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Chronic disease control branch


Cal-EIS Fellows



Anthony Arce, MPH

Anthony received his MPH under the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Track from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF).  As a graduate student, he contributed to many studies for several research programs and centers.  Under the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program in Thailand, he developed and implemented a survey in coordination with the local community assessing communication technology and identifying factors associated with social support among rural elders.  In addition, he participated in the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research where he performed data analysis and drafted manuscripts for three studies: colorectal cancer screening among Filipinos, vegetable exposure among children, and sweet-tasting among children.  He was also involved with CSUF's cancer disparities center in which he worked with several studies in the topics of skin cancer, nutrition, tobacco control, and palliative care.  Overall, he is interested in preventative efforts and lessening the burden of chronic diseases, particularly cancer. Anthony will be completing his Cal-EIS fellowship with Napa County Public Health, and he hopes to use the experience to pursue a career as an epidemiologist at the local level in California.


 MMikala Caton, MPH

Mikala received her MPH in Global Epidemiology from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in May 2018.  For her practicum project, Mikala worked with Emory's Department of Medicine to conduct research on the role of the environment in hospital acquired infections and establishing thresholds for hospital room cleanliness.  For her master's thesis, Mikala analyzed data from the Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance System to determine national Vibrio vulnificus mortality trends and the risk of death across patient characteristics, clinical symptoms, and mode of transmission over time.  Throughout her studies, Mikala also conducted surveillance for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch and co-led the Student Outbreak and Response Team at Emory.  Mikala is excited to work as a Cal-EIS fellow within the Communicable Disease Unit at the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency and begin a career as an applied epidemiologist.
CCarolina Downie, MPH
Carolina will be completing her fellowship at the CDPH Chronic Disease Control Branch.  She received her BS in Biology from Stanford University and her MPH in Epidemiology from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.  During her MPH studies, she interned at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and worked on implementing a mental health syndromic surveillance system and analyzed spatiotemporal trends in mental health-related emergency department visits.  Carolina's research interests include chronic disease, surveillance systems, and data analysis.  After her fellowship year, Carolina hopes to continue working as an epidemiologist on the state or local level and return to graduate school to earn a PhD.
LLaura Farnsworth, MPH

Laura will be completing the second year of her fellowship with the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Division at the California Department of Public Health.  She is interested in understanding how epidemiological work such as data surveillance and evaluation affects program planning and policy development.  Prior to starting her fellowship, she completed her MPH at the University of California, Davis.  For her Master's thesis, she conducted a state by state review of childhood obesity prevention interventions in early care and education environments.  This project was completed at the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch at CDPH.  Before starting graduate school, Laura served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala where she started a health education program aimed at improving the health of indigenous youth and their families.  Her primary research interests include maternal and child health, nutrition, chronic disease prevention, and groups that experience health disparities.  Laura will also be starting a PhD program this fall in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis.


M Hermerding Cal-EIS FellowMelissa Hermerding, MPH

Melissa will be completing her Cal-EIS fellowship with Contra Costa Health Services.  Prior to her fellowship, she earned her MPH from UC Berkeley in 2018 with a concentration in infectious disease and vaccinology.  During her practicum at UC Berkeley, she worked with the Forum for Collaborative Research to help determine recommendations for better community engagement/good participatory practices for HIV cure related research.  Prior to starting graduate school, Melissa was a member of AIDS UNITED AmeriCorps, and while she was working for the Marion County Health Department, she assisted in collecting data on homelessness and injection drug practices in a commercial sex worker population. In addition, she also assisted with HIV testing services following the outbreak that occurred in Austin, Indiana.  Her research interests include HIV and STIs, the opioid crisis, and health disparities in marginalized populations.  Melissa hopes to work as an epidemiologist at the state or local level following her fellowship.


