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Meet the People

Sarah Bauerle Bass, PhD, MPH (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

Biography: Dr. Sarah Bass is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Public Health and Director of the Risk Communication Laboratory at Temple University. Her over twenty-five years of experience focuses on health and risk communication and how public health messages are crafted for audiences. With expertise in health literacy, message development, and working with underserved and vulnerable populations, she is using new technologies to develop, target and test messages for their impact on patient/public self-efficacy, behavior intention, and behavior. Use of these technologies is are then applied to community or clinical-based interventions using mHealth, the Internet and other communication channel strategies. She has conducted research on a variety of public health topics, with emphasis on cancer, infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, HCV, smallpox, SARS-CoV-2), and emergency preparedness. With a background in communication, she has also been a state spokesperson and worked in developing state-wide media campaigns around HIV/AIDS early in the pandemic. She has provided training in risk and crisis communication and is widely published in the area of health and risk communication. She has been funded by NIH (NCI, NIBIB, NIMH, NIDA), the CDC, organizations (American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association), international NGOs (Global Alliance to Achieve Nutrition) state and local governments (PADOH, Phila DPH), and industry (Gilead, Merck). She has been named the 2021 winner of the American Public Health Association’s Everett M. Rogers Award, a national honor for outstanding contribution to public health communication

Favorite Quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  –Dr. Suess

Research Coordinator:
Patrick J Kelly, MPH (he/him/his)

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Hometown: Conshohocken, PA

Biography: Patrick is the Research Coordinator in the Risk Communication Lab. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Temple University College of Public Health. During his undergraduate and graduate studies, Patrick worked as a research assistant in the Risk Communication Lab and Health Disparities Research Lab. He completed his graduate fieldwork at Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center by leading a research study to understand psychosocial differences between people who identify as transgender who have and have not used nonsurgical injectable procedures. Prior to rejoining the lab, Patrick worked as a Contact Tracing Coordinator before becoming the Contact Tracing Program Assistant in the Division of COVID Containment at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. His research interests lie at the intersection of health behavior and social epidemiology with a specific focus on access to affordable, affirming, and safe healthcare for sexual and gender minorities.

Favorite Quote: “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And, instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”  –Alan Watts

Research Assistant:
Caseem Luck, MS (he/him/his)

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Hometown: Willow Grove, PA

Biography: Caseem serves as the Research Assistant in the Risk Communication Lab. He received his B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Millersville University in 2019. Thereafter, he completed an M.S. in Communication for Development and Social Change from Temple University’s Klein College of Communications in 2020. Throughout his undergraduate and graduate career, Caseem has sought to use storytelling as a way to amplify marginalized voices within his local community. Caseem’s research areas have included understanding the meaning-making practices of refugee women pursuing post-secondary education, the experiences of first-generation Latinx college students at Predominantly White Institutions, and the disparities in access to digital technologies for refugee/immigrant-serving organizations in Philadelphia during COVID-19. Caseem hopes to further use storytelling to help inform relevant health communication practices for underserved communities of color in Philadelphia. 

Favorite Quote: “The stories we live and tell provide coherence and meaning and orient our sense of purpose.”  – Sharon Daloz Parks

Doctoral Fellow:
Ariel Hoadley, MPH 

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Hometown: Acton, MA

Biography: Ariel is a doctoral student in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the College of Public Health at Temple University. She received her MPH from Brown University and completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology at Wheaton College (MA). Her research areas have included mechanisms of behavior change within counseling interventions for people who use alcohol and other drugs, bystander interventions for sexual violence prevention among college students, and the implementation of medications for opiate use disorders among justice-involved populations. More broadly, Ariel is interested in improving access, engagement, and satisfaction with mental health and substance use treatment among diverse and underserved populations.

