Cleopatra Howard Caldwell, PhD

Principal Investigator

Cleopatra Howard Caldwell, PhD is Chair and Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Director of the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, and Co-Associate Director of the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research. She is a social psychologist with expertise in psychosocial and environmental factors influencing the health and well-being of African American populations. Dr. Caldwell also has expertise in conducting community-based participatory research and developing academic-community partnerships to design and evaluate health interventions for African American youth and families. She is committed to the goals of FPHLP and to training and mentoring the next generation of health disparities scholars.

Sela Panapasa, PhD


Sela Panapasa, PhD is currently a faculty research scientist in the Program for Research on Black Americans at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Her research interests include research on family support and intergenerational exchanges, population dynamics across the lifecourse, racial/ethnic disparities and population-based survey research on Pacific Peoples. She conducts both quantitative and qualitative research designs and completed the first representative study on Pacific Islander American health and healthcare utilization in 2012.

Dana L. Thomas, MPH

Program Director

Dana L. Thomas is the Director of Public Health Practice and the Future Public Health Leaders Program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She has over a decade of experience connecting and collaborating with communities and institutions to improve health, address health equity, and build capacity. Using a participatory action approach, Thomas works with organizations by listening and understanding to address community identified needs. She prepares and trains students to enter into and work alongside communities. She has traveled the world (and in her own backyard) with students to increase their public health skills, competency, and cultural awareness and appreciation. Her work with communities in the recovery stages of man-made and natural disasters has taken her to Flint, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thomas has expertise in partnership development, program development, and evaluation. Her applied work and interests include health equity; rural and island health; applied research to address community and organizational capacity building; public health preparedness; and evidence-based public health. She is not afraid of the unknown and engage in moments of discomfort to stretch her understanding of humanity. She loves a good story and uses storytelling to engage and inspire individuals, particularly the future generation of leaders.

Melissa Valerio, PhD, MPH


Melissa A. Valerio, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor and Regional Dean at the University of Texas School of Public Health Houston, San Antonio Regional Campus. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She obtained her Master’s degree in Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and her PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of  Michigan. Dr. Valerio's interests include chronic disease management and prevention, the design and evaluation of effective health education messages and materials, and survey methods. She is particularly interested in health literacy and cultural competence issues related to health education and communication in minority underserved communities. Dr. Valerio has been involved in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of  community-based coalitions and partnerships and serves as an Investigator on multiple type 2 diabetes, asthma, and oral health interventions research studies.

Hannah Hoelscher, MA

Project Coordinator

Hannah Hoelscher, MA, is the Project Coordinator. She attended the University of Michigan for both her undergraduate and graduate careers, obtaining her Master of Arts degree in Higher Education with a concentration in Diversity and Social Justice. She has experience working on social justice education in student life programming here at the University. Hannah is interested in working on diversity, equity, and inclusion programming within higher education. 

Hallie Williams, BA

Project Assistant

Hallie Williams, BA is the Project Assistant. She attended Concordia University in Ann Arbor for her Bachelor’s Degree. Hallie looks forward to working with students in the upcoming FPHLP cohort and learning more about Public Health.