Study Team Members


Kristen M.J. Azar

Principal Investigator, 2017-2023

Kristen M.J. Azar, RN, MSN/MPH, PhD (c), FAHA, currently serves as the scientific director for the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity (IAHE) and was a Principal Investigator co-leading the ELEVATE-DP study from 2017-2023. She has diverse clinical experience as a public health and preventive cardiology nurse in and outside the US, and has worked with racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse populations. Her research is aimed at health system improvement and implementation science with a focus on identifying and mitigating health and healthcare disparities. Over more than a decade, she has led numerous published studies in the areas of health services research, cardiometabolic disease prevention and management, health care disparities, and health equity. Azar joined Sutter Health’s research enterprise in 2009. As scientific director for the Sutter Health IAHE, Azar is a recognized health equity leader and received a 2021 Nurse Leader Award for her work in health equity, from the Association of California Nurse Leaders. Azar holds graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins in nursing and public health. She completed undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University.

Rob J. Romanelli

Principal Investigator, 2017-2021

Dr. Rob Romanelli, PhD, MPH was the Director of Data Analytics and a Sr. Scientist at the Sutter Health-Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR). He was a Principal Investigator co-leading the ELEVATE-DP study with Azar from 2017-2021. He continued to be a major contributor to manuscripts following his move to London, UK. Romanelli has more than 10 years’ experience working with diverse research partners and clients ranging from U.S. federal agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry. His research has leveraged quantitative and qualitative methods, including systematic and scoping literature reviews, retrospective database analyses, interviews, surveys, and key-stakeholder engagement activities, to synthesize evidence and inform policy decisions. He holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and an M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

Romanelli is currently a research leader at RAND Europe focusing on health and well-being. Romanelli's work has focused on evaluating health care system policies, programs, and interventions designed to improve the quality and safety of care delivery. He is broadly interested in the intersection of health care delivery, health policy, public health, and health equity.

Alice Pressman

Co-Investigator (Methods and Biostatistics), 2017-2023

Dr. Alice Pressman, PhD, MS is a Senior Scientist with Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, and a Research and Evaluation Consultant with Northern California Kaiser Permanente. Previously she served as Executive Director for the Sutter Health Center for Health Systems Research, and Scientific Research Director for the Sutter Health Institute Advancing Health Equity. Dr. Pressman is an epidemiologist and biostatistician specializing in evaluation methodology, clinical trials methods, health disparities, health systems evaluation, and chronic pain research. For the past 30+ years, she has served as a research investigator and biostatistician for clinical and epidemiologic research studies in diverse settings including academia, community-based research institutes, and healthcare systems. She is an adjunct faculty member at University of California San Francisco, department of epidemiology and biostatistics, and the Bernard Tyson Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

She is currently working on several research endeavors including clinical trials of CBT-I for chronic insomnia, acupuncture for chronic low back pain in elderly patients, and group pre-natal care for low-income pregnant people in Fresno, California, and a transgender research program at Redwood City Kaiser Permanente.

In her copious spare time, she likes to bake, cook, and curl up with her dog and a good book.

Sylvia Sudat

Co-Investigator (Methods and Biostatistics), 2017-2023

Dr. Sylvia Sudat. PhD is a Senior Scientist and Biostatistician at the Sutter Health Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR). She is also a core member of the Sutter Health Institute for Advancing Health Equity (IAHE) and the Data Science team. For over 17 years at Sutter, she has developed methods for accessing, extracting, and analyzing complex health data from multi-source electronic health records (EHRs) for clinical and observational research. She provides statistical consultation and support to Sutter researchers, and leads projects using large EHR datasets to address questions and challenges facing healthcare delivery, patient experience, and health equity. Her recent work includes identification of natural subgroups of migraine using latent class analysis, and estimation of the impact of pulse oximeter inaccuracy on treatment course for Black patients with COVID-19. 

Dr. Sudat received her PhD in Biostatistics from the University of California at Berkeley, with a focus on risk prediction and causal inference using semi-parametric methods in the context of observational health data. When she is not at work she can most frequently be found singing, listening to audiobooks, running around after her three children, or drinking copious amounts of tea.

Qiwen Huang

Statistical Analyst, 2019-2023

Qiwen Huang, MS, is a Senior Statistician at the Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR). She was the statistical analyst for the ELEVATE-DP study from 2019-2023, where she managed large datasets, conducted multiple analyses in the Electronic Health Records (EHR) and surveys, and contributed to several study manuscripts. 

Qiwen has 10+ years’ experience in statistical analysis and data management with health care data. Her interests and expertise are sample size and power calculations, categorical data analysis, linear models, mixed models, longitudinal data, multiple regression, nonlinear regression, time series, and experimental design.

