Dr. Azad is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Center for Autism Research. She received her BA in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to graduate school, she served as a behavioral therapist for children with autism at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. She completed her doctorate degree in School Psychology with a clinical focus on families of children with autism and a school focus on prevention and intervention for students with psychosocial risk. She conducted her pre-doctoral internship at Columbia University serving parents and teachers of children with and without developmental disabilities.
The goal of Dr. Azad’s research is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how to create effective family-school partnerships for culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse children with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. To that end, she is developing and testing a triadic consultation model to improve parent-teacher communication about evidenced-based interventions for socio-culturally diverse children with autism in urban public schools. This understanding is the necessary first step for future research targeting family-school partnerships, which has a pervasive impact on the lives of children with autism, including substantial gains in cognitive, social, and behavioral development. Dr. Azad’s research is funded by the NIMH National Research Service Award (F32) and the Autism Science Foundation Research Enhancement Mini Grant.
Molly Candon is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. She received her BS and MA in Economics from Northeastern University and her PhD in Economics from the University of Georgia. Molly’s dissertation explores the relationship between assortative mating by occupational-specific skill and the increasing prevalence of some mental health conditions, including autism and ADHD. Her current research focuses on the effectiveness of autism insurance mandates, physician prescribing and diagnostic incentives, the inequality of access to health care, and pharmacological interventions for children’s mental health.
Brenna Maddox, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She received her BS in Psychology from Davidson College in 2008, MS in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2012, and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2015. She completed her predoctoral internship at CHOP as the Autism track intern. Brenna’s graduate school research focused on the assessment and treatment of commonly co-occurring difficulties within autism, such as anxiety and emotion dysregulation. Brenna’s postdoctoral research, under the mentorship of Dr. David Mandell, focuses on improving community mental health services for adults with autism.
Heather Joy Nuske is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. Dr Nuske received her PhD in Psychology and Bachelor of Psychological Science with 1st class Honors at La Trobe University, Australia. Before moving to the US, she worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Australia on research aimed at lowering the age of autism diagnosis in the community. Heather has 7 years experience as an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist with children and adolescents with autism.
The goal of Dr Nuske’s research is to understand how best to support individuals with autism in managing their emotions through understanding their development in social-emotional learning and emotion regulation skills. She is interested in the impact these foundational skills have on the individual (mental health, challenging behavior and ability to learn at school), on the family unit and on classroom functioning as a whole. Heather applies various methods in her research so to measure emotional responses and emotional health in children with autism who are minimally verbal, including eye tracking and physiological responses (such as pupil dilation, heart rate variability and skin conductance responses). Heather’s inspiration for research comes from the many wonderful individuals with autism she has worked with and from her little brother, who has autism.
Kelsie Okamura is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and with the City of Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Her mentors within the CMHPSR and DBHIDS are Drs. Rinad Beidas, David Mandell, and Ronnie Rubin. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa under the mentorship of Dr. Brad Nakamura. Kelsie's research interests have two foci: the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices to youth community settings and youth psychopathology, specifically youth internalizing disorders and psychometric evaluations. Her current research aims to identify effective methods of measuring provider knowledge of evidence-based practice and evaluate its impact on services provided to youth.
Melanie is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She has a doctorate degree in school psychology from Temple University and a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, also from Temple University. Melanie was involved in the development and oversight of several publicly funded early intervention programs for preschool aged children with autism. She has also provided extensive consultation and staff training to autism support teachers and staff in early intervention and elementary school classrooms. Melanie’s professional interests include improving services for children and parents of young children with autism, and consulting to teachers of challenging students.
Courtney Benjamin Wolk is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She received her BA in Psychology from The Ohio State University. She completed both her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Temple University where she was mentored by Dr. Philip Kendall. Dr. Benjamin Wolk’s graduate school research focused on the development and evaluation of cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) for child and adolescent anxiety. Her dissertation, a long-term follow-up of youth treated with CBT for anxiety in childhood, was funded by an F31 award (MH 086954). She completed an APA-accredited predoctoral internship in Clinical Psychology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. This was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in which she worked as a trainer, consultant, and researcher within an established partnership between the city of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In this role, she obtained experience training community and school-based therapists to conduct CBT for a variety of presenting problems and populations.
