The HEALTH-FAST Program is led by Dr. Ezemenari Obasi and Dr. Lorraine Reitzel who contribute to the curriculum and provide the scientific, administrative, and financial oversight for the program.
Dr. Lorraine R. Reitzel
Lorraine R. Reitzel, PhD, FSRNT, FAAHB is a Professor in the Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences at the University of Houston (UH). Her research program focuses on tobacco control, implementation science, and the social determinants of disparities in cancer-related risk behaviors and associated clinical endpoints. She is the co-founder and former co-director (2016-2020) of the HEALTH Research Institute, a multidisciplinary university-level research institute focused on the conduct of community-informed translational research to reduce health disparities experienced locally and across the nation. Dr. Reitzel is the Principal Investigator of the Taking Texas Tobacco Free program, which has been supported since 2013 through multiple grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas and was one of 2 Principal Investigators of the UHAND Educational, Training and Research Program, funded by the National Cancer Institute. She services as a Co-Investigator on UH’s NIMHD-supported RCMI, the HEALTH Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention, directing its Investigator Development Core, and serves the institution as IRB1 Chair (2015-2022). Dr. Reitzel has a history of sustained team science funding from the National Institutes of Health (e.g., R01, R21, P20, P60, U54), the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, and UnitedHealth Foundation where she’s served as the primary or co-investigator.
Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi
Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences at the University of Houston. His research program focuses on addictions, health disparities that disproportionately affect the African American community, stress physiology, and cultural predictors of health behaviors and cancer prevention. He is the founder and director of the HEALTH Research Institute. Additionally, he is the Principal Investigator of UH’s NIMHD-supported RCMI, the HEALTH Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention, and also serves as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Education. Dr. Obasi has a history of sustained team science funding from the National Institutes of Health (e.g., R01, R03, R13, R21, P30, U54), the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas, and UnitedHealth Foundation where he’s served as the primary or co-investigator.
Staff members provide support to the program, including coordination of meetings and events, communications within HEALTH-FAST and between our external advisory group and internal stakeholders; management of required progress and annual reports and non-competitive renewals; management of the budget and regulations; and coordination of all program activities.
Ms. Latricia E. Wallace
Latricia E. Wallace is the Program Director in the Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences at the University of Houston. She has more than 15 years of experience in developing and managing academic research programs aimed at addressing the educational outcomes of minority and underserved student populations. She has also co-authored two publications focused on the recruitment and admissions of underrepresented students in STEM. She graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Dr. Tzuan A. Chen
Tzuan A. Chen, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor and Biostatistician at the HEALTH Research Institute at UH, where she provides statistical support on grant applications, manuscripts, progress reports, and offers statistical support and data management on large-scale sponsored research and dissemination projects associated with the HEALTH Research Institute and the HEALTH Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention. Dr. Chen has expertise in applying advanced statistical and psychometric models in health-related research, social-behavioral science, and medical field studies. She has substantial experience in clinical trial design, generalized linear mixed modeling, power and sample size calculation, and other statistical procedures commonly used in population sciences and with Ecological Momentary Assessment data. She has an extensive record of collaboration with Dr. Obasi and Dr. Reitzel.
Ms. Safiya Friday
Safiya Friday is the Program Manager for the HEALTH Research Institute. She has earned her Bachelor’s in Biological and Physical Sciences from the University of Houston- Downtown. Safiya is an advocate for bridging the gap between formal science practices and its applications in disadvantaged communities. She has worked with the Grenadian-based non-profit organization, “Refreshed: Sacred Healing Retreat,” which emphasizes nature-based therapies as treatment of physiological and behavioral discomforts. Safiya will provide institutional and administrative support to promote health education and support methods that respond to the cultural, environmental, and health needs of Houston’s underserved populations.
Dr. Anastasia Rogova
Anastasia Rogova, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences at UH. She holds a PhD degree in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research interests include social determinants of health behavior and health disparities. She has previously worked with immigrant communities, addressing a range of issues immigrants face daily, including their experiences with health care. She has extensive experience in qualitative research, as well as background in managing and coordinating activities of research projects and educational programs.
Ms. Mary Sias
Mary Sias serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Health Research Institute. With a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Southern University, Mary brings over twenty years of experience in event planning, fundraising, and administration work. She also has experience in publicity for non-profit organizations, including advocacy and activist efforts with the Lupus Research Alliance and the City of Houston Complete Communities—Sunnyside.
Additionally, Mary is a public speaker, a published author, and oversees the Health Ministry at her church. As the Administrative Assistant, Mary will use her talent to generate creative ideas, organize projects, and implement programs to contribute to the Health Research Institute’s mission. Her hobbies include sewing, baking, reading, and enjoying sporting events.
Mr. Matthew Taing
Matthew Taing is the Program Manager for the Investigator Development Core of the HEALTH Center for Addictions Research and Cancer Prevention. He recently earned his Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Foods with double minors in Psychology and Biology from the University of Houston. Through his efforts on the Taking Texas Tobacco Free team and his experiences working with diverse communities across the Greater Houston area and the state of Texas, Matthew has worked to address cancer-related disparities and to become an advocate for cancer prevention in underserved and/or minoritized populations.
Ms. Hinal Patel
Hinal Patel is the Program Manager for the HEALTH Research Institute. She has earned her Bachelor's in Dentistry from India and a Masters of Public Health from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She has experience in coordinating health-based programs and her interests include health equity, education, and promotion. Hinal has worked with underserved populations and diverse communities to create awareness for oral hygiene measures and the ill-effects of tobacco consumption on health. She has recently worked to coordinate the Healthy Voting Project to help community members safely cast their ballots while minimizing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.