Leadership

Dr. Laura Linnan

Dr. Laura Linnan

Laura Linnan, ScD
Principal Investigator and Center Director

Dr. Linnan is currently a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs in the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. As center director for the Carolina Center for Total Worker Health® and Wellbeing, Dr. Linnan is responsible for establishing the overall vision for the Center and strategic plan for Center operations. Laura Linnan has more than 30 years of experience as a public health practitioner and researcher with a special focus on work and health. Recently completed projects include the 2017 Workplace Health in America Survey, a nationally representative survey of employers, and CARE: Caring and Reaching for Health, a randomized controlled trial to evaluate two worksite wellness programs designed specifically for childcare professionals. Dr. Linnan is also the director of the UNC Gillings Graduate Certificate in Total Worker Health®, offered through the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center.


Maija Leff

Maija Leff

Maija Leff, MPH
Associate Director

Ms. Leff is the associate director for the Carolina Center for Total Worker Health (TWH) and Wellbeing. She also serves as program manager and adjunct instructor for the UNC Gillings Graduate Certificate in TWH. In her role as associate director, Maija contributes to strategic planning and administrative oversight of overall center activities. She also is part of the Outreach Core team, actively developing TWH Continuing Education opportunities for working professionals in the southeast region. As a practitioner, Ms. Leff has focused on training and capacity-building interventions to promote workers’ wellbeing. From 2018-2020, she served as Total WellBeing Coordinator with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Work/Life and Wellness Program, where she helped recruit, train and provide technical assistance to Wellness Champions developing wellbeing programs in 16 Schools and Divisions across the UNC campus. Her most recent research role was as Co-Investigator with the Carolina PROSPER study, which sought to assess the feasibility of implementing a TWH intervention in small- to medium-sized businesses during the pandemic.


Outreach Core

Dr. Alice Ammerman

Dr. Alice Ammerman

Alice Ammerman, DrPH
Co-Director

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, is co-director of the Outreach and Education Core. She is a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, one of 26 Prevention Research Centers in a national network funded by the CDC. Dr. Ammerman’s research focuses on chronic disease prevention in marginalized populations and communities and on economic development in rural communities through sustainable food systems. She is the principal investigator of an affiliated research project funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities focused on healthy food access and health promotion in rural blue-collar worksites: “Good Bowls: Empowering Communities to Achieve Good Food Access and Health Equity”


Dr. John Staley

Dr. John Staley

John Staley, PhD, MSEH
Co-Director

Dr. Staley is co-director of the Outreach and Education Core. He also serves as the deputy director and director of Outreach and Continuing Education at the North Carolina Occupational Safety Health Education and Research Center (NC OSHERC), and is BSPH Core Faculty and adjunct assistant professor in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Staley has over 20 years of experience as a preparedness and workplace safety and health researcher and instructor. He collaborates with the first responder and military communities to improve preparedness and response education and practice, as well as conducts research and translation of findings using a TWH approach for issues impacting the health of vulnerable occupational groups throughout the Southeastern United States. He also teaches in the UNC Gillings Graduate Certificate in TWH.


Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Alex Lightfoot, EdD
Co-Investigator

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, is a co-investigator supporting the Outreach and Education Core. She is an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She also directs the Community Engagement and Training Cores at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and serves as Co-Lead for the Community and Stakeholder Engagement unit of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute, home of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). In these capacities, she provides consultation, training and technical assistance to build capacity and share strategies for community engagement and participatory research approaches.


Mark Simon

Mark Simon

Mark Simon
Graduate Research Assistant

Mark Simon is a Graduate Research Assistant for the Carolina Center. In this role, he supports the development and execution of the Center’s outreach strategy. Mark is also a full-time Master of Public Health (Health Behavior) student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where he is pursuing a graduate certificate in TWH. Prior to UNC, Mark worked in corporate finance for eight years before transitioning to non-profit mental health. He is the Founder and President of a speaking and consulting enterprise that helps businesses, educators and non-profits develop comprehensive mental health solutions, including the delivery of Mental Health First Aid, QPR, Working Minds and custom programming.


Dr. Leena Nylander-French

Dr. Leena Nylander-French

Pilot Project Program

Leena Nylander-French, PhD, CIH
Co-Director

Dr. Nylander-French serves as co-director on the Pilot Project and Emerging Issues programs. She is also the director of the North Carolina Occupational Safety Health Education and Research Center (NC OSHERC). Within NC OSHERC, Dr. Nylander-French oversees the Occupational Exposure Science and Industrial Hygiene Training Program, the Targeted Research Training Program, and the Pilot Project Program. Her research is focused on understanding the consequences of human exposure to toxic substances. Her laboratory has pioneered quantitative measurement techniques for inhalation and skin exposures as well as for biological monitoring of toxicants to estimate total body dose, which is critical to assess risk to health.


