Meet Our Scholars

Our MCH Graduate Scholars include a group of accomplished students

who are achieving groundbreaking research in the maternal and health field.

Current Doctoral Scholars

Courtney Wright’s research interest focuses on the importance of sleep for long-term maternal and child health outcomes. She is particularly interested in leveraging preclinical studies to better understand the causes the neurodevelopmental disorders to develop novel pharmacological therapeutics to help improve patient symptoms such as poor sleep, and mitigate poor developmental health outcomes in children at high risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. In her free time she loves to go hiking and camping in the mountains, or baking at home with a cup of coffee.

Salomé-Joelle Gass grew up in Zambia which has shaped her career and research towards global health, specifically in the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) context. Her previous research experience focused on maternal and child health (MCH), specifically focusing on HIX diagnosis in infants and working with community health workers and a digital health system to improve vaccination coverage and timeliness in resource-limited settings. Her current research is focused on determining the feasibility, acceptability, and context-specific implementation of group prenatal care in rural SSA settings to assess its potential for broadly improving MCH outcomes. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her golden retriever Bernie and traveling.

Megan Austin currently works as the Qualitative Study Coordinator for a nationwide study focused on the intersection of food insecurity and diabetes management. Megan is originally from Rock Hill, South Carolina and is passionate about giving back to the state she was raised by improving child, adolescent, and maternal health in South Carolina. Her career focus ties together maternal and child and sexual and reproductive health in the American South through a reproductive justice lens. Megan will utilize the Maternal and Child Health Doctoral Scholars grant to examine the influence of sex education on sexual behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood in South Carolina. In her free time, Megan enjoys traveling, reading, and being a tourist in her own city!

Marion Granger’s research foci are perinatal health and outcomes, with particular interest in complex pregnancies, rare disease, and access to and quality of care. Marion is a trainee of the NIH funded Behavioral and Biomedical Interface Program and acts as the President of the Maternal and Child Health Student Association. She is also a research assistant mentored by Dr. Nansi Boghossian, an Associate Professor in the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, where she is working on several projects related to maternal and infant risks based on prior outcomes and delivery characteristics.

Former Master’s Scholars

Former Doctoral Scholars

Hannah Parker is a fourth-year PhD student in Exercise Science at USC. She graduated with her B.S. in Exercise Science with a minor in Psychology from Berry College and her M.S in Health and Exercise Science from Wake Forest University. At USC, Hannah’s research is focused on examining day-level factors that are associated with healthier 24-hour movement behaviors in children. Currently, Hannah is a graduate research assistant with the Arnold Childhood Obesity Initiative (ACOI). Additionally, Hannah has been a recipient of USC SPARC Graduate Research Grant and the USC Arnold School of Public Health Fellowship. Hannah has received the Maternal and Child Health grant to examine the relationship between day-level structure and elementary-aged children’s 24-hour movement behaviors. In her free time, Hannah loves to spend time with her dog, Yadi, and loves to travel to explore new places

Taylor Berrier (she/her) is a doctoral student in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) at the University of South Carolina. She is from Sanford, North Carolina and moved to Columbia in the fall of 2021 to work with Dr. Suzanne Adlof in the South Carolina Research on Language and Literacy Lab. Her academic journey began with a Bachelor of Arts in English, complemented by minors in Speech and Hearing Science and Creative Writing, all earned at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Taylor then continued her academic pursuit as a proud double Tar Heel, obtaining her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from UNC as well. Before embarking on her Ph.D. path, Taylor practiced as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and gained valuable experience in working with children with communicative difficulties, specializing in the treatment of reading and writing disorders. Her current research pursuits revolve around the emotional impact of developmental language disorders and dyslexia and the relationship of emotional problems to academic outcomes (and vice versa) in these populations; it is expected that she will receive her degree in May 2025. In her leisure time, you’ll often find Taylor making travel plans and going for walks around Columbia with her husband James.

