2017 Fellows

Yohansa Fernández, PhD, LMSW

Postdoctoral Fellow, Alpert Medical School
Brown University

IRTI Mentor: Danielle C. Ompad, PhD, MHS, New York University

Yohansa Fernández, LMSW is the recipient of a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Binghamton University where she was named a McNair Scholar and holds a Master of Social Work from Hunter College- Silberman School of Social Work with specialized courses in Public Health. Yohansa’s research interests include the mechanisms through which syndemic factors including drug use are associated with HIV/STI risk among marginalized populations. Currently, Yohansa is a 3rd year PhD student at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she was employed as a research coordinator at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and a clinical social work supervisor at the YMCA of Greater New York. Yohansa also worked as an assistant research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies (now known as the division of Gender, Sexuality and Health) on one of the largest cohort studies of perinatally HIV infected and/or exposed youth in the country.

Publications in Preparation:

Opara, I., Lardier, D. T., Jr, Fernandez, Y., Garcia-Reid, P., & Reid, R. J. (2020). Intrapersonal psychological empowerment profiles on ethnic identity, social support, and lifetime drug use among Hispanic adolescent girls. Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 1–28. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1080/15332640.2020.1803780, PMID: 32787746

Conner, L. R., Fernández, Y., Junious, E., Piper, C., & Rowan, D. (2019). Evaluating HIV Educational Materials for Older People. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, 18, https://doi.org/10.1177/2325958219849054, PMID: 31131670.

Hernández, D., Castellón, P. C., Fernández, Y., Torres-Cardona, F. A., Parish, C., Gorshein, D., Vargas Vidot, J., Miranda de Leon, S., Rodriguez, A., Santana Bagur, J., Feaster, D. J., Schackman, B. R., & Metsch, L. R. (2017). When “the Cure” Is the Risk: Understanding How Substance Use Affects HIV and HCV in a Layered Risk Environment in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Health education & behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education, 44(5), 748–757. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198117728547, PMID: 28891344.

Fernández, Y., Hernández D., Castellon, P., Cardenas, G., Gooden, L., Del Rio, C., Metsch L. From Risk Networks to Care Institutions: Shifts in Social Capital from HIV+ Drug Users’ Perspectives on Engagement in HIV Treatment.

Hernández, D., Fernández, Y., Torres- Cardona, F.,Castellon, P., Vidot, J., Miranda de Leon, S., Feaster, D., Schackman, B., Rodriguez, A., Santana J., Metsch, L. Understanding the unique role of shooting galleries as risk and protective environments for injection drug users in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Erin Kerrison, PhD

Assistant Professor, Social Welfare
University of California, Berkley

IRTI Mentor: Hortensia Amaro, PhD, University of Southern California

My research explores the effect of state supervision on substance use and substance use disorders, violence, and other health outcomes for multi-marginalized ethnoracial minorities marked by criminal justice intervention. This agenda extends from a legal epidemiological framework, which foregrounds the ways in which law and legal institutions operate as social determinants of health. I maintain a strong commitment to expanding my conceptual, analytical, and research skills in the substantive area of substance abuse among Latinx underserved women who are criminal justice involved.

My research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Justice, the Ford Foundation and the Sunshine Lady Foundation. My recent empirical research has been published in Criminal Justice and Behavior, Women and Criminal Justice, the Journal of Developmental and Life Course Criminology and the Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice. I hold a BA in Sociology and Philosophy from Haverford College, an MA in Criminology, Law and Society from Villanova University, and a PhD in Criminology from the University of Delaware. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in the fall of 2016, I was awarded a Vice Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

Selected Publications:

Kerrison, E. M., & Sewell, A. A. (2020). Negative illness feedbacks: High-frisk policing reduces civilian reliance on ED services. Health services research, 55 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), 787–796. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6773.13554, PMID: 32976631.

Trinkner, R., Kerrison, E. M., & Goff, P. A. (2019). The force of fear: Police stereotype threat, self-legitimacy, and support for excessive force. Law and human behavior, 43(5), 421–435. https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000339, PMID: 31305090.

Del Toro, J., Lloyd, T., Buchanan, K. S., Robins, S. J., Bencharit, L. Z., Smiedt, M. G., Reddy, K. S., Pouget, E. R., Kerrison, E. M., & Goff, P. A. (2019). The criminogenic and psychological effects of police stops on adolescent black and Latino boys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(17), 8261–8268. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1808976116, PMID: 30962370.

Kerrison E. M. (2018). Exploring how prison-based drug rehabilitation programming shapes racial disparities in substance use disorder recovery. Social science & medicine (1982), 199, 140–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.08.002, PMID: 28807487.

