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Research

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Edward C. Jauch, MD, MS, MBA Edward C. Jauch, MD, MS, MBA
Chair, Department of Program Evaluation and Research
email Edward.Jauch@mahec.net

Dr. Jauch joined MAHEC in 2022 as Chair of the Department of Program Evaluation and Research. In this role, he supports the several Divisions within the Department and has led the creation of the new clinical trials program at MAHEC. Dr. Jauch serves in several regional roles supporting education, care implementation, research, and innovation across MAHEC, Western North Carolina, and the state.

Dr. Jauch completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering (bioengineering) at Cornell University, after which he joined the faculty in the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Kansas and the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Jauch completed medical school and an emergency medicine residency at the University of Cincinnati, subsequently joining the faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Stroke Team. Dr. Jauch was recruited to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2008 to help develop the Emergency Medicine Residency Program, assist in the creation of the MUSC Comprehensive Stroke Center and Telemedicine Program, and eventually serve as Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Professor, Department of Neurology, faculty in the College of Graduate Studies at the MUSC, and adjunct Professor of Bioengineering, Clemson University. Dr. Jauch obtained his Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina - Wilmington with an emphasis in data analytics. Before joining MAHEC, Dr. Jauch served as Chief of System Research and the Director of the Mission Research Institute in Asheville, NC, and the National Medical Director for Neurosciences Research for the HCA Healthcare Research Institute in Nashville, TN, for four years.

Dr. Jauch's research has performed a wide range of industry and federally-funded phase II and III clinical trials but with an emphasis on acute conditions, specifically neurologic emergencies and stroke. Dr. Jauch is very active in numerous national organizations, including serving as past Chair of the Stroke Council for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and immediate past President of the Southeast AHA Board of Directors. At state levels, Dr. Jauch served on the Ohio Stroke Task Force, as chair of the South Carolina Department of Health’s Stroke Advisory Committee, and currently serves on the North Carolina Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Task Force Stroke Advisory Committee and as a consultant to the NC Department of Health and Human Services Coverdell National Acute Stroke program.


Brandy Tiernan, PhD Brandy Tiernan, PhD
Institutional Review Board Director and Human Subject Protections Administrator
email Brandy.Tiernan@mahec.net

Dr. Brandy Tiernan joined MAHEC in 2022 as the Director of the Institutional Review Board and Human Subject Protections Administrator. Before joining the organization, Dr. Tiernan was a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. She was also a professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where she served as the founding chair of the Neuroscience Program and the chair and administrator of the University’s Institutional Review Board. As a teacher, advisor, and scholar, she promoted neuroscience and mental health literacy to counteract stigmatizing beliefs.

Dr. Tiernan completed her Ph.D. in 2012 at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Her scientific expertise is in social cognitive neuroscience, using neuroimaging (e.g., EEG/ERP), psychophysiology, and experimental psychology to examine the relationship between goal-directed thinking and decision-making and emotion regulation. Dr. Tiernan also conducted community-engaged research to study local beliefs, experiences, attitudes, and language surrounding mental health in Southern Appalachia to improve access to resources and effective communication between patients and providers. She fulfilled these research goals through a Civic Engagement Fellowship award and as a workshop consultant on a Building Strong Brains Grant funded by the Department of Child Services in Tennessee. Recently, Dr. Tiernan was awarded a two-year Young Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation (BBRF) to study how emotion dysregulation and interpersonal interactions disrupt executive functioning and, in turn, impair psychosocial functioning.

Dr. Tiernan will build MAHEC’s brand new Institutional Review Board (from the ground up!) She is thrilled to develop a mission-based human subjects research program that enables MAHEC faculty, learners, staff, and community partners to make long-lasting connections and meaningful contributions to equitable health care.


Scott A. Davis, PhD Scott A. Davis, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
email sdavis81@email.unc.edu

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.


Al Kopak, PhD Al Kopak, PhD
Research Scientist
email Al.Kopak@mahec.net

Dr. Kopak is a research scientist at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). Prior to joining the Center, Dr. Kopak was a faculty member in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Western Carolina University where he held the rank of Professor.

Dr. Kopak learned the art and science of community engaged research while completing his PhD in Justice Studies at Arizona State University. He spent most of this time developing his methodological and statistical expertise at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC). Dr. Kopak specializes in research design, data collection methods, and advanced statistical modeling. These skills are the foundation of his work, which is dedicated to addressing substance use disorders in marginalized populations.

Dr. Kopak is interested in many areas of substance use research and has collaborated with a variety of organizations. He has partnered with several Western North Carolina Sheriff’s Offices to assess substance use and behavioral health-related needs among people who are admitted to local detention centers. He has served as a subject matter expert for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program (COAP) sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). He has also conducted international research on the largest prison-based substance use treatment program in the United Kingdom. This work demonstrates Dr. Kopak’s full commitment to using research to develop solutions for people who experience substance use disorder.


Jacqueline Halladay, MD, MPH 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

email Jacqueline_Halladay@med.unc.edu

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.


Chelsea Atkins, MS, MPH Chelsea Atkins, MS, MPH
Research Associate
email Chelsea.Atkins@mahec.net

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.


Sarah Friedman, MPH, MA (she/her/hers) Sarah Friedman, MPH, MA (she/her/hers)
Research Associate
email Sarah.Friedman@mahec.net

Sarah supports research and scholarly efforts across various departments at MAHEC. She provides expertise in qualitative research methods and analysis, examining cultural considerations in health care, IRB application and management, and clinical research including industry research. Sarah’s previous experience in health services research is contraception access and trends, palliative oncology, prostate cancer outcomes and treatment, care for transgender patients, vaccine and cancer screening communications, and evaluating community based perinatal healthcare. Her research interests include reproductive health and justice, understanding sexual violence and consent, and addressing health inequity. She studied at San Diego State University with a focus in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science. During her time in the Southern California 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 in nature, baking, enjoying time with friends, and spending as much time as possible in the ocean.


Phillip Hughes, MS Phillip Hughes, MS
Research Data Analyst
email Phillip.Hughes@mahec.net
phone 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 Wendy Nuzzo, MS
Research Data Analyst
email Wendy.Nuzzo@mahec.net

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.

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