Julie Friedman, MPH
[email protected]

Julie Friedman has an eclectic background in health education, worksite wellness, early childhood development, and community participatory research. She has written and published articles on health promotion and public health issues, as well as on twins. She has been an invited presenter at local and national conferences to discuss the diverse community engagement projects she has managed.

From her roots as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, to launching the lactation program for employees of the Los Angeles Times, Julie has continued addressing women’s health in her current position. Julie was instrumental in founding Worksite Wellness LA, a nonprofit organization providing onsite health education to low wage workers, and served as the board chair from 2015-2017. In December 2017, Julie was appointed to the LA County Commission for Women by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and chairs the Health Committee.

Social justice issues are central to Julie’s work and she remains committed to advancing health equity and narrowing women’s health-wealth gap. She is married and has twin sons.

Program Coordinator

Gabrielle Pascua, BS

Gabrielle Pascua Headshot

[email protected]

Gabrielle Pascua graduated from UCLA in 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology & Society and a minor in Theater. She previously was an intern at the UCLA-Iris Cantor Women’s Health Education & Research Center from August 2022-April 2023 before becoming the center’s Program Coordinator and Associate for the UCLA-Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center. Throughout her undergraduate education, she volunteered with UCLA’s Mobile Clinic Project as a Caseworker and Health Education Committee, bringing street-side clinic access to those in West Hollywood. She now volunteers with UCLA’s Companion Care, which seeks to build sustainable bridges between people experiencing homelessness and the existing health and social services network in Los Angeles. Gabrielle is particularly interested in maternal and child heath, genetics, and reproductive health, rights, and activism. When not working, Gabrielle enjoys being at the theater, painting, crocheting, or working on a puzzle. 

Current Interns

Ryan Mckenzie

May 2024 - Present

Ryan Mckenzie
Ryan Mckenzie is a second-year student at the University of Southern California, currently pursuing her MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at Loyola Marymount University. Ryan’s diverse background includes roles as an entrepreneur, substitute teacher, certified nursing assistant, and caregiver for senior citizens with chronic diseases in a specialized senior facility. However, her most cherished role is being a devoted mother to her two sons, which fuels her passion for advocating for and enhancing black maternal and infant health. In her leisure time, Ryan indulges in traveling, scrap gardening, reading, baking sourdough bread, and homeschooling her son.

Viviana Pimentel

May 2024 - Present

Viviana Pimentel

Viviana is currently immersed in her Master of Public Health (MPH) studies at USC, specializing in Community Health and Promotion. She completed her undergraduate education at California State University, Channel Islands, where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Health Science as well as actively participated in the AmeriCorps program, serving low-income families in Camarillo. Alongside her studies, she pursued a minor in Chicano Studies, deepening her understanding of cultural dynamics in health. As a former Program Coordinator at a Family Resource Center in the Central Valley, she dedicated herself to assisting families grappling with drug addiction, homelessness, and limited medical care access. Driven by a passion for community health, Viviana is poised to apply to PA school this year, with fervent ambition to return to her hometown and confront the pervasive health disparities entrenched in her community. Outside the realm of academia, Viviana finds solace in spending cherished moments with her dogs, exploring the culinary arts through baking, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle with regular gym sessions.

Casey Abrahams

April 2024 - Present

Casey Abrahams

Casey Abrahams is in her last semester as an MPH student at the University of Southern California, specializing in Biostatistics and Epidemiology. She completed her undergraduate education at Brown University in May 2019, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Health and Human Biology. She is passionate about advancing healthcare, addressing health inequities, and improving health outcomes in vulnerable and marginalized populations. She has previously contributed to initiatives aimed at increasing health education and awareness and promoting equitable access to health care. Casey has worked at the Rhode Island Free Clinic, a medical clinic that provides free comprehensive medical care and preventive health services to R.I.’s medically uninsured adults. She also taught a sexual and reproductive health curriculum to adolescents and teenagers at the Rhode Island Training School, a juvenile detention facility. Casey is driven to make a meaningful impact in public health, and her volunteer and research experiences have equipped her with valuable skills and insights to contribute effectively to public health initiatives. In her free time, you can find her reading, hiking, camping, or cuddling with her cat Tigger.

