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Current Scholars and Fellows


VA Women's Health Fellows




Kristin Berg, MD

VA Women's Health Fellow

Education: Earned her MD from Creighton University School of Medicine, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. She then completed a chief resident year at the same institution.

Research: Dr. Berg's main area of interest is in the field of tobacco research. She is completing a project cataloguing alcohol use changes when patients quit smoking, and is planning to take on new projects merging tobacco use disorders and gender disparities. She is currently enrolled in the Master's degree program in Population Health through the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.



Lindsey Byom, PhD

VA Women's Health Fellow

Education: Completed her Master's Degree in Speech Language Pathology and later her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship through the Army Public Health Command Postgraduate Participation Program at the Audiology and Speech Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  

Research: Lindsey's goal is to better understand the relationships between social communication and cognitive abilities of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Currently, she is investigating the contributions of different cognitive abilities to how individuals engage in conversations. She is also interested in how communication may be affected differently in men and women with TBI.



Melissa Dattalo, MD, MPH

VA Women's Health Fellow

Education: Earned her MD from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and went on to complete a Geriatric Medicine fellowship at University of Wisconsin.

Research: Dr. Dattalo's goal is to improve the health care system for patients with multiple chronic conditions and their families. Currently, she is investigating the impact of social, behavioral, and environmental factors on repeated hospitalizations among older adults. She is currently enrolled in the capstone certificate program in Community and Clinical Outcomes Research at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.




 Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, PhD, RN

VA Women's Health Fellow


Education: Earned her MS and PhD at University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing.

Research:Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi's program of research focuses on improving health service delivery and outcomes of persons with dementia, with a particular focus on pain and behavioral symptom management. Her research addresses these practice problems from a translational research perspective and focuses on identifying effective strategies to improve care and outcomes for persons with dementia at highly vulnerable points in care, such as transitions within and between care systems and during long-term institutionalization. Recent research efforts have involved the development of a computer-assisted schema to identify antecedents to mealtime behavioral symptoms among nursing home residents with dementia and retrospective evaluation of the quality of discharge communication regarding behavioral care needs for dementia patients transitioning to Skilled Nursing Facilities. Dr. Gilmore-Bykovskyi's research is currently funded by American Nurses Foundation and the National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence and is also supported by the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.




Nicole Rogus-Pulia, PhD, CCC-SLP

VA Women's Health Fellow

Education:  Earned her master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Iowa in 2003. She completed her clinical training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and received her Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-language Pathology (CCC-SLP). She also went on to earn her Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University.

Research:  Nicole's research interests are focused in the area of dysphagia, or swallowing disorders. She is mostly interested in the ways that changes in varying aspects of saliva production as well as oropharyngeal sensation affect swallowing. Nicole's dissertation work focused on changes in saliva production, patient perception of their own swallowing ability, and swallow physiology following chemoradiation treatment for head and neck cancer. She would like to continue to explore radiation-induced changes to saliva and swallowing but also to broaden her research questions to other patient populations.



Tonya Roberts, PhD, RN
VA Women's Health Fellow

Education:  Earned a PhD in Nursing with a minor in Industrial & Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Research:  Tonya's area of research is aimed at improving nursing care delivery to enhance quality of life and quality of care for older adults in nursing homes.  Specifically, her research has focused on delivery of person-centered care, articulating the interpersonal interactions and organizational structures that support and sustain it. 'Close relationships', particularly between nursing staff and residents, are often considered the fundamental building blocks for successful delivery of person-centered care.  However, what is meant by a 'close relationship' is often undefined, making successful and systematic implementation of relationships difficult in practice.  Her dissertation research explored nursing home resident definitions of 'close relationship' and the role of these relationships in care delivery.  The results demonstrated how 'close relationships' developed and influenced care and the finding will be used to guide future work aimed at further articulating how relationship influence person-centered care delivery and care outcomes. 



Sandra Schumacher, PhD, MSN, CNM, WHNP, RN, APNP

VA Women's Health Fellow

Education: Earned her PhD in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies. Earned a MSN from the University of Minnesota in Midwifery, a MS from the University of West Florida in Health, Leisure, and Sports, and a BSN from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Maintains national certification as a Certified Nurse Midwife and a Women's Healthcare Nurse Practioner.

