About our Team

Our Leadership

Christopher L. Steele, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Christopher L. Steele, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Dr. Steele is our lead physician at UCHL. Born and raised in Burlington, CT, Dr. Steele graduated with his M.D./M.P.H. from the University of Connecticut and completed his training at Johns Hopkins in internal medicine. He has returned to UConn to become clinical faculty for the medical school and now is course director for the health science and Social Determinant of Health (SDH) curriculum in the 3rd and 4th year of training. Dr. Steele's training is focused on bridging the gaps of the social-determinants of health and high value care. He has published in the literature on this topic and presented internationally. He practices as both an hospitalist and primary care physician in the area.

Henry Siccardi

Henry Siccardi, Class of 2023

Henry is a student at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Born and raised in Queens, New York before moving to Connecticut as a teenager, Henry originally pursued a career in law. Upon graduating from Fordham University in 2012 he decided to pursue a different path, eventually pivoting to medicine. Since pursuing this path he has worked extensively on community health outreach. As a member and coordinator of the Bronx Community Health Leaders and RA Program in Bridgeport, CT he spent three years leading teams of volunteers providing an array of health outreach programs to patients.

He hopes UCHL will pay forward to students and patients the incredible experiences, opportunities and mentoring from which he benefited in these programs.

Please reach out to me directly at: Siccardi@uchc.edu

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Zoha Sarwat, Class of 2024

Zoha is a medical student at the UConn School of Medicine who grew up in South Windsor, CT. She graduated from UConn (double husky!) with a major in Physiology and Neurobiology and minors in Psychology and Sociology. Throughout college, she worked at a pediatrician's office, volunteered at CT Children's Medical Center, tutored elementary schoolers, and conducted psychology research. Her hobbies include photography and kayaking!

After helping start the program as a Coordinator, Zoha looks forward to continuing to learn more about helping underserved patient populations. As she was so recently in their shoes, she also wants to help pre-health students with their track!

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Erin Cova, Class of 2025

Erin is a medical scribe at multiple Emergency Departments in CT. She grew up in Southington, CT and attended Brown University where she majored in Biology on the Physiology and Biotechnology Track. In college, Erin joined the varsity women's rugby team as a walk-on and helped plan first year student orientation as a member of Brown University's Orientation Welcoming Committee. Erin's favorite place to volunteer in CT is the CT Food Bank.

As a founding member of UCHL, Erin is happy to be able to help provide volunteer and learning opportunities to pre-health students while also contributing to efforts to improve the health of residents of CT. 

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Nivedha Natchiappan, Class of 2025

Nivedha is a medical student at the UConn School of Medicine. She grew up in Avon, CT and graduated from UConn with a major in Healthcare Management and minors in Chemistry and Molecular Cell Biology. In college she spent time mentoring and tutoring elementary schoolers, organizing UConn’s Global Health Symposium, and conducting infectious diseases and health economics research.

Nivedha is excited about helping patients get access to the resources and care they need. She is also looking forward to providing students with unique and impactful opportunities.

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Autumn Leavitt, Volunteer Coordinator

Autumn is an undergraduate student at UConn majoring in Physiology and Neurobiology. She is from Haddam, CT. Autumn started as a volunteer in the UCHL program during the Fall 2020 semester. In addition to UCHL, she volunteers as a mentor in the Storrs Big Brother Big Sister program and is involved in research in a neuropharmacology lab on campus.

Autumn serves as a Volunteer Coordinator. She looks forward to working with both the leadership team and the volunteers to help patients identify and utilize resources that can lead to improvements in their health.

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Christopher Angus, Research Coordinator

Christopher is an undergraduate student at UConn (Class of 2022) majoring in Biological Sciences. He is from Avon, CT and joined UCHL in the Fall of 2020 with the initial goal of expanding the program to the UConn Health Urgent Care and Family Medicine Clinics in Storrs, CT. In addition to UCHL, Christopher leads local community service events within the UConn Community Outreach Department and volunteers as an EMT in nearby Canton, CT. Outside of school, he is a huge Boston sports fan and can be found in attendance at almost every UConn basketball game.

Christopher serves as a Research Coordinator with a special interest in identifying and addressing health disparities in the communities surrounding UConn. He values the relationships he has been able to build with patients and fellow UCHL team members and hopes future students benefit from the same incredible opportunities.

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Darlene Burckson, Volunteer Coordinator

Darlene is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut majoring in Biological Sciences with a minor in Human Development and Family Sciences. She is from South Windsor, CT, and joined UCHL as a volunteer during the Summer 2020 semester. On-campus, Darlene is a Senior Resident Assistant for the Women in Math Science and Engineering Learning Community(WiMSE), in addition to being a member of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, a Peer Mentor for the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, and a member of the Leadership Legacy Experience.

Darlene serves as a Volunteer Engagement Coordinator and is passionate about connecting patients to resources to improve health care outcomes. 

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Ling Chi, Research Coordinator

Ling is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Computational and Systems Biology. She is from Wethersfield, CT and joined UCHL in the Spring 2020 semester as part of the first cohort. On campus, Ling is the operations manager of WHUS Radio and is a member of the STEM Scholar executive board. She is also involved in medical informatics research, a field she will continue to pursue with an IDEA grant project.

Ling serves as one of the Research Coordinators and is excited to work with UCHL leadership and volunteers to address social determinants of health and reduce health disparities in our community.

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Radha Patel, Volunteer Coordinator

Radha is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology and minoring in Human Development and Family Sciences. She joined UCHL as a volunteer during the Summer 2021 semester. On-campus, Radha is a member of the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Program, a mentor in the Kids & UConn Bridging Education (KUBE) program and is involved with the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students and Asha for Education.

