Megan A. O'Grady, Ph.D.
Dr. Megan O’Grady is a social psychologist and health services researcher who joined the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in 2020. She previously spent nine years as a Research Scientist and Associate Director of Health Services Research at Partnership to End Addiction in New York City. Her research and evaluation program aims to improve the system of care for, and prevention of, substance use disorders and focuses on three main areas: 1) implementation of integrated care and evidenced-based treatment and prevention practices, 2) development and implementation of technology tools for health and addiction care settings, and 3) quality improvement and systems-level interventions. Dr. O’Grady is the principal investigator on an NIH-funded study examining the implementation of a text messaging program for unhealthy alcohol use in emergency departments, co-investigator on 4 NIH-funded studies on substance use treatment services, and lead evaluator on several SAMHSA- and State-funded projects in partnership with New York State and the State of Connecticut. In addition, she directs the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics at UConn Health and co-chairs the Connecticut State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW). She received her PhD from Colorado State University and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the NIH-funded University of Connecticut School of Medicine Alcohol Research Center.
Jennifer Sussman, B.A., M.F.A.
Jennifer Sussman is a Research Associate 2 with UConn Health, Department of Public Health Sciences. Over the past 31 years with the UConn Health Center, Jennifer has worked in the areas of: health services research; substance abuse prevention and treatment evaluation and quality improvement; instrument development; training/technical assistance/capacity building; and data and research practices. She has numerous years of experience in both project management and field research with at-risk and adjudicated youth in community and correctional settings, and has spent the majority of her career working closely with state agencies to evaluate their federally-funded initiatives. Jennifer has worked extensively with DMHAS’ prevention initiatives over the past decade, as well as with SAMHSA and DMHAS funded regional and local prevention stakeholders, building evaluation capacity on the state, regional and community levels, and supporting training and technical assistance around data-driven planning and evaluation. She has contributed to numerous journal publications and reports. Jennifer holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Plainfield, VT.
Shayna Cunningham, Ph.D., M.H.Sc.
Shayna Cunningham, PhD, M.H.Sc. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Her research focuses on promoting health equity, particularly related to maternal and child health, for structurally marginalized populations with an emphasis on community engagement. She has extensive expertise in the use of mixed methods and community-based participatory research approaches. Her current projects include the development and evaluation of interventions aimed at improving perinatal outcomes and addressing the rising burden of non-communicable diseases among women. She also provides leadership and support for several State-funded initiatives at the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics at UConn Health. In addition to research, Dr. Cunningham teaches graduate courses on social and structural determinants of health and public health research methods.
Maria (Mayte) Restrepo-Ruiz, Ph.D.
Dr. Restrepo is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Public Health Sciences. She received her doctoral degree in Public Health in 2021 and her MPH in 2014, both from UConn. She also holds a master’s degree in International Studies. She received the Emergent Scholar award from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (2020-2021) for her research on the Colombian armed conflict and its impact on women's increased risk for intimate partner violence and mental health problems. In partnership with CPES, Dr. Restrepo is currently working on building a surveillance system for Adverse and Positive Childhood Experiences in Connecticut using publicly available and administrative data sources. Data from this system will be used to identify child populations at higher risk of adverse childhood experiences and gaps in the provision of prevention programs. She expects data from this system will be available to the public through a web portal in 2023. She is also collaborating with colleagues from Colombia and Puerto Rico on a project to better understand the role of potentially traumatic experiences in children’s mental health in socio-politically complex contexts. Dr. Restrepo is also one of the evaluators of the Partnership for Success 2022-2027 initiative and was the project director of the Family Stability Project social impact grant.
Dr. Restrepo’s goal is to advance her research in preventing adverse experiences in childhood by focusing on factors that have been found to promote positive health outcomes despite adversity. She invites students interested in global health, negative and positive childhood experiences, intimate partner violence, war/armed conflict, forced migration, and behavioral health to contact her at email@example.com.
Janice Vendetti M.P.H., C.P.H.
