Faculty Researchers

Mercedes Avila

Mercedes Avila, Ph.D. is a health equity scholar, with specialization in social determinants of health, social medicine, and National CLAS Standards.  She has been involved in 20+ HRSA, PCORI, SAMHSA, NIH, ACL and OMH grants related to health equity, mental health promotion, substance abuse prevention, children with special health needs, workforce diversity and development, and maternal and child health leadership training for health professionals. Academically, Dr. Avila is a Professor of Pediatrics, and PI/Program Director of two HRSA grants: the Vermont Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (VT LEND) Interdisciplinary Training Program and the Vermont Trauma, Resiliency, and Equity Education (VT-TREE) initiative for diversifying the interprofessional behavioral health workforce; both programs at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. For two decades, Dr. Avila has worked with refugee/immigrant, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native Indigenous communities on projects related to advancing health equity in unserved and underserved communities. Dr. Avila was appointed by the state Governor to the Vermont Racial Equity Task force in 2020, by the Vermont Lt. Governor to the Green Mountain Care Board Nominating Committee in 2021, and by the U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, J.D., as one of 20 new members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) in 2021. Through her local, state, and national work, she has received 13 national, regional, and state teaching, service, and research awards; including the Western Connecticut Health Network Global Health Leadership and Humanitarian Award, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Director’s Award, UVM’s Outstanding Contribution to Medical Education, and the Vermont Women in Higher Education Sister Elizabeth Candon Award for Distinguished Service. In 2020, the Vermont Association of Public Health recognized Dr. Avila’s work in addressing health disparities during COVID-19 with the Vermont Public Health Champion Award. She is also being recognized with 2023 Bi-State Board of Directors' Chair Award for my work with underserved communities.


Elizabeth Bonney, M.D., M.P.H. 
Professor and Division Director for Reproductive Science Research

The Bonney lab has long been interested in the basic immunobiology of pregnancy relevant to the homeostasis of maternal and fetal immunity and to the interactions between the maternal immune system and other maternal systems such as the vascular system.  Our studies are important to the understanding of several diseases of pregnancy and to the long-term health of both mother and baby.  Investigations into one particular disease, preterm birth, have strongly supported gene-environment interaction as the driver of disease.  The higher rate of preterm birth amongst women of African descent in America at first suggested a genetic basis.  However, mounting evidence suggests that race is not an indicator of genetic predisposition, but of an environmental exposure. This exposure, when interacting with genetic elements dominates the risk of preterm birth.  The question is what is the exposure? We and others hypothesize that structural and social determinants such as racism is that exposure. We plan on study of humans and animal models in collaboration with others to measure racism, its covariates, and its downstream biological correlates relevant to preterm birth.

As a woman of color, I am quite aware of the myriad formidable inherent institutional and societal obstacles faced by scientists not belonging to the dominant race and gender. Because a fundamental belief at the heart and core of our society is that we of color are inherently inferior, it is at best difficult to even defend our presence in science, much less compete for funding, students, credit for ideas and the like. However, I strongly believe that the complexity of questions that plague modern society requires a diversity of voice, point of view and strategy.  Therefore, the Bonney lab not only supports the development of robust, foundational questions in biology and reproductive science, it also seeks to interrogate who gets to formulate theory and ask foundational questions, and who gets the resources to do science and answer questions. Further, we ask who gets to see their answers widely publicized and translated ultimately into clinical practice, and who from students to practitioners to patients gets to benefit from this process.

This is what we believe to be critical to true health equity.


Leigh-Anne Cioffredi, M.D. As a pediatric hospitalist and clinical researcher, I am most interested in the impact of the prenatal and early childhood environment on child development and mental health. An early-stage investigator, I am developing a career trajectory that focuses on childhood adversity and interventions that may prevent or buffer the toxic stress response that frequently follows significant exposure. I am striving to develop expertise in data driven statistical techniques that will enable analysis of complex biological data such as neuroimaging and epigenetic changes and their associations with social and environmental exposures.


Marissa Coleman, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion executive. She works in multiple international contexts, particularly working with individuals and communities disaffected by human rights violations, conflict/war, torture, health epidemics, and trauma. Dr. Coleman’s research interests include participatory action research design, Indigenous healing modalities, and trauma-informed care.  Utilizing her expertise in social justice, traumatology, cultural and community psychologies, she seeks to contribute to local capacity building, infrastructure development, and culturally humble approaches to what is considered “best practice” in the areas of equity, belonging, and psychological well-being. 


