Mark Etzel Scholarship Awardee Spotlight: Joanna Barreras, PhD, MSW

Joanna Barreras, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at California State University, Long Beach and the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at Bienestar Human Services, Inc. Her scholarly work focuses on addressing comorbidities and disparities linked to HIV among Latinx—as health inequities continue to affect Latinx communities. Specifically, she aims to develop and test culturally responsive interventions to improve health care service utilization among vulnerable populations.


As a first-generation Mexican American born and raised in East Los Angeles, CA, a predominantly Latinx community, Joanna witnessed the lack of health care access and utilization at the individual and community levels. These personal experiences drive her passion to generate knowledge that examines and seeks to address these gaps.


Joanna draws upon over a decade of research experience on Latinx health and mental health disparities, eight of which include research with the sexual and gender minority communities and HIV prevention and intervention. She has contributed to several community-based initiatives and professional undertakings that address the needs of disenfranchised and marginalized groups.


As a recipient of the Mark Etzel Scholarship, Joanna strives to continue promoting science and the importance of increasing capacity-building on intersectional stigma and discrimination and mistrust around care related to HIV prevention and treatment. Specifically, Joanna has been collaborating with her mentors to address coping with intersectional stigma and discrimination among Latina transgender women, a population highly affected by HIV prevention and treatment inequities. The scholarship program will support her efforts to develop an intervention to address intersectional stigma and discrimination and improve HIV-related prevention and treatment behaviors Outside of work, Joanna enjoys hiking local trails and watching the sunrise.

William E. Cunningham Scholarship Awardee Spotlight: Sae Takada, MD, PhD, MHS

Sae Takada, MD, PhD, MHS, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, Department of Medicine, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She obtained her MHS in Global Health Policy and Planning at the University of Tokyo, and MDPhD in Health Policy at Harvard. She completed her Internal Medicine Primary Care residency and fellowship in the National Clinician Scholars Program at UCLA. Sae studies how social relationships serve as resources for under-resourced communities, how they lead to the formation and spread of health behaviors and beliefs, and how these behaviors and beliefs in turn reshape social relationships. She is also a HIV primary care physician at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team.


Sae met Dr. William Cunningham as a fellow to talk about his project on peer navigation for people living with HIV and was inspired by his passion and commitment to developing implementable solutions to complex social and structural barriers experienced by marginalized communities. Dr. Cunningham took her under his wing and taught her, with much love and patience, important skills for thriving in academia and life in general: how to build a team; how to craft a meticulous response letter for a manuscript revision; how to make new friends at poster sessions; how it is better to share and get input on your work early (even if it is not perfect); how to grow through uncertainty and setbacks. The scholarship serves as a reminder of Dr. Cunningham’s moral compass and wisdom and will guide her as she continues Dr. Cunningham’s legacy by advocating for under-resourced communities through research and mentorship. She plans to use the scholarship to disseminate one of her projects aiming to improve the lives of people living with HIV.


During the pandemic, Sae takes breaks from the world by cultivating her own garden – quite literally by growing tomatoes and broccoli in her balcony, orchids in her “office,” and mushrooms in her living room, and also by learning to sew her own clothes and enjoying works of fiction recommended by Dr. Steve Shoptaw. Prior to the pandemic, she enjoyed choral singing and was a budding choral conductor under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Wells.

Spotlight: Jesse Clark

Jesse Clark, MD, MSc, is an Associate Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Department of Family Medicine. A member of the CHIPTS Combination Prevention Core, his research focuses on questions of HIV prevention and STI control among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TW) in the Americas.

Jesse came to UCLA in 2005 after finishing medical school and completing an Internal Medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY. Before beginning his Fellowship in Infectious Diseases, he planned to spend a year in Lima, Peru working under the guidance of Dr. Tom Coates where he began to explore the epidemiology and prevention of HIV and STIs among MSM and TW in the area. Halfway through the year, Jesse met his future husband and remained in Peru until 2015. While there, he worked to develop UCLA’s satellite office in Lima and to create the UCLA South American Program in HIV Prevention Research (SAPHIR). As Director of SAPHIR, he has had the pleasure of mentoring many future HIV researchers, several of whom he has proudly watched develop into independent investigators in their own right.

In his own work, Jesse focuses on the introduction of new diagnostic and prevention technologies through the social and sexual networks of MSM and TW. Collaborating with partners at the NGO’s Via Libre and Impacta, alongside the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, recent projects in Peru have explored: Use of TW social networks to support uptake and adherence to PrEP; Utility of nucleic acid screening for rectal STIs as a platform for delivery of an integrated biological-behavioral HIV prevention intervention to high-risk MSM/TW sexual networks; and Partner management for STI control in high-risk networks as a strategy to limit HIV transmission in the larger population.

