The Community Guide Staff
On This Page
Community Guide staff provide scientific, technical, and administrative support to the Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force). They are based at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and include epidemiologists, behavioral and social scientists, systematic review methodologists, statisticians, economists, clinicians, communication specialists, health educators, and policy experts. Community Guide staff members do the following:
- Coordinate systematic review teams
- Assure that each review is scientifically conducted according to approved methods
- Write and publish review findings
- Disseminate and participate in the translation of review findings to intended users including public health practitioners, policymakers, and researchers
- Create and maintain partnerships with representatives of intended user audiences
- Develop and refine systematic review methods
- Provide consultation and training about systematic reviews and developing evidence-based recommendations
CDC Community Guide Staff Members
- Shawna L. Mercer, MSc, PhD Branch Chief
- Randy W. Elder, PhD, MEd Scientific Director for Systematic Reviews
- Katherine (Kathi) M. Wilson, PhD, MPH, CHES Health Educator
- Heba M. Athar MD, MPH Epidemiologist
- Sajal K. Chattopadhyay, PhD Economist
- Zhuo (Adam) Chen, PhD, MS, MMgt Senior Economist
- Robert A. Hahn, PhD, MPH Coordinating Scientist
- David P. Hopkins, MD, MPH Coordinating Scientist and Chief Medical Officer
- Verughese Jacob, PhD, MPH Senior Service Fellow
- Jamila Jones, PhD, MPH, MCHES Health Communication Specialist
- Jennifer Murphy Morgan, MSPH Associate Service Fellow
- Yinan Peng, PhD, MPH Service Fellow
- Donyelle Russ, MPH Public Health Advisor
- Onslow Smith, MA Management and Program Analyst
- Holly Wethington, PhD Coordinating Scientist
Shawna L. Mercer, MSc, PhD
Shawna Mercer, MSc, PhD, is chief of the Community Guide Branch, where she oversees the conduct of systematic reviews of population-based public health interventions, support for all activities of the nonfederal and independent Community Preventive Services Task Force, dissemination of the Task Force's recommendations and other findings, and support for decision makers interested in implementing Task Force recommendations.
Dr. Mercer previously served as acting branch chief for the Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library and acting director of CDC's Division of Epidemiology, Analysis, and Library Services. She also previously served as a senior health scientist in CDC's Office of the Chief Science Officer, where she led initiatives to bridge gaps between research, practice and policy, and developed CDC processes and systems to ensure CDC's compliance with Office of Management and Budget policy requirements for scientific information. Dr. Mercer earlier served as a health scientist and deputy director of CDC's Office of Science and Extramural Research, where she oversaw a major research grant program, explored study design options for effectiveness and translation research, and evaluated participatory approaches for bridging research and practice. She started her CDC work in the Office on Smoking and Health, providing technical assistance to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and supporting state evaluation efforts.
Before joining CDC, Dr. Mercer conducted research at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the University of Toronto, exploring knowledge, attitudes, behavior and decision making surrounding breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening and genetic screening for cancer, as well as assessing physician and patient education and support for cancer and AIDS. Dr. Mercer's passionate commitment to bridging the worlds of research, policy, practice, and evaluation was forged in the mid 1980s when she served as the evaluation coordinator for one of the first breast cancer screening programs in the world. The program struggled mightily to meet its mandate to produce similar results to the well-funded and highly-controlled research that formed the basis of the evidence of effectiveness. Dr. Mercer has a master of science degree in health behavior from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Toronto.
Randy W. Elder, PhD, MEd
Dr. Elder joined the Community Guide Branch as scientific director for systematic reviews in 2005. He oversees the development of Community Guide methods and ensures the methodological rigor of the systematic reviews. He earned a master's degree in education with a focus on applied measurement and evaluation and a doctorate in clinical psychology. Dr. Elder joined CDC's Injury Center in 1999 to conduct research in the areas of alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol epidemiology. During his tenure there, he conducted several Community Guide reviews on the effectiveness of community-based interventions to prevent alcohol-impaired driving. In recognition of the contribution of these reviews to traffic safety, his team received several awards, including MADD's Ralph W. Hingson Research to Practice Award and the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Award for Distinguished Service.