Favorite Quote: “If the track is tough and the hill is rough, thinking you can just ain’t enough.”  –Shel Silverstein “The Little Blue Engine”

Doctoral Fellow:
Kirsten Paulus, MPH (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Wayne, PA

Biography: Kirsten is a doctoral student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department at the College of Public Health at Temple University. She received her MPH from the University of California at Los Angeles with certifications in Health Education and Health Promotion as well as Population and Reproductive Health. She also completed her undergraduate studies in Global Health and Environment (BA) and Medical Sociology with Honors (BA) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research areas have included the effect of implicit bias on care received and effective contraceptive use in an OBGYN clinic serving disadvantaged women in Western North Carolina, the relationship between the quality of mother-daughter communication and approval of sexual initiation in adolescence and unintended pregnancy in adulthood,  contraceptive use patterns among female entertainment workers in Cambodia, and the psychosocial factors that impact whether Asian immigrant women living in Los Angeles disclose their experiences of intimate partner violence. More broadly, Kirsten is interested in understanding how privilege and disadvantage (especially with respect to race/ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality), intersecting experiences, environments, and social identities affect health belief and perceptions, behaviors, and consequently sexual and reproductive health outcomes and status. In addition, she wants to study the social conditions that specifically foster sexual risk-taking behaviors within underserved and hidden communities that can be seen through contraceptive use, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy and how these behaviors may relate to other factors such as knowledge, resources, social networks, economic pressure, social status, stigma, as well as culture. She is committed to advocating for equity and social justice for these populations while engaging directly with communities and individuals to further support the human right to reproductive and sexual health.

Favorite Quote: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Graduate Extern:
Jenine Pilla (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Sewell, New Jersey

Biography: Jenine is a graduate extern at the Risk Communication Lab (RCL), working on various projects under Dr. Bass. She is currently a student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences MPH program at Temple University. Jenine has come to public health by way of communications, where she received a dual Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Religious Studies from Temple University. She has worked as a reporter for various publications around the Philadelphia area and was most recently a Media Educator at WHYY, where she taught multimedia storytelling and journalism classes to Philadelphia area high school students and community members. She is also an adjunct professor in the journalism department at Temple University. She found her perfect fit at the RCL where her passions for communications, public health and community outreach can be blended. She hopes to further her experience within health communications and health literacy at her time here at Temple University and the RCL.

Favorite Quote: “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”  –Abraham H. Maslow

MPH fieldwork student: Tarah Organtini (She/her/hers)

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Hometown: Norristown, PA

Biography: Tarah Organtini is a fieldwork student in the Risk Communication Laboratory and MPH candidate at Temple University’s College of Public Health. After graduating from Penn State with a BS in Psychological and Social Sciences she came to understand that health and behavior are intertwined and heavily influenced by the communities we live, work, and play. Tarah is dedicated to understanding the social determinants of health and improving health communication for at risk communities to ensure equitable health and wellness opportunities through community outreach and education.  Currently, Tarah is working with the RCL on the RapidVax Program to improve health communication on adult and child COVID-19 vaccinations through outreach, surveying “hard to reach” populations on vaccine hesitancy, fostering relationships between Temple University and community organizations around Philadelphia and assisting Temple University clinical staff during pop-up vaccination clinics. Tarah hopes to use this information and experience to pursue a Doctoral Degree in Social and Behavioral Science with a focus on improving Health Communication Methods.

Favorite Quote: “Celebrate this chance to be.” –Maynard James Keenan

MPH fieldwork student: Madison Scialanca (She/They)

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Hometown: Landsdale, PA

Biography: Madison Scialanca is a fieldwork student in the Risk Communications Lab working on the PEACE project under Dr. Bass. She is currently an MPH candidate in the Social and Behavioral Sciences department at Temple University. Madison recently graduated from Messiah College in 2020 with a BS in Biology after spending her last semester studying abroad at the University of Oxford. Madison has come to public health and research by the way of her experience at Messiah, where she worked for 1.5 years on a shelf-life research project of human erythrocytes cryopreserved for the laboratory culture of malaria. Also at Messiah, she worked as a student leader, events coordinator, and program developer for the Sexuality and Gender Education Program which informed much of her interest and education around the topics of gender, sexuality, and health. She is passionate about harm reduction, mental health, and sexual wellness through the areas of health education, intervention, and promotion.

