Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Current Fellows 

April Bell

April Bell, PhD, MPH

Dr. Bell obtained her PhD in Epidemiology from the Indiana University School of Public Health at Bloomington. She obtained her MPH with a dual concentration in Epidemiology and Social & Behavioral Sciences from the Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Bell's research is focused on decreasing reproductive health inequities among women and youth by addressing the impacts of societal and structural biases on adverse birth outcomes, sexually transmitted infections, HIV acquisition, abortion access, and unintended pregnancy. Having worked extensively in both the US and across sub-Saharan Africa, she is interested in using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including digital storytelling, to bridge the expanse between US and African settings. 

Bridgette E. Blebu

Bridgette E. Blebu, PhD, MPH

Dr. Blebu received her PhD in Public Health from the University of California, Irvine. She completed her BS in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and her MPH at the University of Southern California. Her dissertation research examined neighborhood social context, migrant selection and prematurity among infants born to black immigrant women in the state of California. During the PTBi fellowship, she will continue to explore preterm birth among infants of black women, by focusing on equitable implementation strategies that optimize access to psychosocial support resources during pregnancy.

Mary Muhindo

Mary Muhindo, MBChB, MPH

Dr. Muhindo obtained her MBChB from Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda and MPH from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). She works with Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration (IDRC) in Uganda and is particularly interested in studying and implementing tools that rapidly improve neonatal care in resource limited settings. With the Preterm Birth Initiative Discovery Grant in 2016-2017, Dr. Muhindo studied the NoviGuide, a mobile health application, in the care of newborns in Tororo District Hospital, Uganda. With this fellowship, in collaboration with Global Strategies, she will advance her work in studying the NoviGuide in facilitating the rollout and maintenance of oxygen saturation monitoring in Tororo District Hospital, Uganda

    Elze Rackaityte

    Elze Rackaityte, PhD

    Dr. Rackaityte completed her PhD in the Biomedical Sciences program at UCSF in the laboratory of Dr. Susan Lynch, with a focus on early life microbiome and immune development. She received her BA with honors in biological sciences at Wellesley College and completed post-baccalaureate studies in microbiology at Insitut Pasteur in Paris. As an affiliate PTBi fellow, Dr. Rackaityte aims to expand diagnostics for birth-related pathologies utilizing next-generation sequencing technologies under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph DeRisi in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

      Martha Tesfalul

      Martha Tesfalul, MD

      Dr. Tesfalul did her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF where she is currently completing a fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. She received her MD at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her BA in Sociology with a minor in Health Policy at Harvard University. Dr. Tesfalul's research has focused on maternal and neonatal health both domestically and in sub-Saharan Africa, quality improvement in obstetrics, and diversity and inclusion in medical education. During this fellowship, Dr. Tesfalul looks forward to studying how transdisciplinary collaborations can be used to improve the inpatient care experience and outcomes for patients at high risk of delivering preterm both in the Bay Area and in Eritrea.

      Ribka Amsalu Tessera

      Ribka Amsalu Tessera, MD, MSc, MAS

      Dr. Amsalu is a physician with expertise in emergency health and global health sciences. She trained in clinical research at UCSF, and applies methods of epidemiology to develop, implement, and evaluate new technologies, tools and interventions to improve obstetric outcomes, maternal health and neonatal health. She has worked in various countries conducting studies on essential newborn care, referral pathway for small and sick newborns, and evaluation of skill-based training such as Helping Babies Survive program. She has also conducted studies on contraception and infectious diseases. Dr. Amsalu serves as a senior technical adviser on global task forces focused on epidemiology, maternal health, and neonatal health in humanitarian settings. During the fellowship, Dr. Amsalu aims to develop and validate a risk score to predict risk of early hospital readmission.


      Graduated Fellows

      Patience Afulani

      Patience Afulani, MBChB, MPH, PhD

      Dr. Afulani obtained her MBChB from the University of Ghana Medical School, and her MPH and PhD in Public Health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Department of Community Health Sciences. Her fellowship research focused on quality of care during labor and delivery in Migori County, Kenya, where she conducted more than 1200 interviews with women, family members and providers. She also developed and validated a scale to measure person-centered maternity care to address a critical measurement gap in the quality of maternal health care. This scale has been published and is available to all. Dr. Afulani is now an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and received K99/R00 funding from NICHD.