Juan Larson

April 2024 - Present

Juan Larson
Juan Larson is a fourth-year undergraduate Human Biology and Society major at UCLA, pursuing a minor in Evolutionary Medicine. He began his internship at the Iris Cantor UCLA Women’s Health Center in April 2024 with the hopes of learning more about the public health field. Motivated by his experiences working with underserved communities, he passionately advocates for health equity and justice in local and broader communities. Additionally, Juan serves as the Co-Director of Warehouse Management of the UCLA Medical Aid Initiative, which seeks to donate unused medical supplies to agencies across the globe. In his free time, he loves to listen to music, workout at the gym, and go hiking. 

Vivian Tran

February 2024 - Present

Vivian Tran
Vivian Tran graduated from UC Berkeley in 2023 with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Integrative Human Biology and Molecular and Cell Biology and minored in Global Public Health. She is currently a Master of Public Health student at UC San Diego and will be graduating in Spring 2024. She began interning at the Iris Cantor UCLA's Women's Health Center in February 2024. As a first generation student coming from a low-income background, Vivian is passionate about supporting underserved communities and breaking down barriers to care and reflects these aspirations in her ongoing research, career as a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, and volunteer experiences. Post-graduation, Vivian will be applying for medical school, where she will continue pursuing her passion for healthcare.  In her free time, Vivian enjoys gardening, cooking, and playing casual video games.

Patricia Palomares

January 2024 - Present

Patricia Palomares
Patricia Palomares is a fourth-year undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Human Biology and Society with a minor in Public Health. She started interning at the Iris Cantor UCLA's Women's Health Center in January 2024. She is passionate about health accessibility and justice and the intersection of public health and law. She was previously a caseworker for the Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA, where she had the privilege of working with the unhoused community in the Greater Los Angeles area, listening to their experiences, and connecting them with various resources. Throughout her undergraduate career, she also has been involved with programming for UCLA Residential Life and leadership with Chi Delta Theta Multicultural Sorority. In her free time, you will catch her crocheting, going on a nature walk, planning/hosting a dinner party, enjoying a cup of coffee, working out, or listening to music! 

Rebecca Martinez


July 2023 - Present

Rebecca Martinez is a second year Master of Public Health student concentrating in Health Services and Policy at USC. She graduated from UC Merced in the fall of 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Public Health and a Natural Science Education minor. Rebecca started her internship at the Iris Cantor UCLA Women’s Health Research and Education Center in the summer of 2023. She is also a Staff Researcher for the HOPe Lab at UC Merced and is involved in the Fresno County Housing and Health and the  Healthy Communities through Housing Justice projects. They are community-based participatory action research projects that engage and encourage public housing, low-income, underrepresented, and historically marginalized residents and communities to become drivers of the project; committed to re-imagining the traditional top-down approach of research and co-developing a path that centers community. Rebecca has experience working in community organizing, strategic planning, and working in the non-profit sector.  She was born and raised in the Central Valley and has a passion for serving her community. In her free time, she enjoys going on hikes with her dog, watching movies, and going to the gym. 

Past Interns

Sam Duong-Brett

Sam Duong-Brett Headshot

January 2024 - March 2024

Sam Duong-Brett is a current fourth year undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Human Biology and Society and minoring in Global Health. Sam started interning at Iris Cantor UCLA Women's Health Center in January 2024 with the hopes of improving healthcare accessibility and education for women in the Los Angeles area. Sam serves as the Co-Student Director of the CTSI-Research Associates Program to provide opportunities for undergraduates to participate in clinical research. She is also a rheumatology clinical research volunteer, where she helps conduct various clinical studies. In her free time, Sam enjoys reading, baking, hiking, and running!