Favorite Quote: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” –Audre Lorde

Graduate Student Worker: Danny Bracy (They/Them/Theirs)

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Hometown: New York, New York

Biography: Danny is currently a student in the Social and Behavioral Sciences MPH program at Temple University. They currently work as a researcher at the IMPaCT Community Health Worker program at Penn Medicine, connecting patients in West/Southwest Philly with Community Health Workers and services in the Philly region. Danny’s foci in public health are urban health, health equity, social determinants of health and Black health. Danny hopes to contribute their experiences growing up in the urban realm to the RCL.

Favorite Quote: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” –Malcolm X

Elizabeth (Liz) Balasundram (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Mechanicsburg, PA

Biography: I am a pre-med third-year health-professions major at Temple University. Starting out as a public health major, I was always passionate about finding strategies that could decrease preventable disease. This drew me to interests of epidemiology and public health research at the community level. After taking a couple public health classes I knew I wanted to be in a position where I could clinically affect individuals by educating them on these outcomes and making a difference as a physician. I look forward to being part of this team where I can broaden my knowledge base and immerse myself in public health research. As for other interests, I am a member of the Temple all female a cappella group Singchronize and am so proud of our EP that was released last year. I also love photography and have taken portraits for several families over the last few years. 

Favorite Quote: When you focus on the good, the good gets better.” -Abraham Hicks 

Undergraduate Public Health Intern:
Erin Holland (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Fairfield, CT

Biography: Erin Holland is an undergraduate intern at the Risk Communication lab and is currently a senior at Temple University’s College of Public Health. She will be graduating in the Spring with her BS in Public Health. At the Risk Communication Lab, Erin is assisting on qualitative data analyses for Philadelphian parents’ attitudes towards vaccinating their children against COVID-19 as well as other projects. Erin learned from her management jobs in food service and from growing up with younger siblings that she wanted a career that could help everyone to reach their fullest potential. Public health allowed her to pursue different avenues of empowering individuals and communities, from research and program planning to health policy and advocacy. Her current interests range from systemic inequalities such as within the opioid epidemic and the prescription drug to substance use disorder pipeline to the epidemiology of infectious disease and health communication. In her free time, she likes going on hikes with her dog. Erin is excited to be a part of the Risk Communication Lab community and to continue to expand her public health knowledge and skill set. 

Favorite Quote: Whatever you choose to do, leave tracks. That means don’t just do it for yourself. You will want to leave the world a little better for your having lived” –  Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Undergraduate Public Health Intern:
Malak Abuhillo (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Biography: I am currently a senior at Temple University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health. Ever since I was young, I always loved the possibility of becoming a doctor or a teacher one day. Upon discovering public health as a field of study, the realization struck me that I could incorporate both into a future career with this type of degree. I could have the best of both worlds without having to compromise my love of one for the other. Some particular interests of mine include health communication, improving health literacy levels for at-risk populations as well as providing nutrition education for adolescents one day. I am the proud daughter of two immigrant parents and being an immigrant myself I have always noticed the struggles they (and those alike) would face trying to navigate the healthcare system. It’s for this reason that I have chosen to pursue a career in public health. In joining the Risk Communication Lab as an intern I hope to broaden my scope of knowledge around public health research and communication so that I may apply those new skills to whatever the future holds for me as a future public health professional.  

Favorite Quote: A healthy outside starts from the inside.” – Robert Urich 

Undergraduate Student Worker:
Abeeda Hussain – Kasim (she/her/hers)

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Hometown: Houston, Texas

Biography: Abeeda Hussain – Kasim is an undergraduate student worker at the Risk Communications Lab primarily working on the E-IMPART study. She is currently a third-year undergraduate student at Temple University pursuing a degree in public health. Abeeda first got into public health after learning about adverse childhood effects and it was then she was able to recognize the damage of systemic inequalities on health. Abeeda is passionate about work which mitigates health disparities among underserved and marginalized communities. Her specific interests include maternal and child health, epidemiology, sexual and reproductive health, infectious diseases, and community-based participatory research. Above all else, she hopes to contribute to the fight to break down systems of inequities that create intergenerational losses in health. She is excited to be working as part of the RCL team and learn from those around her on to how to work with communities to advance health and wellbeing.

Favorite Quote: “Love is, or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all” – Toni Morrison