      Molly Altman

      Molly Altman, PhD, CNM, MPH

      Dr. Altman obtained her MS and MPH degrees in Nursing and Maternal Child Health Epidemiology from the University of Washington, and her PhD in Nursing from Washington State University. She is also a practicing certified nurse-midwife with experience both in the U.S. and in low-resource settings. Dr. Altman’s fellowship focuses on respectful and equitable health care during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum for women at high risk for preterm birth in San Francisco, particularly low-income women of color. Her research explores how interactions with health care providers and the health care system influence women’s experiences of receiving care during pregnancy, which was determined to be a top research priority among community stakeholders. Future work will be aimed at efforts to improve the current health care system to better support those at greatest risk for preterm birth. Dr. Altman is now an assistant professor in the School of Nursing, Department of Family Child Nursing at University of Washington.

      Brittany D. Chambers

      Brittany D. Chambers, PhD, MPH, CHES

      Dr. Chambers obtained her MPH in Health Promotion from Fresno State University and a PhD in Community Health Education from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her work focuses on understanding sexual and reproductive health inequities through examining the impact of individual and structural discrimination across multiple life domains. As a fellow, she worked with the Saving Our Ladies from Early Births and Reducing Stress (SOLARS) study team to examine mediating relationships between interpersonal racism and adverse birth outcomes experienced by Black women in Oakland. For her fellowship project, Dr. Chambers conducted a qualitative study to develop novel measures of structural racism from the perspective of Black and Latina women residing in Oakland and Fresno, California. Dr. Chambers is now an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and a scholar in the UCSF-Kaiser Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Program (K12).

      Jennifer Felder

      Jennifer Felder, MA, PhD

      Dr. Felder obtained her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder and conducted her pre-doctoral clinical internship at Duke University. Dr. Felder optimizes, evaluates, and disseminates interventions to improve psychological, behavioral, and obstetric outcomes among perinatal women. During her time as a fellow, Dr. Felder launched the REST study which aims to evaluate whether a digital cognitive behavior therapy program is effective for improving insomnia during pregnancy relative to usual care. Despite the prevalence and consequences of prenatal insomnia, there are no published randomized controlled trials investigating whether we can improve prenatal insomnia. Dr. Felder was awarded a Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) from the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF.

      Dorothy Forde

      Dorothy Forde, PhD, RNC-NIC, CNS

      Dr. Forde is an Associate Professor of Maternal/Child Nursing at the Department of Nursing at Oakwood University. As a PTBi Fellow, she was jointly sponsored by the Biobehavioral Research Training in Symptom Science (T32NR016920) in the UCSF School of Nursing, Department of Family Health Care Nursing. Her fellowship research focused on evaluating the effects of stress adaptation in preterm infants and skin-to-skin contact as the primary environment for stress relief and energy conservation necessary for optimal recovery, healing, growth and emotional development of the neonate.  

      Dawn Gano

      Dawn Gano, MD, MAS

      Dr. Gano is an assistant professor of Neurology & Pediatrics at UCSF. She obtained her undergraduate degree from McGill University and studied medicine at McMaster University. She completed residency training in pediatric neurology at the University of British Columbia and fellowship training in neonatal neurology at UCSF. She is a co-investigator of an NIH-funded study of repair after neonatal brain injury, which uses advanced MRI techniques and serial neurodevelopmental testing to evaluate preterm infants, as well as newborns with congenital heart disease and hypoxicischemic encephalopathy. She is also studying barriers to the implementation of magnesium sulfate for neuroprotection in preterm infants and consults for the Newborn Family Research Collaborative. Dr. Gano’s fellowship focused on the clinical predictors of cerebellar hemorrhage in preterm newborns. 

      Deborah Karasek

      Deborah Karasek, PhD, MPH

      Dr. Karasek earned her MPH and PhD in Epidemiology from the University of California Berkeley, School of Public Health. She brings expertise in research design, implementation and analysis to her work studying social determinants of perinatal and reproductive health. Her fellowship research applied a health equity lens to explore how economic insecurity, neighborhood housing conditions, and social policy impact the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their families. She is the Co-PI of a UCSF RAP grant to study the effects of San Francisco’s paid family leave ordinance on preterm birth. She serves as the evaluation lead for a community-academic partnership to establish a pregnancy income supplement program in San Francisco.

