College welcomes new faculty, recognizes new roles in new academic year

The College of Public Health welcomes seven new faculty members this academic year. Spread across four departments and four institutes, the new hires comprise a part of a total of 33 tenure- and non-tenure track faculty who have joined the college in the past three years. Nine faculty members have also taken on new roles at the College further supporting CPH efforts in research, training and outreach.

New Faculty

Jenay Beer, PhD, joins the College as assistant professor in the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, with a joint appointment in the School of Social Work. Beer has a PhD in Engineering Psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her work focuses on the application of assistive technology to help future generations of older adults maintain their independence. Her research agenda includes a range of projects, including smart home technologies for aging-in-place, health communication technologies, intervention applications for cancer survivors, and older adults with impairment. Prior to joining the College, Beer was an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina College of Social Work.

Whitney Bignell, PhD, RDN, is now a limited-term assistant professor and MPH advisor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Her research interests include online education and training, community-based obesity prevention and treatment, nutrition entrepreneurship, most recently increasing healthy eating and lifestyle management in older adults. Bignell has a PhD in foods and nutrition from UGA and is a licensed dietician.

Carmen Buxó-Martínez, DrPH, will join the College in January 2018 as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Environmental Health Science. Her research employs craniofacial genomic and genetic epidemiology to study genetic and maternal exposures associated with orofacial cleft risk in Puerto Rican/Hispanic children. She plans to focus her future efforts on maternal nutrition biomarkers associated with oral cleft risk. She has an MPH in epidemiology, a DrPH in environmental health, and MSc in Clinical Research from the University of Puerto Rico.

Zhou “Adam” Chen, PhD, joins the Department of Health Policy and Management as an associate professor. His major areas of interest include health policy, health services research, population health, claims data analysis, and health economics. Chen previously served as a senior health economist with the CDC CSELS, where he provided guidance and analytic expertise on the health and economic consequences of alternative programs, policies, and legislative proposals affecting public health and disease prevention. Chen holds a PhD in economics and an MS in statistics from Iowa State University.

Lesley Clack, ScD, joins the College as an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Her research interests focus on access and quality in healthcare services, social and behavioral health, child and adolescent health, and psychosocial aspects of health. Clack was previously served an assistant professor in health sciences and health informatics program coordinator at Armstrong State University. She has an ScD in health systems management from Tulane University, and an MS in counseling psychology from University of West Alabama.

Rachelle Reed, PhD, joins the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior as an Instructor. Her research focuses on developing and implementing programs promoting physical activity and nutrition, with a particular focus on community-based interventions for young women. Reed holds a PhD in Kinesiology from UGA. She recently served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Exercise Psychology Laboratory in the Department of Kinesiology at UGA where she served as the project coordinator for a clinical trial funded by PepsiCo investigating the effects of coffeeberry on cognition and mood. She also taught multiple classes in the Department of Kinesiology on physical activity and research methods.

Lisa Renzi-Hammond, PhD, joins the College as assistant professor in the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Health Promotion and Behavior. She specializes in neuroscience and later life neurological development, acquired neurological diseases and nutrition science. Currently, Renzi-Hammond serves as an investigator in the Human Biofactors and Vision Sciences Laboratories at UGA. She is interested in the functional relationships between underlying brain structure, sensory integrity, plasticity, cognitive function and risk for disease, and the behaviors that promote cognitive vitality across the lifespan. She has a PhD in psychology from UGA.

New Roles

Kerstin Emerson, PhD, has transitioned to a new role as clinical assistant professor in the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Health Policy and Management. Emerson studies health disparities among older adults and related policies with a particular focus on minority and immigrant communities. She has a PhD in gerontology from the University of Massachusetts.

Brittani Harmon, DrPH, who previously served as a limited-term instructor is now a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, where she is playing a large role in HPAM’s ongoing curriculum development efforts. Prior to joining the College, Harmon was Public Health Informatics Fellow at the CDC, a health educator on diabetes for Palmetto Health, and director of business applications for Agape Senior Care. Harmon has an MHA in gerontology and DrPH in health services policy and management from the University of South Carolina.

Mary Ann Johnson, PhD, who serves as the associate director of the Institute of Gerontology and is the Flatt Professor of Foods and Nutrition in FACS, now holds an adjunct position in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Johnson conducts research and outreach programs for older people to improve dietary habits, physical activity, and self-management of chronic diseases. A leader in the field of aging and nutrition, she was recently elected President of the American Society for Nutrition.

Heather Padilla, MS, BSFCS, research director of the Workplace Health Group, has been promoted to Assistant Research Scientist in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior. Padilla, who is also a doctoral candidate in health promotion, conducts research on the health and well-being of working adults including weight management, disease prevention, and the effects of employee health on business operations. She manages personnel and tasks for multiple grant-funded research projects at the WHG and is involved in grant proposal development and dissemination of the WHG’s work.

Lili Tang, PhD, has been promoted to associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Science. Her research studies the toxicology of foodborne mycotoxins. She has a particular interest in Afloxtoxin, a carcinogen produced by certain molds found in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains. Tang is also an adjunct professor of nutrition and food safety at Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China. She received her PhD in toxicology from Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai, China.

Promotions

Jennifer Gay, PhD, in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor with tenure.
Nate Hansen, PhD, head of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, was promoted from associate to full professor.
Ye Shen, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor with tenure.
Ming Zhang, PhD, in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, was promotes from assistant professor to associate professor with tenure.