In her free time, Qiwen enjoys attending her daughters' badminton tournaments across and outside the U.S.

Nina K. Szwerinski

Research Associate, 2017-2023

Nina K. Szwerinski, MS is a Research Associate at the Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR), where she conducts qualitative research and project management for mixed-methods research studies and quality improvement projects. On the ELEVATE-DP study, Nina was involved in the design, coordination, data collection and analysis of semi-structured interviews and surveys with patients, program facilitators, and physicians. She also managed the project in its final year. 

Nina has 7+ years of research experience in applied health services and social psychology. She uses qualitative research to understand diverse perspectives, motivations, needs, and challenges of users of services and digital tools to inform design and strategies. She is currently working on research efforts in clinician and nurse wellbeing and burnout, patient relations, and Sutter's patient portal.

Nina received her master's in Social and Cultural Psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include technology and health, chronic disease management, and the role of culture in illness experience. When not working, Nina enjoys exploring new hiking trails with her dog.

Catherine Nasrallah

Research Associate, 2017-2022

Catherine Nasrallah, MPH, CHES, was a Research Project Manager at the Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR) and a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Catherine received her Master of Public Health degree in Health Behaviors and Education from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and her Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics from Saint Joseph University in Beirut.

Catherine worked on the qualitative research piece of the ELEVATE-DP project. She was involved in designing and developing surveys and interview guides, conducting face to face interviews with study participants, coding and analyzing qualitative data as well as developing research protocols, consent and data access forms to Institutional Review Board.

Prior to joining Sutter Health, Catherine worked for over 6 years as a senior research associate in Lebanon and Qatar on a different community based participatory research projects, behavior change interventions, health education programs and awareness raising campaigns. In addition to research project management, Catherine is skilled in qualitative and mixed method research development and analysis, public health program design, implementation and evaluation. Her research interests include behavior change, program evaluation, quality improvement, health education and disease prevention. Catherine currently works as a Project Manager/Qualitative Analyst at the UCSF Department of Medicine. In her free time, Catherine enjoys working out and baking.

Vidita Chopra

Project Coordinator, 2017-2022

Vidita Chopra, MPH was a Research Project Manager at the Center for Health Systems Research (CHSR) and the Project Coordinator for the ELEVATE-DP study.  She was responsible for the management of project timelines and milestones, and coordination of multiple time sensitive collaborative efforts. Vidita assisted the team with research related tasks such as the analysis of qualitative data, literature searches, and submission of manuscripts and abstracts. She was also responsible for the submission of Institutional Review Board documents and progress reports.

Vidita has over 10 years of research experience, and completed her MPH from UC Berkeley in 2012. She now works as a Clinical Research Associate at the Department of Health Technology, Meta.

In her free time, Vidita likes to bake, sing, and dream about her annual family vacation to Hawaii.

Meghan Halley

Co-Investigator (Qualitative Research), 2017-2019

Dr. Meghan Halley, PhD, MPH is a Medical Anthropologist who was a Consultant at the Center for Health System Research (CHSR). Dr. Halley led the qualitative research on the ELEVATE-DP study from 2017-2019, including overseeing the data collection and conducting analysis of program facilitator interviews. 

Since her time on the ELEVATE-DP study, Dr. Halley continued her work in research as a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University School of Medicine and the President of the Board of Directors at Undiagnosed Diseases Network Foundation (UDNF) in Washington, D.C.

Claire (Hsiao-Ching) Huang

Statistical Analyst, 2017-2019

Claire Huang, MPH joined ELEVATED-DP in 2017 right after she graduated from her MPH at University of Illinois at Chicago, where she majored in biostatistics. She served as a statistical analyst in ELEVATED-DP and mainly focused on analyses using Electronic Health Record (EHR). She has assisted with several publications from ELEVATED-DP, managed analytical datasets, and presented analytic findings from the project. After ELEVATE-DP, she moved back to Chicago and is currently a PhD candidate at University of Illinois at Chicago focused on pharmacoepidemiology.

Jack (John) Petersen

Research Assistant, 2018-2019

Jack Petersen, BS was a Research Assistant on the ELEVATE-DP study. He contributed to various aspects of the project including literature reviews, survey design, manuscript writing, and data interpretation of qualitative interviews. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biology at Santa Clara University. Jack is currently a medical student studying to be a physician at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska.


Acknowledgements: We want to deeply thank Suk Yung Chung, Beth VendittiJun Ma, Debra Green, Wendy QiJuliette Farnan and Megan Harms for their contributions to this study.

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