Sara S. Bachman, Ph.D., Director of Health & Disability Working Group and Director of Research
Edi Ablavsky, M.A., Communication Specialist
Meg Comeau, M.H.A., Co-Principal Investigator, Catalyst Center
Kendra Davis, Research Assistant
Beth Dworetzky, M.S., Project Director
Jane Fox, M.P.H., Project Director
Melissa Hirschi, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., Research Assistant
Katharyn (Kate) Jankovsky, M.S.W., Research Assistant
Mishka Makuch, M.S.W., Program Assistant
Serena Rajabiun, M.A., M.P.H., Senior Evaluator
Juanita L. Rivera, Grants Manager
Mariana Sarango, M.P.H., Program Manager
Angela Wangari Walter, M.S.W., M.P.H., Ph.D.
Kasey Wilson, M.S.W., Research Assistant
Sara S. Bachman, Ph.D. is director of the Health & Disability Working Group, associate professor in the Research Department at the Boston University School of Social Work, and research associate professor of Health Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health. She has twenty years' experience with health policy research and program evaluation, especially in the area of state health policy for youth and adults with disabilities or complex health and social conditions. She is currently the principal investigator of the Catalyst Center, one of six national centers, funded to improve financing of care for children with special health care needs. Bachman previously served as co-principal investigator of HRSA’s SPNS Innovations in Oral Health Evaluation and Technical Support Center.
Bachman has also participated in several studies of access to health care services for adults and children with disabilities across the spectrum of disability. She has served as a research partner with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, investigating the transition of youth with disabilities to adulthood. Bachman has evaluated health reform initiatives using data from the Massachusetts Survey of Insurance Status and has studied the cost and impact of mandated benefits. She was co-principal investigator of a project to examine the specific role of the Commonwealth Connector in the Massachusetts health reform initiative.
Bachman has served as co-principal investigator of two program evaluations sponsored by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. One is an evaluation of an outreach and case management program for injection drug users at risk for HIV and the second is an evaluation of an outreach and case management program targeting men who have sex with men.
Bachman has an M.S. in Epidemiology from the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health, and this perspective has informed her approach to understanding disability and public health issues. Bachman received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University's Florence Heller School where she was a Pew Health Policy Fellow. Bachman teaches Research Methods to master's and doctoral students at the Boston University School of Social Work, where she also directs the school’s doctoral program. Bachman chairs the Boston University Charles River Campus Institutional Review Board. She has been nominated by students four times to receive the School's Teaching Excellence Award.
Edi Ablavsky manages marketing and communication strategies and projects within the Health & Disability Working Group (HDWG), where for the past six years she has created communication products for communities that serve those who work to end health inequities. Her work includes digital stories demonstrating the impact of peers on patients’ quality of life, online training toolkits related to HIV treatment adherence interventions, and email and social media engagement with parent advocates and others who address health care financing issues for children with special health care needs.
In addition to over ten years’ experience in marketing and communication in a business environment, Ablavsky served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. Through Boston University's Metropolitan College, Ablavsky is working towards an M.L.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus on communication for nonprofits that address social inequities. She also serves as a volunteer and community advisory board member for the Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights at Boston Medical Center.
Meg Comeau, M.H.A. is currently the co-principal investigator for the Catalyst Center. She is a nationally recognized expert on the role of Medicaid in serving children with disabilities, the implications of federal health care reform for children with a broad spectrum of special health care needs, and the causes and consequences of financial hardship among families raising children with special health care needs. Comeau is also a member of the Leadership Circle for the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice (IPEP) at Boston Children’s Hospital and serves as faculty for IPEP’s Program to Enhance Relational and Communication Skills (PERCS).
Between 1998 and 2005, Comeau was the coordinator of the Family Initiatives program at Boston Children’s Hospital. In that role, she was responsible for facilitating family input into hospital policy and programming design. Her major projects focused on issues related to pediatric palliative care, bereavement support, and improving family/professional communication. While at Children’s, she was also the co-chair of the Family Advisory Committee, chair of the Family Faculty program and a member of both the Children’s Hospital Ethics Advisory Committee and the Harvard Teaching Hospitals’ Joint Community Ethics Committee.
