These are bios for UW Health Services Ph.D. alumni who are doing postdoctoral work. Contact us to learn more about how you can potentially connect with these alumni for advice, mentorship, or open positions at their organization.
Kara Bensley | Alcohol Research Group, University of California, Berkeley (UC)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Alcohol Research Group, University of California – Berkeley
Kara Bensley began her studies in the Health Services PhD program in 2013, and was an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) trainee for 2013-2015. Bensley pursued an area of emphasis in Health Behavior and Social Determinants of Health. While enrolled in the doctoral program, Kara worked at the VA, studying alcohol care utilization, PTSD and alcohol use, and alcohol use among veterans living with HIV. Kara worked closely with her Chair, Emily Williams, to complete her dissertation, “Racial/Ethnic and Rural Differences in Alcohol Use, Care and Related Outcomes among VA Patients Living with HIV,” which she published in the Addiction Science & Clinical Practice journal in 2018.
Kara received the Outstanding Health Services Doctoral Student Award for 2017.
Prior to entering the doctoral program, Kara earned her MSc. in Medical Anthropology in 2011 from University College London. Outside of UW, Kara has worked in evaluation and program development of community-based health promotion interventions addressing substance abuse prevention, access to health services, infant mortality, and nutrition behavior change in both Michigan and south-central Washington.
Since graduating from the doctoral program, Kara has been working as a postdoctoral fellow and Associate Scientist in the Alcohol Research Group at UC Berkeley, where she shares an office with fellow Health Services PhD alumna (’16) and UCB/ARG postdoctoral fellow Sarah Beth Barnett. Kara is studying alcohol use among rural residents and the spatial accessibility of alcohol-related treatment at the US-Mexico border.
Meagan Brown | Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Epidemiology, UW School of Public Health, University of Washington
Meagan’s research focuses on addressing health disparities among vulnerable populations both domestically and abroad, and her interests include social and environmental determinants of health, implementation science, physical activity promotion, and healthy food access.
Prior to attending UW, Meagan earned her MPH in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2014, where her Capstone project focused on developing a workplace health promotion program with low-wage workers at UNC. Meagan also worked for FHI 360 evaluating the impact of international integrated development initiatives and disseminating best practices for adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Meagan completed her dissertation, “Promoting Health Among Vulnerable Workers: Disentangling Context and Implementation” working closely with dissertation Chair Peggy Hannon, before graduating in 2019.
Meagan is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar-Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
Outside of professional settings, Meagan is also an active participant in the ultimate frisbee community both as a player and middle school coach.
Meagan pursued an Area of Emphasis in Occupational Health, and she was an Occupational Health Services Research Trainee for 2016-2017.
Laura Fraade-Blanar | Associate Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation
Associate Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation
Laura Fraade-Blanar began her studies in the Health Services PhD program in 2011, after earning her MHS in International Health from Johns Hopkins University in 2007. She previously worked at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
Fraade-Blanar’s research focused on evaluating the effectiveness of injury prevention and control policies and programs, and on transportation safety, older adult injuries and occupational injuries. Fraade-Blanar was an Occupational Health Services Research Trainee for 2013-2014 and was awarded the ITHS TL-1 year-long traineeship grant for 2014-2015. She worked closely with her Chair, Beth Ebel, on her dissertation “Older adult injury risk assessment in the driving and occupational environments,” before graduating in 2016.
After graduation, Fraade-Blanar completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the RAND Corporation. She now works at RAND as an Associate Policy Researcher.
Sarah D. Hohl | Carbone Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lead Research Project Scientist, (C3I) Coordinating Center, Carbone Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sarah Hohl graduated from the Health Services PhD program in 2019, with an Area of Emphasis in Health Behavior and Social Determinants of Health.
She is currently the Lead Research Project Scientist for the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative (C3I) Coordinating Center, housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center. She leads efforts to evaluate implementation and health equity outcomes of evidence-based tobacco cessation interventions across 52 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers.
Hohl worked closely with her Chair, Beti Thompson, to complete her mixed methods dissertation, “Assessing Behavior Change and Establishing Outcomes to Propose a Conceptual Model of Transdisciplinary Public Health.” She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Implementation Science as part of the Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention Training Program at the UW Health Promotion Research Center. Drs. Peggy Hannon and Wendy Barrington served as her co-mentors as she examined implementation readiness, adoption, feasibility, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions for cancer screening, and the impact of these interventions on screening disparities.
Prior to entering the field of U.S.-based cancer prevention and control research, Hohl spent 10 years managing programs to address the social determinants of health in Africa and Asia. She holds an MPH in Global Health from UW and a BA in Spanish from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. During her doctoral studies, Hohl became an expert procrastination-baker and is now often commissioned to bake custom cakes (gorgeous flavors, bold visual aesthetics, no soggy bottoms) for special occasions under her alias, Cake.
Vanessa Torres | Department of Health Policy and Management, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA
Vanessa Torres’ research interests include social and behavioral sciences, CBPR, social determinants of health, health disparities, cancer prevention, substance abuse, mental health, rural health, and minority health.
Torres earned her MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science from San Diego State University in 2014. In the past she worked for San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency as the project coordinator for the Communities of Excellence in Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention project. She assisted with planning, implementing, evaluating, and coordinating community health promotion initiatives and activities related to obesity prevention, access to nutritious foods, and neighborhood walkability in a disadvantaged, low-income neighborhood.
During her doctoral studies, Torres pursued an AOE in Health Behavior and Social Determinants of Health. She also worked as an RA with India Ornelas on an NIH-funded R34 testing an intervention to reduce unhealthy drinking among Latino immigrant men. Torres was the recipient of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Diversity Supplement Award for 2015-2017. As part of her diversity supplement, she conducted qualitative interviews to determine best practices for recruitment and retention of Latino immigrant men for future health services research.
Torres wrote her dissertation “Assessing alcohol-related consequences, participant satisfaction, and engagement strategies in the Vida PURA study of u healthy alcohol use among Latino day laborers” working closely with Chair India Ornelas before graduating in 2019.
Torres is currently a postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of Health Policy and Management. As part of the postdoc, she is also an Adjunct Policy Researcher at RAND Corporation in the Department of Behavioral and Policy Sciences.
Chelle Wheat | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Postdoctoral Fellow, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Chelle Wheat earned her MPH in Health Services as well as her BS in Zoology from the University of Washington in 2010 and 2004, respectively. During her doctoral studies, Chelle worked with the University of Washington Gastroenterology Division as a Predoctoral Research Associate for the Clinical and Translational Research Core, and at the Health Promotion Research Center. Her research interests include therapeutic outcomes specifically in regards to risk assessment, patient education and adherence to treatment, as well as program evaluation.
Wheat worked closely with her Co-Chairs, Dave Grembowski and Cynthia Ko, to complete her dissertation “Risk communication for patients with chronic disease utilizing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) as a chronic disease model” before graduating in 2015.
At present, Wheat works as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lindsay White | University of Washington
Senior Fellow, University of Washington
White began her doctoral studies in 2010, after earning her MPH in Health Services from the University of Washington and her BS in Psychology from Duke University. She previously worked at King County Emergency Medical Services where she developed, conducted and managed research and quality improvement projects related to pre-hospital emergency care. During her doctoral studies, she developed a keen interest in the quality of health care and health outcomes for people with multiple chronic conditions. Working closely with her Chair, Dave Grembowski, she conducted several studies examining the effects of continuity of care in older adults with multiple chronic conditions as part of her dissertation research, before graduating in 2016.
White currently works as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, with Norma Coe. For her fellowship, she is examining costs of care for people with dementia and patients at the end-of-life.