Smita Narasimhan 


June 2023 - February 2024

Smita Narasimhan is a second year MPH student at USC's Keck School of Medicine, specializing in Biostatistics and Epidemiology. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as a minor in Russian language, at UC Santa Barbara in 2020. Smita started interning at the Iris Cantor UCLA Women's Health Center in June 2023, where she works to address health disparities and develop strategies to empower minority women in Los Angeles. She also works in the Neurological Research department at USC where she analyzes social determinants of health in relation to MS in Black and Hispanic communities, and community-oriented resources to help address barriers to well being. Outside of her academic pursuits, Smita is a semi-professional Kathak dancer and enjoys performing with her team in Southern California. 

Maira Ruiz 


September 2023 - February 2024

Maira Ruiz is a second year Master of Public Health student specializing in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Southern California. She completed her undergraduate education at San Jose State University in May 2021 where she obtained her Bachelor's of Science in Public Health. She also received an Associate’s of Arts in Health Science & Community Health in December 2018 and an Associate's of Arts in Kinesiology in May 2019 at Cabrillo College. She is passionate about health equity and reducing health disparities among susceptible populations. Maira started interning at Iris Cantor UCLA Women’s Health Center in September 2023. She also works as an Emerging Community Leader at Breathe California where she advocates for lung and environmental health in low-income communities. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and listening to podcasts.

Sarah Nunnink 

August 2023 - January 2024 


Sarah Nunnink is a third year Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Health dual-degree student at UCLA specializing in gender policy and sexual/reproductive health. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of California, Davis in 2021 where she obtained her Bachelor's of Arts in International Relations and Bachelor's of Arts in Communication. Sarah started interning at Iris Cantor UCLA Women's Health Center in August 2023 and also works as a graduate student researcher for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research where she conducts qualitative research collection and data analysis. A fun fact about her is that she is a cheerleading instructor and competition judge with the United Spirit Association. She has a 10 year background in competitive cheerleading and served as the captain of the UC Davis Cheerleading and STUNT team for 2 years. 

Madeline Reyes


June 2023 - December 2023

Madeline Reyes is a second year Master of Public Health student specializing in Health Policy & Services at the University Southern California and is expected to graduate this upcoming May 2024. She completed her undergraduate education at California State University, Northridge in 2022 where she obtained her Bachelor's of Science in Public Health. She is highly motivated and has a strong passion for improving health care accessibility. Madeline started interning at Iris Cantor UCLA Women's Health Center in June 2024 with the intention of encouraging women's self-advocacy regarding their own health and wellbeing. She also works as a research assistant for the All of Us Research Program at USC where she enrolls participants and inputs relevant data. A fun fact about her is that she is a dancer with the Grupo Folklórico de USC and has been dancing folklórico since 2016.

Anahit Aschyan

Anahit Aschyan

January 2023 - November 2023 

Anahit Aschyan is a second year Master of Public Health student at California State University, Northridge with an emphasis in Community Health Education. Currently, she works as a full-time medical assistant in a private practice where she translates medical information for patients, scribes for the doctor, and performs diagnostic imaging. She graduated from UCLA in 2016 where she majored in Molecular, Cell, and Development Biology. She is interested in reproductive health and her career goal is to pursue a career in medicine. She is interested in learning about various issues that pertain to women’s health and advocate for her patients as a future physician. She hopes to educate her patients and the public about various health issues that can affect different populations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and maintaining her fitness goals. 

