Meet our Hillman scholars

Kathryn AbramoskiKathryn Abramoski

Research interests: Health promotion and risk prevention in youth and adolescents


Kathryn Abramoski is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. Prior to entering the Hillman Program, Kathryn helped with a health promotion program at an after-school center for economically and socially at-risk youth.  She worked with other college students to develop interactive and creative ways to teach children the importance of eating a balanced diet and participating in physical activity. Through this program, Kathryn recognized that she had the unique opportunity to advocate for and support this population by gaining deep experience in the science of adolescent health. As a member of the Hillman Program, Kathryn is involved in the research of the occurrence of violence and alcohol use in adolescents with her primary mentor, Dr. Sarah Stoddard. Kathryn is a member of the 2015 cohort.


Emily BolteyEmily Boltey

Research interests: Precision science; Quality of care for cancer patients

Faculty mentors: Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., RN, AOCN®, FAAN, and Lauren Wallner, Ph.D., MPH (School of Public Health)


Emily Boltey is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. Since Fall 2014, Emily has worked as a research assistant with an interdisciplinary team on the project: The Challenge of Individualizing Treatment for Patients with Breast Cancer. This National Cancer Institute-funded program project grant is an ongoing study in which over 5000 women with invasive breast cancer from Georgia and Southern California are being recruited to complete a survey about their individual breast cancer treatment decisions. Precision science is highly utilized in the breast cancer population with patients routinely undergoing genetic and genomic testing at the initiation of their treatment. While working with this team, Emily discovered her research interest in studying the role of precision science in improving quality of care for patients with cancer and intends to pursue this interest while completing her doctoral studies. Emily is a member of the 2014 cohort. 


Megan CzerwinskiMegan Czerwinski 

Research interest: Environmental sustainability and health promotion

Faculty mentors: Olga Yakusheva, Ph.D., and Yasamin Kusunoki, Ph.D., MPH


Megan Czerwinski of Dearborn, Michigan earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Arts in Art & Design from the University of Michigan in 2015.  A 1st year doctoral student, Megan is mentored by Dr. Olga Yakusheva and Dr. Yasamin Kusunoki.  Megan’s experiences in outdoor education awakened her to the vital healing power of nature.  Her research interests lie at the intersection of environmental sustainability and health promotion, specifically in how relationships with nature impact wellness in adolescents.  Megan hopes to contribute to the effort to establish a positive feedback loop in which a healthy population protects a healthy planet, and a healthy planet nourishes a healthy population.  Megan is a member of the 2013 cohort. 



Clare DonohoeClare Donohoe

Research interest: Pediatric oncology

Faculty mentors: Ellen Lavoie Smith, Ph.D., APN-BC, AOCN®, and Patricia Abbott, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FACMI


Clare Donohoe is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. As a Hillman Scholar, she has been involved in a research study that is assessing the short and long-term outcomes of vincristine-induced peripheral neuropathy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She assists with assessments of children presenting to the oncology clinic, testing motor strength, reflexes and the presence of numbness and tingling. She helps with data collection and conducting neurologic examinations. She is reviewing the literature to find pediatric measurement tools to quantify the long-term outcomes of CIPN, such as neuropathic pain, functional impairment, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and obesity. These measurement approaches will be used to assess long-term effects in children who are two or more years post leukemia. Clare will be participating in the Pediatric Oncology Education Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this summer. This experience will provide her with experiences in symptom management in children with cancer, and the behavioral responses by parents whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. Clare is a member of the 2015 cohort.


Alex J. FauerAlex J. Fauer

Research interests: Pediatric oncology and mental health

Faculty mentors: Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., RN, AOCN®, FAAN, and Debra L. Barton, RN, Ph.D., AOCN, FAAN.


Alex Fauer is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. During his undergraduate studies, he has assisted in data analysis for a multi-site randomized control trial studying occupational health safety outcomes for nurses who handle hazardous drugs. His experience in oncology outcomes research combined with a clinical passion for pediatrics and mental health synthesized a research interest in the pediatric oncology population. His long-term research objectives focus on the intersections of development and mental health in child and adolescent patients with cancer. Alex is a member of the 2015 cohort.


