Education and Research Center Staff



Julie Friedman, MPH
[email protected]

Julie Friedman has an eclectic background in health education, worksite wellness, early childhood development, and community participatory research. She 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

Kara Justeson


[email protected] 

Kara Justeson graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Human Biology & Society and minors in Asian American Studies and Public Health. She is passionate about the importance of cultural humility and inclusive spaces in serving community programs. While at UCLA, Kara was a SHEP Peer Health Education Intern and served as a caseworker working on health education and grant writing with UCLA's Mobile Clinic Project. Kara hopes to pursue an MPH and is interested in how social services and programs can support the overall health of individuals and communities. Outside of work, she enjoys making jewelry, painting, and swimming in the ocean.

Current Interns

Gabrielle Pascua


August 2022-  

Gabrielle Pascua is a 4th-year undergraduate at UCLA pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and Society. Her volunteer experiences include UCLA’s Mobile Clinic Project as a Caseworker in the Health Education Committee and Pilipinos for Community Health. She is interested in genetics, childhood development, and reproductive rights and justice. She is also minoring in Theater, a passion of hers since elementary school. Her college theater credits include being the Director of Finance for HOOLIGAN Theatre Company and the Script Coordinator, Production Coordinator, and Executive Producer of Samahang Pilipino Cultural Night. When not working, Gabrielle enjoys being at the theater, painting, and working on a puzzle. 

Samantha Verganza


July 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 -  

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.

Past Interns

Sienna Martinez


June 2021 - June 2022  

Sienna Martinez, Central Valley native, is a second year transfer student at UCLA where she studies psychobiology. Sienna is passionate about working towards eliminating health disparities within disadvantaged communities. She is currently an undergraduate researcher with the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative where she is exploring the potential for hormonal mediation of the sex dependent effects of cannabis. In addition to her research, she is the co-founder and president of Spanish and Healthcare, Chief of Community College and Transfer Initiative for MiMentor, a non-profit, and works for the UCLA Academic Advancement Program/McNair Scholars Program. Her career goals include pursuing a MD/PhD and becoming involved in health policy pertaining to women’s health and mental health. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, painting, and stretching.

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.

Courtney Lartigue


June 2021 - December 2021 

Courtney Lartigue is a second-year undergraduate transfer student at UCLA pursuing her Bachelors of Science in Biology with a minor in Society and Genetics. She is expected to graduate from UCLA in 2022 and plans on attending medical school to become a pediatrician. Courtney has deep interest in the field of Maternal and Child Health and serves as a Cohort Leader in UCLA’s Pathways for Students into Health Professions Program. In years to come, her goal is to give back to her community by opening a non-profit organization geared towards educating children on sexual/reproductive health and inspiring them to pursue careers in medicine. Other than studying, her hobbies include doing yoga, dancing, journaling, making candles, and experiencing new places as well as trying new food with her loved ones.

Jenny Ferrin


January 2021 - December 2021 

Jenny Ferrin is currently a second year studying Human Biology and Society with a minor in Spanish at UCLA. She recently returned from an 18 month religious mission trip to Mexico where she gained a passion for helping underserved communities. She is excited to help Women in the Greater Los Angeles Area move toward a healthier lifestyle through the services WHERC provides. She has volunteered as a Care Extender at UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital and UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, as a Special Olympics Coach, and is currently an intern for UCLA Sports Medicine and a Research assistant for UCLA Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. She plans to pursue an MD and specialize in Emergency Medicine. In her free time, she loves participating in all outdoors activities including running, hiking, backpacking, and even bungee jumping.

Emma Ngyuen


June 2021 - December 2021  

Emma Nguyen is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles majoring in Human Biology and Society with a concentration in Bioethics and Public Science Policy and is minoring in Global Health. Throughout her undergraduate career, Emma has advocated to broaden the accessibility of reproductive justice by conducting critical research necessary to write reproductive health policy and implement campus policy reform. More recently, Emma has spearheaded efforts alongside the Epstein Health Law and Policy Program to require express consent for unauthorized pelvic examinations in Texas. As an aspiring women’s health provider and policymaker, Emma intends to pursue a joint MD/MPP program and hopes the experiences she gains as an intern for WHERC will provide her with the tools and perspectives necessary to navigate the increasingly nuanced fields of health, public policy, and their intersections. In her free time, Emma enjoys running, practicing hot yoga, and exploring Southern California.