Team Members

Faculty and Staff

Jesse E. Bell, PhD - Executive Director 

Dr. Bell is the Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Water, Climate, and Health and Director of the Water, Climate, and Health Program at UNMC. In addition, he is the Director of Water, Climate, and Health at the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska. His expertise is focused on understanding the impacts of changes in the environment and climate on human and natural processes. His goal is to help prepare our communities for the threats of climate change and other changes in our environment. 

Eleanor G. Rogan, PhD - Associate Director 

Dr. Rogan serves as the Interim Assistant Director of the Water, Climate, and Health Program, Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental, Agricultural, & Occupational Health. Her research has focused on mechanisms of activation of carcinogens, including the role of estrogen-DNA adducts in the initiation of cancer and eye disorders. Presently, she is also using a watershed network approach to investigate the potential role of waterborne contaminants in pediatric cancer, birth defects and Parkinson’s Disease in Nebraska. 

Rachel Lookadoo, JD  - Director of Public Health Policy

Rachel Lookadoo, JD, is the Director of Public Health Policy for the Water, Climate and Health Program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology. Ms. Lookadoo’s background is as an attorney, and she focuses on the various legal and regulatory issues that can arise in emergency preparedness. She specializes in quarantine law, public health effects of climate change, crisis standards of care, infectious disease response, and general legal preparedness. Ms. Lookadoo also conducts emergency preparedness trainings and assessments for public health departments and healthcare facilities nationally.

Yeongjin Gwon, PhD - Director of Biostatistics

Bayesian statistical methodology, Bayesian computation, Network meta analysis, Latent class modeling, High-dimensional data, Longitudinal data, and Survival data analysis.... 


Kristina Kintziger, PhD - Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Health and Environment

Dr. Kintziger is the Claire M. Hubbard Professor of Health and Environment. Her general research area focuses on the application of advanced epidemiologic and interdisciplinary methods to improve public health practice in environmental epidemiology. More specifically, she is interested in the impacts of weather and climate change, and the interaction of these impacts with human or system-level vulnerabilities, on morbidity, mortality, and other public health outcomes.

Siddhi Munde, MS - Research Data Analyst

Siddhi Munde joined the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) as a research data analyst in 2020. She works on water quality and health outcomes research. She is responsible for data engineering, visualizations, spatial data analysis and machine learning based modeling. Her research interest is integration of geo-information analytics and public health. Siddhi holds a Master’s in Geoinformatics from ITC-University of Twente, Netherlands, and Bachelor’s in Engineering in Information Technology (IT) from University of Pune, India.

thumbnail_jalazadeh-fard.jpgBabak J. Fard, PhD - Research Assistant Professor

Babak is an environmental data scientist with an interdisciplinary engineering graduate degree. He works to use different methods and tools to help improve the understanding of the effects of climate on health. He makes statistical and machine learning models that incorporate different intermediary factors into the models that connect the climatic variables to health outcomes. He values research that uses advanced analyses, while providing practical results for different interested groups.  

Laura Nagengast, MPH - Extension Educator - Source Water Protection

Laura is the Source Water Protection Extension Educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and a Master’s of Public Health (Administration and Policy) from UNMC. Laura collaborates with the Water Climate and Health Program to increase awareness and education on water quality issues in Nebraska and their impact on human health. She works to serve as the link between the science and the community understanding of the health impacts related to consumption of contaminated water. Laura is interested community engagement, outreach/education, and public health advocacy.

Yunju Im, PhD - Assistant Professor

Dr. Im is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics with expertise in Bayesian statistics, heterogeneity analysis, mixture models, statistical computing, and high-dimensional data. Her research focuses on developing and applying statistical methods to further scientific knowledge and innovations across various scientific disciplines.

Deshamithra Harshanee Jayasekera, PhD – Postdoctoral Researcher

Deshamithra Harshanee Jayasekera is an environmental economist and a demographer interested in analyzing how climate and environmental changes affect human population movements, welfare and health. Harshanee holds a dual doctoral degree in Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Economics, and Demography from the Pennsylvania State University. She has a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sue Dempsey, MS, CPH – Interim Project Manager, Nebraska Tracking Program

Sue Dempsey, retired State Drinking Water Administrator and State Toxicologist, joined the team to help achieve environmental health and justice for all Nebraskans. She believes the best way to achieve that is through education. Healthy communities start with informed citizens. Sue’s expertise is in environmental health, and community outreach and engagement will be at the focus of her role as part of our team.

Summer Woolsey, MPH - Communications & Outreach Coordinator

Summer Woolsey holds a BA in History and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in health promotion from UNMC. She has worked in both public health research and communications roles and is interested in health communication, health equity and health promotion.