Dr. Shawn Kneipp

Dr. Shawn Kneipp

Shawn Kneipp, PhD, RN, ANP, APHN-BC
Co-Director

Dr. Kneipp is co-director of the Pilot Project and Emerging Issues programs and the Sarah Frances Russell Distinguished Term Professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing. Her research focuses on reducing chronic disease morbidity and improving employment-related functioning for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and has been supported by NINR, NIMHD, AHRQ and the CDC. In her role as the Pilot Project and Emerging Issues Co-Director, she oversees funding processes for developing new projects and investigators conducting research in the area of TWH. She also teaches in the UNC Gillings Graduate Certificate in TWH. Funded by NIMHD, her current R01 is focused on modifying and testing a multi-level intervention for socially and/or economically disadvantaged unemployed adults who receive employment assistance from community agencies in partnering counties.


Planning and Evaluation Core

Dr. Jeremy Bray

Dr. Jeremy Bray

Jeremy W. Bray, PhD
Economics Lead

Dr. Bray is the Jefferson-Pilot Excellence Professor of Economics in the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC Greensboro. As a member of the Planning and Evaluation Core, Dr. Bray will consult on all research projects and provide leadership on the development of core economic measures to be used across projects. He will also work with the Outreach and Education Core to ensure best business case practices are disseminated and implemented effectively. Dr. Bray is an expert in the economic evaluation of workplace interventions, having served as a Principal Investigator of the Data and Methods Coordinating Center for Phase II of the NIH/CDC-funded Work, Family, and Health Network, cross-site evaluation director for the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention’s Young Adults in the Workplace initiative, and Principal Investigator on a study on the cost-effectiveness of alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI) delivered in an employee assistance program (EAP) funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


Dr. Georgia Karuntzos

Dr. Georgia Karuntzos

Georgia Karuntzos, PhD, MS
RTI Measures and Methods Lead

Dr. Karuntzos is an organizational psychologist at RTI International with more than 25 years of experience in workplace health promotion research. As the Measures and Methods Lead for the Planning and Evaluation Core, she will offer senior-level guidance on evaluation methods and measures used to assess the implementation and impact of Carolina Center activities. Dr. Karuntzos draws on experience from a wide range of interdisciplinary research and evaluation studies, notably including her role as Principal Investigator and data center lead for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Work, Family, and Health Network study. In this role, she examined the effect of a network-developed workplace intervention to promote workplace, employee, and family outcomes.


Dr. Jules Payne

Dr. Jules Payne

Jules Payne, PhD
RTI Evaluation Lead

Dr. Payne is a sociologist at RTI International interested in creating employment experiences that are rewarding, safe, and sustaining. As the Evaluation Lead in the Planning and Evaluation Core, she is responsible for assessing the impact of Carolina Center activities on workers and workplaces and identifying opportunities to improve Carolina Center’s strategy and support. Her other research relates to workforce development and worker health and safety on behalf of clients including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and philanthropic organizations.


Mikayla Charles

Mikayla Charles

Mikayla Charles, MPH
RTI Research Public Health Analyst

Mikayla Charles is a Public Health Analyst at RTI International with the Community and Workplace Health Program. She has years of experience in the areas of evaluation and prevention. Her work includes designing evaluation tools, collecting qualitative and quantitative data, and performing data management and analysis. Mikayla also has experience in program management and contract management, working on CDC-funded grant projects that address alcohol and substance use prevention in rural communities. Mikayla’s other projects include community health and the built environment; implementing strategies to make urban communities more walkable and working with underserved populations to gain access to healthy foods. Mikayla assists with data collection and analysis for the Planning and Evaluation Core.


Dr. Kelli DePriest

Dr. Kelli DePriest

Kelli DePriest, PhD, RN
RTI Analysis Lead

Dr. DePriest is a nurse researcher at RTI International who uses mixed methods to generate evidence for strategies to improve worker health and well-being and build safer and healthier work environments. Her program of research investigates how social determinants influence health through studying relationships between the built environment and chronic conditions in children, strategies to improve healthcare access and quality in the Medicaid program, and how state policy impacts the nurse practitioner workforce. Currently, Dr. DePriest evaluates public health projects on behalf of clients including the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a state-level public health agency. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Connect with Dr. DePriest to learn more (LinkedIn, Twitter).


