Team Bios

Principal Investigators

Athena Ramos

Dr. Athena Ramos is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and is affiliated with the Center for Reducing Health Dis­parities and the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha, Nebraska. She leads a Latino outreach and engagement team and serves as principal investigator for a number of community-based health and social research and education initiatives in such areas as agricultural health and safety, immigrant integration, and community well-being. She is an experienced administrator, program manager, and researcher with proven ability to develop and implement social, health, and human service programs with culturally diverse populations. She has over 15 years of experience in health promotion, strategic thinking, community development, and public relations.

Ramos has a PhD in International Family & Community Studies from Clemson University and two Master’s degrees – one in Business Administration (MBA) and one in Urban Studies (MS) from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is member of the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA), AgriSafe Network, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Welcoming America, and the National Hispanic Network to Reduce Tobacco-Related and Cancer Health Disparities. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the International Society for Agricultural Safety & Health (ISASH) and Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim.

Dr. Ramos has been honored numerous times for her commitment and dedication to making Omaha and Nebraska a better place to live, work, and play. She was recognized as one of the “40 Under 40” by the Midlands Business Journal, one of the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans, the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Volunteer of the Year Award, WCA Tribute to Women Honoree, and the Nebraska Latino American Commission’s Inspiration Award.

Aaron Yoder

Aaron Yoder grew up in central Pennsylvania where he spent time working on his grandfather’s farm. He graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Agricultural Systems Management and MS in Environmental Pollution Control. He then went on to graduate from Purdue University with a PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering where he focused on ergonomic evaluation of assistive technology for farmers with disabilities. Then, he was an Instructor and Extension Safety Associate at Penn State University in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and works with projects through the NIOSH funded Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health. He is a past-president and Board of Directors member of the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health (ISASH) and serves on the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America and the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. He also maintains leadership roles in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and the USDA NCERA197 Committee for establishing priorities at Land Grant University for agricultural safety and health research and education programs.



Team Members

Suraj Adhikari

Suraj Adhikari was born in Nepal. He has a BS in agriculture from Nepal and MS in agriculture from Tennessee State University (TSU). After graduating with his MS, he worked as Program Assistant for a year and a half at TSU in the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP) funded by National Institute for Food and Agriculture at the USDA. Suraj is currently pursuing a PhD at Department of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health at the UNMC College of Public Health and is working as a research assistant working on agricultural worker health and safety under the supervision of Dr. Yoder.

Casper Bendixsen

Casper was raised on a farm and ranch in Idaho and competed in bareback bronc riding for nine years. He earned his bachelors from the University of Idaho and his doctorate degree in sociocultural anthropology from Rice University. There, he researched the ethical lives of contemporary US pastoralists. Now, a tenured Research Scientist and the Director of the National Farm Medicine Center, he is applying anthropological thought and research to agricultural health and safety. His projects include investigating the attitudes of new farmers towards children’s safety, training rural firefighters in farm hazard analysis, exploring the risks and benefits of work around large livestock, and the health benefits of the diverse and rich biomes that exist on farms.

Gustavo Carlo

Gustavo Carlo is the Millsap Professor of Diversity and Multicultural Studies in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at MU. His research interests are in the roles of culture-related mechanisms, sociocognitive and socioemotive traits, and family processes on prosocial and healthy development. He has several projects focusing on Latino/as in various regions of the U.S. and has conducted research in various parts of the world. He has published over 200 articles, co-edited 12 volumes, and has obtained funding from several agencies including NIH and NSF. Dr. Carlo has served as Associate Editor of Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Research on Adolescence. He is past recipient of a Templeton/APA Positive Psychology Award, SRA Mentor Award, and a Fellow of APS and APA (Division 7).

Marcela Carvajal

Marcela Carvajal is an Outreach Project Specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the College of Public Health’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities in Omaha, Nebraska. Marcela has a master’s degree in public health and is part of a Latino outreach and engagement team that focuses on community-based health research and education initiatives in areas such as tobacco control, agricultural health and safety, immigrant integration, and community well-being.

Ellen Duysen

Ellen Duysen serves as the Coordinator and Outreach Specialist for the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH), a NIOSH funded Agricultural, Forestry and Fishing Center, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health. Ellen spent many years raising hogs, cattle and three rascally boys on farms in Colorado and Iowa. Life on the farm provided Ellen a clear understanding of the enumerable hazards faced by ag workers on a daily basis. Working with investigators at CS-CASH, Ellen translates research into public health practice, with the ultimate goal of reducing agricultural injury and fatality rates.

Axel Fuentes

Axel Fuentes is the Executive Director of the Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA) in Milan, Missouri. RCWA focuses on organizing food chain workers, educating on labor rights, and advocating for just immigration policies for Latinx and refugee workers.

Rodrigo Gamboa

Rodrigo started his professional preparation at the Instituto Central “La Salle” in Bogotá, Colombia, where he studied industrial engineering and later obtained a degree in business administration. He worked for more than 10 years in the financial sector as regional Executive Director of the Central Mortgage Bank of Bogotá until he left to become an entrepreneur and business advisor. In 2000, he was forced to leave his native Colombia to settle in Grand Island, Nebraska, where, like all immigrants, he carried out and performed different types of activities and jobs to maintain stability for him and his family. In 2001, he began his studies at the University of Nebraska Kearney, where he obtained his endorsement and worked as an instructor and coordinator of continuing education programs in Spanish until the end of 2005. From late 2005 to 2010, Rodrigo worked for Legal Aid of Nebraska. He was commissioned to create and develop different programs for the Hispanic community such as the Migrant Workers Program and educational programs on minority rights. After, he worked on a program to engage Latinos as beginning farmers and ranchers. These activities gave him great experience and knowledge of agriculture and rural concerns throughout the state of Nebraska. He has received various local and state awards including the “Grand Island Multicultural Person of the Year” award in 2008 and the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Mexican American Commission in 2009.