Clinically, Dr. Benjamin Wolk’s expertise is in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders in youth. She is licensed as a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania.
Currently, Dr. Benjamin Wolk is conducting an F32-funded project (MH 103955) investigating team functioning among mental health teams working in Philadelphia schools. This project is mentored by Dr. David Mandell and it is designed to bridge gaps identified during her experience working with school providers. The study aims to test an implementation strategy to improve team functioning among mental health teams in schools. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to better understand teamwork in the context of school mental health and inform interventions to improve the quality of evidence-based treatments delivered to students.
Liz is an intern at CMHPSR serving on many projects including coaching for Philly AIMS and TeachTown, working in the Autism Clinic, and conducting assessments as part of MOCA. Liz has her Master’s degree in Human Development and is currently earning her doctorate in School Psychology at Lehigh University. Her main interests include providing quality assessments and evidence based treatments to children with autism in under-resourced school districts.
Briana Bronstein M.A. Ed is a research coordinator working under Dr. David Mandell on the Autism Intervention Research- Behavioral 3 grant which uses community partnered participatory research to improve access to care and school transitions for under-served families of children with autism. She also provides classroom consultation to new Autism Support teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. Briana is a doctoral student at Temple University pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD in Special Education. Her interests include access to care and diagnosis for under-served children with autism.
Prior to coming to Penn, Briana received her Master of Arts degree in Education with an autism endorsement and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary/ Special Education and American Studies from La Salle University. She is a former autism support teacher with experience in grades K-5. Briana has experience providing ABA services to children with autism and other developmental disabilities in both home and school settings. She recently completed the Applied Behavior Analysis certification program through Florida Institute of Technology and is completing the supervision and field experience component needed to sit for the BCBA exam.
Rudy earned a B.A., in Social Work at Texas Tech University in 2008, a Master of Education, Special Education Mild/Severe in 2012 from the University of Utah and completed a graduate certification program in Applied Behavior Analysis through the University of Colorado – Denver in 2014. Rudy currently serves as an autism consultant for Philly AIMS and has welcomed the challenge of applying ABA in school-based settings. “My time in human services, education and behavioral support services has reinforced my desire to continually increase my knowledge of behavior and skill acquisition using research based methods to appropriately address maladaptive behavior and create communities of support for individuals with disabilities and or mental health issues and their families.” He has completed the supervision and field experience component needed to sit for the BCBA exam and will sit for the exam in the spring of 2016.
Diana Cooney, MSEd, provides classroom consultation to new Autism Support teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. Her interest include, increasing social skills in children with autism and preparing them for inclusive settings.
For the past10 years, Diana has worked in many settings to provide evidence-based treatment to children ages 3 to 21 with autism and their families. She received her Master of Science degree in Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from Temple University in 2012. After completing her degree, Diana oversaw a therapeutic after-school program and therapeutic summer camp for children with autism and related disabilities, focusing on increasing social and communication skills and transferring these skills to children’s home environments. Diana also has experience working in early intervention and residential services.
Samantha Crabbe is a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She is currently working with Dr. David Mandell and Allison Nahmias on a study analyzing the outcomes of preschool aged children with autism receiving early intervention services in Philadelphia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Masters in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Penn she was a study coordinator at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia examining eating habits in young children. As a Philadelphia area native, Samantha loves finding new things to do in the city with family and friends in her free time.
Meghan Kane is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and has a master’s degree from Temple University’s applied behavior analysis program. She is currently working with the coaching team at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania providing consultation for programs servicing children with Autism. She has experience working with children with developmental disabilities and their families during early intervention, as well as during school age years. She also has experience with staff training and professional development for people working in the field of special education. Meghan’s professional interests include effective interventions for children with autism, and program wide supports and systems for maximizing learning for individuals receiving special education services.