Katherine (Kathi) M. Wilson, PhD, MPH, CHES
Dr. Wilson leads the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch where she oversees the growth of methods, tools, and training for providing technical assistance in accessing and applying recommendations found in The Community Guide. Dr. Wilson has designed and overseen conduct of intervention research using Task Force findings and implementation science as a foundation. She has overseen various research cooperative agreements including the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN), which designs and delivers trainings on using evidence to improve practice for state, local, tribal, and territorial constituents and CDC project officers. She has been a project officer since coming to CDC in 1990, first with the Planned Approach to Community Health (PATCH) Program, followed by three Alaskan tribes and the state health department for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Prior to coming to CDC, Dr. Wilson was a staff member of the Public Education Department for the national office of the Arthritis Foundation and led public health education in the Indiana Division of the American Cancer Society. Dr. Wilson holds a doctorate in health communication and a master's degree in public health with a health education emphasis.
Heba M. Athar MD, MPH
Dr. Athar is an epidemiologist on the Population Health Metrics Team of the Community Guide Branch. She provides epidemiological support on the following projects: Community Health Needs Assessment scan, Community Health Status Indicators website, life expectancy methodology, and indicators of social determinants of health. Before joining the Community Guide, Dr. Athar attained her master's degree in public health with an emphasis in health policy and administration and informatics, and served as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois, School of Public Health. Dr. Athar is a scientific editor of University of Illinois' Journal of Public Health Informatics.
Sajal K. Chattopadhyay, PhD
Dr. Chattopadhyay is the principal economic advisor for the Community Guide Branch. He directs the Community Guide's economic reviews. He previously served as a senior economist at CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and as the chief of the Prevention Effectiveness Branch in the Epidemiology Program Office at CDC. Before joining CDC, he was a member of the economics faculty at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Chattopadhyay is a founding member of the International Health Economics Association. He coordinated the collaborative work between CDC and the Institute of Medicine on re-estimating health benefits of federal regulations with different health-related quality-of-life measures and, more recently, served as an economic advisor for the Purchaser's Guide to Clinical Preventive Services. Dr. Chattopadhyay received his doctorate in economics with a specialization in health economics.
Zhuo (Adam) Chen, PhD, MS, MMgt
Dr. Chen is a senior economist with the Population Health Metrics Team of the Community Guide Branch. He provides economics and methodological support for the team, particularly on the Community Health Status Indicators (CHSI) website. His recent work includes reviewing cost calculators used in public health, developing a methodology to construct peer county groupings in CHSI, editing the Method Moments newsletter, and quantifying medical expenditure of cardiovascular diseases associated with physical inactivity. Dr. Chen previously served as a senior health economist with the CDC Office of the Associate Director for Policy where his responsibilities included reviewing an economic analysis of regulatory impact analyses conducted at CDC. He joined CDC as a Steven Teutsch Prevention Effectiveness fellow in 2006, and was a part-time assistant professor at the School of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology during 2007-2008. He serves on the editorial board of Journal of Family and Economic Issues and is a guest editor of China Economic Review.
Robert A. Hahn, PhD, MPH
Dr. Hahn is a coordinating scientist for the Community Guide Branch. He has led reviews on juvenile violence and excessive alcohol consumption and is currently heading systematic reviews of interventions to promote health equity. Dr. Hahn has served as an epidemiologist for CDC since 1986 and is a member of the Senior Biomedical Research Service. Dr. Hahn holds a doctorate in anthropology and a master's degree in public health in epidemiology. During 1998-1999, he worked as a Capitol Hill fellow in the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans' Affairs and in the office of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.