Matthew Fisher 

April 2023- August 2023


Matthew was born and raised in New Jersey but moved to California after graduating from Georgetown University in 2022 with a major in Healthcare Management and Policy. He is now in his first year of medical school at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, pursuing a career in women’s health. In addition to interning at the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Education & Research Center, Matthew is conducting research on the clinical applications of endometrial biopsies in fertility clinics and on the impact of financial navigation on patient-centered healthcare. Outside of work and research, he is part of a recreational basketball league and a co-ed softball league in Pasadena. Matthew hopes to become an Obstetrician/Gynecologist after medical school and obtain further training in Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Grace Vasquez 

January 2023- August 2023 


Grace Vasquez graduated from UC Merced with a B.A. in Public Health. While at Merced, she worked as a Student Health Educator, promoting workshops and educational materials to fellow students on their physical, mental, and sexual health. Her first post-grad job at a local non-profit initiated her interest in how policy-level work directly affects health disparities in housing, mental health services, and food security. Through her combined experiences and passion for addressing health disparities affecting Latinx communities and Women's health, she is now pursuing her MPH at USC, with an emphasis on Health Services and Policy. She enjoys volunteering for local LA City Campaigns in hopes of electing more progressive candidates to the City Council and in her free time she enjoys reading, journaling, and thrifting.

Jocelyn Sandoval

January 2023- August 2023


Jocelyn Sandoval graduated from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) with a B.S. in Health Administration. She is currently working towards her Master of Public Health with a focus in Community Health Education at CSUN. Jocelyn is working for a homelessness service provider in Los Angeles as a Shared Housing Coordinator. She helps to support participants and provide them with different housing opportunities across the Los Angeles county. Jocelyn plans on become a health educator for women's health and maternal health. She believes it is necessary for people to know about the resources that are available and accessible to them. During her free time, she loves to travel to new states and countries, visit new coffee shops, go to Disney, go on walks and hikes, and spend time with her loved ones.

Stephanie Brito 


August 2022 - April 2023

Stephanie Brito is a first-generation college and medical student, born and raised in Los Angeles California. She completed her undergraduate studies at University of Southern California (USC) with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and a minor in Environmental Health. She is currently pursuing a dual degree MD/MPH at the USC Keck School of Medicine with an emphasis in Community Health Promotion and Health Services and Policy. Because of her passion for women’s health, Stephanie plans to specialize her medical training in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is committed to her service to her Los Angeles community and aims to become a physician who will empower her OBGYN patients to voice and challenge barriers to equitable care.

Vaibhavi Patankar

Vaibhavi Patankar

July 2022 - March 2023

Vaibhavi Patankar graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in Molecular, Cell, Developmental Biology in Summer 2022. She is a clinical research coordinator for Emergency Medicine Research Associates, heading the Marketing/Health Literacy Committee and the Emergency Medicine Palliative Care Access clinical study. Vaibhavi is a supervisor for the Research Enhancement Office, an illustrator for the Daily Bruin, and a staff research associate in the Kitchen lab.  She is passionate about the democratization of health education, particularly focusing on healthcare access disparities in the South Asian community. Vaibhavi's passion for educational equity and health literacy led her to work as an IGNITE teaching fellow for Teach for America. Vaibhavi hopes to pursue a career as a physician and to continue to be an advocate for reproductive justice in the Asian American community. Vaibhavi enjoys painting and visiting art museums with friends.

Sarah Tabatabaei 

Sarah Tabatabaei 

September 2022 - February 2023

Sarah is a fourth-year undergraduate at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. After graduating, she hopes to continue her education to become both a physician and health educator to continue her passion for reproductive rights advocacy and protection through public health initiatives. She is also passionate about combatting health inequalities by closing gaps between health information and its access to vulnerable population like immigrant communities. Sarah is also a member of the Afshar Lab at UCLA currently working on the placenta accreta project to characterize gene expression at sites of placenta invasion versus non-invasive sites with RNAscope and immunofluorescence. In addition to exploring her interest in maternal-fetal medicine and women’s health, Sarah is a member of UCLA’s Student Stroke Team, Persian Medical Association, and tutor for Pandemic Professors. In her free time she enjoys creative writing, reading, and exercising!

