2020 U54 NIH/TCHD Steering Committee Members

JK Vishwanatha

Jamboor Vishwanatha, Ph D, Principal Investigator

Dr. Jamboor Vishwanathais a Special Assistant to the Provost for the Center for Diversity and International Programs, Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics, Director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities, and Director of the Institute for Cancer Research at UNT Health Science Center.

He serves as director of the Texas Center for Minority Health, Education, Research and Outreach (Texas Center for Health Disparities), a Center of Excellence funded by the National institutes of Health. In this role, Dr. Vishwanatha has directed health disparity research, education and community outreach programs. For the past nine years, he has organized the annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities that attracts national speakers and participants.

His laboratory is investigating genetic markers that predict development of aggressive prostate and breast cancers. Dr. Vishwanatha is developing nanotechnology-based therapies for breast and prostate cancer metastases.

Actively involved in programs to diversify the biomedical research workforce, Dr. Vishwanatha serves on the external advisory committees for St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas; Alabama State University, Montgomery, Ala.; and Savannah State University, Savannah, Ga. He has been an active member of the GREAT Group, SACNAS and ABRCMS.

Dr. Vishwanatha’s global perspective has led to the establishment of a number of relationships between UNTHSC and international educational institutes. These relationships allow students and faculty to participate in exchange programs and collaborate on research.

NIMHD Officials

Rick Berzon

Rick Berzon, DrPH, PA, Project Scientist, NIMHD

Dr. Rick Berzon is a Health Science Administrator and Program Director within the Clinical and Health Services Research area. Dr. Berzon has extensive experience in identifying, measuring, and evaluating health outcomes-specifically, patient-reported outcomes-as well as quality-of-life endpoints and performance indicators. He has expertise within numerous therapeutic areas, including HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases. Dr. Berzon has worked at Johns Hopkins University, the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the National Institutes of Health, and for private pharmaceutical firms. His passion is international and global health, as well as health disparities research.

Rina Das

Rina Das, Ph.D. Program Officer, NIMHD

Dr. Rina Das is a program director at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Her expertise is in the area of health disparities, especially cancer health disparities research and training programs. At NIMHD she initiated the Social Epigenomics program to understand how social environment influences our biology through the epigenome. This program has also provided an opportunity to bring two different disciplines together- social scientists and molecular biologist to collaborate to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanism of health disparities. She has led several programs at NIMHD such as Immigrant health disparities, Sleep health disparities, Liver and Lung cancer disparities. Before joining NIMHD, she was a program director at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). Prior to her appointment at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Das served as Scientific Review Officer at the National Institute of Heart Lung and Blood Institute, NIH in Bethesda, MD. She received her postdoctoral training in breast cancer research at the Intramural laboratory at NCI, NIH. Over the years she has promoted health disparities research and encouraged numerous candidates from underrepresented communities to pursue research careers.

Her current research interests include social epigenomics, cancer disparities research, and sleep health disparities research.

Dr. Das will provide insights on how Social epigenomics is relevant to minority health and health disparities research.

Steering Committee

Jose Pagan

José Pagán, Ph.D, Director, Center for Innovation, The New York Academy of Medicine

Dr. Pagán is also Director of the Center for Health Innovation at The New York Academy of Medicine and Adjunct Senior Fellow and member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Pagán received his PhD in economics from the University of New Mexico and is a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar with expertise in health economics and population health. Over the years his research has been funded through grants and contracts from the Department of Defense, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the European Commission, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science and a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Policy Research Scholars.


Chellu Chetty, Full Professor, Associate Vice President, Research and Sponsored Programs, Savannah State University

Dr. Chellu S. Chetty is the Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs and Regents Distinguished Professor of Biology at Savannah State University. Since 1993 he has received more than $15 million to conduct biomedical research and support faculty and students in the STEM disciplines. Currently, he is directing three major NIH-funded Biomedical Research and NSF-funded STEM Programs with a budget of $6.6 million. These programs provide scholarships/stipends for approximately 100 STEM majors each year. He received a BS degree in Biology in 1974, MS in Zoology (Molecular Physiology) in 1976 and a Doctorate in Physiology in 1979, from SV University, Tirupati, India. He spent the next nine years at his alma mater as an assistant/associate professor, which included a two-year stint as a Visiting Faculty in the Department of Neurology at the University Medical Center in Jackson, MS, from 1982 to 1984. Before joining the Savannah State faculty in 1993, he also spent five years as a Visiting Faculty in a collaborative project between the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS and Selma University, Selma, AL. He has guided 10 Doctoral students in Physiology and has written or co-authored more than 250 professional research articles for publications. More than 80 of the journal publications include undergraduate and graduate students as co-authors. He has earned numerous accolades and awards for his student engagement practices and accomplishments. He developed a strong mentoring alliance through which faculty can effectively engage the students and received 2003 United States Presidential Award for Excellence at a White House Ceremony and 2003 University System of Georgia Regents Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research.