Katherine FinnKatherine Finn

Research interest: Cognitive health outcomes of HIV-positive adults in Uganda

Faculty mentors: Bruno Giordani, Ph.D., and Susan Pressler, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FAHA (Indiana University School of Nursing) 


Katherine Finn is a second-year doctoral student in the Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. As a Hillman scholar, she has had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to work with a multidisciplinary effort on pediatric cognitive functioning following severe cerebral malaria. This venture affirmed her passion to maintain global collaborative research and provided the foundation upon which her dissertation topic was developed. For her dissertation study, she plans to examine the neuro-cognitive benefit of a computerized cognitive intervention for child survivors of cerebral malaria and the impact of cognition on health-related quality of life. Katie is a member of the 2013-14 cohort.



Grace Kanzawa-LeeGrace Kanzawa-Lee

Research interest: Physical activity and behavioral interventions for cancer treatment-related neuropathy and neuropathic pain

Faculty mentors: Ellen Lavoie Smith, Ph.D., APN-BC, AOCN®, and Janean Holden Ph.D., RN, FAAN


 Grace Kanzawa is a first-year doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.  She is pursuing a Ph.D. to explore the application of physical activity to promote health and prevent suffering throughout cancer survivorship. Primarily mentored by Dr. Ellen Lavoie Smith, Grace has assisted with a number of studies, primarily the breast cancer pain and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy research study.  Grace has co-authored two publications and as an undergraduate, she was awarded the Honors Program Outstanding Project Award - a faculty-selected first place project based on significance and publishable quality.  Grace believes nursing research is an exceptionally fitting career path for her and aspires to continue practicing clinically to inform her research in addition to teaching future nursing scientists. Grace is a member of the 2013 cohort. 


Brad LiestenfeltzBradley Liestenfeltz 

Research interest: Mental health and oncology

Faculty mentors: Christopher R. Friese, RN, Ph.D., AOCN®, FAAN and Nancy Janz, Ph.D. (School of Public Health)


Bradley Liestenfeltz is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. Brad became involved with research through the Nursing Honors Program during his sophomore year of undergrad. He has been working with CanSORT (Cancer Surveillance Outcomes Research Team) for the last 2 years. His current study examines health-seeking behavior in women with breast cancer and its impact on Quality of Life. Brad's research interests include discovering new strategies to improve Quality of Life and reduce suffering for cancer patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. For the long-term, Brad hopes to plant himself in both the clinical and academic settings to inform his future research. Brad is a member of the 2015 cohort.



Jessica MarsackJessica Marsack

Research interest: Effects of stigma on various health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ population

Faculty mentors: Rob Stephenson, MSC, Ph.D., and Debra Barton, Ph.D., RN, AOCN®, FAAN


Jessica Marsack is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. A native of the metro Detroit area, Jessica has known since she was young that she wanted to go into nursing.  Her mother started nursing school when Jessica was 8 years old and recently graduated with her doctor of nursing practice degree. Inspired by her mother’s nursing stories, and after working in her mother's clinic, known in the community as a safe haven for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTQ+) population, she recognized how much work needs to be done to improve the health care outcomes in this community. With her primary mentor, Dr. Rob Stephenson, Jessica is focused on the effect of stigma and discrimination on various health outcomes for the LGBT population. Jessica is a member of the 2013 cohort.


John ShaverJohn Shaver

Research interests: Stigma, health disparity reduction for diverse populations, and LGBTQ+ health

Faculty mentors: Rob Stephenson, MSC, Ph.D., and Yasamin Kusunoki, Ph.D., MPH


John Shaver is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. He is in his first year of involvement with the Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation program and has begun engaging with topics of stigma, health disparities, and health for LGBTQ+ individuals. His work has included health disparities for rural LGBTQ+ Americans and intervention development for HIV prevention among South African gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. John plans to continue studying similar health disparities both domestically and abroad and hopes to make a continuing impact on health for LGBTQ+ people. John is a member of the 2015 cohort.