Comeau holds a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Simmons College in Boston. She has earned several honors, including a Young Investigator Award from the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive Care and Critical Care Societies and the David S. Weiner Award for Outstanding Leadership in Child Health.
Kendra Davis is a research assistant with the Health and Disability Working Group, working on the Minority AIDS Initiative Retention and Re-Engagement in HIV Care Project. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Northwestern University and is in the process of completing her master’s degree in Biostatistics at Boston University. Prior to working with the group, Davis was a consultant in the financial services industry. Davis looks forward to utilizing the skills she developed in the financial sector along with the new skills she is developing in her master's program to bring a new perspective in public health research.
Beth Dworetzky is the project director for the Catalyst Center. She contributes to the Catalyst Center Coverage and Catalyst Center Quarterly e-newsletters and researches issues of health care financing and how they affect health care coverage for children and youth with special health care needs. Prior to joining the Catalyst Center team, Dworetzky was the project director for the Massachusetts Family-to-Family Health Information Center at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, where she developed an individualized technical assistance protocol to help Massachusetts families navigate the MassHealth eligibility and application process for their children and youth with special health care needs. She is also an at-large member of the Massachusetts Child Health Quality Coalition, created as part of the state’s CMS-funded Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) Quality Demonstration project that works towards improving child health outcomes for all Massachusetts children.
Jane Fox, MPH, joined the Health and Disability Working group as the project director for Evaluation Center on HIV and Oral Health in August of 2007. She is responsible for direct day-to-day operations and management. Fox has a master’s degree in Public Health with a concentration in Health Education from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Fox has 15 years of experience in both HIV prevention and care dating back to the early 1990's when she started her career as the Executive Director of the Nevada AIDS Foundation. Throughout her career she has worked on community, state, and regional levels to promote HIV prevention and care services for persons infected with HIV. Prior to joining ECHO, she worked closely with medical and oral health providers and other HIV professionals working in community clinics and organizations to conduct needs assessments and trainings on HIV issues at the Southeast AIDS Education and Training Center at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Melissa Hirschi is a research assistant for the Health & Disability Working Group working on projects related to family financial hardship. Hirschi is also currently working on her PhD in Sociology and Social Work at Boston University. After finishing her M.S.W. at Boston University, Hirschi spent three years as a clinical caseworker for the State of Utah doing child welfare work with a specialized intensive reunification team. This team worked to reunite or find other solutions for permanent homes for children who had been removed from their families, always having as a first goal working with children and families to safely return home.
Kate Jankovsky is a research assistant for the Catalyst Center project in the Health & Disability Working Group at Boston University School of Public Health. Prior to her work at the Catalyst Center, Jankovsky completed her Master’s of Social Work at Boston University where she is now finishing her Master’s of Public Health concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She has experience in community health needs assessment, research, and reproductive health. Jankovsky looks forward to applying a public health social work perspective to her research work with the Catalyst Center.
Mishka Makuch is a research assistant with the Health and Disability Working Group working predominantly on the HRSA-funded Med-Heart Project and Minority AIDS Initiative Retention and Re-Engagement in HIV Care Project. She received her master’s degree in Social Work at Boston University and is in the process of completing her master’s degree in Public Health, concentrating in International Health. Prior to working with the group, Mishka served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana, South America, teaching fourth grade in a riverine indigenous community. She enjoys the ability to be creative when developing curricula, training materials, and facilitating training sessions.
Serena Rajabiun holds master's degrees in Public Health and International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Hygiene and Public Health and School of Advanced International Studies. She is currently a senior evaluator on HRSA-funded Center for Outreach Research and Evaluation.
Rajabiun’s areas of expertise include maternal/child health and nutrition and HIV/AIDS. She has over eight years’ experience working on these issues in the United States and other countries. As the Maternal/Child Health Specialist for USAID’s Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project, Rajabiun worked with non-governmental organizations and host country governments in Peru and Bolivia to improve maternal/child health and nutrition programs. She has also assisted the government of Peru in developing a national nutrition strategy while an employee of Tufts University. In Malawi, she conducted research on nutritional issues for persons living with HIV/AIDS and worked with donors, governments, and community-based organizations to develop policy and program guidelines for nutrition and HIV/AIDS.