MMadison Jablonski-Sheffield, MPH

Madison comes to the CDPH Chronic Diseases Control Branch's California Wellness Plan as a Cal-EIS fellow after recently completing her MPH at UC Davis.  She has spent much of her career thus far working in various levels of local food systems, including working on farms in California and abroad, teaching cooking classes to young students, acting as the director for a Food and Garden Summer Camp in New York, and working at a local bakery.  Her time as a "lunch lady" sparked the desire to enact population level change and make healthy choices the easy choice.  Recently, her focus has shifted towards general mental health/wellbeing.  She believes that the world would be a different place if mental and physical self-care techniques were easy to implement and encouraged for everyone.  Her Cal-EIS work will be focused on addressing chronic diseases in California, and she hopes to eventually leverage her epidemiology skills to work in science translation and policy advocacy for the state of California.


CCaitlin Jones, MS

Caitlin completed her MS in Conservation Medicine at Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.  Her graduate work was motivated by her interests in One Health, epidemiology, and intervention assessments.  She focused her capstone project on evaluating the socio-economic factors and trophic cascades resulting from Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease and devil declines.  Following her MS work in Tasmania, Caitlin worked as a Disease Intervention Specialist for reportable sexually transmitted infections in an Iowa county public health office.  She is currently placed with the CDPH Environmental Health Investigations Branch for her fellowship.  After completing Cal-EIS, Caitlin would like to pursue a career as an epidemiologist through continued work with state/local public health agencies or the prospect of continued education in the field of interdisciplinary health epidemiology. She hopes to contribute to projects furthering our understanding of shared risks among animals, humans, and the environment.



Emily received her BA in Human Biology from Stanford University and her MSc in the Control of Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Her Master's thesis involved statistical analysis of risk factors for tapeworm infection in Western Sichuan, China.  This project integrated her interests in data analysis, foodborne illness, One Health, and underserved populations.  Since graduation, Emily has been pursuing research on antibiotic drug development as part of her Fulbright research grant in Varanasi, India.  She will be joining the CDPH Food and Drug Branch, where she is excited to undertake epidemiology and modeling projects in the service of food system safety.


BBrittany Morgan, MPH, CPH

Brittany received her MPH in Epidemiology from the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health.  She has had a wide variety of experiences within public health, including spearheading research to understand the service utilization gaps among consumers of health and social services in the homeless and low-income population of Oregon; evaluating a comprehensive, city-wide housing with services project for low-income senior citizens; working in community-based participatory research projects that address the health promotion and chronic disease prevention needs of tribal communities; and identifying risk factors for recurrent urinary tract infections to aid antibiotic stewardship efforts at the largest medical services provider in the state of Oregon.  She has a diverse background, but the recurrent theme has been her deep desire to make a difference by addressing health disparities.  She has a passion for connecting with people across cultures and plans to continue this work during her Cal-EIS fellowship with the CDPH California Tobacco Control Program.  After completing the fellowship, Brittany hopes to work as an epidemiologist at the local or state level and return to school to obtain a DrPH and become a leader in the public health field.


RRachel McCullough-Sanden, MPH

Rachel McCullough-Sanden is working with the Communicable Disease Unit in the Public Health Department at the Santa Cruz Country Health Services Agency.  For the last three years, Rachel served as a technical advisor in Central Africa for the Cameroon Population-based HIV Impact Assessment, based in Yaoundé, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Global HIV Surveillance Fellow with the Associated Schools and Programs for Public Health (ASPPH) and the Public Health Institute (PHI).  In collaboration with the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health, Institute of National Statistics, and ICAP, Rachel engaged stakeholders, facilitated protocol adaptation and tool development, monitored field trainings and data collection, and continues with data analysis and manuscript writing to inform and improve the HIV continuum of care in Cameroon.  Rachel earned her Master of Public Health and her Global Health Certificate from Columbia University (2014).  She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Legal Studies (2006).  She previously worked in microfinance and enjoys traveling, nature, and improving systems.