Mina Kim is a psychology intern at the Center. She is involved in a number of projects, including Philly AIMS and the Philadelphia Alliance for Children’s Trauma Services (PACTS). Mina has experience providing ABA services to children with autism in home and school settings. She has a Master’s degree in School Psychology and is currently a doctoral student in School Psychology at Temple University.
Missy Modesti is the social worker for the Penn Medicine Autism Clinic. While helping families navigate through the complicated network of systems, Missy also manages the clinic and works to develop and maintain community provider relationships. Prior to joining the CMHPSR team in 2014, she provided social work services to families in Philadelphia's Early Intervention system, working primarily with families with children newly diagnosed with autism. Missy earned her BSW from Cabrini College and is currently completing her Master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
Allison is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, working under the mentorship of Robert Schultz, PhD. and David Mandell, ScD. She is interested in the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based interventions for young children with ASD that are effective and sustainable in community settings. Allison is currently working on a study that investigates the role of preschool early intervention setting in relation to cognitive outcomes for children with autism.
Zinnia is a certified special education teacher and board certified behavior analyst. Zinnia has a Master's degree in special education from Temple University and graduate certificate in Behavior Analysis from Penn State University. Zinnia is a former autism support teacher with experience in grades K-2 and 6-8. In 2010 Zinnia began working as a behavior analyst for children with autism, providing ABA services in home and school settings. She joined the CMHPSR team full time in 2012 and currently leads the school based consultation team.
Erica Reisinger has worked for Dr. David Mandell since 2008 and currently manages the Center's portfolio of school-based intervention research projects and consultation contracts. Erica has a Master's of Science Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor's of Science degree from Temple University. She is certified in early childhood and elementary education with a focus on multicultural and urban education. Erica is interested in ways to improve how the family, school, and community work collaboratively to improve opportunities for traditionally underserved populations. Before joining the Center, Erica was involved in other educational research initiatives with the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph's University, and The Free Library of Philadelphia.
Dr. Rump is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She leads the Penn Medicine Autism Clinic in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, where she conducts comprehensive evaluations and treatment planning for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Rump also coordinates clinical training and provides clinical supervision and consultation for several of the autism-related research projects led by Dr. David Mandell. Dr. Rump’s professional interests include improving access to appropriate, quality, evidence-based interventions for individuals with autism. Her research interests include emotion processing in individuals with autism spectrum disorder, how this changes with development, and how this relates to the assessment and treatment of comorbid anxiety disorders. Dr. Rump received her PhD in clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her clinical internship at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and her fellowship at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Max is a clinical research coordinator at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research working under the supervision of Erica Reisinger and David Mandell on the Ro1 Grant: The Use of TeachTown Technology in Autism Support Classrooms. He received a B.S. in psychology from Tulane University where he conducted research under Dr. Michael Cunningham on resilience and vulnerability in African American youth. While living in New Orleans, he also spent extensive time working at the NFL YET Boys & Girls club among many other youth educational organizations. In his free time, Max likes to run, hike, and play soccer!
Christine is a research coordinator working under Dr. David Mandell on the Center’s school-based research projects. Christine received her Bachelor of Science degree from Stony Brook University where she worked as a research assistant in the Social Competence and Treatment Lab. During her undergraduate years, she also interned at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to learn more about community-based participatory research and the unique needs of urban districts. Christine is interested in school-based services and interventions for children with ASD, and the intersection of education policy and research practice.
Diondra Straiton is a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently working with Dr. David Mandell on a study that that uses community partnered participatory research to improve access to care and school transitioning for under-resourced families with children who are on the autism spectrum. Diondra received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Educational Studies from Swarthmore College. Previously, she has worked as a research assistant for Swarthmore College’s Cognition & Development Lab and for the National Census of Writing. She also holds a PreK-4 teaching certification in the state of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include improving access to behavioral healthcare and early intervention for underserved populations, urban education, early childhood education, and community-based research.