Laura SinkoLaura Sinko

Research interests: Psychiatric and addictions nursing

Faculty mentors: Sarah Stoddard, Ph.D., RN, CNP, FSAHM, and Stephen Strobbe, Ph.D., RN, PMHCNS-BC, CARN-AP


Laura Sinko is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. She has a clinical research interest in psychiatric and addictions nursing focusing specifically on prevention programs for children of substance users. Laura is working with Brighton Recovery Center, analyzing their Children’s Addiction Prevention Program, with the goal of discovering how children view addiction through letters and artwork as well as how parents view the program through written evaluations. This pilot data will help direct efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of this program as well as related programs to enhance family functioning and prevent substance use of at risk youth. Laura is a member of the 2014 cohort.



Asa SmithAsa Smith

Research interests: HIV, immune function, and sexual health

Faculty mentors: Rob Stephenson, MSC, Ph.D., and Janean Holden Ph.D., RN, FAAN


Asa Smith, of Pinckney Michigan, is a senior in the BSN program at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. He has had an interest in nursing since early high school, and a desire to merge his passion for the sciences with a career that involves interaction with people. In the summer of 2014, Asa had the opportunity to serve as a student volunteer in Africa, and observed children suffering from the effects of Malaria-induced central nervous system dysfunction. These observations triggered an interest in how the immune system influences neurologic function. Asa now works primarily with Dr. Rob Stephenson at the University of Michigan SexLab examining the effects of positive deviance theory on HIV risk and sexual health. As a future researcher, he hopes to move into examining the effects of stigma and sexual health practice on the immune system. Asa is a member of the 2015 cohort.

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Kristen Choi Kristen Choi

Kristen graduated with her Ph.D. in 2017. Her program of research in the doctoral program focused on abused, neglected, and exploited children. She is interested in health services research, policy, and system interventions to detect and prevent violence against children and complex psychological trauma. Kristen studied patterns of service utilization by trauma-exposed children, trauma-informed service delivery, and mental health services in the US. In addition, she assisted with research on health and legal service delivery for survivors of human trafficking.  Her theoretical and empirical work has been accepted and published in several peer-reviewed journals. She has presented her work at regional, national, and international professional meetings. She has received numerous grants, scholarships, awards, and honors for her academic excellence and scholarly achievements at the University of Michigan. Kristen chose to pursue a degree in nursing because of her interest in health sciences, leadership, health disparities, and advocacy for underserved patient populations. She is a registered nurse (RN) and has trained as a sexual assault nurse examiner for adults and adolescents (SANE-A).

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Jordan Harrison

Jordan Harrison

Jordan graduated with her Ph.D. in 2017. During her time in the Hillman program, she participated in multiple interdisciplinary studies, including an analysis of genetic risk factors for cognitive dysfunction in heart failure patients and a study of symptoms and interventions in older women with heart failure at skilled nursing facilities. Her work on the heart failure studies, in which many participants had a history of cancer, stimulated her interest in heart failure in breast cancer survivors. For her dissertation study, she examined longitudinal changes in health-related quality of life among women who develop heart failure after breast cancer treatment, in order to inform development of targeted interventions for symptom management. The focus of her long-term research trajectory is symptom science to enhance quality of life in patients with chronic illness. 

Robert Knoerl

Robert Knoerl

Robert graduated with his Ph.D. in 2017. With the support of his primary mentor, Dr. Ellen Lavoie Smith, he is studied the use of cognitive behavioral pain management for the treatment of cancer-treatment related neuropathic pain. He participated in several research, clinical, and scholarly endeavors in order to develop expertise on this topic. He also gained hands-on clinical experience in the field of cognitive behavioral pain management by spending over 100 hours training with Dr. James Weisberg, a cognitive behavioral pain management practitioner located at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Robert is a growing expert in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy pain management and ultimately hopes to establish a program of research focused on the use of cognitive behavioral pain management to decrease pain & improve physical functioning in individuals with cancer.