After returning to Los Angeles in 2015, Jesse joined the team at Vine Street Clinic where he has contributed to studies of new HIV prevention tools through the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). Working on trials of antibody-mediated prevention and long-acting injectable PrEP, he has enjoyed the opportunity to work with Vine Street’s dynamic research team in their community-based approach to problems of HIV, STIs, and substance use. He has also initiated work on contingency management as a strategy to target the intersection of HIV and substance use in local MSM populations.

Outside of work, Jesse enjoys spending time with his husband Marcelo and their dog Lola, traveling, going to the theater, listening to music, and reading. A few of his favorite authors are J.M. Coetzee, Patrick Modiano, and Alejandro Zambra.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: Elena Rosenberg-Carlson

Elena Rosenberg-Carlson, MPH, is a Public Administration Analyst with the Administrative Core at UCLA CHIPTS. She currently provides project management and analytical support for three CHIPTS projects dedicated to enhancing the implementation science knowledge necessary for Ending the HIV Epidemic. Elena recently returned to her home state of California after 11 wonderful (and chilly!) years in the Upper Midwest, and she is delighted to be part of the CHIPTS team.

After receiving her BA from Carleton College, Elena volunteered as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Allina Health in Minnesota. Her role was dedicated to supporting programs that aimed to improve community health and address health disparities. In her VISTA position, she also had the privilege of being part of the research staff for a community-based participatory research project in South Minneapolis, igniting her interest in health disparities research. She continued supporting this project as a research assistant during graduate school at the University of Michigan, where she additionally worked as a health promotion specialist for the University Health Service and facilitated a graduate-level intergroup dialogue course on race, health, and socio-economic status. Elena completed her master’s internship with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where she was primarily dedicated to supporting HIV prevention planning for the jurisdiction.

After receiving her MPH, Elena worked for the Infectious Disease Division at the Minnesota Department of Health. She started as a health educator and communications specialist and later moved into a senior planner role. As a senior planner, she led outreach and communications efforts for Minnesota’s immunization information system, and she provided project management, strategic planning, evaluation, and quality improvement support for various activities within the Vaccine-Preventable Disease Section. She is excited to return to the world of HIV, put her passion for health disparities research to good use, and learn from her incredibly knowledgeable and committed colleagues as a new CHIPTS staff.

In her spare time, Elena enjoys singing, dancing, exploring new foods, hiking, and spending time with friends and family. While implementing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, her nights are occupied by reading the news, video chatting, and watching Schitt’s Creek with her partner, Matt, and their dog-daughter, Stella.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: William E. Cunningham

The CHIPTS community continues to mourn the passing of Dr. Billy Cunningham on January 3rd, 2020.  Dr. Cunningham has been an integral member of the CHIPTS scientific community for the duration of the center’s life-cycle.  Throughout Dr. Cunningham’s too brief life, he was a warrior for social justice. His energies focused with laser-like precision on finding ways to demolish barriers to health for those among us who have the least in our society. His research engaged ways to improve the health of members of race/ethnic and sexual/gender minorities who live with HIV and who become involved with the criminal justice system. These efforts remain groundbreaking and have set the agenda for interventions here locally in Los Angeles and even nationally.

Dr. Cunningham’s greatest joy was being a mentor – whether to postdocs, fellows and junior faculty, or to his friends and family, he taught us a most important lesson: “Don’t Quit.” Dr. Cunningham made sure that all of his mentees made our work relevant to changing lives and when problems arose to threaten our work, he would remind us: “Don’t Quit!” He invigorated in us all a deep commitment and energy toward our work, enlisting mentees and fellow faculty members to join him in the task of ensuring access to health care for all of us, but especially among those living with disparities.

At CHIPTS, we remember Dr. Cunningham, remain committed to continuing his body of work, and fight to reduce inequities for the betterment of the health of all.

Spotlight: Diane Tan

Diane Tan, MSPH, PhD(c) is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.  She is currently writing her dissertation on racial/ethnic disparities within health insurance coverage stability in the US and its implications for access to care for those living with a chronic condition. In addition, she holds an MS in Public Health and obtained her BA in History from UCLA.