Rachael Birn, MPH - Epidemiologist, Nebraska Public Health Tracking Program

Rachael Birn is a graduate of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Applied Epidemiology Fellowship and holds an MPH in Epidemiology from University of South Florida. She developed a passion to serve the public as a Registered Dental Hygienist and transitioned to public health to make an even greater impact. Her CSTE fellowship with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services focused on infectious diseases at the human-animal-environmental interface.

Kelli Gribben, PhD - Postdoctoral Research Associate

Kelli Gribben, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Water, Climate and Health Program. Dr. Gribben is formally trained as an epidemiologist and has prior experience working in both research and public health practice settings. Her current research is primarily focused on understanding the impacts of environmental exposures on respiratory health, specifically exploring relationships between air pollution and allergies, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. Through this work, Dr. Gribben aspires to contribute new evidence that can be translated into prevention and disease management activities.

Christine Allmon Vetro - Program Manager

Christine Allmon Vetro is an experienced professional with a diverse background in grant management, program development, and administrative coordination. Prior to joining the Water, Climate and Health Program, she served as a grant manager for the College of Information Science & Technology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she was instrumental in analyzing the college's research portfolio and implementing strategies to facilitate research and development growth. Christine is currently finishing her thesis for her master's degree in public administration at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, College of Public Affairs. Her combination of academic and professional experiences has equipped her with strong analytical skills, financial acumen, and a deep understanding of research and development processes.



Jessenia Hincapie - Master of Public Health Student

Jessenia is a Master of Public Health student with a concentration in Epidemiology. She is originally from Brooklyn, New York but was raised in Nebraska City, Nebraska. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Biology from Peru State College. Previously, she conducted research in rural communities of Costa Rica. Her research focused on developing a technology-enabled control tool against Dengue Fever. This study sparked her interest to further pursue her career in Public Health.

Ruth Mencia - Master of Public Health Student

Ruth Mencia of Grand Island, NE is a recent graduate of Chadron State College where she acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, minoring in Human Biology and General Business and Administration. Although her passion of service began early on, her interest in public health catalyzed in the midst of a global crisis. During the pandemic, Ruth worked as a bilingual COVID-19 contact tracer assisting in bridging the gap of communication to further promote the health and safety of Nebraska residents, igniting a passion of international public health along the way. This upcoming fall, Ruth will begin her path in pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion in aim of expanding her skillset globally. 

Qianting Li - PhD student

Qianqian (Qianting) Li has a broad background in environmental and injury epidemiology, with specific training and expertise in integrating epidemiological, environmental, statistical, and geospatial approaches into the study of public health issues.

Abdoulaziz Abdoulaye, MS, MPH - PhD student

Aziz Abdoulaye completed a Master of Science in Emergency Preparedness and a Master of Public Health in Environmental and Occupational Health at UNMC. He is interested in exploring the impact of extreme weather events on the health of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. He intends to use the results of his research to inform local and global climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Before joining UNMC, he worked for more than ten years for international humanitarian organizations.

Raheleh Mohammadi, MPH - PhD student

Raheleh Mohammadi joined the COPH as a Ph.D. student in 2020. Her research focuses on utilizing epidemiolocal methods to address the impact of climate change on disease prevalence. She holds a Master of Public Health from Rollins College and a Bachelor’s in Applied chemistry from the University of Tehran, Iran.

Hunter M. Jones, MS - PhD student

Hunter Jones is pursuing a PhD focused on disease vector ecological modeling at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is currently the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Program Manager in the Climate Program Office (CPO) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He manages the Climate and Health grant program at CPO, focused on applied community-based climate and health research. Hunter holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Bentley University, a Master's in Environmental Management from Duke University.

Ryan Cannady, CSP, STSC - PhD student

Ryan Cannady works for United Cleanup Oak Ridge as an ES&H Deputy Manager. He manages a team of industrial hygienists, safety professionals, and radiological control personnel at an environmental closure project, transforming the former Manhattan Project and Cold War-era enrichment complex in Oak Ridge, TN. Previously, he worked for GlaxoSmithKline, Nucor Steel and Holland Construction Services. He holds an MBA., MS, and BS in Occupational Safety and Health from Murray State University. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Health Practice and Medical Education Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a focus in occupational health. Ryan’s dissertation research aims to investigate how new wearable technologies can improve occupational heat stress programs and mitigate heat-related illnesses. He is a member of ASSP’s East Tennessee Chapter and serves on the board of directors for the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Tennessee Valley Section.


Click here to see students in the Enhanced Medical Education Track (EMET)