David P. Hopkins MD, MPH
Dr. Hopkins joined the Community Guide Branch in 1997. He now serves as medical officer while continuing to coordinate and conduct systematic reviews on a wide variety of topics. Dr. Hopkins is board certified in Internal Medicine and has a master's degree in public health. In 1995, after two years practicing clinical medicine in California, Dr. Hopkins joined CDC as an EIS officer and spent two years assigned to the New York State Tuberculosis Control Bureau in Albany, New York.
Verughese Jacob, PhD, MPH
Dr. Jacob is a senior service fellow on the economics team at the Community Guide Branch. Prior to this fellowship, Dr. Jacob consulted as an economist on a health disparity project with the CDC and the feasibility of a national twin registry with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Jacob has a doctorate in economics and a master's degree in public health.
Jamila Jones, PhD, MPH, MCHES
Dr. Jones is a health communication specialist on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch. In her role, she provides technical assistance and consultation to Task Force Liaisons to implement programmatic, media, and health communication activities. Dr. Jones also conducts webinars and develops strategic partnerships, among other activities that support dissemination and implementation. Dr. Jones has worked at CDC in various public health positions since 2002. Prior to joining the Community Guide Branch, she served as a public health educator in CDC's Office of the Associate Director of Communication in the Division of Public Affairs. In this role, she provided technical assistance and consultation to assigned centers and programs in all aspects of media relations and health communication activities. She also conducted media trainings for CDC spokespersons to prepare them to disseminate CDC messages to various audiences. Dr. Jones holds a doctorate in health communication and a master's degree in public health.
Jennifer Murphy Morgan, MSPH
Ms. Morgan has been a health scientist with the Community Guide Branch since 2012, and had previously worked with the branch as an ORISE fellow during 2008-2010. She has worked with the vaccine-preventable disease, tobacco, and motor vehicle review teams to conduct new and updated systematic reviews. During the gap in her service to the Community Guide Branch, Ms. Morgan was a research analyst for the Health Services Research and Evaluation Branch (HSREB) in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She provided analytic support and technical assistance for the research and evaluation activities of the Economics and Adult Vaccination teams. Prior to her ORISE fellowship, Ms. Morgan interned with the Tennessee Department of Health in the Physical Fitness Program, Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, and the Division of Minority Health and Disparity Elimination. Ms. Morgan has a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Master of Science in public health.
Yinan Peng, PhD, MPH
Dr. Peng is a service fellow in the Community Guide Branch, leading reviews to evaluate the effectiveness of tobacco control interventions and motorcycle helmet laws. Dr. Peng was an ORISE fellow with the Community Guide Branch for several years and worked on review teams evaluating effectiveness of various tobacco control interventions and school dismissal to reduce the spread of influenza virus during pandemics. Prior to joining the Community Guide Branch, Dr. Peng served two years with the U.S. Peace Corps in Kenya and Botswana, where she worked on HIV/AIDS related issues, and assisted in planning, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating HIV/AIDS activities. Dr. Peng holds a doctorate in molecular and cellular pharmacology and a master's degree in public health.
Donyelle Russ, MPH
Ms. Russ is a public health advisor with the Community Guide Branch. She provides policy and operational support for the branch. Before joining the branch, she worked in CDC's Office of State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support for the Public Health Associate Program (PHAP). Ms. Russ also has experience in the private sector, where she worked as a compliance and regulatory specialist and managed health care compliance for 78 clinics throughout the country. In this position, she enforced OSHA, HIPAA, and pharmacy management state laws and regulations by providing test audits and correspondence, and developing policies and procedures. From 2007-2010, Ms. Russ was a CDC Public Health Associate for PHAP and worked in the STD, TB and Epidemiology departments of the Hillsborough County Health Department in Tampa, Florida. She has a master's degree in public health and a bachelor's of science in health care management.