Kerrison, Erin M. “White claims to illness and the race-based medicalization of addiction for drug-involved former prisoners.” (2015). Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice, 31, 105-128. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2658675

Miguel Angel Mendoza-Melendez, MD, PhD, MPH

Director of Scientific Research & Professor, Center for Research & Advanced Studies
National Polytechnic Institute (CINESTAV), Mexico City

IRTI Mentor: Charles Kaplan, PhD, University of Southern California

Dr. Miguel Ángel Mendoza-Meléndez has a Bachelor’s degree of Psychology from National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a Medical degree (MD) by Metropilitan Autonomous University (UAM), he also has a Master´s Degree in Public Health in Epidemiology from the Institute of Public Health of Mexico (INSP), and a Specialty on Drug Abuse Studies. Currently, he is a PhD Candidate in Neurosciences and Science and Technology by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Centre for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV), Mexico´s city. and is certified in Drug Policy, Health and Human Rights, Genomic Sciences, Clinical Pharmacology, Child Neuropsychology and Polysomnography. He is a professor and research interest areas include Transdisciplinary Research, Epidemiology of Drug Addiction, Program Evaluation (Research Methodology), Public Policy Implementation, Information Systems, Neurosciences, Health Economics, Biostatistics, Pharmacology, and Sleep Medicine. Dr. Mendoza has had several positions in the public service in government health areas.

Selected Publications:

Marsiglia, F. F., Medina-Mora, M. E., Gonzalvez, A., Alderson, G., Harthun, M., Ayers, S., Gutiérrez, B. N., Corona, M. D., Melendez, M., & Kulis, S. (2019). Binational Cultural Adaptation of the keepin’ it REAL Substance Use Prevention Program for Adolescents in Mexico. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research, 20(7), 1125–1135. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-019-01034-0, PMID: 31278496.

Bravo-Gómez, M. E., Camacho-García, L. N., Castillo-Alanís, L. A., Mendoza-Meléndez, M. Á., & Quijano-Mateos, A. (2019). Revisiting a physiologically based pharmacokinetic model for cocaine with a forensic scope. Toxicology research, 8(3), 432–446. https://doi.org/10.1039/c8tx00309b, PMID: 31160976.

Mendoza-Meléndez, M. Á., Cepeda, A., Frankeberger, J., López-Macario, M., & Valdez, A. (2018). History of child sexual abuse among women consuming illicit substances in Mexico City. Journal of substance use, 23(5), 520–527. https://doi.org/10.1080/14659891.2018.1489478, PMID: 30393464. 

Pérez-Pérez, E., Cruz-López, L., Hernández-Llanes, N. F., Gallegos-Cari, A., Camacho-Solís, R. E., & Mendoza-Meléndez, M. Á. (2016). Years of life lost (Yll) attributable to alcohol consumption in Mexico City. Ciencia & saude coletiva, 21(1), 37–44. https://doi.org/10.1590/1413-81232015211.09472015, PMID: 26816161.

Pérez-Pérez, E., Hernández-Llanes, N. F., Gallegos-Cari, A., Camacho-Solís, R. E., & Mendoza-Meléndez, M. Á. (2015). Mortalidad y carga de enfermedad asociadas con el consumo de alcohol. Salud publica de Mexico, 57(4), 292. PMID: 26395789.

Manuel “Manny” A. Ocasio, PhD, MSPH

Assistant Professor, School of Medicine
Tulane University

IRTI Muntor: José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Ocasio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics Section of Adolescent Medi- cine at Tulane University School of Medicine. An epidemiologist by training, the major focus of his research to date has been on health disparities with a particular emphasis on improving the health of sexual and gender minority youth of color (SGMY). His long-term goal is to formulate high im- pact, community-engaged HIV prevention research focused on disproportionately impacted SGMY located in geographic hotspots. Currently, he serves as Project Director for ATN CARES. ATN CARES is a large HIV prevention and treatment trial testing a comprehensive set of strategies for acutely infected youth, youth with established infection, and seronegative youth at highest risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV (e.g., SGMY). In his short time as Project Director, he devised and implemented a novel social media recruitment protocol that successfully increased our en- rollment and retention and has been adopted across sites.

Selected Publications:

Ocasio, M. A., Lozano, A., Lee, T. K., Feaster, D. J., Carrico, A., & Prado, G. (2022). Efficacy of a Family-Based Intervention for HIV Prevention with Hispanic Adolescents with Same Gender Sexual Behaviors. Prevention science : the official journal of the Society for Prevention Research, 23(1), 119–129. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01272-1, PMID: 34173133.

St George, S. M., Kobayashi, M. A., Noriega Esquives, B. S., Ocasio, M. A., Wagstaff, R. G., & Dorcius, D. P. (2022). Pediatric Obesity Prevention and Treatment Among Hispanics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. American journal of preventive medicine, 62(3), 438–449. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2021.10.003 PMID: 35190103.

