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The Community Guide Staff
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
Julie Racine-Parshall, BA
Deputy Branch Chief
Jamila Jones, PhD, MPH, MCHES
Dissemination and Implementation Team Lead
Anil Thota, MD, MPH
Systematic Review Science Team Lead
Sajal K. Chattopadhyay, PhD
Anita Alston Ellis, PhD, MBA
Ramona Finnie, DrPH, MPH, CHES
Robert A. Hahn, PhD, MPH
David P. Hopkins, MD, MPH
Coordinating Scientist and Chief Medical Officer
Verughese Jacob, PhD, MPH
Senior Service Fellow
Jennifer Murphy Morgan, MSPH
Yinan Peng, PhD, MPH
Donyelle Russ, MPH
Public Health Advisor
Onslow Smith, MA
Management and Program Analyst
Holly Wethington, PhD
Julie Zajac, MPH
Consultants and Contractors
Joe Bryce, BS
Leigh Ramsey Buchanan, PhD, MS
Krista Hopkins Cole, MPH
Health Communications Specialist
Earnestine Dooley, BBA
Health Communications Specialist
Lisa Oliver, MSIT
Jeff Reynolds, MPH
Danielle Ryan, BA
Health Communications Specialist
Timothy Levengood, MPH
Kelly Mattick, MPH
Devon Okasako-Schmucker, MPH
Ka Zang Xiong, MPH
Dr. Mercer is director of The Guide to Community Preventive Services and chief of the Community Guide Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In these roles, she oversees prioritization and conduct of systematic reviews of population-based public health interventions, support for all activities of the nonfederal and independent Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force), dissemination of the Task Force’s recommendations and other findings, support for decision makers interested in implementing Task Force recommendations, and building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with partners.
Dr. Mercer previously served as acting director of CDC’s Division of Epidemiology, Analysis, and Library Services and acting branch chief for the Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library. She also deployed to Guinea, West Africa as part of CDC’s Ebola Response. Dr. Mercer earlier served as a senior health scientist in CDC’s Office of the Chief Science Officer, where she led initiatives to evaluate and 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 also previously 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 for the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and international tobacco surveys, and supporting state evaluation efforts in the era of the Master Settlement Agreement.
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, as well as genetic screening for cancer. She also helped assess physician and patient education and support for cancer and AIDS. Her passionate commitment to bridging the worlds of research, policy, practice, and evaluation was forged in the mid 1980s when she served as evaluation coordinator for the Ontario Breast Screening Program—one of the first population-based breast cancer screening programs in the world—and experienced the challenges of trying to produce similar results in the real world to the findings of the well-funded and highly-controlled research that identified breast screening’s 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.
Ms. Racine-Parshall is the deputy chief of the Community Guide Branch where she oversees management and operations and leads the Task Force Operations Team. As a public health analyst at CDC for more than 9 years, she served in public health policy, strategic planning, and project management roles for the CDC Office of Financial Resources and the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Before CDC, Ms. Racine-Parshall spent nearly 20 years as a management consultant for an international consulting company, other private corporations, and independently. She supported both federal and private sector clients in strategic planning, business process engineering, and project management. She also served as the finance director for an air base redevelopment agency, where she secured and managed federal and state funding for interventions aimed at improving economic conditions within the community. Ms. Racine-Parshall holds a bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York.
Dr. Jones 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. 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. Before joining CDC, Dr. Jones worked as a health educator for state and local nonprofit organizations where she supervised the implementation of youth education programs related to HIV/AIDS and tobacco use. Dr. Jones is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist and earned her bachelor’s degree in health education from the University of Southern Mississippi and her MPH from Jackson State University where she focused on community health and health policy. She also holds a Doctorate in Public Health from Walden University.
Dr. Thota leads the systematic review science team at the Community Guide Branch. He oversees the processes related to the prioritization, production and communication of evidence-based systematic reviews on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of diverse public health and healthcare system-based programs, services and other interventions. His previous work at the Community Guide includes leading a group of experts prioritizing and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions aiming to reduce morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease and conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of collaborative care to improve delivery of depression care. Dr. Thota has a medical degree and master’s degree in public health. Before coming to the Community Guide, Dr. Thota has worked on evidence-based recommendations and decision-making at multiple organizations such as the World Bank, Cochrane South Asia, and Health Quality Ontario.
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.
