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Daphne C. Watkins

Director, Vivian A. and James L. Curtis School of Social Work Center for Health Equity Research and Training, Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research

Daphne C. Watkins studies gender disparities and mental health over the adult life course using mixed methods research approaches.

To date, her research has focused on understanding the social determinants of health that explain within group differences among black men; developing evidence-based strategies to improve the physical and mental health of black men; and increasing knowledge about the intersection of culture, ethnicity, age, and gender.

Prior to joining the School of Social Work, Professor Watkins completed a NIMH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Social Research and a NIH career development award in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, both at the University of Michigan.

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Jamie Abelson

Program Manager

Jamie Abelson, MSW ‘82 received psychotherapy training at the U-M Psychological Clinic and worked for 12 years providing emergency mental health care in Washtenaw County. Since 1985, she has worked in mental health and health disparities at the U-M Institute for Social Research. She was involved in the National Comorbidity Survey, the first national survey of mental health. Since 1998, she has been with the Program for Research on Black Americans, first working on the National Survey of American Life, the first national survey of the mental health of black Americans, then on a series of other qualitative and quantitative projects. Abelson helped lead the Composite International Diagnostic Interview training center, teaching researchers from around the world about the assessment of mental health disorders. She was an adjunct faculty member at the School of Social Work from 1996-2003.

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Zachary Jackson

Postdoctoral Fellow

Zachary Jackson received his PhD in Health Education from Texas A&M University in 2019. His research focuses on social factors (i.e., discrimination and sense of belonging) that impact college students’ educational performance and their health. Jackson is also interested in investigating how these social factors differ among students based on the type of institution they attend. He will work in the Curtis Center on projects that raise awareness about the influence of gender and culture on health outcomes and provide health education and social support to boys and men of color.

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Lloyd M. Talley

Postdoctoral Fellow

Lloyd Talley is a developmental psychologist and interdisciplinary social policy and intervention researcher with a focus on Black men and their communities. Talley received his PhD in Applied Psychology and Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. His research takes a mixed-methods approach to examine the intersection of multiple social identities in shaping risk and resilience outcomes among marginalized groups, this work aims to identify qualitatively different patterns of behavior, quantitatively, for the more effective targeting of clinical and social intervention and policy.

Currently, he is the primary investigator of "Exploring Black Manhood and Risk-Taking among Black Emerging Adult Men," a secondary data analysis of the cognitive, social, and emotional factors that influence resilience in a sample of 611 young Black men in Philadelphia. This project tests the proposition of patterned and diverse outcomes among demographically homogeneous social populations by modeling theoretical profiles of identity and within-group differences in risk-taking. His work also extends to social policy initiatives that target Black youth during the transition to adulthood.

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Kirstn Tatar

Executive Assistant to the Director

Kirstn Tatar earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and her M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Eastern Michigan University. After working at U-M Law School’s Information Center for over ten years, she moved to England in 2012 and taught ESL. At the University of Kent in Canterbury, U.K., she completed her M.A. in Methods of Social Research at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

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James Smith

Visiting Fulbright Senior Scholar, Professor, Father Frank Flynn Fellow (Substance Misuse), Menzies School of Health Research

Professor James Smith’s Fulbright project involves synthesizing the global evidence about health promotion strategies that aim to reduce health inequities among young men of color. In Australia, he holds the position of Father Frank Flynn Fellow (Harm Minimisation) and Head of the Alcohol, Other Drugs and Gambling Team at Menzies School of Health Research based in the Northern Territory. He has held an array of senior management and executive research, policy and practice roles spanning government, non-government and academic contexts. This has included more than 20 years of experience working in fields relating to men’s health, health promotion, health equity, evaluation and Indigenous affairs. He is a fellow of the Australian Health Promotion Association and editor-in-chief of the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

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Jaclynn M. Hawkins

Curtis Center Faculty Affiliate, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Dr. Hawkins’ research program focuses on identifying the causes of health disparities between Black, Latino men and non-Hispanic white men; and adapting and implementing diabetes health interventions with an emphasis on addressing the unique needs of Black men. Her work is currently funded by the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research, the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center and the Michigan Institute for Clinical Translational Research. This work aims to adapt and preliminarily validate the effectiveness of two pilot studies designed to improve diabetes-related lifestyle and self-management behaviors, glycemic control and depressive symptoms in Black men with type 2 diabetes.

In addition to her independently initiated self-management intervention research with men, she presently serves as a co-investigator on Praise 2, an NIH a 33-month, mixed methods cluster randomized controlled trial in 21 African American churches that aims to assess the sustainability of improvements observed following education services vis-à-vis three parallel approaches to self-management support (R01DK104733-02).