      Moses Madadi

      Moses Madadi, MBChB, Dip FELASA C, MSci, MMeD (ObGyn), PhD

      Dr. Madadi is an obstetrician and gynecologist and basic scientist from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He obtained his MD and PhD from the University of Nairobi and a fellowship from the University of California Global Health Institute as a Glocal fellow. Dr. Madadi's research focuses on understanding the correlation between the structure of placenta and preterm birth in the face of HIV infection and highly active antiretroviral treatment. During the PTBi fellowship, he looked at the role of immune and coagulation factors in the mechanism of preterm birth in patients with HIV infection and on treatment. This study is modeled on the findings of his previous work funded by the University of California Resource Allocation Program and the Glocal fellowship. Dr. Madadi has returned to University of Nairobi where he continues to work in the area of preterm birth and medical complications during pregnancy and to mentor students

      Melissa Medvedev (Morgan)

      Melissa Medvedev (Morgan), MS, MD, PhD

      Dr. Morgan is an assistant professor in the Division of Neonatology and a faculty affiliate in the Institute for Global Health Sciences at UCSF. She received a MSc in global health science from Oxford University and an MD from the University of Texas, Houston. In collaboration with investigators at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Makerere University, her fellowship research explored the feasibility of kangaroo care (KC) for clinically unstable infants weighing <2000 grams at Jinja Regional Referral Hospital. She received K23 funding from NICHD and is currently developing and validating a mortality risk prediction score, feasible for low-resource settings, to help providers determine which neonates are eligible for KC. 

      Joseph Wangira Musana

      Joseph Wangira Musana, MMED, MBChB

      Dr. Musana holds a bachelor of medicine and surgery and masters of medicine degrees in obstetrics and gynecology from the University of Nairobi. He holds an advanced diploma in sexual and reproductive health and rights from Lund University in Sweden and has received an advanced training certificate in clinical research from UCSF. He serves as an assistant professor and consultant in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya. 


      Fellows who will be joining in 2021 

      Brigette Davis

      Brigette Davis

      Brigette is a PhD candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studying Social Epidemiology. Her research centers on the impact of structural racism on health across the life course and across generations, with a particular focus on how best to operationalize structural racism in health disparities research. Originally from St. Louis, Brigette became activated during her time working as an epidemiologist at St. Louis County Department of Health during the Ferguson Uprising. She has worked in several sectors as an epidemiologist and analyst, including government, academia, and Medicaid management - all of which have contributed to her goal of naming and measuring racism as a cause of adverse health outcomes. Her dissertation research examines the risk of preterm birth and low birthweight as predicted by police violence, exploitative revenue generation, and housing discrimination. Brigette holds a BA in Biology from Swarthmore College and an MPH in Social & Behavioral Sciences/Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale School of Public Health. She is also an RWJF Health Policy Research Scholar. Brigette will be joining us on October 1, 2021.

      Victoria F. Keeton

      Victoria F. Keeton, PhD(c), RN, CPNP-PC, CNS

      Victoria is completing her PhD in Nursing Science and Healthcare Leadership at the University of California, Davis, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. She received her BA in Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, and her MS in Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco. Her clinical focus as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner has been in urban community pediatric primary care, with emphases on childhood overweight, school-based health care, and social determinants of health. Her dissertation research explored associations between household social needs, maternal stress, and child emotional health, in Latinx families in San Francisco. As a fellow, Victoria hopes to expand her research on stress and resilience in mothers and children of color experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage, as they relate to risk for preterm birth and its associated health outcomes. Victoria will be joining us on July 16, 2021.

      Serwaa S. Omowale

      Serwaa S. Omowale

      Serwaa's research is focused on improving maternal health and birth outcomes among Black women, with a particular interest in these health outcomes among college-educated Black women. Serwaa is a graduate of Georgia State University, where she earned a BA in African American Studies. Serwaa went on to earn a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on clinical practice. She has several years of clinical social work experience in aging and disabilities services, substance use/mental disorders treatment, and maternal health. Additionally, she has worked with community organizations around issues of access to health care and improving maternal health. Presently, she is a recipient of an NIH, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute research supplement which supports her dissertation project examining the effects of work-related stress and discrimination on racial disparities in small-for-gestational-age births. She is also the PI of the Black Women’s Work and Maternal Health Research Project, which explores how workplace factors influence the maternal health of college-educated Black women through in-depth, in-person interviews. Serwaa is a joint PhD Social Work/MPH candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. Serwaa will be joining us on October 1, 2021.