Research: Dr. Schumacher's entire nursing career has been dedicated to women's health. Her research focuses on better understanding women's lived experiences through qualitative design and multi-staged narrative analysis. Sandy's dissertation research explored the historical impact of society and politics on women's experiences of aboration. She is interested in investigating women veteran's experiences of combat and exploring the effect of combat experiences on women's subsequent pregnancies, parenting, and relationships.


Postdoctoral Researchers


Joshua Raclaw, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Education:  Earned his MA and PhD in Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Research:  Joshua's research is in the areas of conversation analysis and sociolinguistics, examining how language and other interactional resources (gesture, gaze, posture) are used in socially significant ways. As a postdoc at the CWHR, his current research is focused on examining different aspects of linguistic and embodied practice in scientific peer review meetings. He is also interested more broadly in the grants peer review process, as well as the use of technology and new media in social interaction, the functions of turn-initial particles and discourse markers in English conversation, and issues of language and gender in the United States. Along with Lal Zimman and Jenny L. Davis, he is the editor of the recent volume Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Oxford UP).

Wairimu Magua, PhD, MS
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Education:  Earned her MS in Statistics and PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Research:  Dr. Magua's dissertation research focused on identifying and applying techniques to reduce statistical bias in evaluating cluster randomized controlled trials. For her postdoctoral research she is working with Dr. Molly Carnes and Dr. Anna Kaatz at the Center for Women's Health Research (CWHR) on research examining grant critiques from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This research uses text mining to probe potential bias in peer review. Dr. Magua's long term goal is to develop a research program focused broadly on modeling human behavior and on designing and evaluating interventions in complex adaptive systems to improve workforce diversity and health equity.


R25 TEAM-Science Scholars


Mariajose Bedoya, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education:  Presently working toward  PhD in Medical Physics. Mariajose earned a MS in Biomedical Engineering at UW-Madison and a BS in Electrical Engineering at UW-Madison.

Research:  Mariajose is currently working in the thermal ablation laboratory. Her research interest is in combining minimally invasive thermal ablation therapy with radiation therapy. Microwave tumor ablation is novel local tumor treatment for lung and liver cancer while radiation therapy is an established treatment option. Mariajose aims to investigate synergistic effect of combining both treatments to improve outcome in patients with large inoperable non-small cell lung tumors and metastatic liver tumors.  

What led Mariajose toward this research:  Mariajose joined Professor Christopher Brace's research group while receiving a Master's degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The ability of combining clinical work with research convinced her to continue with the PhD. Mariajose became fascinated with how his research in the field of thermal ablation allows for the participation of engineering, medicine, and physics to address needs of clinical practice and developing applicable solutions.

Dream Job:  Mariajose's dream job would to be able to complement research with clinical practice.  She wants to work as a clinical medical physicist and conduct research at the same time.

Favorite Hobbies:  Biking, sailing, salsa dancing and traveling.





Theo Braden, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education: Currently working toward a PhD in Counseling Psychology. Theo earned a Master's degree in Social work at UW-Madison and a BA in Psychology at Marquette University.

Research: Theo is interested in cross-cultural therapeutic alliances, the mismatch between cultural and societal gender roles and its impact on psychosocial functioning, and how young African American MSM navigate African American and Gay environments, and its impact on psychosocial functioning.

What led Theo toward this research: Theo's two years of clinical experience at Journey Mental Health and research with Dr. Maurice Gattis, under UW-Madison's School of Social Work.

Dream Job:  To have a position that will allow him to be 60% researcher and 40% clinician.

Favorite Hobbies:  Hanging out with friends, movies, reading, opera, and working out.





Yaidi Cancel Martinez, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education: Yaidi earned a BS in Environmental Engineering at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and an MS in Environmental Planning and Management at Johns Hopkins. She is working toward a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning.

Research:  Yaidi's current research focuses on disparities resulting from social structures in systems of information, policies and behaviors. The research would seek a more holistic approach addressing sustainable living and quality of life to reduce the gap on social and health disparities among cross-cultural gender groups, particularly women, while integrating urban planning, sustainability and public disciplines.