Samantha Verganza


July 2022 -  December 2022

Samantha Verganza graduated from UC Merced with a B.A. in Sociology and Public Health. She is now pursuing her Master in Public Health with an emphasis in community health promotion at USC. Samantha is passionate about addressing health disparities and analyzing how systems/institutions disadvantage those who are from minorities or lower socioeconomic statuses. She is currently working at a non-profit in the San Fernando Valley coordinating and promoting accessible COVID-19 vaccine clinics in medically underserved communities. She hopes to continue being a liaison and advocate for health resources in Latinx communities. In her free time, she loves to go hiking and running, enjoys painting, trying new foods, and spending quality time with friends and family. 

Kathya Rodriguez


February 2022 - September 2022

Kathya Rodriguez graduated from UCLA with a degree in Chicanx Studies and Cognitive Science. She is now pursuing an MPH with an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention at CSUF. Kathya is passionate about health justice and addressing inequities that lead to adverse health outcomes. She hopes to become a health educator and a data analyst. In the future, she is interested in exploring routes to bring together technology, data analysis, and health education.

Christine Tran


February 2022 - August 2022  

Christine received her Bachelor of Science in Health Science with emphasis on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from California State University, Fullerton. Being passionate about health and wellness, especially in nutrition, motivated her to continue on to pursue a Master’s in Public Health with emphasis on Community Health Education at California State University, Northridge. She is also currently working towards becoming a Registered Dietician. She has past experience with volunteering at a non-profit organization that offers educational programs and home visitation for low-income mothers to have improved prenatal care and have a healthy baby. With her interest and knowledge in public health and nutrition, she hopes to help diverse low-income communities and help them achieve a healthier lifestyle and improve their overall wellbeing. In her free time, she loves to stay active by either playing tennis, going to the gym, or walking outdoors, traveling abroad, cooking, and spending time with her friends and family.

Alma Ricongallardo


February 2022 - June 2022  

Alma is a 4th-year undergraduate studying Human Biology and Society with a minor in Global Health at UCLA. She is passionate about addressing health and educational inequities among vulnerable populations, especially among immigrant communities and those affected by social, environmental, and economic factors. Throughout her undergraduate trajectory, she has volunteered with Refugee Health Alliance, UCLA's Mobile Clinic Project, Companion Care, Together Educating and Advocating for Community Health, and works with the First to Go Office and Semel Healthy Campus Initiative. Although she is currently exploring potential professional fields, she hopes to pursue a career deeply rooted in public health. In her free time, she enjoys journaling, watching musicals, and visiting UCLA’s botanical gardens.

Marta Rivas


February 2022- June 2022  

Marta Rivas graduated from CSUDH with an emphasis in Community Health and is now pursuing her Master of Public Health with an emphasis in Community Health Education at CSUN. Her decision to pursue a career in public health has been driven mainly by values instilled in her as a child, the idea of being part of a profession focused on helping others regardless of circumstances. She currently works for the Riverside University Health System – Public Health as a Communicable Disease Specialist. Her academic goals evolved into developing ideas that would help improve the health of disproportionate communities to ensure health equity. She enjoys nature walks and spending time with her friends and family in her spare time.

Diana Dudar


September 2021 - February 2022  

Diana Dudar is pursuing her Master of Public Health with an emphasis in Community Health Education at California State University, Northridge. As a graduate student, Diana is an involved member of CSUN’s MPH Student Association. Currently, she works in social services as a Program Services Coordinator for adults with disabilities. Diana has experience as a peer health educator, developmental therapist for youth, and health scholar in a clinical setting. She is most passionate about maternal and child health and the major determinants of maternal morbidity and mortality. She is a certified lactation educator and plans on earning her IBCLC soon. Additionally, Diana is working on her outreach to support and serve the homeless population. In her free time, Diana loves exploring nature, painting, and planting.

Yoari Higuera


September 2021 - December 2021 

Yoari is a senior at California State University, Dominguez Hills majoring in Community Health. She plans on becoming a health educator in her interests of women’s health and sexual/reproductive health. She enjoys volunteering for her church and advocating for a better quality of life, making sure communities have accurate information and knowledge of the accessible resources. In her free time, she loves to sing, spend time with loved ones, and travel to new places.