, UTHealth HCPC

 

Research Interests: Adult general psychiatry, bipolar disorder, depression, second opinion, deep brain stimulation, mood disorders, neuroendocrinology, neuroimaging, neuropsychology, and psychopharmacology.

Bio

Jair.C.Soares@uth.tmc.edu

Renae Vania Tomczak, MBA, EDFP, HDFP 
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President & CEO | Mental Health America of Greater Houston

 

Research Interests: Community mental health, prevention, and early intervention efforts with vulnerable families.

Bio

renae@mhahouston.org

Research Fellows

Become a Research Fellow

If you are an MD or PhD who conducts research connected to the MH-RITES Research Center's mission and would like to be considered as a research fellow, please submit your CV and bio to Dr. Robin Gearing at rgearing@uh.eduApproved submissions will be presented to the board for final review.

Research Fellows Title & Research Interests Connect

Dana Alonzo, PhD

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Professor |  Director, Suicide Prevention Research Program, Fordham University

 

Research Interests: Suicide prevention and intervention, mental health treatment engagement and adherence, mood disorders and suicide attempt, protective factors against suicide attempt, and race, ethnicity and culture in mental health research.

Bio

dalonzo1@fordham.edu

Rabiu K. B. Asante, PhD

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Lecturer | Department of Sociology, School of Social Science, University of Ghana

Research Interests: Digital technologies and social behavior, mental health interventions, mental health needs of problematic sports gamblers and digital gamers, and mental health in developing nations.

Bio

rkbasante@ug.edu.gh

Juan Barthelemy, PhD, LCSW-BACS

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Assistant Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Community engagement strategies to reduce juvenile violent crime, community capacity building, violence intervention development and implementation, and monitoring the effects of group violence reduction strategies on homicides and other violent crimes. 

Bio

jbarthel@central.uh.edu

Shanondora Billiot, PhD, MSW

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Assistant Professor | School of Social Work, Affiliate, Department of American Indian Studies, University of Illinois

 

Research Interests: The intersection of culture, the environment, and wellbeing among Indigenous peoples; understanding health and wellbeing in relation to global environmental changes such as chronic disasters and climate change.

Bio

sbilliot@illinois.edu

Doris Akyere Boateng, PhD

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Lecturer | Department of Social Work; Affiliate | Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy, University of Ghana

 

Research Interests: Gender issues, Women’s Empowerment, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Issues, Mental Health, Resilience

Bio

dboateng@ug.edu.gh

Sharon Borja, PhD

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Assistant Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Intergenerational adversity and resilience; migrant health and wellbeing; determinants of health and mental health and health inequities in low- and middle-income countries and in the United States; and culturally grounded social work prevention approaches and interventions.

Bio

sborja@central.uh.edu 

Katheryn Brewer, PhD

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Assistant Professor | University of New Hampshire

 

Research Interests: Adolescent resilience, strengthening self-regulation, increasing engagement in social services, and justice-involved adolescents.

Bio

kat.brewer@unh.edu

Nicole F. Bromfield, PhD

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Associate Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Social well-being of persons who are vulnerable and at risk for exploitation, especially women and children in a global context; divorce from arranged marriages and global surrogacy arrangements.

Bio

nfbromfield@uh.edu

Michael Coffey, PhD

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Professor of Mental Health Care | Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences, Swansea University, UK

 

Research Interests: The organization, delivery, and experience of mental health care; negotiating identity for people leaving forensic mental health services; care planning and coordination in community and acute inpatient settings; recovery and shared decision making.

Bio

m.j.coffey@swansea.ac.uk 

Sondra J. Fogel, PhD, LCSW

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Associate Professor & PhD Program Chair| School of Social Work, University of South Florida

 

Research Interests: Social and behavioral health disparities among individuals and families due to poverty, criminal justice involvements, mental health conditions, and/or traumatic experiences. Community engagement strategies to promote equity and justice.

Bio

sfogel@usf.edu

Lisa Kan, PhD

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Director of Research | Harris County CSCD

 

Research Interests: Cultural and linguistic differences on mental health assessment processes and outcomes; social disparities in judicial systems; culturally informed forensic mental health assessments.

Bio

kan@shsu.edu 

Jamison (Jami) V. Kovach, PhD

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Professor and Director | Lean Six Sigma Professional Training Program, College of Technology, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Application of engineering design and process improvement methods in healthcare, changes organizations need to implement in order to improve their operational processes to achieve their strategic objectives and better serve their clients.

Bio

vkovach@uh.edu

Marcus Lam, PhD

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Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management | School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego

 

Research Interests: Identifying strategies for the sustainability of health and human service nonprofit organizations; the effect of organizational and environmental factors on nonprofit sustainable resources; and the influence of resources on organizational programs, services, and client outcomes.

Bio

mlam@sandiego.edu

Patrick Leung, PhD

Patrick Leung

Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston

 

Research Interests: Children and families, mental health, HIV and AIDS, refugee populations, Asian studies, and the elderly.

Bio

pleung@uh.edu

Pedro Isnardo de La Cruz Lugardo, PhD

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Director of Research | Escuela Nacional de Trabajo Social (ENTS), Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)

 

Research Interests: The evaluation of public policies, social community impact of public policies, migration, public health, security, social prevention of violence, and the design of institutional strategies in social policy.

Bio

 

unam.pedroisnardo@gmail.com

Irfan Mian, MD

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Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor, Child and Adolescent, Equity, Gender and Population | University of Toronto Psychiatry Department

 

Research Interests: Youth mental health, schizophrenia, and suicide prevention.

Bio

irfan.mian@sickkids.ca

Kiara Moore, PhD

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Assistant Professor | Silver School of Social Work, New York University

 

Research Interests: Multisystemic factors that lead to mental health disparities among marginalized young people, including youth of color, youth from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and LGBTQ youth that are experiencing mental health conditions.

Bio

kiara.moore@nyu.edu

Bernice Perez Ramirez, PhD

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Associate Professor | Escuela Nacional de Trabajo Social, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

 

Research Interests: Gender studies, body studies, trans issues, disability, and prison.

Bio

bereramirez@comunidad.unam.mx

Shahnaz Savani, PhD, LMSW

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Lecturer of Social Work | University of Houston - Downtown

 

Research Interests: Mental Health and suicide prevention in low and middle-income countries; closing the treatment gap for mental illness by scaling up mental health treatment and engagement through evidence-based
psychosocial interventions.

Bio

savanis@uhd.edu

Ciwang Teyra, PhD

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Assistant Professor | Truku Tribal Nation, Department of Social Work, National Taiwan University

 

Research Interests: Determinants of global indigenous health, wellbeing and resilience; historical trauma, healing, and resistance; culturally relevant psychometric measurement; and culturally informed interventions to address health concerns among indigenous communities internationally. 

Bio 

ciwang@ntu.edu.tw

Micki Washburn, PhD, LMSW, MA,
LPC-S

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Assistant Professor | University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work 

 

Research Interests: The integration of technology into mental health and substance abuse interventions; the intersections of mental health, substance abuse and child welfare, and health disparities related to LGBTQ+ children and youth with child welfare and/or juvenile justice involvement.

Bio

micki.washburn@uta.edu