Gloria Martinez, Weatherford Chamber of Commerce, Director of Community Relations

Gloria Martinez, with the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce. She has 20 years’ experience working in the non-profit industry. With assistance from local Police, Fire and community leaders she plans and organizes the Parker County Peach Festival that brings in over 60,000 visitors. Gloria was instrumental in updating and revamping the Chamber website, which showcases what the Chamber and City of Weatherford has to offer the community and their members. She and her husband Ralph live in Azle and raise Boer goats. They have 4 adult children and 6 grandchildren with one on the way. When not working or tending to the goats, she loves to read and spoil the grandchildren.

DR. LISA L. BARNES, Ph.D., The Alla V. and Solomon Jesmer Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Director, Center of Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging, & Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center

Lisa L. Barnes, PhD, the Alla V. and Solomon Jesmer Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, is a cognitive neuropsychologist in the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Her work is focused on the epidemiology of aging and racial differences in chronic diseases of aging. Dr. Barnes received her PhD in biopsychology from the University of Michigan and completed a 3-year NIH post-doctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Davis. She is the Principal Investigator of three community-based cohort studies of older African Americans, and the Director of the Rush Center of Excellence on Disparities in HIV and Aging (CEDHA). Dr. Barnes is internationally recognized for her contributions to minority aging and minority health. She has published extensively on cognitive aging in older African Americans and has received numerous awards and honors for her work in minority communities.

Elena Bastida, Ph.D., Chair and Professor, Department of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, R Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University

Dr. Elena Bastida’s research focuses on aging, the life course, health disparities, religion, population, and community health. She led the 12-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported Border Epidemiologic Study on Aging (BESA) and, with continuous NIH support, conducted research on religion and aging, and community-based participatory research on obesity and diabetes. Though substantively, her research topics have varied, she has maintained her focus on Latino populations and health disparities. Both her teaching and her mentoring have received statewide and national recognition with two national role model awards and most recently, the University Graduate School Mentorship Award and the Florida McKnight Foundation Mentor Award. In 2009, she received the Public Health Hero Award from Research America. Dr. Bastida is the past president of the Population Research Committee of the International Sociological Association. Her research has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, The Gerontologist, The Journal of Gerontology, Health Economics, Journal of Scientific Study of Religion, Diabetes Care among others.

Elizabeth Davis-Lydia, Third Vice President, The Girls Service League.

During her career, Elizabeth Davis-Lydia developed Minority Training Programs to prepare students for careers in the Biomedical Sciences. She retired from UNT Health Science Center as Associate Director of Outreach. Elizabeth developed academic retention, recruitment, and community outreach programs that had significant impact on students, faculty, and the community. She was Director of McNair Scholars Program, Director of Summer Multicultural Advanced Research Training Program, Director of the UNTHSC Adopt-A- School Program and Go Center Program with Fort Worth ISD. Elizabeth was Chair of the UNTHSC Cross Functional Team for Outreach. She developed and implemented partnerships with HBCU schools and Programs for faculty development. Elizabeth created relationships and partnerships with the minority community through churches, businesses, the Minority Leaders Citizen Council and other professional organizations.

Now in retirement, Elizabeth Davis-Lydia continues to be involved in community outreach at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Servants With A Testimony (S.W.A.T) Ministry. She serves as one of the contact leads for the S.W.A.T Team that helps church members and their families cope with the life-altering changes of catastrophic sickness and disease. She also teaches in the youth ministry as well.

Elizabeth Davis-Lydia is Third Vice President of The Girls Service League, Inc. (GSL). The Girls Service League is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to women in Johnson, Parker, and Tarrant Counties. Its focus is on women empowering women through higher education. This organization celebrated 100 years of service to Fort Worth in 2019.

Elizabeth is a member of the Northwest Retired School Employees Association (NRSEA) and serves as chair of the Retirement Education Committee that provides resources and information to public school personnel and retirees. The purpose and goal of the association is to provide the most current retirement education information to all active school personnel and retirees in Northwest ISD.