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Student Biographies

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 Rachel Butler, MHA, MPH

Research Interests: Medical decision making at the end-of-life; organization, management, and utilization of end-of-life care services; patient-provider communication; and health policy communication.

Biographical Statement: Butler is a doctoral student in Health Services Research and Policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management, under the advisement of Dr. Nicholas Castle. She is a full-time member of Dr. Douglas White's Program on Ethics and Decision Making within the Department of Critical Care Medicine's CRISMA Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she manages clinical research studies in the intensive care unit setting. She previously worked with Dr. Amber Barnato in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Decision Sciences, managing projects focused on end-of-life decision making. Butler grew up in Indiana, where she obtained Master of Health Administration and Master of Public Health degrees from the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and worked as a research assistant for Dr. Susan Hickman at the IU School of Nursing. Her research interests include medical decision making at the end-of-life; organization, management, and utilization of end-of-life care services; patient-provider communication; and health policy communication.  

Noelle Cornelio

Research Interests: Economic modeling, systematic literature reviews, pharmacoeconomics, and  Medicare and Medicaid Policy.

Biographical Statement: Noelle Cornelio is a first-year PhD student in health services research and policy at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She is currently a GSR under Dr. Lindsay Sabik looking at the changes in the dual Medicare-Medicaid senior population. She previously worked at Pharmerit International, a health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) consulting company, where she built economic models, helped perform meta-analyses, and conducted literature reviews. She graduated as a Levine Scholar and with a B.S. in biology and economics from the University of North Carolina and Charlotte in 2015.  

Kirsten Eom

Research Interests: Policy Analysis; Cancer Prevention and Control; Cancer Health Disparities; Health Insurance and Health Outcomes.

Biographical Statement: Kirsten Eom is a PhD student in Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management. Having experienced different health systems around the world, Kirsten Eom became more cognizant of the invisible yet tangible attributes of systems and pursued her Master's degree in Public Health at Brown University. Prior to her time in Pittsburgh, Kirsten focused on evaluation of health systems response and capacity to the older adult population, particularly in the areas of quality of chronic condition management, long-term care services, and integration of post-acute health and social services. Currently, Kirsten is investigating the effect of state health reform in Massachusetts on staging at diagnosis and guideline-concordant treatments among Breast and Colorectal Cancer patients under the supervision of Dr. Lindsay M. Sabik. Kirsten is also closely looking at the guideline-concordant screening behaviors after the effect of Massachusetts health reform in 2006 and expanding her work to frameworks of other health reforms in the U.S. Kirsten is a lover of building intricate models, and this extends to statistical analysis, computer programming, and physical objects such as, Nanoblocks.

 Praveen Kumar

Research Interests: Decision science, Health Policy, Pharmacoeconomics, Modeling and simulation methods.


Biographical Statement: Praveen is a first-year doctoral student in Health Services Research and Policy at Graduate School of Public Health. Under the guidance of Dr. Roberts and Dr. Lee, he is currently working as a GSR on an economic analysis of an infection prevention program. Prior to joining graduate school, he was working with Novartis in Health Economic modeling team based out of India. His main responsibilities included building early cost-effectiveness and budget impact models. He completed his graduation in Textile Technology from IIT Delhi, India.


              Mara Hollander      


Research Interests: Mental health and substance abuse services access, utilization, cost, financing, and workforce; Medicaid and Medicare financing and policy; integration of mental and physical health services financing and delivery; health economics; reproductive health services and policy.


Biographical Statement: Mara is a Graduate Student Researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Medicaid Research Center and a doctoral student in Health Services Research and Policy. Under the guidance of Director Julie Donohue and Research Director Evan Cole, she has supported research involving the mental health workforce in Pennsylvania, low-value imaging, utilization of autism services, and emergency department utilization. Previously, Mara worked in public opinion research, leading and supporting communications-oriented research for state health exchanges, federal public health agencies, large public health and healthcare non-profits, UN agencies, and health insurance companies. Mara has a BA from Georgetown University, where she received honors in Government studying the influence of Republican women in state legislatures on policies limiting access to abortion.            



Research Interests: Health economics, dental public health, cost-effectiveness analysis and decision making in dentistry, health care in the Middle East and North Africa region with a special focus on the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Biographical Statement: Khouja is a PhD student in health services research and policy at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Health Policy and Management. She received her masters degree in public health, in December 2013 through the Multidisciplinary Master’s of Public Health program, Pitt Public Health. She also obtained a certificate in health system leadership and management. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, Khouja worked as a dentist and a demonstrator in the department of dental public health, Faculty of Dentistry, King AbdulAziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who are sponsoring her post graduate studies.

Cassandra Leighton, MPH


Research Interests: New models of care delivery, interprofessional practice, healthcare organizations and systems, provider networks and access, quality improvement, and health economics.

Biographical Statement: Leighton is a Graduate Student Researcher with the Health Policy Institute and a doctoral student in Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh.  Her current interests revolve around increasing healthcare access and quality through innovative and efficient care team design, care delivery models, and effective economic incentives.  Under the guidance of her advisor, Everette James, MBA, JD, Cassandra is currently working on a variety of projects involving: interprofessional practice models within the UPMC system; Medicaid home- and community-based provider networks; accountable care organizations; and telehealth programs and interventions.   Prior to her time with the Health Policy Institute, Cassandra provided workforce retraining education to support population health initiatives across the United States at a subsidiary of a regional BlueCross plan.  


Research Interests: Health economics and outcomes research (HE&OR) including patient reported outcomes, retrospective claims data analyses, economic modeling, and systematic literature reviews.

Biographical Statement: Lobo’s research work spans a variety of areas including development of patient-reported outcomes, economic modeling and retrospective data analysis. For her master’s thesis, she studied the relationship between invalidation of fibromyalgia pain by medical professionals and health outcomes of quality of life and pain. She is also interested in studying the impact of other emotional and psychosocial factors on health outcomes in individuals with chronic pain. Her past work has also looked at the utilization of complementary and alternative medicine in fibromyalgia. During her training as a doctoral student in the department as well as her experience with various industry internships, she has participated in projects involving economic modeling and demonstrating economic impact of disease management. For her doctoral thesis, She is conducting a retrospective data analysis that investigates health outcomes in adults affected by the overlap of chronic pain, mental health and opioid misuse. For her updated information, please refer to her LinkedIn profile.

Ray Van Cleve

Research Interests: Home and Community Based Services, Medicaid, Health Systems Engineering.  

Biographical Statement: Ray Van Cleve is a third year doctoral student. He has enjoyed working with Dr. Howard Degenholtz on the MRC’s Medicaid research, specifically focusing on Medicaid Waivers. Ray has also volunteered with the Allegheny County Health Department.

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