Erika Edwards, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist by training, is a research associate professor in Mathematics/Statistics and in Pediatrics. As Director of Data Science for Vermont Oxford Network (VON), she conducts research on racial and ethnic disparities in the quality of care of newborn infants who receive neonatal intensive care. She also oversees VON's efforts to improve health equity with follow through, a comprehensive approach that begins before birth and continues into childhood involving health professionals, families, and communities as partners to meet the social as well as medical needs of infants and families (https://public.vtoxford.org/health-equity/).


Elzerie de Jager MBBS(Hons), Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the College of Medicine, Public Health program. Originally from South Africa, Dr. de Jager holds a medical degree and a Ph.D. from the James Cook University in Australia. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Surgery and Public Health – a collaboration between Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. Her research has focused on measuring healthcare disparities, predominately in surgical care. She has authored 28 research papers, many appearing in high-impact journals including JAMA, JAMA Surgery, Annals of Surgery, and Health Affairs. In 2021, she was invited to present her work on health equity metrics to leadership at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Here at UVM she teaches in the Master of Public Health program and is currently developing a novel 3-credit elective course on Health Equity.  


Kathy Fox, Ph.D. (Full Professor) is a Sociologist/criminologist at UVM who conducts qualitative, applied research with justice-involved populations. In particular, her current research is about prison climate and culture, and the impacts (including health and addiction-related) on incarcerated individuals and staff. She is a Senior Researcher with the National Center on Restorative Justice.


Mark Fung, M.D., Ph.D. is a Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He is interested in collaborating with colleagues on issues of healthcare disparities as they relate to chronic disease and cancer screening or monitoring.  Research interests include disparities in laboratory test utilization, differences in stage of disease or cancer at time of detection, and differences in follow up treatment and monitoring.  Improving patient-centric care and health literacy from a laboratory testing and reports review perspective are also areas of interest.  Our clinical laboratories provide most of the specialized testing across the state and support the laboratory testing needs of many providers both inside and outside of the UVM Health Network. 

Linked in Profile.


Andrea E. Green, MDCM, FAAP is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. She is the Director of the Pediatric New American Program and Pediatric Global Health.  Currently she serves at the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. Her scholarship is in providing care to children in immigrant families. Areas of academic focus include mental health screening and multigenerational trauma, social determinants of health including food insecurity and non-traditional US diets, health literacy, care coordination, community collaboration and advocacy.  She has authored peer reviewed primary research, commentary and the AAP policy statement on Caring for Immigrant Children.


Alicia Jacobs, M.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  She is currently the Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs in Family Medicine developing innovations in the University of Vermont Medical Group including clinical care pathways, leadership development, Epic (electronic medical record) and healthcare delivery re-design.   She spearheads many collaborative projects in the Medical Home that push health equity and address social determinants of health including universal MAT treatment, farm-to-patient nutrition, and exploring ways to provide trauma-informed care.   She practices in one of 5 transformed medical homes at the University of Vermont Medical Center.   She also has a special interest in supporting her colleagues to be deeply fulfilled in their work. 


Roz King, MSN, RN, CNL is an Emergency Department Nurse, Manager of the Research in Emergency Medicine Program, and Director of the Emergency Medicine Research Associate Program. Pairing her clinical expertise and passion for research, Ms. King hopes to address health care disparities and improve our ability to ensure all patients have equitable access to healthcare. This focus is reflected in her work on various grant funded projects, including ED Initiated Buprenorphine for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (SAMHSA), Vermont Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (VT-CARES-DHHS), and Community Outreach for Patient Engagement (COPE-EMF/ENAF/UVMMC). 


Carole McBride, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, served as a Public Health Peace Corps volunteer, where her interest in health disparities was formed through a global health perspective. Currently, her health equity research is centered on access disparities in maternal health treatment across the State of Vermont through the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP).  In addition, she serves as the data manager for Vermont's Alliance for Innovations in Maternal Health.


Molly Rideout

Molly Rideout: My health-equity related work involves community-based initiatives to address health disparities, primarily with students in the Schweitzer Fellowship program but also with pediatric residents. I also work on quality improvement projects to improve care of substance-exposed newborns and their parents through work with VCHIP and with the Lund Family Center.

Brittany “Brit” M. Williams, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration at the University of Vermont. She is currently a 2022 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/ Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship awardee exploring Black college women and HIV/AIDS in Metro Atlanta. As a higher education scholar with an interdisciplinary research agenda, her research and personal-professional advocacy focus on the nexus of education and health with particular attention to health disparities and equity. Within her primary professional contexts, she explores Black women’s career development and supervision experiences, class(ism), and identity development in higher education contexts. Williams has been featured in and by the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AIDS United, the National Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), the National Minority Aids Council (NMAC), and in a host of academic journals.