2022-2023 Scholars

Sejla Isanovic moved to Columbia from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2001. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Anthropology from the University of South Carolina in 2018, her Graduate Certificate in Global Health, and her Master of Public Health from the Arnold School of Public Health in 2022. Sejla is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health and works as a graduate research assistant. In 2022, Sejla traveled to Liberia to train study staff on questionnaires, qualitative interviews, and program delivery for a study examining the feasibility of a nutrition and parenting intervention. In addition, she was responsible for monitoring the baseline and end-line data collection and the implementation of the parenting and nutrition program. Sejla’s passion for improving child health has shaped her research interests that center around the intersections of food systems, climate change, caregiving, and nutrition to develop sustainable efforts and improve child health and development outcome.

Christiana Johnson (she/her) was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She is PhD candidate in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Her passion for MCH stems from being the daughter of a Post-Partum Registered Nurse and the sister of Labor and Delivery Registered Nurse- reproductive health equity was part of the everyday conversation growing up. Her research focuses on reproductive and maternal health at the intersections of race, gender, and class.

Katie Lynn is from Charleston, South Carolina and earned her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies, Eco-health focus at the College of Charleston, focusing on the impacts of climate change and human migration on the distribution of vector-borne disease. Katie then worked for the University of South Carolina as a research associate where she coordinated projects and lead pathogen testing related to Chagas disease, soil transmitted helminthiasis, and trichomoniasis in US and Central American populations. Katie began pursuing her PhD in Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, Arnold School of Public Health in 2019. Her research interests lie in characterizing neglected tropical diseases and health disparities through a socioecological lens in a global context. Katie is currently working on her dissertation focusing on congenitally transmitted Chagas disease and arboviruses of maternal-child-health concern in El Salvador. Katie hopes that her work can contribute to reducing the impact of these preventable neglected diseases of poverty on the most vulnerable populations, particularly among pregnant women and children.

2021-2022 Scholars

Tiffany Byrd, MPH, CHES a Walterboro, South Carolina native, received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Furman University and Master of Public Health in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior from the University of South Carolina. She is currently earning her Doctorate in Philosophy at the UofSC Arnold School of Public Health and is expected to graduate in 2024. During the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years, Tiffany was awarded the Mary Elizabeth Newton Fellowship. 

Tiffany is currently employed as a research assistant in the HPEB program and works as a Senior Program Manager at New Morning, a South Carolina private non-profit organization that works to increase access to contraceptive services for those in South Carolina. In 2021, Tiffany was awarded funding from the UofSC Maternal and Child Health Catalyst Program, enabling her to research birthing outcomes among African American women in SC with hopes to ameliorate maternal health disparities and influence healthcare practices. In her free time, Tiffany loves to indulge in her love of crafts by designing her own gift bags, repurposing glass bottles, and doing her own hair and nails. Tiffany now resides in Columbia, SC with her husband John.  

Ellie Cooper, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT is from Springdale, Arkansas and moved to South Carolina in 2019 to work with Dr. Krystal Werfel in the Written Language Lab where they are studying literacy skills for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Before her move to South Carolina, Ellie practiced as a certified Speech-Language Pathologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest. Ellie has extensive experience working with children who are deaf and hard or hearing and is a certified listening and spoken language specialist, auditory verbal therapist. Ellie has received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders with the University of Arkansas in 2014 and her Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology in 2016 from Fontbonne University. Some of her notable achievements has been becoming a Distinguished Early Career Professional Certificate Recipient from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association in September 2021, as well as being a Maternal Child Health Abstract Poster Winner in April 2021. Ellie is also a present UofSC Arnold School of Public Health Fellow Recipient. 

Ellie currently researches children with hearing loss who use listening and spoken language, including literacy outcomes, language development, memory and cognitive development, maternal and caregiver involvement in intervention, family-centered practice, and professional collaboration. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the Southeast with her dog Mose and her husband of 5 years. 

Amanda Elmore, MPH, MT is from Louisville, Kentucky and moved to Columbia, South Carolina to pursue her PhD with the University of South Carolina. Before arriving, she earned her Bachelor of Health Sciences with the University of Kentucky in 2014 and Master of Public Health in 2017 at Florida State University. She is currently working towards her PhD of Epidemiology and is expected to graduate in May of 2022.  