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Jamie Mitchell

Curtis Center Faculty Affiliate, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Jamie Mitchell is an assistant professor of social work and co-director of the Gender and Health Research Lab at the University of Michigan. Her interdisciplinary research examines the mechanisms that patient-centered communication between older African American men and their physicians during the course of cancer and chronic disease care. She tests ways of intervening to increase family and health provider social support while examining how African American men navigate and express their psychosocial needs during medical visits. Currently, Mitchell is funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, to investigate how African American men and their physicians accommodate each other’s communications styles during medical encounters, in addition to evaluating how active patient participation and family involvement influence the health communication dynamic.

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Katie Schultz

Curtis Center Faculty Affiliate, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Katie Schultz, MSW, PhD, focuses her research on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) health equity. She examines violence and associated health outcomes; community and cultural connectedness; and culturally-derived interventions. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she is interested in innovative conceptual and methodological research with tribal communities rooted in Indigenous knowledges and sustainable solutions by and for Native peoples. Her recent work has included investigating relationships between intimate partner violence and drug use; teen dating violence; and a culturally-focused obesity and substance abuse risk prevention program. She is Principal Investigator on a study that seeks to identify modifiable risk (violence and substance misuse) and protective (cultural practices and beliefs) factors associated with lowered recidivism among AI/AN women on probation or parole in Alaska.

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Anao Zhang

Curtis Center Faculty Affiliate, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Clinical Research Director, Michigan Medicine Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program

Anao Zhang is a junior psycho-oncologist who is broadly interested in social determinants of youth’s health and mental health, psycho-oncology for adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors, and empirically-supported interventions for patients with a cancer diagnosis. His current research focuses on utilizing technology-based mental health interventions to reduce disparity among AYA cancer survivors. Anao received his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin with a graduate portfolio certificate in Applied Statistical Modeling. Prior to his tenure as an Assistant Professor of Social Work, he completed a one-year transitional post-doctoral fellowship focusing on Psycho-Oncology at the University of Michigan.

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Ash Chandrakapure

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Student

Ash has been involved with the Curtis Center as an undergraduate research assistant since October 2019. Concerned by the rising number of identified mental health cases in her generation and the inequity of healthcare, she is impassioned to help fulfill the mission of The Curtis Center to understand and reduce health disparities within society. She has worked most closely on the YBMen Project and is thrilled to continue engaging in research that explores the intersection of her interests in social justice and health sciences.

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Najeia Mention

Student Research Assistant

Najeia is a master of social work and master of public health dual degree candidate at the University of Michigan studying interpersonal mental health practice, and health behavior and health education. Najeia has been involved in promoting health equity from a variety of approaches including practice, research, and policy. Currently, she co-facilitates a wellness support group for Black women at the Women's Center of Southeastern Michigan. As a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, health equity fellow, she also supported a local community-academic partnership to address the mental health needs of Black North Omahans. She is interested in designing and implementing culturally relevant multilevel interventions to address unmet mental health needs of Black people and is thrilled to be part of the Curtis Center team.

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Ashley Starks

MSW Field Placement Student

Ashley is a MSW student with a concentration in Community Organizing and a focus on Children, Youth, and Families. He was drawn to the field of social work due to both his personal and professional experiences. Ashley has professional experience working within higher education, children and youth programming, and the medical field. He is committed to destigmatizing mental health within the Black community, particularly for Black men and boys. In addition to his work in the School of Social Work, Ashley is involved with his local community working as a Resident Advisor for graduate students at the University of Michigan and volunteering as a youth basketball coach.

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Ataia Templeton

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Student

As an undergraduate research student, Ataia is currently assisting with research in the four domains of risk-taking ideas and behaviors in Black, emerging, adult men. She is excited to continue to explore the solutions to health disparities. Ataia wants to use what she learns to understand and support her four younger brothers and the other young men from her community.

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Cecelela Tomi

Student Research Assistant

With roots in Western Massachusetts and Tanzania, Cecelela is a current Master of Social Work candidate with an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Cecelela means happiness, or, to be happy with, and Cecelela has learned to bring joy to whatever she pursues. Cecelela is honored to be a research assistant at the Curtis Center. She is learning that community health informs personal health, and similarly that our global struggle is directly connected to any national or local struggle. She hopes to contribute to the dearth of literature on East African immigrant families and create programming for children of the Diaspora to travel and develop life skills together. On campus, Cecelela holds leadership positions in Central Student Government and the Association of Black Social Work Students. Cecelela is also currently interning at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit.

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