Kathleen Grant

Dr. Kathleen Grant is a clinician-researcher who has served greater Nebraska as an educator and consultant. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine and serves on the Steering Committee and as a Center Member for the Nebraska Center for Substance Abuse Research. She is on the statewide Nebraska Justice Behavioral Health and Probation Services Advisory Committees. She is a Visiting Faculty at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua. Her research interests include treatment of nicotine dependence in persons who have other substance use disorders (SUD), alcohol and methamphetamine use disorders in rural populations, the role of social support in recovery from substance use disorders, effective SUD interventions in understudied and underserved rural, justice and Latino populations and the intersection between violence/trauma and substance use disorders.

Mike Keenan

Mike Keenan is the Area Senior Vice President of Loss Control Services with Gallagher National Risk Control in Omaha Nebraska. Mike has worked extensively with agricultural clients throughout the Midwest for over 10 years. His clients include swine producers, dairy operations, cattle feeders, feed mills, grain elevators and packing plants. Mike has been developing and implementing Enhanced Risk Management Programs to identify risk exposures and controls in animal agriculture and affiliated industries.

Mike is an authorized trainer for the OSHA 10- and 30-hour course for construction and general industry. He has also completed a Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certificate. Mike serves on the external advisory for the Central States Center for Ag Safety and Health (CS-CASH) and is the past vice chair of the board of directors of AgriSafe. Mike is a member of the International Society of Agricultural Safety and Health (ISASH), Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America (ASHCA), and the Nebraska Cattlemen.

Ryan Klataske

Dr. Ryan Klataske is an anthropologist whose work focuses on natural resource management and conservation, hunting, tourism, ranching, and rural life in southern Africa and the Great Plains. He has conducted long-term ethnographic research with ranchers, farmworkers, and rural communities in Namibia, and his engaged anthropological work in the Great Plains focuses on environmental and social issues and the role of civil society in conservation efforts. He teaches courses on cultural and applied anthropology at Kansas State University and thinks deeply about the future of agriculture and rural communities in the Plains. Ryan lives in Manhattan, KS, where he enjoys and helps manage his family ranchland in the Flint Hills.

Meredith McGinley

Meredith McGinley is Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her major research interests include the examination of social, emotional and cultural influences on helping behaviors, victimization, aggression, and mental and behavioral health, as well as the application of advanced statistical techniques.

Jill Vansickle

Jill Vansickle is originally from central Nebraska where she grew up immersed in agriculture. In 2018, she received a Bachelor’s in Veterinary Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2020 she received her Master’s in Public Health at the Nebraska Medical Center where she specialized in environmental and occupational health. Jill has a passion for ‘One Health’ merging animal and human health while incorporating agricultural safety. Currently, she is located in Iowa where her and her husband are starting a cow-calf and haying operation. Jill is a Risk Control Associate for Gallagher in the Midwest region assisting clients improve their profitability and create a safer work environment for employees.

Risto Rautiainen

Risto Rautiainen grew up on a farm in Finland. He has MS in agriculture from the University of Helsinki and PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health from the University of Iowa. He is professor at the University of Nebraska, College of Public Health, and he directs the NIOSH-funded Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health in Omaha, Nebraska. His main interest is in studying why agricultural injuries happen and how they can be prevented. He has over 30 years of experience in agricultural safety and health research and outreach in Finland, Canada and the US.

Loretta Sorensen

South Dakota native Loretta Sorensen is a longtime freelance writer and book author and co-author in Yankton. She implemented her freelance writing career as a hobby in 1984 and began writing as a fulltime freelancer in 2006. Loretta has produced feature articles for agricultural publications that include Progressive Farmer (Alabama), Dakota Farmer (North and South Dakota), Progressive Forage/Progressive Cattlemen (Idaho), Working Ranch Magazine (Nevada) and publications in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and more. She also writes for the quarry industry ( Pit & Quarry and Portable Plant/Ohio), vintage farm equipment ( Farm Collector/Kansas) and began producing articles for Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health in 2016.

Loretta’s education includes a Bachelor of Selected Studies at Mount Marty College (Yankton) and Master of Science in Journalism at South Dakota State University. Loretta garnered a Master Writer Program Certificate in 2016 in recognition of her excellence in agricultural journalism. The Master Writer Program is sponsored by the American Agricultural Editors’ Association through funding provided by Syngenta.

Sorensen and her husband, Alan, enjoy raising and working Belgian draft horses on their acreage outside Yankton. She and her husband also oversee a local ministry, Stephen’s House, a re-entry option for men coming out of South Dakota state prisons.

Natalia Trinidad

Natalia Trinidad is an Outreach Project Associate at the Center for Reducing Health Disparities in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Natalia has been doing community outreach with the Latino community since 2014. Natalia’s work is primarily in the area of tobacco prevention. She also facilitates various evidence-based programs in Spanish and English on nutrition, mental health, tobacco cessation, and healthy lifestyles. Natalia is also a certified Spanish/English medical interpreter and uses her translation and interpretation skills for various projects. Lastly, Natalia assists faculty at UNMC on various research projects by translating documents, conducting surveys, and interpreting. Natalia graduated from the Creighton University with a biology degree and a business administration minor. She has a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology from UNMC.