COMRADE: Cohort 1

Arlener Turner, PhD: Dr. Turner is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, Ph.D. in Neuropsychology from Howard University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowships at the National Institute of Mental Health in the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch and Rush Center of Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging (CEDHA) at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. She has expertise in neuropsychology, Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairment, and depressive disorders. Her overall career goal is to identify health related risk factors for cognitive dysfunction. Her current project focuses on the impact of sleep disturbance on cognitive functioning to examine neurocognitive impairment in individuals with comorbid insomnia and sleep apnea and evaluate the benefits of treatment on neurocognitive performance. She wants to expand her current knowledge and gain training in neuroscience and neuroimaging in order delve further into sleep as a modifiable health related risk factor for cognitive dysfunction.

Daudet Ilunga Tshiswaka, Ph.D.: Dr. Ilunga Tshiswaka is originally from the D.R. Congo. He received his PhD in Community Health, focusing on health disparities, international health, and minorities’ health in May 2016 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through his academic journey, he gained hands-on experience in conducting relevant scientific researches. Over the span of his education, he has had the privilege of working as a researcher in a variety of significant projects including studying health insurance status among minorities, understanding health behaviors in regards to high blood pressure among transnational Africans and inquiring spatial distribution of high birth weight and low birth weight among immigrant women. Previously, he assumed responsibility for HIV/AIDS awareness and testing program in Kinshasa, D. R. Congo. His task was to supervising groups of students in increasing HIV/AIDS awareness among their peers. More recently, he was involved with the SAWBO (Scientific Animations Without Borders) in translating preventative measures of malaria, Ebola, crop fields, washing hands in French and Lingala languages. The project presents crucial recommendations in form of animations and he has recorded his voice in French and Lingala.

Desiree Bygrave, PhD: Dr. Bygrave  is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with University of Delaware’s Biopsychosocial Health and Cognition Lab where she examines relations among endothelial function, brain, cognition, and, the mediating role of brain pathology in the context of race-related health disparities. She completed her Ph.D. in Neuropsychology at Howard University in Washington, DC under the supervision of Dr. Dené Mwendwa. Her graduate research integrated a biopsychosocial approach to investigating the role of cardiovascular disease risk factors on cognitive function and hemodynamic variability. She hopes her research will serve as a guide to further understand these concepts and to inform the nature in which early intervention practices could reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease and protect or improve brain health. Dr. Bygrave served as a graduate research assistant at Howard University’s Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Research Center within Washington, DC and adjunct lecturer in Neuropsychology at Howard University. She also served as a mentor and laboratory scientist for American Psychological Association’s 2016 “I am Psyched!”  Museum Day Live campaign inspiring Girls of Color to explore careers in the social and behavioral sciences, and, share the ways in which psychology can be used to make positive social change. Dr. Bygrave obtained her B.S. degree in Biology in 2008 from Voorhees College in Denmark, SC and her M.S. degree in Psychology in 2011 from Howard University.

Natalie Watson, PhD: Dr. Watson completed her graduate training in Clinical/Community Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her program of research encompasses two lines of inquiry with the general focus on how stress contributes to stress-reactive health behaviors and outcomes that reduce or exacerbate health disparities for diverse groups. First, she investigates the role of culturally-sanctioned coping strategies (e.g., strong Black womanhood, John Henryism) in buffering against or contributing to health disparities among African Americans. Second, she examines the effectiveness of mind-body interventions to reduce depression and hypertension among African American women. Dr. Watson served as a co-investigator for The Reveal: Making Room for Black Women’s Voices of Mental Health and Wellness. Her research and clinical skills demonstrate her passion to bridge science and practice to address the myriad health disparities experienced by underrepresented groups.

Susan Douglas, MD, JD: Dr. Douglas knows persistence and perseverance. Douglas was 21 when her car skidded off a road. She returned to medical school a paraplegic in less than a year, where she was a trailblazer. In 1996, she began practicing academic neurology at UCLA. Changes in health care and insights from her own medical experiences, moved her toward public policy and a fellowship with the Senate Finance Committee's Healthcare Subcommittee, where she drafted legislation that is law today. She is now on the faculty at UCLA in a health services research program, developing research to study ways to integrate people with chronic illness and disabilities into their communities. Active in community service she fights barriers wherever she finds them. Her own struggles with provisions that block access to genuine independence drive her passion to change policy. She strives to be an effective advocate, thought leader, coalition builder and solution driver for entities that are affected by health care policy, focusing on reducing disparities, ending discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity and employment for underrepresented groups, and civil and human rights. Douglas believes that everyone shares essentially the same daily struggles, victories and defeats, regardless of occupation or social status. “We all benefit when these struggles and outcomes are acknowledged and validated by people in the same boat, fighting the same fight.”