What led Yaidi toward this research:  Her belief that disciplines such as urban planning, public and environmental health, social sciences and engineering should be further integrated so that urban, sub-urban and rural areas are healthier and equitable places to live, work and play.

Dream Job:  Basically anything where she would be able to engage with the community and teach creatively about healthy environments, both natural and built, while promoting sustainability so that the impact would carry on for generations to come.

Hobbies:  Yaidi enjoys painting, trail running, hiking, organic gardening and exploring new places. 




Natasha Crooks, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education:  Natasha earned a BS in Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently working toward a PhD in Nursing.

Research:  Natasha's research interest is in women's sexual health, more specifically sexually transmitted infection prevention in young women of color. She is passionate about sexual health within this population because of the health disparities that exist among women of color as well as being a young woman of color herself. She believes that using qualitative methods will help inform nurse researchers how to develop more effective prevention techniques while working with this population.

What led Natasha toward this research:  Natasha believes that the PhD path chose her. She was doing a quality improvement project on inclusivity at the UW-Madison School of Nursing and had to opportunity to ask questions to students and perform a content analysis on their responses. After doing this project, it made her realize that she was enjoying doing research. She also witnessed how this one project could affect so many people and how doing research can help a whole population of people rather than just one person. Therefore, she pursued the PhD path after having this insightful experience.

Dream Job:  Natasha's dream job would be actively working as a faculty member, teaching a women's health course at a top ten university and pursuing her own research in a diversely populated city. She would eventually love to become dean of a nursing school.

Hobbies:  Traveling, taking baths and trying new foods



Jorge Jimenez, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education:  Jorge earned a BS in Applied Physics at Brigham Young University and is currently working toward a PhD in Medical Physics.

Research:  Jorge's current area of research is breast cancer imaging using MRI. More specifically, he is focused on (1) pulse sequence development and (2) reconstruction. His first goal is to provide a good image scheme to quantify pharmacokinetics in the breast; primarily, he is trying to obtain high spatial and temporal resolution. His second goal is trying to utilize the latest available algorithms to improve data reconstruction. His efforts are focused on achieving a solution that can be applied in a clinical setting.

What led Jorge toward this research:  Jorge has loved MRI since he first learned about it five years ago. He's excited about the potential of MRI to make a difference in the area of women's health.

Dream Job:  Jorge's dream job would be to work in a research institution where he can use his knowledge of MRI. He also loves to travel, so if his job included training people in different places/countries, he wouldn't complain.

Hobbies:  Jorge loves food! He also enjoys listening to music and exercising. However, aquascaping is his favorite pastime. He has built many aquariums in his life and is continually on the lookout for new ideas for his next.


Marissa Kraynak, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education: Marissa earned a BS in Neuroscience at Drew University and is currently working toward a PhD in Endocrinology & Reproductive Physiology at UW-Madison.

Research: Marissa is currently researching the effects of estrogen receptor alpha in the marmoset brain and how this particular estrogen receptor plays a role in metabolic processes and in marmoset behaviors. This research aims to further the understanding of the fertility disorder that affects many women known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

What led Marissa toward this research: This research combines neuroscience and endocrinology, which Marissa thinks are the two most interesting areas of biology.

Dream Job: Marissa loves to teach. Her dream job would be to get a job teaching for a smaller school.

Favorite Hobbies: Marissa has a lot of hobbies. She likes to play rugby and plays in Madison for the Wisconsin Women's Rugby Football Club. She loves big cities, so she travels to Chicago (or back east to NYC) whenever she gets the chance. Part of her love for big cities is because she likes going to art fairs and museums. Marissa also likes to read a lot




Leonardo Rivera, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education:  Leonardo earned a BS in Physics and Electronics at the University of Puerto Rico - Humacao and is currently working toward a PhD in Medical Physics.