MMar-y-sol Pasquiers, MPH, CPH

Mar-y-sol received her BA in Cultural Anthropology from UC Davis and her MPH with an emphasis in Epidemiology from UC Irvine.  As an undergraduate, Mar-y-sol focused on issues surrounding cultural competence, patient experiences of medical care, and illness experience with a focus on minority and underserved populations.  As a graduate student, she contributed to numerous projects, including data collection for the Long Beach Zika CASPER, an assessment of childhood violence and community efficacy, as well as an internship with the Orange County Healthcare Agency, Epidemiology and Assessment, where she helped to summarize reportable invasive pneumococcal disease cases in Orange County.  For her practicum, she worked with the CDPH Biomonitoring California Program in Richmond to help analyze data from the Asian/Pacific Islander Community Exposures Project. Mar-y-sol is completing her Cal-EIS fellowship with the CDPH Safe and Active Communities Branch in Sacramento.  Following this fellowship, Mar-y-sol looks forward to a career as an applied epidemiologist or research scientist in state or local government.


AAlice Porco, DVM, MPH

Alice will be completing her Cal-EIS fellowship with OSHPD, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, in Sacramento.  Alice obtained her DVM through Ross University in St. Kitts and completed her clinical year at UC Davis.  Alice obtained her MPH at the University of Minnesota while practicing small animal medicine in the Bay Area.  During her veterinary education, she became interested in the One Health concept, studying the relationship between animals, humans, and the environment.  She worked on several research projects, including wild monkey population management, sea turtle and shorebird conservation, and toxoplasmosis in livestock.  She also founded the RUSVM Green Initiative, a community organization whose accomplishments include facilitating a national recycling program, creating nationwide incentives to use reusable products, and organizing community outreach events to teach local children about conservation.  During her MPH education, she completed her field experience at the National Wildlife Research Center in Ft. Collins, CO, where she worked on research projects including Brucella transmission in bison and elk, LPAI transmission between mallards and starlings, oral bait preference in skunks, plague vaccine efficacy in prairie dogs, and scrapie surveillance in slaughterhouse sheep.  Her public health interests include infectious disease epidemiology (specifically zoonotic disease) and food safety/security.  Upon completion of her fellowship, Alice hopes to work as a veterinary epidemiologist at the federal, state, or local level and become board certified by the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.


SSonal Patel, MPH

Sonal is placed with the California Department of Public Health Office of Oral Health in Sacramento.  She received her BAs in Molecular and Cell Biology and Philosophy from UC Berkeley and her MPH in Epidemiology from UC Irvine.  Before her MPH, she worked with underserved populations in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, especially those communities experiencing high levels of housing and food insecurity, and advocated on behalf of homeless individuals and families to promote micro-housing and rent control in historically diverse and lower-income neighborhoods.  She also worked for San Francisco County in their foster care and adoptions department and as a researcher at UC Berkeley.  As a graduate student, Sonal contributed to numerous projects, including childhood violence and community efficacy surveillance and GIS mapping, improving whooping cough vaccination rates among pregnant women, supportive housing initiatives for homeless individuals on Skid Row, and the development of Orange County's Medical Reserve Corps program.  For her MPH practicum, she spent six months with the Health Policy and Research Department at the Orange County Healthcare Agency analyzing demographic and geographic risk and protective factors for opioid overdose and abuse.  Sonal looks forward to a career as a research scientist or program manager at the state or national level, working to advance health equity and improve the well-being of underrepresented communities. 


JJustin Tonooka, MPH

Justin received his BS degree in Public Health – Community Health from California State University, Fresno, and his MPH with an emphasis in Epidemiology from the University of California, Davis.  While earning his BS at Fresno State, Justin volunteered with the campus health center, and acted as a student peer health educator.  Near the end of his undergraduate career, he participated in community health outreach in the West Fresno area, and assisted Valley Children's Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House in improving and promoting their family meal voucher program.  In his free time, Justin also volunteered with Valley Children's Hospital.  While earning his MPH, Justin worked with epidemiologist Dr. Sharon Minnick from Tulare County Public Health to analyze vehicle-related bicycle and pedestrian accidents from 2010-2016 in the area.  Using the traffic data gathered from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) and the UC Berkeley Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS), he examined accident data using Microsoft Access and SAS to identify significant environmental and behavioral risk factors contributing to fatal or severe collision outcomes.  Following his time at UC Davis, Justin worked briefly as an epidemiologist at Tulare County Public Health before accepting a Cal-EIS placement with the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).  He hopes to return to the Central Valley area, where he spent most of his life, to work as an epidemiologist in the future.


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