Onslow Smith, MA
Mr. Smith is a management and program analyst on the Operations Team of the Community Guide Branch. His primary roles include management of the ORISE Fellowship Program and Community Preventive Services Task Force meeting. Prior to joining the Community Guide, Mr. Smith served as a program specialist with the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology and a Master of Arts in business.
Holly Wethington, PhD
Dr. Wethington is a coordinating scientist in the Community Guide Branch. Prior to joining the Community Guide, Dr. Wethington worked with CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity conducting research and evaluation of behaviors associated with obesity. She also worked with the Community Guide Branch from 2006-2007 as an ORISE research fellow. She received her doctorate in social psychology.
Consultants and Contractors
Joe Bryce, BS
Mr. Bryce (Karna, LLC) serves as web developer on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch and is responsible for the design and maintenance of the Community Guide website. Mr. Bryce has more than fifteen years experience in web development and design and has managed sites for a wide range of clients, including CDC's Public Health Library. Mr. Bryce holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration and information systems management.
Krista Hopkins Cole, MPH
Ms. Cole (Karna, LLC) is a health communications specialist on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch. In this role, she manages and develops content for The Community Guide website and disseminates information about Task Force findings. Before joining the Community Guide, Ms. Cole served as a health communication specialist for CDC's Injury Center where she led communication activities for the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention and worked to promote the application of behavioral sciences to injury prevention. She has lead health communication activities for state and county agencies and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Cole has a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a master's degree in public health with an emphasis in health behavior, health education.
Daphne Hale, MHA
Ms. Hale (Carter Consulting, Inc.) is the administrative support for the Community Guide Branch. In this role she administers support to the director and deputy while assisting the entire branch. Ms. Hale has served as administrative support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than 17 years. She has worked with the agency's Emergency Operation Center, the Division of Strategic National Stockpile, the Division of Hepatitis, and the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Office of Public Health Scientific Services. Ms. Hale has a wide range of experience that includes working with foreign guest researchers, managing billing, handling maintenance issues, offering technical assistance with personnel issues, and providing support for ICE procurements, grants, cooperative agreements, and timekeeping. Ms. Hale has a master's degree in health administration and a bachelor of science in chemistry and biology.
Kate W. Harris, BA
Ms. Harris (Karna, LLC) is a professional editor who has specialized in public health and medical editing for the past 20 years. She has been senior technical writer/editor at the Community Guide Branch since 2010. Ms. Harris previously worked in the same capacity in the Community Guide Branch from 2000-2007, and was part of the team that developed the 2005 book, The Guide to Community Preventive Services. What Works to Promote Health? She was instrumental in working with Community Guide scientists and the Task Force to develop segments of the terminology used in Community Guide reviews and Task Force recommendations.
Jeff Reynolds, MPH
Mr. Reynolds (Karna, LLC) is a health scientist with the Community Guide Branch, working on the effectiveness review teams for cardiovascular disease and physical activity. Mr. Reynolds was an ORISE research fellow with the Community Guide Branch from 2011-2015 and contributed to systematic reviews on topics including excessive alcohol use, mental health, motor vehicle injury, and tobacco control. He holds a bachelor of science degree in cellular biology and microbiology and a master's degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology.
Renée Skeete Alston, MA
Ms. Alston is an ORISE research fellow with the Community Guide Branch, working on an effectiveness review with the physical activity review team. Ms. Alston obtained her Master of Arts degree in 2013 and is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Georgia State University. Prior to working at the Community Guide Branch, Ms. Alston worked as a consultant with Nexus Research Group on an evaluation of the NeighborWorks America Community Building and Engagement grant program, and as a graduate research assistant on two federally-funded research projects in the Sociology department at Georgia State University. As a graduate research assistant, she conducted surveys, and interviews and collected data on built environment, prepared literature reviews, conducted statistical analyses, and contributed to scholarly publications.