As the eldest child of immigrant parents from Cambodia, her parents’ struggles inspired her pursuit of a career in social justice, purposefully addressing issues plaguing the most vulnerable members of society. After college, she spent a brief amount of time working with people living with HIV/AIDS in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. While there, her clients quickly taught her about the often harsh realities of living with HIV/AIDS, and dealing with the simultaneous challenges of homelessness, substance abuse, social isolation, and poor mental health. This had a profound effect on her, and has since added influence to her research efforts. Ultimately, she hopes to use the full scope of her background to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

In her spare time, she enjoys trying out new recipes and learning how to sew. She looks forward to one day impressing her not-so-easily impressed mother with her newly acquired cooking skills, and being able to complete a clean, straight hem.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: Ian Holloway

Ian W. Holloway, PhD, LCSW, MPH is a licensed clinical social worker and an Associate Professor of Social Welfare in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His applied behavioral health research examines the contextual factors that contribute to health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. He is particularly interested in how social media and new technologies can be harnessed for health promotion and disease prevention. Ian is also a member of the CHIPTS Policy Impact Core and Director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, an interdisciplinary center which brings the most relevant and timely evidence to bear on California’s efforts to develop and maintain efficient, cost-effective, and accessible programs and services to people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

After completing his undergraduate degree at the University of California, San Diego, Ian moved to New York City and began volunteering at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), one of the oldest AIDS service organizations in the country.  As a member of the GMHC hotline staff, Ian developed a passion for serving his community, which prompted him to enter a dual master’s degree program in social work and public health at Columbia University.  This is where he gained his clinical training to work with gay and bisexual men struggling with a range of challenges, including substance use, depression and anxiety, HIV stigma, and body image issues. It was during this time that Ian became fascinated with research and the potential to develop and test interventions that could have a broad impact on gay men’s health.  Ian moved to Los Angeles to begin a PhD program in social work at the University of Southern California.  After graduating in 2012, he joined the faculty at UCLA.

Ian’s ongoing projects focus on understanding and addressing sexual and gender minority health disparities. In collaboration with colleagues from USC, Ian is conducting one of the first Department of Defense-funded studies focused on the mental health needs of active duty LGBT military personnel. He is presently Co-PI, along with Ayako Miyashita Ochoa of the LINX LA Study, a community-based initiative designed to test a mobile-app intervention to increase HIV treatment engagement for African American sexual minority men. In addition, Ian and his collaborators from the Los Angeles LGBT Center are funded by the California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program to study the trajectories of tobacco and cannabis use among diverse sexual and gender minority people living in California in order to inform future intervention programs.

Ian recently received an Avenir Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop a social media tool designed to offer highly personalized health information to prevent substance abuse and HIV infection among gay men.  He and his team built a library of nearly 12,000 data points made up of text phrases and emojis that correlate with offline health behaviors. His Avenir Award will be used to create a machine-learning system that will monitor social media interactions with participants’ consent, then send customized health reminders and other alerts via instant message.

In his spare time, Ian enjoys traveling with his husband, Felipe, and their two daughters. This summer their family spent a week in Mexico City where they enjoyed playing in Chapultepec Park, trying new restaurants, and visiting the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Their next trip to Bogotá, Colombia is slated for Spring, 2020.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: Sung-Jae Lee

Sung-Jae Lee, PhD is an Associate Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, with a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He was born in Seoul, Korea and grew up in Bangkok, Thailand.  He spent his first 6 years in the US on the East Coast and has lived in Los Angeles for the past 20 years. Jae is a die-hard fan of the Lakers and the Raiders.

Jae’s research, training, and community engagement work have been strongly shaped by his pursuit of addressing health disparities affecting HIV prevention and care among vulnerable communities impacted by HIV/AIDS. Jae has served as a key member on several NIH-funded intervention trials in Thailand and Vietnam, including his work on HIV disclosure among families and mothers living with HIV in Thailand. Staying true to his community engaged work, his methods expertise includes conjoint analysis to assess consumer preferences in behavioral health and biomedical strategies (e.g. HIV vaccines, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) acceptability, HIV testing, and dual testing for syphilis and HIV). Jae currently serves as a Conjoint Analysis Expert on a large NIH-funded trial (UM1AI120176-01) at the University of Washington to develop long-acting drugs as antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV.

On the domestic front, Jae works with Dr. Norweeta Milburn on the CHRP-funded UCLA CFAR Health Disparities Core. Jae serves as the project lead for the Recruitment Engagement and Retention Center (RERC) for the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network U19 (ATN CARES) in Los Angeles (U19HD089886), with the overall goal to recruit and follow youth aged 12-24 at the highest risk of acquiring HIV in two HIV epicenters, Los Angeles and New Orleans. To date, his team has successfully recruited over 1400 youth with close to 80% retention.