Tara Vigil
RTI Evaluation Analyst

Tara Vigil is a public health analyst in RTI International’s Center for Community Health Evaluation and Economics Research. As an Evaluation Analyst for the Planning and Evaluation Core, she will assist the team in conducting a literature review of existing TWH measures, coordinating interviews with key project stakeholders, managing and analyzing evaluation data, and preparing publications. At RTI International, Ms. Vigil contributes to projects focused on evaluating social determinants of health, chronic disease prevention, tobacco regulation, health care access, and implementation science. Ms. Vigil has over five years of project management experience including projects with the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Center for Disease Control, the New York State Department of Health, and the Texas Education Agency. Ms. Vigil also has experience providing technical assistance, conducting literature reviews, coordinating site visits, and performing mixed methods analyses.


Rural and Urban Clinician Well-being and Targeted Improvement Interventions during COVID-19

Dr. Marianne Baernholdt

Dr. Marianne Baernholdt

Marianne Baernholdt, MPH, PhD, RN, FAAN
Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Baernholdt is co-principal investigator for the Carolina Center research project Rural and Urban Clinician Well-being and Targeted Improvement Interventions during COVID-19. In this role, she will assist in data collection and implementation, with a special focus on rural hospitals. She will co-supervise all aspects of the project, including coordination of research activities for data collection, data analysis, and data dissemination. Dr. Baernholdt also serves as the Associate Dean for Global Initiatives, Director of the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center in Quality and Safety Education in Nursing and Midwifery, Interim Associate Dean of Research, and Professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing. She is a recognized expert in rural health and studying factors that hinder or promote quality improvement efforts among healthcare teams. Dr. Baernholdt has a broad background in clinical nursing and extensive health services research experience focused on quality and safety across the care continuum.


Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody

Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH
Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Meltzer-Brody is co-principal investigator for the Carolina Center research project Rural and Urban Clinician Well-being and Targeted Improvement Interventions during COVID-19. In this role, she will co-supervise all aspects of the project including coordination of research activities for data collection, data analysis, and data dissemination. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and also directs the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders. She is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in perinatal depression. Her research investigates the epidemiologic and biological predictors of perinatal depression, and she leads the MOMS GENES app—the largest global genetic study of postpartum depression. Dr. Meltzer-Brody also served as the academic Principal Investigator for novel clinical trials developing an effective (now FDA approved) new pharmacologic treatment for postpartum depression (brexanolone).


Dr. Lukasz Mazur

Dr. Lukasz Mazur

Lukasz Mazur, PhD
Co-Investigator

Dr. Mazur is a co-investigator with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, he will co-supervise all aspects of the study including coordination of all the activities of the personnel, data collection, data analysis, and data dissemination with a special focus on the urban (UNC Medical Center) hospital. He will also assist in conducting focus groups and contextual inquiry with clinicians and be part of the data analyses. Dr. Mazur is an Associate Professor and a Director of the Healthcare Engineering Department at the Radiation Oncology Department in the UNC School of Medicine. He also holds a joint appointment with the School of Information and Library Science where he teaches classes and advises students on their projects and research. His research interests include engineering management as it pertains to continuous quality and patient safety efforts in healthcare, along with human factors engineering with a focus on workload and individual performance during human-machine interactions. While at North Carolina State University, Lukasz was awarded the prestigious Alumni Outstanding Extension Service Award for his outreach work in the health care industry, highlighting his passion for patient safety and operational improvements.


Dr. Beth Epstein

Dr. Beth Epstein

Beth Epstein, PhD, RN, HEC-C, FAAN
Co-Investigator

Dr. Epstein is a co-investigator with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, she will provide input related to the moral distress and nursing staff aspects of the study. She will assist in conducting focus groups and contextual inquiry with clinicians, especially at the rural hospitals, and will be part of the data analyses. Dr. Epstein is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Programs in the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia (UVA). She is recognized nationally and internationally for her work in bioethics, particularly moral distress. She teaches ethics and pharmacology in the School of Nursing, is a core member of the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics, and an affiliate faculty member of the UVA Jewish Studies Department. Dr. Epstein directs the UVA Health System’s moral distress consult service, a hospital-wide intervention to address moral distress and is a member of the ethics consult service. Along with colleagues from 6 healthcare organizations across the country, she launched the Moral Distress Consultation Collaborative in 2020 with the purpose of furthering research in moral distress and ethics and developing best practices for moral distress consultation.


Karthik Adapa

Karthik Adapa

Karthik Adapa, MBBS, MPP, MPH
Graduate Research Assistant

Mr. Adapa serves as a graduate research assistant with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, he supports the team on contextual inquiry methodology, data collection and analysis. He is a doctoral candidate in the Carolina Health Informatics Program and works in the Division of Healthcare Engineering, Department of Radiation Oncology, UNC School of Medicine. Karthik is a trained physician with a master’s degree in public policy and public health and is a serving member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the premier civil service of India.