Ocasio, M. A., Fernandez, M. I., Joseph, J. M., Rezai, R., & ATN CARES Team (2021). Engaging Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in HIV Interventions Through Gay Dating Apps: Recruitment Protocol. JMIR research protocols, 10(6), e28864. https://doi.org/10.2196/28864, PMID: 34156342.

Ocasio, M. A., Fernandez, M. I., Thomas, L. T., Joseph, J., & Romero-Espinoza, A. (2021). Dual Priorities: Maintaining Scientific Rigor and Staff Wellbeing in the Midst of a Pandemic. Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, 32(3), 1091–1095. https://doi.org/10.1353/hpu.2021.0114, PMID: 34421013.

Keizur EM, Goldbeck C, Vavala G, Romero-Espinoza A, Ocasio MA, Fournier J, Lee SJ, Abdalian SE, Rotheram MJ, Klausner JD; ATN CARES Team. Safety and Effectiveness of Same-Day Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae Screening and Treatment Among Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Homeless Youth in Los Angeles, California, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Sex Transm Dis. 2020 Jan;47(1):19-23. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001088.


K01. NIH/NIMHD. (July 2021 – February 2026). Diffusing persuasive HIV testing messages: engaging Black sexual and gender minority youth social media influencers. Principal Investigator.

F31. NIH/NIDA. (June 2016- May 2019). Family impact on drug use and sexual risk behavior in Hispanic sexual minority youth. Principal Investigator.

Natalia A. Quijano-Cardé, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
Jansen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

IRTI Mentor: Laura O’Dell, PhD, University of Texas at El Paso

Natalia A. Quijano Cardé is a PhD candidate of the Pharmacology graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine (UPenn). Natalia was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and she received her BS degree in industrial biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM) in 2015. As an undergraduate student, she was part of the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program, which gave her the opportunity to participate in several research projects and network with outstanding researchers. During her time in the UPRM, Natalia conducted research in the chemistry and chemical engineering departments. Moreover, during the summer of 2014, she participated in the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP) at UPenn and conducted research under the mentorship of Dr. Mariella De Biasi and Dr. Erika Perez on alcohol and nicotine co-abuse. In 2016, Natalia joined the De Biasi laboratory, where she investigates the efficacy of subunit-specific kainate receptor blockade to moderate alcohol consumption, and the mechanisms underlying such modulation. Natalia is particularly interested in advancing the identification of novel molecular targets for the development of more efficacious alcohol cessation aids that will particularly help the Hispanic population in the United States, which is disproportionately burdened by substance abuse disorders.

Selected Publications:

Quijano Cardé, N. A., & De Biasi, M. (2022). Behavioral characterization of withdrawal following chronic voluntary ethanol consumption via intermittent two-bottle choice points to different susceptibility categories. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 46(4), 614–627. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.14785, PMID: 35102570.

Quijano Cardé, N. A., Perez, E. E., Feinn, R., Kranzler, H. R., & De Biasi, M. (2021). Antagonism of GluK1-containing kainate receptors reduces ethanol consumption by modulating ethanol reward and withdrawal. Neuropharmacology, 199, 108783. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2021.108783, PMID: 34509497.

Venkatesh, S. K., Stangl, B. L., Cardé, N. A. Q., De Biasi, M., & Ramchandani, V. A. (2021). 36344 Effect of CHRNA5 genetic variation and smoking on alcohol related phenotypes in healthy adult drinkers. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, 5(s1), 2-3.

Perez, E., Quijano-Cardé, N., & De Biasi, M. (2015). Nicotinic mechanisms modulate ethanol withdrawal and modify time course and symptoms severity of simultaneous withdrawal from alcohol and nicotine. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(10), 2327-2336. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.80

Diana M. Sheehan, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology 
Florida International University

IRTI Mentor: Julie Levison, MD, MPhil, MPH, FACP, Harvard Medical School

Diana Sheehan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at Florida International University (FIU). Her research focuses on identifying gaps and improving outcomes along the HIV care continuum, particularly for Latinos living with HIV in the United States and Latin America. Currently, Dr. Sheehan is leading an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study that examines antiretroviral therapy adherence and the feasibility of a related Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention (JITAI) among Latino men who have sex with men. Dr. Sheehan’s work has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Additionally, Dr. Sheehan is dedicated to advancing the research careers of minority investigators, both as a faculty under the FIU-Health Disparities Initiative (FIU-HDI) and as a co-investigator on the FIU Center for Reducing Health Disparities in Substance Abuse & HIV in South Florida (FIU-RCMI). She holds a PhD in Epidemiology from FIU, and a Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health degrees from Boston University.