Radha serves as a Volunteer Coordinator and is passionate about improving healthcare outcomes for underserved communities. She is excited to be a part of a team that is working to reduce health disparities and train future leaders in the health professions community.

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Reinier González, Research Coordinator

After graduating from high school, Reinier moved to Connecticut from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to pursue an undergraduate education in the states. Here, he is a Junior at the University of Connecticut and is working towards a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology and a minor in Global Studies. At the University, Reinier is a member of many academic programs such as STEM Scholars in the Honors Program, LSAMP Scholar, and a new member of the Leadership Legacy Experience. He also does research to find novel immunotherapy ligands in the University’s Pharmacy Department under Dr. Wiemer.

In addition to his work with UConn Health Leaders, Reinier is involved in multiple leadership positions. He is currently acting as the STEM Scholar Executive Director and is an Honors Guide for Peer Success (GPS). Reinier is very passionate about working with underrepresented populations, as such, he hopes UCHL can inspire other students in understanding and dissolving the social barriers patients face to get quality health care.

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Rose Karvandi, Research Coordinator

Rose is a Physiology & Neurobiology undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut, minoring in Human Development and Family Sciences. She joined UCHL in Fall 2020. At UConn, Rose serves as a Community Mentor in the Women in Math, Science, & Engineering (WiMSE) Learning Community, is a member of the 4th cohort of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, in addition to being involved in Cancer Survivorship research and the Iranian Student Association. Outside of school, she is passionate about martial arts & drawing portraits

Rose enjoys learning about & implementing different strategies for patient education, especially for underserved populations. She is excited to help UCHL volunteers take away experiences that will further motivate them in their journeys as future healthcare professionals.

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Sheryl John, Research Coordinator

Sheryl is an undergraduate student at UConn majoring in Physiology and Neurobiology (PNB) and Psychological Sciences. She is from Trumbull, CT. In addition to UCHL, she is the president of CHAARG and Sigma Theta Alpha. A pre-health fraternity. She is also a Senior Resident Assistant and  is involved in research in a psych lab on campus. Sheryl is also a member of Leadership Legacy at UCONN. Sheryl started as a volunteer in the UCHL program during the Summer of 2020.

Sheryl serves as one of the Research Coordinators and is excited to work with UCHL leadership and volunteers to address social determinants of health and reduce health disparities in our community. She is excited to learn and implement as many resources she can to help the underserved population.

UCHL Alumni

Jacqueline Steele

Jacqueline Steele, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Jacquie graduated from the UConn School of Medicine in 2022 and is now starting residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She grew up in Greenwich, CT and attended college at Emory University where she majored in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and minored in Spanish. In college she spent her free time volunteering at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, tutoring students at local Atlanta high schools, and playing on the club field hockey team.

Jacquie was a founding member of UCHL because she wanted to help patients from under-served communities have better access to health care services and she enjoyed mentoring incoming pre-health students about ways they can help improve patient health outcomes.

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Ajshe Zulfi, Class of 2025

Ajshe is a medical student at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is from Trumbull, CT. Ajshe graduated from UConn in 2021 with dual degrees in Economics and Healthcare Management and with a minor in Molecular and Cell Biology. She is a huge fan(atic) of the UConn women's basketball team and has had the opportunity to meet Coach Geno along with many of the players.

Ajshe is grateful for the connections that she created starting off as a volunteer in the UCHL program and is excited to continue her work with the program as a research coordinator.

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Ciara Dobrowolski, Recruiting and Onboarding Coordinator

Ciara is an undergraduate student at UConn majoring in Chemical Engineering. She is from Ellington, CT and began her involvement with UCHL as a volunteer during the Spring 2020 semester. Aside from UCHL, she volunteers with various outreach organizations on campus and works as a CNA.

She is one of the Recruiting and Onboarding Coordinators and enjoys being a part of the UCHL Team because everyone is so passionate and there is always something new to learn.

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Katya Skaritanov, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Class of 2024

Katya is currently a first year medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who was part of our very first coordinator team in 2019-2020. She was born in Russia, grew up in Israel, and graduated from high school in Needham, MA. In 2020 she graduated from UConn as a Physiology and Neurobiology Major, Honors Scholar, and University Scholar. Throughout college she was committed to community service through her work with the Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program and UCHL.

At UMass Med, Katya has been involved with the Crisis and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which has been integral in assembling the medical student volunteer force for the COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the State of Massachusetts. She is also involved with tutoring high school students and leading various interest groups on campus. She will always value the professional and personal opportunities for growth that UCHL offered her and hopes to apply her passion for community health in her future career as a physician.

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Kristina Gaffney

Kristina grew up in Easton, CT and received her Bachelor of Science (Honors) degree in Allied Health Sciences, and minor in Molecular and Cellular Biology, from UConn. While at UConn, she worked as an undergraduate researcher in a Molecular and Cellular Biology lab exploring the functions of the Myf5 and MyoD genes in satellite cells during early development in mice. After graduation, she served as a Patient Care Technician at Bridgeport Hospital in the Pulmonary Medical/Surgical department and also joined the hospital's ethics committee, which she still serves as a standing member today. Kristina now lives and works full-time in New Haven at the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE), which focuses on improving health and health care through targeted research projects.

Kristina joined our first coordinator team as a founding member of UCHL in 2019, and has participated in the program as Research Coordinator until June 2021. She continues to feel passionate about UCHL's mission to address and reduce health disparities in Connecticut, and greatly appreciates the various opportunities and mentorships that she has gained from her involvement.