Education and Research Center Staff

Director

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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

Sienna Martinez, BS
[email protected]

Sienna Martinez

Sienna Martinez is a UCLA graduate with a B.S. in Psychobiology. Sienna is passionate about working towards eliminating health disparities within historically disadvantaged communities. Throughout her undergraduate education she was involved in research with the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative and the Carter-Huggins Community Development and Social Justice Program. Additionally, she is the co-founder of Spanish in Healthcare-UCLA Chapter, a student organization dedicated to practicing medical Spanish and giving back to the Latino community through organizing quarterly trips to Rayito de Luz, an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico and meeting weekly to discuss pertinent health issues in the Latino and Black communities. During her time at UCLA Sienna was also awarded the Chancellors Service Award, and the Dean’s Prize for Excellence in Research and Creativity in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Sienna currently serves on the executive board as the Southern California Internal President of MiMentor, a non-profit that develops and supports innovative and inclusive mentorship opportunities that will inspire the next generation of diverse health care leaders for underserved communities. Her career goals include pursuing a MD/MBA and becoming involved in health policy pertaining to women’s health and mental health. 


Current Interns

Sarah Tabatabaei 

Sarah Tabatabaei 

September 2022-  

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!


Stephanie Brito

STEPHANIE BRITO

August 2022-  

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.


Gabrielle Pascua

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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. 


 Vaibhavi Patankar

Vaibhavi Patankar

July 2022-  

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.


Samantha Verganza

SAMANTHAVERGANZA

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. 


Past Interns

Kathya Rodriguez

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

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

ALMA RIVAS

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

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

DDUDAR

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

YOARIHIGUERA

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.