Milken Institute School of Public Health 

Amanda Northcross

Amanda Northcross

Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health

Dr. Northcross' research focuses on quantifying the impacts of air pollution and bridges environmental engineering, public health and environmental justice. With a background in environmental chemistry and engineering, she specializes in analyzing the chemical constituents of airborne pollutants and monitoring and assessing human exposures to cigarette smoke, cookstove pollution, and ambient air pollution. She also works to develop tools and methods that translate community experiences of environmental pollution into quantitative assessments.

Here in Washington, DC she along with colleagues and students are working with DC communities to develop a neighborhood based air quality monitoring network, the first of its kind in the region. Dr. Northcross's international collaborations have included a study in Guatemala quantifying the health effects of household air pollution from wood-fired cookstoves, and a randomized trial in Nigeria investigating whether replacing pregnant women's wood-fired cookstoves with clean-cooking ethanol stoves can reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes such as premature delivery and low birth weight. Currently she is working in North East Brazil in collaboration with local fishermen and women to assess the impacts of the neighboring petrochemical industry.

Uri Colon-Ramon

Uri Colon-Ramos

Associate Professor of Nutrition & Global Health, Department of Global Health (primary) and Department of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences

Uriyoán Colón-Ramos, Sc.D., M.P.A. is a recent winner of the Nashman Prize for Community Engaged Scholarship brings a unique perspective rooted in sociology and policy to the field of nutritional sciences. She is currently the co-Principal Investigator of Water UP! of the Avance Center Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health grant from the CDC, and the Principal Investigator of 'Water UP! Latino mothers and young children' and 'Shaping Our Kids’ Diets: Home and Neighborhood', and of studies that examine family environment, stress, and dietary risk factors for diabetes among Latinos/Hispanics. She employs mixed methods to identify and understand the dietary determinants of underserved, at-risk populations, and to better inform nutrition policies and programs. Her work has contributed to the knowledge of existing dietary disparities among Hispanic subgroups by country of origin, the process of translation of science into nutrition policy in Latin America, and the social and environmental determinants of dietary behaviors among vulnerable populations in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean.

James Peterson

James Peterson

Assistant Research Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Dr. Peterson’s current assignment as Principal Investigator on the Root Causes Project, Building Community Resilience (BCR) Collaborative in the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness has provided an opportunity to share his expertise and innovative efforts serving in the integral role of bridging public health research and local communities. Dr. Peterson’s ethnographic and qualitative research experience and community engagement serves as a basis for the success of such research; for example, collaborating on projects with Metro Teen AIDS to conduct the DC Youth Ethnography as well as with the District of Columbia Department of Health, HIV AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA) to conduct the DC Community Services Assessment. Ongoing research projects such as the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance (NHBS) have provided the framework to gain entrée to communities and establish working relationships and collaboration with individuals, organizations and government that impact the indigenous and entrenched health and human services efforts in the community. These efforts contributed to successful exploration of the impact of adverse health conditions, community environments and associated issues.


Dr. Peterson previously served as the Community Research Coordinator (CRC) for the DC Center for AIDS Research (DC CFAR) where he served as the liaison for the DC CFAR Community Advisory Board (CAB). Currently, he serves as the Community Activities Coordinator for the DC Cohort Project, which is a city-wide HIV clinical research effort among 15 HIV care sites in the District of Columbia.  A primary responsibility on this project is working with the DC Cohort CAB facilitating two-way communication between the research and the community members which the research aims to impact. This work includes engagement with individuals, organizations and ancillary entities that represent the diverse populations that characterize the DC Metropolitan area.

Sara Wilensky

Sara Wilensky

Special Services Faculty for Undergraduate Education

Dr. Wilensky focuses on financing, access and health care needs of the medically underserved, with an emphasis on issues relating to Medicaid. After completing her undergraduate work, Dr. Wilensky served as a fellow at Plan de Salud del Valle Community Health Center, located in rural Colorado, gaining first-hand insights into the needs of these populations. Subsequently, she pursued a law degree, clerked for a federal judge, and worked briefly at a law firm, before becoming a member of the GW health policy faculty in 2002. Dr. Wilensky leads projects on safety net issues, focusing on the financing and access-to-care barriers faced by vulnerable and underserved populations. Topics of her research relate to various aspects of the Medicaid program, such as policies affecting community health centers, access to preventive services, financing HIV primary care services, and preventing and treating childhood obesity. 


Tamara Taggart

Assistant Professor, Department of Prevention and Community Health

Dr. Taggart conducts socioepidemiologic studies to examine the contextual (e.g., neighborhoods and social networks) and cultural (e.g., religiosity, racial identity, and masculinity) determinants of health, and then uses community-based participatory research methods to develop and implement interventions to reduce HIV risk and substance use among racial/ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged adolescents and emerging adults. Dr. Taggart uses crowdsourcing, participatory photomapping, concept mapping, and photovoice techniques in her community-based work. Her current research focuses on three areas: (1) Applying a community engaged framework to examine systems level factors associated with PrEP uptake among adolescents and young adults; (2) Utilizing activity space assessments and biopsychosocial models of stress to examine the mechanisms connecting discriminatory neighborhood environments and HIV-related behaviors; and (3) Investigating the role of religion, spirituality, and religious institutions on HIV syndemics. Dr. Taggart holds an AB from Dartmouth College, an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University, and a PhD in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Yale University Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. 

Karina Lora

Karina Lora

Assistant Professor of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences; Director of the Public Health Nutrition MPH program

Dr. Lora is a community/public health nutritionist with a long-standing record of working with undeserved multicultural populations. Dr. Lora research focuses on health disparities in obesity prevention, specifically, social determinants of health and nutrition behaviors of minority families. She is the director of the Public Health Nutrition MPH program at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. Dr. Lora has a strong interest in integrating teaching and research to provide students with pedagogical approaches that enhance their learning outcomes, cultural competence skills, and awareness of social issues while benefiting communities by evaluating community/public health programs to improve their delivery and impact. She is currently the principal investigator of a community-based project that assesses middle-age Hispanic men food and physical activity behaviors, and a study that explores mothers and fathers’ food and physical activity co-parenting behaviors with their preschoolers. She is a mentor of student-led community-based participatory projects with Hispanic and African American families in D.C. Wards 4, 7 and 8, and other studies that examine environmental and behavioral approaches to prevent obesity in children and adults, parental (mothers and fathers) influences on children food consumption and obesity development, and dietary assessment methodology. Dr. Lora values community partnership and have fostered relationships with community organizations in the D.C. metro area.

head shot of woman in grey shirt

Olga Price

Associate Professor, Department of Prevention and Community Health; Director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools

Olga Acosta Price, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with postdoctoral training in school mental health.   Dr. Acosta Price has dedicated herself to promoting prevention and early intervention programs that address the mental health needs of children and their families, and has developed, implemented and evaluated programs promoting mental health and resilience conducted in school and community settings. Dr. Acosta Price has advocated for the expansion of school-connected and community-based prevention and intervention approaches across the US, with a focus on strengthening systems to ensure education and health equity for vulnerable populations.  She is currently the chair of the board of directors for the Coalition of School Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC), a steering committee member of the national Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and was recently co-chair of the DC Task Force on School Mental Health, among other advisory roles.