Meagan Foster

Meagan Foster

Meagan Foster
Graduate Research Assistant

Ms. Foster is a graduate research assistant with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, she conducts contextual inquiries, focus groups, data analysis, and project management tasks. She is a doctoral student in the Carolina Health Informatics Program and a graduate research assistant at the Division of Health Engineering, Department of Radiation Oncology, UNC School of Medicine. Meagan received her master’s degree in biomedical and health informatics from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is experienced in relational database development, EHR data extraction, user-centered design, and leveraging agile philosophy and scrum practices to oversee data operations for clinical research studies.


Nayeon Lee

Nayeon Lee

Nayeon Lee
Graduate Research Assistant

Ms. Lee is a graduate research assistant with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, she supports the team on interviews with focus groups, contextual inquiry methodology, data collection, and analysis. Nayeon is a full-time doctoral nursing student at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she is pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. She is also a professional registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing focused on nursing administration and management. She worked at acute care hospitals for six years before transitioning to a doctoral program to learn more about clinician well-being.


Bret Shultz

Bret Shultz

Bret Shultz
Research Assistant

Mr. Shultz is a research assistant with the research project on rural and urban clinician well-being. In this role, he conducts contextual inquiries and supports focus groups. Bret is an executive lean leadership coach and works in the Division of Healthcare Engineering, Department of Radiation Oncology, UNC School of Medicine. Bret has a master’s degree in healthcare administration and manages the Gemba Walk and Tier Huddle programs for UNC Medical Center.


TWH Approach to Reduce Falls and Advance Fall Protection in Firefighters

Dr. Eric Ryan

Dr. Eric Ryan

Eric Ryan, PhD, FACSM, FNSCA, CSCS*D
Principal Investigator

Dr. Ryan is the Stallings Scholar and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, and Associate Director of the MOTION Science Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is the Principal Investigator and will oversee all aspects of the TWH Approach to Reduce Falls and Advance Fall Protection in Firefighters project. Dr. Ryan’s recent work has focused on mitigating injuries and improving occupational health and performance in first responders.


Dr. David Couper

Dr. David Couper

David Couper, PhD
Co-Investigator

Dr. Couper is a professor in the Department of Biostatistics and deputy director of the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center. He is a co-investigator on the firefighter fall prevention research project led by Dr. Ryan. He will provide statistical advice on the design and implementation of the study and on analysis of the resulting data. He has had more than 25 years of experience working on observational studies and clinical trials, primarily large multi-center projects.


Dr. Kristen Kucera

Dr. Kristen Kucera

Kristen L. Kucera, PhD, MSPH, ATC, LAT
Co-Investigator

Dr. Kucera is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, and core faculty in the Injury Prevention Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a co-investigator on the firefighter fall prevention research project. She has over 15 years of experience conducting surveillance and longitudinal cohort studies assessing risk and preventive factors for occupational injuries. She will provide epidemiologic and analytic expertise for the prospective, longitudinal cohort study to assess incidence, characteristics, and factors related to slip, trip and fall injuries in firefighters.


Dr. Johna Register-Mihalik

Dr. Johna Register-Mihalik

Johna Register-Mihalik, PhD, LAT, ATC, FACSM
Co-Investigator

Dr. Register-Mihalik is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, co-director of the STAR Heel Performance Laboratory, and core faculty in the Injury Prevention Research Center and Matthew Gfeller Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a co-investigator on the firefighter fall prevention research project, where she supports organizational and behavioral assessment methods concerning the project. She has over 15 years of experience researching cultural and behavioral aspects of sport and recreation concerning injury prevention and management.


Dr. Gena Gerstner

Dr. Gena Gerstner

Gena Gerstner, PhD, MPH, CSCS
Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Gerstner is a postdoctoral research fellow in the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center. She is currently receiving further mixed methods research training and enrolled in the UNC Gillings Graduate Certificate in TWH. She will contribute to the coordination of the firefighter fall prevention research project. She has over six years of experience examining the impact of aging, obesity, stress and work-related fatigue on neuromuscular function in public safety populations.


External Advisory Committee

Glorian Sorenson, PhD, MPH, Director, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Center for Work, Health & Well-being
Paul Estabrooks, PhD, Harold M. Maurer Distinguished Chair and Professor, Department of Health Promotion, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Peggy Hannon, PhD, MPH, Director, Health Promotion Research Center, University of Washington
Sherry Baron, MD, MPH, Professor, Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College
Matt Krueter, PhD, MPH, Kahn Family Professor of Public Health, Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis
Sara Jahnke, PhD, F.A.C.E., Director & Senior Scientist, Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research, NDRI-USA
Jim Newhall, PhD, Health Scientist, Office of Total Worker Health, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cornell Wright, MPA, Executive Director, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, NC Department of Health and Human Services
Sandy Epperson, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, President, NC Society for Human Resource Management