Amanda’s passion has led her to research reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric epidemiology with a centering theme of how social determinants of health, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and trauma influence health outcomes at each stage of life for mother, baby, and the mother-infant dyad. She firmly believes that the health, safety, and well-being of families is the key to the future health and welfare of society and future generations. Some of her notable achievements has been her first author publications in Pediatrics, Academic Pediatrics, Child Abuse and Neglect, and Preventative Medicine. Amanda’s other achievements can include becoming the 2021 Maternal Catalyst Abstract Awardee with UofSC, an I-Poster Graduate Student Awardee, and a member of Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health. Amanda has a husband and an 18-month-old daughter who she loves to go to the beach and Disney. She also enjoys practicing yoga during her free time.  

Tianyue Mi, MS received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Psychology from Peking University. After receiving her master’s degree, she moved from Beijing, China in 2019 to begin her doctoral program at the University of South Carolina. Since beginning her Ph.D., Tianyue has been awarded the Center for Healthcare Quality (CHQ) Junior Scholar Fellowship for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years and became a recipient of the UofSC SPARC Graduate Research Grant in 2021.   

Tianyue’s current research focuses on the intersection of social, behavioral, and psychological factors on healthcare access, quality, and outcomes. Along with her research, Tianyue works with SC SmartState CHQ and the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health. During her free time, Tianyue enjoys playing video games such as Legend of Zelda or playing her guitar.  

Carly Moser moved from Boone, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina in 2013 to begin earning her Bachelors in Experimental Psychology with the University of South Carolina. Currently, she is working towards her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders and is expected to graduate in 2023. At UofSC, Carly’s research centers on how physiological coordination among mothers and their children with ASD relates to maternal psychological factors and social functioning in children with ASD. Presently, she works as a graduate research assistant with the SC Family Experiences Lab.

Carly has recently received a scholarship from the Maternal and Child Health Catalyst Program to study maternal and child factors related to physiological coordination among mothers and their children with ASD. When she is not busy, Carly enjoys listening to podcasts such as RadioLab and spending time with her husband and two pets, Miso and Juniper.

Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman, MHE, MPS from Bangladesh received his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, Masters of Health Economics, and Masters of Population Sciences from the University of Dhaka. He is currently working towards his PhD in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the University of South Carolina and is on track to graduate in May of 2022. A few of Dr. Rahman’s achievements include being chosen as a Maternal Health Graduate Scholar by the Maternal and Child Health Public Health Catalyst 2020 Program. He was the recipient of Arnold Doctoral fellowship in 2017-2018. He has also been awarded the Graduate School, Dean Student, and Department Travel Grant in 2018 for various scientific conference participation. 

As a current TA and GA of the HPEB department, Dr. Rahman currently researches nutritional messages through different sources disseminated by mothers and household members within social networks. His passion for improving child health and nutrition is driving his research to lessening undernutrition in children under the age of 5 in low- and middle-income countries. In his free time, Dr. Rahman enjoys playing cricket, reading books, and spending time with his family and friends. 

Xingpei Zhao, MSPH moved to Columbia in the fall of 2018 from Hefei City of Anhui Province in China. She received her Bachelor of Medicine in Clinical Medicine with Anhui Medical University in the Summer of 2013 and her Master of Science in Public Health in Biostatistics in the Summer of 2020 from the University of South Carolina. She is currently working on her Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics and is expected to graduate in Spring 2024. She currently works as a research assistant and data manager at Prisma Health – Midlands Healthy Start for more than 2 years.  

Some of her notable achievements have been receiving the Arnold School of Public Health Fellowship for the academic year of 2020 through 2021 and the Outstanding Biostatistics Master’s Student Award in May 2020. Xingpei is a major fan of participating in outdoor sports with her husband, and she enjoys exploring and camping in places such as the Blue Ridge Mountains.