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Ruchi Gupta, MD MPH, Director of SOAAR (Science and Outcomes of Allergy and Asthma Research) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Dr. Gupta is also an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine (FAAP, FAAAAI) and an interdisciplinary child health researcher for both the Smith Child Health Research Program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and the Institute of Public Health and Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She is nationally recognized for her groundbreaking research in the area of food allergy and asthma epidemiology; especially for her research on childhood food allergy prevalence. In addition, Dr. Gupta has significantly contributed to academic research surrounding economic costs, pediatric management of food allergy and asthma, ED visits and hospitalizations, quality of life and community interventions especially in schools.  In addition to being the author of The Food Allergy Experience, Dr. Gupta has written and co-authored over 70 original peer-reviewed research articles and continues to make meaningful improvements in population health outcomes. 


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Ozge Nur Aktas, MD, Research Scholar

Dr. Aktas graduated from Koc University School of Medicine, Istanbul in 2016 and joined SOAAR in September 2017. Her research interests are in pathophysiology, phenotypes/endotypes, prognosis and outcomes of pediatric food allergies. Previously, Dr. Aktas conducted research on food allergies and the microbiome at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a research scholar, she supports the FORWARD and Natural History studies and assists with writing and editing research publications.


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Lucy A. Bilaver, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Bilaver has successfully coordinated a number of SOAAR research projects including being the co-investigator on the Medicaid project and the Peanut Allergy Guidelines Assessment Clinician, Pediatrician, and Parent surveys. She also assists with analysis of the Natural History study’s severity and family history data. Dr. Bilaver earned a PhD from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration and completed her post-doctoral training in health services research through an Integrated Fellowship at Feinberg. As an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern Medicine, her child health services research program spans several areas of children with special health care needs including autism, asthma, obesity, and food allergy.


Jesse Blumenstock, MS(c), Research Project Coordinator

Since 2013, Mr. Blumenstock has successfully coordinated multiple SOAAR research projects from epidemiological, clinical and community-based perspectives focused on asthma, food allergy, and clinical health systems. He currently is the Project Manager on the Prevalence of Food Allergy in Children and Adults study, where he coordinates the data cleaning and analysis of robust survey responses from over 50,000 households to determine the distribution and determinants of food allergy in the U.S. He also works on the Natural History of Food Allergy, FORWARD and iTRACC studies as well as the Research and Medicine Program. Mr. Blumenstock is completing a Master of Science in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.



Kathy Boon, MPH, Research Project Manager

In her role as a Research Project Manager, Mrs. Boon manages the SOAAR team as well as all aspects of the Improving Technology-Assisted Recording of Asthma Control in Children (iTRACC) study, such as coordinating patient recruitment, clinic participation, IRB submissions, and environmental lab testing. In addition, Mrs. Boon manages the Student Media-based Health Research Team (SMHRT) study. Throughout her career, Ms. Boon has served as a public health advocate, especially for under-served Chicago communities. Ms. Boon earned a Master of Public Health with a focus in Health Policy and Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Alexandria Bozen, Research Assistant

Ms. Bozen received a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management with a minor in Biology and Pre-Med track from Saint Louis University in May 2017. Upon graduating, she joined SOAAR as an intern and has now become a full-time research assistant. In her position, she works on multiple projects including the iTRACC, FORWARD, and Natural History studies. Ms. Bozen is also developing a survey that will examine the economic cost of food allergy on a global scale and is collaborating with multiple countries to do so.


Jennifer Chung, Administrative Assistant

Ms. Chung supports the SOAAR team with administrative tasks including scheduling meetings, preparing presentations and organizing Dr. Gupta's speaking engagements and travel. Ms Chung joined SOAAR in 2017 after teaching for Chicago Public Schools. She graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary English Education and a minor in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). 


Ashley Dyer, MPH, Part-time Research Project Manager

Since 2011, Ms. Dyer has managed SOAAR research projects on childhood asthma, food allergy, and school health. Her current work is a collaboration with Northwestern University's Segal Design Institute and  focuses on integrating patient-centered research with human-centered design methods to improve young adults with food allergies transition to college. Ms. Dyer is finishing her first year of doctoral studies in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Chinese Medicine, Chicago and is completing Northwestern University's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine's Faculty Scholars Program. Ms. Dyer earned her Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences and Maternal and Maternal and Child Health with a concentration in Global Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago.




Jialing Jiang, Research Assistant

In her role as a Research Assistant, Ms. Jiang supports the Natural History, FORWARD, and iREACH studies. Additionally, she helped develop the Peer-to-Peer Food Allergy Videos and the Research and Medicine Program. Ms. Jiang received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also underwent the Pre-Medicine track and minored in Spanish.


Crystal Johnson, MA, Research Project Manager

Ms. Johnson manages the FORWARD study and support certain aspects of the Natural History of Food Allergy study. In addition, she assists with data management and analysis, donor and grant administration, and patient recruitment. Prior to joining SOAAR in September 2017, Ms. Johnson has been dedicated to investigating health disparities research for underserved populations including youth and young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, low income persons, and incarcerated populations. She has worked for various universities and has a mixed methods research background, with expertise in qualitative research. She earned her Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Psychology and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University. Ms. Johnson is currently enrolled as a Master of Science student at Northwestern University, where she is studying Integrated Marketing and Communications.