Dr. Ellis is a health scientist on the Dissemination and Implementation Team in the Community Guide Branch. Her primary roles include developing evaluation proposals and/or protocols that reflect an understanding of program goals and objectives. Dr. Ellis is also responsible for survey design and analysis activities. Dr. Ellis serves as the Community Guide Branch Liaison to 31 Task Force Liaisons (TFL) Organizations. She supports the team by assisting with dissemination of Task Force findings via TFL organizations. She 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 public health and a master's degree in healthcare management.
Dr. Finnie is a service fellow in the Community Guide Branch where she works with the cardiovascular disease review team. She was an ORISE fellow with the Community Guide Branch for several years and worked on the review team evaluating effectiveness of mental health benefits legislation. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ms. Zajac serves as the lead for policy in the Community Guide Branch. Before joining the Community Guide, Ms. Zajac conducted program planning, performance measurement, and evaluation through the policy office for the public health surveillance and informatics program. She also worked in CDC's Financial Management Office (now Office of Financial Resources) as the lead for Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). In this position, she worked with programs across CDC on strategic planning, performance measurement, and program evaluation. Before coming to CDC, Ms. Zajac worked as an orthopedic physical therapist and also as an occupational safety and health specialist. In the latter role, she conducted industrial ergonomic studies and provided OSHA health and safety trainings for numerous manufacturing and service-oriented businesses across the southeast region of the U.S.
Ms. Zajac obtained her master's degree in public health from Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, with a focus on environmental and occupational health. She earned a bachelor's degree in physical therapy from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA, and a bachelor's degree in sports medicine/wellness from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.
Consultants and Contractors
Mr. Bryce (Cherokee Nation Assurance, 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.
Dr. Ramsey Buchanan (Cherokee Nation Assurance, LLC) is a health scientist with the Community Guide Branch, working on the effectiveness review teams for obesity and women’s health. Dr. Ramsey Buchanan began working with the Community Guide Branch in 2000 as a research fellow. In 2002, she joined CDC as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer assigned to the New Hampshire State Health Department and went on to work with CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Dr. Ramsey Buchanan holds a doctorate in physiology and a master's degree in exercise physiology.
Ms. Cole (Cherokee Nation Assurance, 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.
Ms. Dooley (Cherokee Nation Assurance, LLC) is a health communications specialist with the Community Guide Branch supporting the development and dissemination of communications. Ms. Dooley has more than 18 years experience developing public health communication materials. Before joining the Community Guide, Ms. Dooley served as a technical writer-editor for CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention where she provided writing and editing support to translate scientific information into easy-to-understand prevention messages. She also developed guidance information to help state and local health departments support prevention programs. Ms. Dooley has a Bachelor of Business Administration in information systems.
Ms. Oliver (Cherokee Nation Assurance, LLC) serves as instructional designer on the Dissemination and Implementation Team of the Community Guide Branch. She is responsible for developing an Instructor-led and e-learning version of the Community Guide Methods course as well as an e-learning version of selected modules of the Putting Evidence into Action training. Prior to joining the Community Guide, Ms. Oliver served as an instructional designer in the Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine and the Division of Laboratory Systems. She earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and Master of Science in instructional technology.
Mr. Reynolds (Cherokee Nation Assurance, 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.
Ms. Ryan (Cherokee Nation Assurance, LLC) is a health communications specialist with the Community Guide Branch, focusing on the creation and maintenance of Community Guide in Action stories. These stories are used by the Community Guide team to inform a variety of audiences on successes in communities where Task Force recommendations were implemented. Prior to working for the Community Guide Branch, Ms. Ryan worked for CNN’s medical unit under the direction of Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Mr. Levengood is an ORISE research fellow with the Effectiveness Review Team of the Community Guide Branch. He currently works with the diabetes and physical activity review teams. He also contributes to a pilot training course on Community Guide systematic review methods. Mr. Levengood graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor of science degree in health promotion and a master's degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology. Before joining CDC, Mr. Levengood applied systematic review methods to examine potential diabetic and glycemic outcomes associated with highly-active antiretroviral therapy in patients with HIV.
Ms. Mattick is an ORISE research fellow on the Dissemination and Implementation Team in the Community Guide Branch. Her role includes coordinating social media for the branch, data collection and analysis, and dissemination and implementation activities. Ms. Mattick graduated with a master's degree in public health from the University of Georgia.
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.
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.