Meet Our Team
Susan McDowell, MD, is a family physician who has practiced medicine in Western North Carolina since 2010. She spent most of these years in Madison County, and joined MAHEC and Project CARA in 2019. She currently divides her time between caring for families at MAHEC’s Newbridge Family Health Center and providing substance use education, training, and integrated treatment at MAHEC’s Biltmore campus. Susan sees patients one day a week at Project Cara where she focuses on postpartum care including hepatitis C treatment and smoking cessation. As a family physician, Susan loves working with all ages and helping patients achieve their health goals. As a mother of young children, she also loves taking care of women during the postpartum period.
Nathan Mullins, MD, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and addictionologist with expertise in substance used disorders in pregnancy. Dr. Mullins provides comprehensive ob/gyn and substance use treatment services for Project CARA patients. He also serves as the medical director for a community-based opioid treatment program and understands how to different medications can stabilize and support women with opioid use disorders. In addition to patient care, Dr. Mullins is a faculty educator and directs MAHEC’s Addiction Fellowship where he trains physicians in the treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders. He is also a parent who understands the daily challenges that can make recovery more difficult and more rewarding.
Ra’Sheena Parker, WHNP, is Project CARA’s lead nurse practitioner with more than 10 years of experience supporting women’s health, mental health, and substance use disorders. She provides full-spectrum care for women with substance use disorders including women who are pregnant and parenting. Ra’Sheena prescribes buprenorphine for opioid use disorder and other medication-assisted treatment as part of Project CARA’s integrated care model. She is interested in how nutrition and diet can support recovery and enjoys helping women make lifestyle changes that can improve their overall health and well-being.
Melinda Ramage, FNP-BC, CARN-AP, is Project CARA’s medical director and has worked in women’s health with a focus on substance use disorders and diabetes for the past 10 years. She is passionate about eliminating the stigma associated with substance use disorders and ensuring every woman has access to the quality care. Melinda provides ob/gyn services for women with substance use disorders during pregnancy and throughout the lifespan. As a certified addiction advanced practice provider, Melinda has educated and trained healthcare providers in North Carolina and nationally in evidence-based practices in addiction medicine.
Genevieve Verrastro, MD, is a family physician who is currently in the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program at MAHEC. As a fellow, she spends time every week at Project CARA. For the past five years she worked in health centers for underserved patients in Buncombe and Henderson counties. She enjoys helping patients of all ages and likes to encourage patients to fight against the stigma of addiction diagnoses. She speaks Spanish and has worked with Latinx patient populations.
Integrated Care Providers
Hillary Anderson, LCSW, LCAS, is Project CARA’s lead substance use counselor and has specialized in perinatal substance use disorders since 2010. Before receiving her master’s degree in social work, she served in the Peace Corps for three years in Senegal. Hillary understands how trauma, mental health, and personal empowerment influence addiction. Hillary helps Project CARA patients better understand the disease of addiction, develop relapse prevention skills, and heal from trauma using a variety of approaches including cognitive behavioral strategies, acceptance and mindfulness skills, trauma resiliency techniques, and EMDR. When she is not seeing patients, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, baking, practicing yoga and meditation, hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
Claire Austin, PharmD, CPP, has worked as a clinical pharmacist at MAHEC since 2018. As a member of Project CARA’s integrated care team, Claire provides education for patients taking medications for opioid use disorder and other conditions such as diabetes or Hepatitis C. She works hard to ensure all prescribed medications are safe, affordable, and accessible so her patients can achieve their health goals. Claire grew up in a small town in the middle of North Carolina and moved to the mountains in 2012 to pursue a doctoral degree in pharmacy. She quickly fell in love with Asheville and, not long after, MAHEC. We’re thrilled she decided to stay!
Tammy Cody, MSW, LCSW, has supported mothers and babies for more than 25 years. She is committed to making comprehensive care as seamless as possible for all Project CARA families. As the program’s lead navigator, Tammy coordinates MAHEC’s ob/gyn and behavioral health services. She works with community partners to help patients create a hospital discharge plan and access additional substance use treatment, detention, and social services. She is a regional leader in the development of safe care plans and multidisciplinary teams to assist substance-affected families in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Before joining Project CARA full-time, Tammy spent 20 years in a neonatal intensive care unit providing complex care management and crisis intervention services for WNC families.
Anna Gerhardt, RN, MSW, is Project CARA’s lead nurse. She has worked in women’s health in a variety of capacities for over 10 years providing support for pregnant and laboring moms and postpartum families. Anna has a master’s degree in social work and understands the impact of trauma on addiction, parenting, and overall health. She is passionate about helping women achieve their goals for self-care, healthy relationships, and being an awesome parent. A parent herself, Anna knows it is a tough job with plenty of opportunities to make (and learn from) mistakes, but it is the best job she’s ever had.
Shelley Galvin, MA, is the assistant director of the MAHEC Ob/Gyn Residency Program and an adjunct assistant professor in MAHEC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in affiliation with the UNC School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. She has over 27 years of research, evaluation, grant, administrative, and teaching experience and has worked with the ob/gyn residency program for more than 20 years. Shelley is a lead evaluator and researcher on Project CARA’s multidisciplinary research team. Her research interests include women’s mental health and well-being, therapeutic alliances, and patient perceptions of the risks and benefits of cannabis use. Shelley is an avid hiker and camper who loves to explore mountain ranges in national parks.
Bayla Ostrach, MA, PhD, is Project CARA’s social science research director, an applied medical anthropologist at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC, and a faculty member affiliated with the Boston University School of Medicine. They have more than 20 years of experience working in reproductive health, policy and justice. In 2014, Bayla led the first study of patient and provider perceptions of comprehensive perinatal substance use treatment in Southern Appalachia. A nationally recognized expert in syndemics, Bayla works with community-based harm reduction and syringe access programs in Western North Carolina to identify structural and policy factors that increase drug users’ risk for overdose and infectious disease as well as users’ healthcare and other experiences.
Casey Tak, PhD, MPH, is an assistant professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at Chapel Hill and a health economist at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. Casey’s work focuses on perinatal women with substance use disorders and their experience accessing healthcare after giving birth. He is also interested in the role of advanced practice practitioners in treating perinatal opioid use disorder and how residency training impacts buprenorphine prescribing practices. As a health economist, Casey is exploring trends in Medicaid acceptance among substance use treatment facilities.