Research:  Leonardo is focused on the development and application of methods and algorithms to analyze and quantify complex intracranial flow patterns and parameters using 4D MR Flow acquisition. These measurements will provide new insights into cranial blood flow in Alzheimer's patients and age matched normal volunteers. He will continue to develop methodological improvements in the analysis of cranial flow data to robustly quantify parameters such as proximal and distal pulsatility of cranial arteries, correlation of local perfusion and macroscopic blood flow, correlation of brain connectivity and flow, vessel geometry changes and others. These parameters are thought to play a role in the progression of the disease in many patients with the potential to early diagnose Alzheimer's and to evaluate treatment response.

What led Leonardo toward this research:  Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is one of the major diseases of our time and of paramount concern to the baby boom aging generation. He has the great opportunity to join the battle against such a terrible disease like AD. This is the strongest motivator he can have to keep working hard and hope his contributions to the field will in some way help others at the end. 

Dream Job:  Leonardo's dream job would be an academic career either in the United States or Puerto Rico.

Hobbies:  Dancing, windsurfing, playing tennis





Adriana Rodriguez, PhD Candidate

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education: Adriana earned a BS in Biology at the University of Houston and is currently working toward a PhD in Endocrinology & Reproductive Physiology at UW-Madison.

Research: Adriana is currently working in a Mammalian Embryology laboratory where she investigates how the fetal-umbilical-yolk sac arterial connection is established in the mouse. While the absence or improper alignment of communication between the three major circulatory systems during development can lead to a number of birth defects and early pregnancy loss, little is known about how the connection between the fetal, umbilical and yolk sac arteries is established and regulated. Using the mouse as a model system, Adriana's research will provide insight into the cellular and molecular cues that govern the fetal-umbilical-yolk sac arterial connection in humans.

What led Adriana toward this research: While studying biology in undergrad, Adriana became fond of embryology. Fascinated by the immense power one gene or protein could have on a developmental program, working out the mechanism by which the fetal-umbilical-yolk sac arterial connection is established fit her interest quite well.

Dream Job: Adriana's dream job would be head a lab that investigates ways to naturally regenerate human tissue and organs. The lab's findings would lead to revolutionary advancements in human health by being able to functionally restore failed tissues or organs that arise either from development (birth defects), disease, or injury.

Favorite Hobbies:  Song writing, dancing, biking, and reading or watching paranormal books and movies.




Clem Samson-Samuel

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education: Clem earned a BS in Computer Science and is currently a Digital Media PhD student in the Department of Education.

Research: Clem is currently working on discovering how corporate video game design can be utilized for medical and social games. Video games, as an interactive medium, have tremendous potential outside of pure entertainment. It is his goal to advance the role of video games in other areas of research and application

What led Clem toward this research: Clem developed an interest in adapting video games for social change while working as a professional video games designer.

Dream Job: Clem has already had his dream job of making high profile video games in a billion dollar industry. He is currently pursuing his next dream job, which is making video games for change.

Favorite Hobbies:  Clem's favorite hobbies involve playing games with friends; anything from video games, board games, card games, table-top RPG and more.


Jennifer Valdivia Espino

R25 TEAM-Science Scholar


Education:  Jennifer earned a BS in Behavioral  Health at Pennsylvania State University and is currently working toward a PhD at UW-Madison Department of Population Health Sciences.

Research:  Jennifer is passionate about the health equity for Latinos in the US. She pairs this interest with intervention research about the  most effective and efficient strategies to promote health in this population. Currently, she has a role in three different areas of health research: obesity prevention and the food environment, Latino health status and use of health services along the US-Mexican border, and HIV transmission and risk behaviors along the US-Mexican border. Jennifer hopes to continue to work in all three areas, but intends to focus her interest as her academic career continues. 

What led Jennifer toward this research:  Jennifer has always been interested in the life experiences of minorities in the US. She has been told numerous stories regarding everyday issues and especially struggle with health problems from family members, peers and community members. In her undergraduate career she sought volunteer experiences and jobs that further motivated her to formally investigate Latino health and methods of health promotion. 

Dream Job:   Jennifer's dream job would be to "do it all". She would like to be a faculty member who teaches and mentors students in research regarding health disparities. She would also like to have an active role in educational equity programs that support underrepresented students. 

Hobbies:  Inspired by the show Project Runway, Jennifer likes to remake her old wardrobe into new clothes. She also enjoys cooking, reading and traveling.