Additionally, Rajabiun has worked in programs in Bolivia, El Salvador and Guatemala to promote improved health and nutrition practices, conducting qualitative research and designing and implementing training and education programs for health workers and communities on improved health and nutrition practices among pregnant women and young children under age 5 years. Rajabiun is trained as an HIV counselor, and has previously worked as a women’s health and HIV counselor for Thundermist Health Center in Rhode Island.
Juanita L. Rivera provides overall administrative and research management for the Health & Disability Working Group. She manages budgets, grant and regulatory activities relate to research. She oversees all pre- and post-award grant and contract administration including proposal preparation, effort reporting, and payroll. Rivera manages research finance and compliance-related issues, authorizes research-related expenditures, manages day-to-day administration operations of the group, and provides support to the director, faculty and researchers in grant- and office-related activities.
Mariana Sarango is the program manager for the HRSA-funded Minority AIDS Initiative Retention and Re-Engagement in HIV Care Project. She is responsible for coordinating activities of the multi-site evaluation and technical support team and responding to the needs of clinical programs at three HIV primary care sites in San Juan, PR, Miami, FL, and Brooklyn, NY. Prior to joining the Health & Disability Working Group in this capacity, she worked with the group as an intern for the PEER Center. In this capacity, she assisted in the development of Building Blocks to Peer Success, a toolkit for training HIV-positive peers to support people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Sarango holds a B.A. in Sociology from Wesleyan University and an M.P.H. with a concentration in Urbanism and the Built Environment from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Angela Wangari Walter is a postdoctoral associate at the Health & Disability Working Group, Boston University School of Public Health. Walter has been conducting health policy research and program evaluation for over ten years. She has extensive experience in research, practice and policy analysis in the areas of integrated health care payment models, behavioral health services research, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. She has authored several articles in the areas of health and health care disparities, substance abuse treatment, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
As a member of the Catalyst Center team, her role is to identify and support innovative financing strategies to improve reimbursement for services used by children with special health care needs. Walter is also responsible for designing and developing original scientific research related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for vulnerable populations, including children and youth with special health care needs.
Between 2003 and 2006, Walter was a research associate at the Institute for Health Policy on several projects with a particular emphasis on racial and ethnic disparities, quality improvement, and cultural competence in health care. She later joined the Center for Addictions Research and Practice at Boston University School of Social Work. While there, she worked on examining the relationship between substance abuse treatment utilization and HIV outcomes among injection drug users. Her other research also focused on mental health counseling and case management services as well as the use of evidence-based practices to reduce substance abuse relapse rates in a residential treatment facility for Latina/os.
Prior to joining the Health & Disability Working Group, Walter consulted with public and private sector agencies providing services in population health needs assessment and evaluation; strategic planning and program management to reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes; integrated behavioral and medical health care to provide Patient Centered Medical Home care for patients with complex health care needs; and patient engagement and care coordination for patients with disabilities, multiple chronic conditions and or co-morbid behavioral health problems.
Walter holds master's degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Boston University. She combines public health social work interdisciplinary paradigms to inform her approach to designing and implementing health policy research. Walter received her Ph.D. in social policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter.
Kasey Wilson is a research assistant at the Health & Disability Working Group and a doctoral student in Boston University’s interdisciplinary social work and sociology degree program. Wilson has a master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University and is currently the Catalyst Center team lead on projects related to reducing insurance coverage disparities among children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN). Prior to joining the Catalyst Center team, she worked as an outpatient children’s mental and behavioral health counselor.
Wilson has recently written a paper related to the role of the social work profession in reducing insurance disparities among CYSHCN and has participated in a program evaluation of a home-based primary care program for frail elderly adults. Her research focuses on the impact of U.S. health policies on reducing racial and ethnic health disparities, with a particular focus on addressing the link between structural racism and health.