Our Researchers

UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC research scientists and staff are clinical and public health research experts with a passion for interdisciplinary community-based research and inquiry.

C. Micha Belden, PhD
Research Scientist, Mixed Methods

Micha is a mixed methods health services researcher and implementation scientist with 20 years of experience studying interventions that address health disparities for underserved populations. He completed his PhD at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a postdoctoral fellowship in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Systems Research at UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center and Duke University’s Global Health Institute.

He is passionate about the dissemination and implementation of innovative interventions for people experiencing mental illness, substance abuse, and physical health conditions. His experience includes working with populations in the US Deep South with HIV, HCV, mental illness, and substance abuse; children with disabilities, clergy health and wellbeing; orphan care, sexual and gender minority health in low- and middle-income countries; and veterans. His work has been funded by foundations, HRSA, NIH, SAMHSA, and the Veterans Health Administration.

When not at work, Micha enjoys spending time with his dog, paddleboarding, and touring the mountains in WNC.

Scott A. Davis, PhD
Research Assistant Professor

Scott A. Davis, PhD, is a research assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He completed his PhD at UNC in Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, and an Implementation Science fellowship with NC TraCS. He works closely with MAHEC investigators to execute and publish the results of MAHEC's innovations in practice. Among his more than 110 peer-reviewed publications, recent publications include studies on improving preconception health and reproductive health counseling by implementing routine screening in primary care clinics.

Outside of work, he enjoys music, the outdoors, and playing Fantasy Premier League.

Jacqueline Halladay, MD, MPH
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC Research Liaison
Faculty, Department of Family Medicine, UNC School of Medicine
Research Fellow, UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research

Jacquie serves as a research liaison, connecting and developing teams of researchers that span Chapel Hill and Asheville, while also working with regional medical and public health professionals to develop their research portfolios. She is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and a research fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. She also serves as co-director of the North Carolina Network Consortium, a statewide practice-based research network. 

Jacquie's research interests focus on enhancing care delivery for patients with chronic conditions, which complements the population health research that is a priority at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC.

Kathleen Thomas, PhD, MPH
Research Scientist
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Associate Professor, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Senior Research Fellow, UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research
Adjunct Professor, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
Kathleen_Thomas@unc.edu, 828-348-3629

Kathleen is a behavioral economist whose research seeks to enrich the knowledge base for ways to improve access to care for underserved populations with mental health needs, ranging from minority populations to disability policy and childhood autism.

She is deeply engaged in understanding how people live – what motivates them to be transactional around the most important things in their lives – family, health, and well-being. Her work has been funded by a variety of federal, state, and foundation sources.

Kathleen is recipient of the John Eisenberg Excellence in Mentorship Award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Steven M. Banks Award for mentorship im mental health services research from the American Public Health Association. Her undergraduate degree is in classical languages from Pomona College. She holds an MPH from Yale University and a PhD in health economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chelsea Atkins, MS, MPH(c.)
Research Project Coordinator
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC

As a Research Project Coordinator at MAHEC, Chelsea provides research support to a variety of faculty, learners, and MAHEC employees.

Chelsea received an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from the State University of New York, and a master’s degree from Mercyhurst University. She worked for over a decade as an educator and behavioral health clinician. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in epidemiology through East Carolina University. Chelsea’s research experience includes work with vector-borne illness, single-subject behavior analytic studies, and environmental epidemiology. Additionally, she has worked to assess occupational stress in public school educators.

Chelsea’s research interests include Neglected Tropical Diseases, infectious disease, epidemiology, vector-borne illness, parasitology, occupational health, and environmental health.

Outside of work, Chelsea enjoys spending time with her husband and dogs, kayaking, traveling, reading, and running.

Lorinda Baker, BA
Inpatient Research Project Coordinator
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Lorinda.Baker@mahec.net, 828-257-4744

As an Inpatient Research Project Manager, Lorinda provides a point of contact for MAHEC residents working at Mission Hospital, particularly in the Department of Surgery. She connects residents and Mission faculty with UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC personnel to assist in developing, executing, presenting, and publishing research projects. Lorinda is located full time at Mission Hospital. She ensures that researchers at Mission have easy access to the resources at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC.

Lorinda earned her bachelor’s in biology at University of California, Santa Cruz. She began as a technician in neuroscience laboratories, exploring drugs of abuse with animal models. This evolved into lab and project management. She began work in research administration at the University of Chicago, supporting the animal research ethics and biosafety committees. Lorinda grew up in California, then became a Chicagoan, before moving to Chapel Hill then Asheville. She enjoys volunteering on the weekends at the Western North Carolina Nature Center, reading science fiction, and finding free live music outdoors.

