School welcomes new faculty

Composite image of new faculty headshots
(top row l to r) Irini Albanti, Barbra Dickerman, Nima Hejazi; (bottom row l to r) Cindy Leung, Jessalyn Ubellacker, Theodore Witherell

October 19, 2022—Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has welcomed six new primary faculty members over the past few months:

Irini Albanti is a lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the executive director of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). Her research interests are in capacity building in resource-limited settings, impact strategy, storytelling, and the role of corporate philanthropy in impacting social change. At HHI, she leads strategic, operational, financial, and administrative management and oversees programs in humanitarian research and education. Since 2001, she has held leadership positions in the nonprofit, academic, and health care fields. She regularly collaborates with the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization on childhood cancer initiatives.

Barbra Dickerman is an assistant professor of global cancer prevention in the Department of Epidemiology and is affiliated with the Zhu Family Center for Global Cancer Prevention. Her work is focused on using causal inference methodology and large health databases to improve health decision-making. She uses these tools to evaluate personalized strategies for the prevention and early detection of cancer. Dickerman was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Chan School and became an instructor in 2021. She is also co-director of the VA-CAUSAL Methods Core, an initiative of the Veterans Health Administration. Read an Epidemiology Department Q&A.

Nima Hejazi, assistant professor of biostatistics, researches methodological problems at the intersection of causal inference and machine learning, motivated by and applied to scientific questions arising in clinical trials for existing and emerging infectious diseases. His work includes non- and semi-parametric inference, high-dimensional inference, statistical computing and reproducible research, and open-source software for applied statistics. He has served as a primary member of the U.S. Government COVID-19 Vaccine Prevention Network’s Biostatistics Response Team, both co-designing the open-source analysis framework for and contributing immune correlates analyses of vaccine efficacy clinical trials.

Cindy Leung is an assistant professor of public health nutrition, with a research focus on diet and health disparities in structurally marginalized populations. Her work has highlighted the adverse effects of food insecurity on diet quality, cardiometabolic disease, and mental health in populations across the life course. She has also studied interventions to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage and red meat consumption and to promote sustainable dietary behaviors. She earned a dual ScD in nutrition and epidemiology from Harvard Chan School, and held faculty positions at the University of California and the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health prior to returning to the School.

Jessalyn Ubellacker, assistant professor of molecular metabolism, investigates the metabolic alterations of metastasizing cancer cells. Her research suggests that scientists should develop therapies that exacerbate the lipid oxidative stress experienced by cancer cells and inhibit the mechanisms cancer cells use to protect themselves from lipid reactive oxygen species. In her research at Harvard Chan School, she hopes to use innovative in vitro and in vivo approaches to investigate novel metabolic vulnerabilities of metastasizing cancer cells in hopes that understanding the mechanisms cancer cells use to protect themselves from oxidative species will expand our ability to leverage these vulnerabilities to target and treat cancer.

Theodore Witherell is a lecturer in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the program director and lead instructor in several Executive and Continuing Professional Education programs focusing on physician leadership. Before joining Harvard Chan School, he was senior director of talent management for the Mass General Brigham health care system. There, he partnered with executive leaders, medical staff, and physicians to set strategies and bolster the success of their operations. He works with multiple institutions as a consultant, guest lecturer, and executive coach, including WorldCare International and Northeastern University. Early in his career, he was a teacher in inner-city Boston and Kingston, Jamaica.

Amy Roeder