Janice Vendetti, a health services researcher focusing on prevention and treatment of psychoactive substance misuse, has 3 decades of experience as an Evaluator on state and federally funded grant initiatives. Her areas of interest include the implementation and effectiveness of screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) programs, as well as programs demonstrating the efficacy of novel treatment approaches for substance use disorders. She has collaborated with national and international teams to develop and evaluate screening tools to detect substance misuse in health care settings and to develop training and implementation protocols for SBIRT programs. She was a member of the Cross-site Evaluation Team responsible for the evaluation of the SAMHSA-funded state SBIRT programs. Ms. Vendetti is currently evaluating systems-level implementation of SBIRT in health systems serving women of childbearing age (funded by CDC), expansion of Community Behavioral Health Clinics (funded by CMHS) and expanding access to MAT for individuals at risk of homelessness and OUD (funded by CSAT). Ms. Vendetti is a Research Associate in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UConn Health. She maintains her Certification in Public Health (CPH).Janice is responsible for data analysis and dataset acquisition for CPES.
Alversia Wade, M.P.H.
Alversia Wade is a research assistant at the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES). Alversia graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2020 with a bachelor’s in psychology and attained her master’s in public health from the same institution in 2022. During her time as a graduate student Alversia worked with the Connecticut Department of Public Health to assure data quality for reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and organized the 2019 Healthcare Associated Infections Annual Consumer and Provider Reports. Ms. Wade has copious experience working with local communities to help raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and mitigate its impact on community members. Alversia is particularly interested in the implementation and evaluation of health programs in minority populations which stems from her lived experiences as a black woman. Alversia's ultimate career goal is to pursue a doctorate in implementation science with a research focus on implementing psychological therapies in communities of color.
Alison Wiser, M.S.W.
Alison Wiser is a Clinical Research Assistant at the UConn Health Department of Public Health Sciences. She has a Masters in Social Work from UConn and has worked on a variety of projects focused on substance use treatment and prevention since joining UConn Health in 2015. Alison is currently part of the evaluation team for the Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs (SPF-Rx) and is working on CPES’s ARPA project. In the past, Alison has worked closely with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) recruiting and interviewing participants in the Substance Abuse Family Evaluation, Recovery and Screening (SAFERS) Project, as an FSP Specialist in the area offices recruiting and interview families for the Family Stability Project (FSP) and as an evaluator monitoring, collecting and recording GPRAs, as well as taking on the role of State Youth Treatment Coordinator for the Access, Screening and Engagement, Recovery Support and Treatment (ASSERT) project.
Adekemi Suleiman, M.P.H
Adekemi (Kemi) Suleiman is a graduate assistant and project coordinator on the second round of State Opioid Response (SOR-2) Grant Evaluation at the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES) at UConn Health. She has also worked closely with Principal Investigators at UConn Health and Northwell Health, as a graduate assistant and visiting scholar respectively, on several research projects utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Her research interests are in racial and socioeconomic disparities in adolescent mental health, substance use, and adverse childhood experiences. Kemi obtained an MBBS degree from the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and she is a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians in Family Medicine. She holds an MPH and a Certificate in Addiction Science from the University of Connecticut. Kemi has over ten years experience working as a Family Physician in Nigeria.
Steffany Gomes, B.S.
Steffany Gomes is a graduate assistant at the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES). She is a second-year MPH student and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Allied Health Science from UConn. In the past, Steffany worked as a Community Health Worker where she managed a pilot program for diabetic patients and connected patients with resources to address their needs. Steffany also worked as a research assistant at the UConn Center for Advancement in Managing Pain where she co-authored a journal publication and conducted patient assessments. Steffany has five years of experience working as a nursing assistant and, as an undergraduate student, Steffany assisted in developing and managing a pilot program in collaboration with UConn Dining Services that incorporated the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate into UConn dining halls. Steffany speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese. Furthermore, as an immigrant, she is especially passionate about programs that address health inequities in underserved populations.
Yang Liu, M.P.H.
Yang Liu is a graduate assistant at the DMHAS Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES). He is a second-year PhD student who specializes in mental health. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Allied Health Science from UConn. He earned his MPH from New York University and did a year of research assistant work at NYU before coming back to UConn to continue his education. Yang speaks both Chinese and English. He utilized his language skills to assist the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) back in 2018. Yang hopes to conduct more research to address the mental health disparities in vulnerable populations.