Olumayowa Azeez, MPH, BS
Ms. Azeez is an ORISE fellow on the systematic review team at the Community Guide Branch. Prior to this fellowship, Ms. Azeez served as a support coordinator to low-income and minority community members, assisting in the acquisition of public health resources. She also conducted a systematic review for a NIH-funded research at Drexel University. Ms. Azeez holds a Master of Public Health degree and a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry.
Anita Alston Ellis, PhD, MBA
Dr. Ellis is a post-doctoral ORISE research fellow on the Dissemination and Implementation Team in the Community Guide Branch. Her primary roles include supporting the dissemination and implementation of Task Force findings. In conjunction with the Community Guide dissemination efforts, she is responsible for working alongside Task Force partners to assist with survey design and analysis. Dr. Ellis has worked at CDC in various public health positions since 2001. Prior to joining the Community Guide Branch, she served as a public health consultant (contractor) in CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. In this role, she served as a data management subject management expert for CDC's National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System and Medical Monitoring Project surveys. Dr. Ellis holds a doctorate in community health education and promotion and a master's degree in healthcare management.
Ramona Finnie, DrPH, MPH, CHES
Dr. Finnie is an ORISE research fellow currently working with the cardiovascular disease review team at the Community Guide Branch. Prior to joining the Branch, Dr. Finnie was a visiting faculty member at Arizona State University, working in the Department of African and African-American Studies on a qualitative study of African American's experiences with colorectal cancer screening. Before that, she was a research analyst for Special Populations Research [now Underserved Populations Research] at the Behavioral Research Center within the American Cancer Society. Dr. Finnie holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health. She attained a doctor of public health (DrPH) degree with a global health concentration and field research related to delayed care-seeking and diagnosis for tuberculosis (TB) and non-adherence to TB treatment in Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Ms. Mattick is an intern on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch. Her primary work includes data collection and media analysis of The Community Guide Twitter account, dissemination and implementation activities, and assisting other members on the team. Ms. Mattick is a master in public health candidate at the University of Georgia. The focus of her research is how The Community Guide website creates engagement and action within a changing audience over time.
Devon Okasako-Schmucker, MPH
Ms. Okasako-Schmucker is an ORISE research fellow at the Community Guide Branch. She is working with the cancer and obesity review teams. Prior to working at the Community Guide Branch, Ms. Okasako-Schmucker worked with the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research in Washington D.C as a graduate intern. Her duties included compiling hepatitis C virus clinical trials for researchers, clinicians, patients and advocates, and leading a work group on Databases and Information for Bay Area Health Disparities project.
Amanda Powell, MA, CPH
Ms. Powell is an ORISE research fellow on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch. Her role includes data analyses for evaluation of the dissemination and implementation activities, development of templates for The Community Guide in Action stories and What Works Fact Sheets, and assisting the health equity review team in dissemination and implementation activities. Mrs. Powell is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Georgia State University. The focus of her research is on how built environments impact health outcomes.
Ismaila Ramon, MPH, PhD
Dr. Ramon is an ORISE research fellow with the Community Guide Branch, working with the cancer and health equity review teams. Prior to this, he was a public health consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton's Strategic Innovation Group where he worked on multiple CDC projects including developing performance measures for the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, and evaluating components of CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Dr. Ramon also served as a surveillance and epidemiologic fellow with CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. From 2004-2009, he was an epidemiologist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment where he provided epidemiologic and analytic support to statewide injury and disability prevention programs. Dr. Ramon has a master's degree in public health with a focus on epidemiology and a doctorate in public health with emphasis in community health.
Ka Zang Xiong, MPH
Ms. Xiong is an ORISE research fellow with the Community Guide Branch. Her primary work includes systematic reviews of economic findings related to community-wide health promotion and disease prevention interventions. She has a master's degree in public health with a concentration in global epidemiology. In her previous work, she used Task Force recommendations to pilot a clinic-based cancer screening uptake program.