Selected Publications:

Trepka, M. J., Ward, M. K., Ladner, R. A., Sheehan, D. M., Li, T., Ibarra, C., Gbadamosi, S. O., Ibañez, G. E., & Jean-Gilles, M. (2022). HIV Care Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic as Perceived by Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups Served by the Ryan White Program, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, 21, DOI: 23259582221084536, PMID: 35243926.

Sheehan, D. M., Cano, M. Á., & Trepka, M. J. (2021). Measuring Race Among Latinos to Address Racism, Discrimination, and HIV Health Inequities: Comparing Self-Reported Race and Fitzpatrick Skin Phototype. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care : JANAC, 32(4), 522–525. https://doi.org/10.1097/JNC.0000000000000260, PMID: 33859078.

Sheehan, D. M., De La Cruz, Y., Ramírez-Ortiz, D., Swendeman, D., Muñoz-Laboy, M., Duncan, D. T., Cano, M. Á., Devieux, J. G., & Trepka, M. J. (2021). A qualitative study of antiretroviral therapy adherence interruptions among young Latino men who have sex with men with HIV: Project D.A.I.L.Y. AIDS care, 33(7), 962–969. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2021.1874277, PMID: 33486977.

Sheehan, D. M., Dawit, R., Gbadamosi, S. O., Fennie, K. P., Li, T., Gebrezgi, M., Brock, P., Ladner, R. A., & Trepka, M. J. (2020). Sustained HIV viral suppression among men who have sex with men in the Miami-Dade County Ryan White Program: the effect of demographic, psychosocial, provider and neighborhood factors. BMC public health, 20(1), 326. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-8442-1, PMID: 32169065. 

Sheehan, D. M., Auf, R., Cyrus, E., Fennie, K. P., Maddox, L. M., Spencer, E. C., Rosa, M., & Trepka, M. J. (2019). Changing demographic among Latino MSM diagnosed with HIV in Florida, 2007-2016. AIDS care, 31(12), 1593–1596. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2019.1612019, PMID: 31035779.

Sheehan, D. M., Miller, R. P., Trepka, M. J., Smith, L. R., & Latkin, C. (2019). Role of Social Network Sexual Norms and Behaviors on the HIV Sexual Risk Behaviors of People Who Inject Drugs in HPTN 037. AIDS and behavior, 23(6), 1604–1611. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-019-02409-8, PMID: 30826975.


NIMHHD/NIH. K01. (September 2018 – April 2023). Just-in-time adaptive interventions for improving young Latino sexual minority’s success in HIV therapy.

Vanessa Torres, MPH, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Health Policy and Management, Department of Behavioral and Policy Sciences
UCLA/RAND Corporation

IRTI Mentor: Victor Garcia, PhD, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Vanessa Torres is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Fielding School of Public Health at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As part of her fellowship, she is also an adjunct policy researcher in the Department of Behavioral and Policy Sciences at RAND Corporation. Her research focuses on engaging Latinos in community-based participatory research to gain a better understanding of the most effective and culturally appropriate intervention approaches that address health disparities including substance use, mental health and cancer. As part of my research training, she completed a PhD in Health Services at University of Washington and a predoctoral fellowship in the Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention Training and Control Program at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center to examine cancer dis- parities and mental health among Latinas in Eastern Washington. In addition, Vanessa received a diversity supplement from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to ex- amine unhealthy alcohol use among Latino immigrant men. She also earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Health in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences from San Diego State University.

Selected Publications:

Carey, C. M., Williams, E. C., Torres, V. N., & Ornelas, I. J. (2022). Help-Seeking Patterns and Barriers to Care Among Latino Immigrant Men with Unhealthy Alcohol Use. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities, 9(3), 1003–1011. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-021-01039-y, PMID: 33834422.

Torres, V. N., Williams, E. C., Ceballos, R. M., Donovan, D. M., Duran, B., & Ornelas, I. J. (2020). Participant engagement in a community based participatory research study to reduce alcohol use among Latino immigrant men. Health education research, 35(6), 627–636. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyaa039, PMID: 33025021. 

Ornelas, I. J., Doyle, S. R., Torres, V. N., Serrano, S. E., Duran, B., & Donovan, D. M. (2019). Vida PURA: results from a pilot randomized trial of a culturally adapted screening and brief intervention to reduce unhealthy alcohol use among Latino day laborers. Translational behavioral medicine, 9(6), 1233–1243. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz071, PMID: 31206579.

Serrano, S. E., Serafini, K., Eller, N., Torres, V. N., Donovan, D., & Ornelas, I. J. (2018). Vida PURA: An assessment of the fidelity of promotor-delivered screening and brief intervention to reduce unhealthy alcohol use among Latino day laborers. Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 17(4), 519–531. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332640.2017.1300557, PMID: 28375699.