Sarah Friedman, MPH, MA
Research Project Coordinator
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC

Sarah supports research and scholarly efforts across various departments at MAHEC. Sarah provides expertise in qualitative research methods. Sarah’s previous experience in health services research is contraception access and trends, cultural considerations in palliative oncology, prostate cancer, care for transgender and gender non-comforming patients, a vaccine communications campaign, and evaluating community based perinatal healthcare. Her research interests include reproductive health and justice, understanding sexual violence and consent, and addressing social needs in health inequity. She studied at San Diego State University with a focus in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. During her time in the San Diego/Tijuana Borderland region Sarah spent time as an intern at UCSD Moores Cancer Center and at multiple programs in the Pro-Salud organization around Tijuana.

Sarah cherishes her time spent as a volunteer with the California Center for Equality and Justice in Long Beach as Restorative Justice Circle support and Youth Program Facilitator. She enjoys baking, learning about nature, and to spend as much time as possible in the ocean.

Sedona Koenders, MS
Research Project Coordinator
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Sedona.Koenders@mahec.net, 828-398-5921

Sedona is an applied medical anthropologist with a background researching chronic pain management, veterans’ health, and substance use, particularly opioid use disorder (OUD). As a Research Project Coordinator at MAHEC, she provides project management and support to those working in research, and contributes expertise in substance use disorders, and qualitative and mixed methods research. Her previous work has focused on implementing state-wide public health initiatives to provide access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) for uninsured and underserved populations, as well as training and technical assistance for healthcare providers and clinical staff who treat people with OUD. Sedona received her undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Cell Science from the University of Florida. She then received her master’s degree in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice from the Boston University School of Medicine.

Sedona’s research interests include healthcare and pharmaceutical policy, harm reduction, substance use disorders, opioids, chronic pain management, health equity and justice, syndemics, homelessness, and veteran health.

Rossana Roberts, MSW, MPH
Research Project Coordinator
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Rossana.Roberts@mahec.net, 919-628-9904

Rossana provides research support based on project needs including project and data management. Rossana received her Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health in 2020 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she concentrated in maternal, child and family health. Her area of work has focused on program evaluation and public health research with topics related to racial equity, health education, and perinatal healthcare. Some of her research interests include promoting access to care and understanding and eliminating health disparities among marginalized communities.

When not at work Rossana, enjoys walking her dog, reading and exploring local food and music.

Chase Harless, MSW
Research Data Analyst
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Chase.Harless@mahec.net, 828-407-2112

Chase provides overall support to the UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC research staff based on project needs and has a focus on qualitative methods. Along with a history of community organizing, Chase has experience with field research through designing program evaluations with various advocacy groups across the South and conducting survey research to better understand how to support marginalized communities.

Chase’s research interests include reducing disparities in LGBTQ healthcare, improving access to mental healthcare in rural settings, and increasing understanding of the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals living in the South. He received his master of social work from Western Carolina University in 2018. When not in the office, Chase enjoys playing board games and listening to records with his three cats.

Phillip Hughes, MS
Research Data Analyst
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC
Phillip.Hughes@mahec.net, 828-407-2107

Phillip provides support to various research activities at MAHEC based on project needs including data management and quantitative analysis. He has experience working with complex modeling techniques to assess underlying causal relationships. Phillip’s research interests include the psychosocial development of at-risk populations, disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, evidence-based policy, and statistical analysis.

When not at work, Phillip enjoys spending time with his wife and dog, eating at local restaurants, collecting antique books, and watching movies.

Wendy Nuzzo, MS
Research Data Analyst
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC

As a Research Data Analyst at MAHEC, Wendy provides data analysis support to Graduate Medical Education programs. Wendy’s educational history consists of an undergraduate Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, a Secondary Math Education Licensure from North Carolina State University, and, most recently, a Master in Statistics from Portland State University in Portland, OR. Her research experience has focused on program evaluation of topics such as early childhood interventions, juvenile justice, youth education and engagement, suicide prevention, and substance use disorders. Her research interests include education at any level, mental health, and substance use. In particular, she enjoys investigating equity, racial and otherwise, in these areas.

When she is not at work, she loves festivals and outdoor entertainment, traveling, reading, and playing cards and board games.