Madeleine Kanaley, Senior Behavioral Research Associate

Ms. Kanaley joined the SOAAR team in December 2016 and primarily supports the implementation of the iTRACC Study by recruiting and enrolling participants and sharing with them comprehensive asthma education and management strategies. She was also one of the leads for the Spotlight on Campus Allergies Project, a collaboration with Northwestern University's Segal Design Institute to improve young adults with food allergies transition to college by using patient-centered research with human-centered design methods. Ms. Kanaley graduated from Marquette University in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Health Studies.


Lauren Kao, MA, Research Associate

Ms. Kao joined SOAAR in 2016 and assists with writing and preparing publications and grants. She earned a Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Northwestern University. 

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Lisa Lombard, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Lisa Lombard, a licensed clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience in private practice, earned her Ph.D. in psychology/human development from the University of Chicago. She provides psychotherapy to children, teens, and families, with an particular emphasis on anxiety, stress-mediated health concerns, and complex chronic pain. She is developing a clinical specialization treating children and families managing life-threatening allergies, consults in a preschool/elementary school, and partners with Sarah Boudreau-Romano, M.D., Director of the Food Allergy Support and Education (FASE), to offer "hangouts" for children with food allergies. With Dr. Gupta, she is working on a manuscript about food allergies and anxiety, behavioral restrictions, and family activities. As a member of SOAAR, she is developing a qualitative study of the trajectory of psychosocial needs following food allergy diagnosis, and plans to interview allergists and parents. 


Pamela Newmark, Research Project Coordinator

Ms. Newmark joined SOAAR in 2016 and is currently recruiting patients for the Natural History of Food Allergy and iTRACC studies. In addition, she educates iTRACC patients and supports the FORWARD study. Ms. Newmark received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from University of Wisconsin.


Brenda Silvia-Torma, MEd, Part-time Communications Coordinator

Ms. Silvia-Torma promotes the team’s research projects via social media and traditional marketing channels. Previously, she managed and promoted the nationwide Anaphylaxis Community Experts volunteer program at Allergy & Asthma Network. She earned her Master of Education in Health Education from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the State University of New York, College at Oswego.


Bridget Smith, PhD, Research Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Dr. Smith provides statistical/methodological consultation for the SOAAR team and works on a variety of projects including the Prevalence and FORWARD studies. Her expertise is in health economics, statistical methods, and research design. She received her Doctorate from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington and she has a joint appointment as a Research Health Scientist at the Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Healthcare at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.


Stacey Sturner, Part-time FACEs Conference Manager

Ms. Sturner brings 20-plus years of communications, marketing and event planning experience to SOAAR. Most recently, she served as Midwest Regional Director of the national non-profit organization End Allergies Together (EAT). When Ms. Sturner's youngest child was diagnosed with a food allergy, she turned her attention to advocacy and outreach by launching the popular Facebook support group, Food Allergy Treatment Talk. Through this, Ms. Sturner became passionate about food allergy research and the search for a cure. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Jolanta Szkodon, Behavioral Research Coordinator

As a Behavioral Research Coordinator, Ms. Szkodon works primarily on the iTRACC study and the Peer-to-Peer Food Allergy Videos. In addition, she is helping to investigate the implementation of the newly released Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States. Ms. Szkodon joined SOAAR in 2016 after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Biology.


Christopher Warren, PhD(c), Part-time Research Coordinator

Since 2011, Mr. Warren has coordinated a wide variety of food allergy and asthma-related projects with Dr. Gupta. He is currently analyzing and disseminating national adult and childhood food allergy prevalence data gleaned through SOAAR's latest food allergy prevalence study. In addition, Mr. Warren works on the FORWARD project, leads a project aiming to characterize and reduce barriers to patient adherence to recommended food allergy management practices and assists in designing the iREACH study and its grant application. Mr. Warren is in his fourth year of doctoral studies in Population Health Sciences at Keck School ofMedicine's Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California. In 2008, Mr. Warren earned his undergraduate degree in cognitive science from Northwestern University.


Justin Zaslavsky, Part-time Research Assistant

Mr. Zaslavsky, a junior at Tufts University, is studying Community Health with a minor in Philosophy. As a child, he was diagnosed with both asthma and life-threatening food allergies. Mr. Zaslavsky is primarily working on the Multi-Pen study, which examines auto-injector practices of food allergic children and their parents and the SMHRT curriculum. In addition to his studies and work at SOAAR, Mr. Zaslavsky is an EMT, an intern at Physicians for Human Rights researching sexual violence in conflict zones, and a health educator at Boston high schools.


Alana Otto, MD, Fellow in Academic General Pediatrics and Primary Care at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Dr. Otto's work for SOAAR focuses on the use of such a tool by primary care pediatricians caring for patients with new diagnoses of food allergy. She earned her medical doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2012 and completed Pediatrics training at McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University/Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago in 2015.