Jae loves teaching and mentoring. He serves as an advisor to many masters and doctoral students in the Department of Epidemiology. Working alongside his longtime mentor, Roger Detels, Jae directs the Fogarty HIV Research Training Programs in Thailand and Myanmar, with opportunities to mentor scholars from Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and China.

Outside of work, Jae enjoys weekend shenanigans with his wife of 15 years, Truc Tang (his true better half), and their 8 year-old girl (Lucinda)-boy (Everest) twins. Like many kids growing up in Asia, Jae is a big fan of Bruce Lee, who once said “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself.” Jae loves to find ways to honestly express himself, whether through his love of boxing, Gundam model building, or his fondness for raw denim. The best description of his office attire would be “denim on denim, on denim’.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: Dilara Uskup, PhD, PhD

Dilara Üsküp began working on HIV/AIDS as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As part of  Dr. Nesha Haniff’s Pedagogy of the Action program, she taught Dr. Haniff’s peer health HIV module to individuals who were low-literate and illiterate in South Africa. Upon graduating early from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at Michigan, Dilara directed her efforts on addressing race and gender-related HIV related disparities at the federal level. As an intern in the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) at the White House, she observed that the federal government lacked a comprehensive strategy to specifically address gender and race-based health disparities in the domestic fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Dilara led the effort to co-author a presidential memorandum, entitled “Establishing a Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities,” that was then signed by former President Barack Obama in March 2012.

Dilara earned a PhD in theology and a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. Her research empowers women to optimize their sexual health through a multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of health behavior, social science, and religion. Currently, she is working on several projects including the incorporation of technology into PrEP delivery and increasing PrEP access among African American women. Dilara is also committed to dismantling institutionalized racism in the health care setting and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in the health. Dilara is a Turkish-African American, and one of her personal life goals is mastering her family’s prized rice pilaf and börek recipes. As a self-identified creative-trapped-in-an-academic’s-body Dilara hopes to complete her fantasy fiction novel, pursue her photography, and other concept creations.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page  and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!

Spotlight: David Goodman-Meza, MD, MAS

David Goodman-Meza, MD, MAS, is a Core Affiliate in the Combination Prevention Core at CHIPTS and a Clinical Instructor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. David completed his medical degree at Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Tijuana, Mexico before receiving his Master’s in clinical research at UC San Diego where he also participated in a post-doctoral training program in global health. He moved to New York to complete his internal medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Jacobi Medical Center and most recently, he completed his fellowship in infectious diseases at UCLA.

David’s research interest is in the relationship between substance use disorders and infectious diseases. He became interested in this after completing medical school in Tijuana as he was one of the early physicians working at a binational student run free clinic in Tijuana’s Zona Norte area. Since this area harbors a quasi-legal red-light district, it has become the epicenter of Tijuana’s HIV epidemic.  As part of his clinical practice, David saw the intersection of populations at risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men, female sex workers, transgender women, deportees, and people who inject drugs, and how their lives were complicated by prominent heroin and methamphetamine use.  This led him to his post-doctoral work, where he initiated a study to evaluate HIV prevalence and correlates in men who have sex with men in Tijuana.  His key finding was that HIV was highly associated with methamphetamine among this population.  When he later moved to New York, he made the same observation among those who used heroin and opioid.

Now, at UCLA, David has a multifaceted research agenda under the mentorship and support of our CHIPTS faculty members Raphael Landovitz and Steve Shoptaw. David has evaluated pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) adherence in men who have sex with men who use stimulants.  He found that these men that use stimulants can adhere to PrEP just as well as those who do not use stimulants, contradicting prevailing beliefs. Recently, his work on the possibility of a prescription opioid epidemic in Mexico was highlighted in the American Journal of Public Health. Currently, David has proposed a NIDA K08 award looking at the impact of opioid agonist therapy on outcomes in patients who inject heroin admitted to Veterans Administration Hospitals with blood stream infections. He plans on using algorithms from data science -natural language processing and machine learning – for this evaluation.

David recently got married to his beautiful and loving partner, Katia, in Australia in March 2019. In his spare time, he enjoys surfing and cycling to stay in shape.  He also does lino carving and print making as artistic hobbies. On weekends, he travels to Tijuana to spend time with his family.

Each month, we’re featuring a member of our CHIPTS family and their work! To see past spotlights, check them out on the spotlights page and make sure to check back to see who we feature next!