Mental Health Equity Lab Team


Nusaiba Chowdhury is a University PhD Fellow and the recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, the Humanities without Walls Fellowship, and the Moody Dissertation Writing Fellowship, as well as numerous departmental awards. She is currently preparing to defend her dissertation on her ethnographic research with Rohingya refugees and their mental and physical health needs in the north Texas area in April 2024.

Simon Gonzales is a Mustang PhD Fellow at SMU with a concentration in medical anthropology. His project focuses on substance use and Chicano/x families, as well as arts-based interventions for care. In Summer 2024, he will work with substance use clinics in Dallas and Houston interviewing clinicians and families about their needs for care.

Yang Liu is a University PhD Fellow at SMU with a concentration in medical/psychological anthropology. She received her Master of Psychology from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her research interests include mental illness and mental health, gender study, and STS. In Summer 2023, she received the prestigious Robert Lemelson Fellowship through the Society for Psychological Anthropology to fund her research focuses on postpartum depression (PPD) in urban China. She will continue this research this summer with funding from the SMU Department of Anthropology.

Mesganaw Mihiret is a Moody Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab (2022-2024). He has a PhD in Anthropology from Washington State University and is an internationally recognized scholar of Ethiopian history and culture. During his time in the lab, Mihiret has been working on his first book manuscript related to his dissertation on Ethiopian immigrants, place-making and nostalgia. He has helped direct the lab, engaged in lab-related interviews and data analysis, and has published manuscripts as an author on team projects. He attended the Society for Psychological Anthropology meetings in Spring 2023 to present his work.

Taylor Shimizu is a SMU President’s Scholar, a member of the University Honors Program, and has been a Hamilton Scholar in the lab since Summer 2023. She is majoring in Chemistry and Health and Society. In the lab, Taylor has engaged in interviews, data analysis, and literature reviews. She has also been published as an author on lab team papers and will present some of her work in Helsinki, Finland at a conference in summer 2024.

Halle Tarvin is a PhD student at SMU pursuing research on the therapeutic use of cannabis for veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, she is taking a leave of absence to pursue her Masters’ of Science in Cannabis Studies en route to her PhD. During her time in the lab, Halle has been an author on a published paper. She also attended the Society for Psychological Anthropology meetings in Spring 2023 to present her work.

Lab Alumni

Marne Chacon received a Masters of Medical Anthropology from SMU in 2022. During her time here, she received a Maguire Public Service Fellowship in 2021 and helped author a research papers on female Maasai voice-hearers. Currently, she is a child therapist working in Montana.

Katherine Fox received her PhD in anthropology with a concentration in medical anthropology at SMU in 2022. She worked in the Myers Lab from 2014-2016, first as a research assistant and later as a manager of the Pathways to Care project. She received a dual B.A. in anthropology and Spanish from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and her M.A. in anthropology from SMU. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Southern Oregon University.

Matthew Hutnyan served as an Undergraduate Research Assistant from 2010-2021 and as Lab Manager from 2021-2022. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from SMU with a B.S. in Psychology and Healthy & Society. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. His research interests include social cognition and social functioning, serious mental illness, substance use, and prevention of and interventions for mental illness. In his free time, Matt volunteers with the North Texas Food Bank and enjoys hiking and cooking. He attends UT Southwestern Medical Center where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Claire Janssen graduated from SMU majoring in Health and Society in Fall 2023. Claire was a Hamilton Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Summer 2022. She presented a research poster in 2023 in Switzerland with other members of the lab team at the International Early Mental Health Association conference and has also been a published author during her time in the lab.

Pauline Laizer has worked in the lab since 2015. She has been a research assistant for two community-based projects on Maasai women’s mental health and also the effects of Covid-19 on the Maasai community. She is a graduate of Tumaini University.

Elizabeth Lesitey Mollel has worked in the lab since 2013 as a research assistant, translator, and data analyst. She lives in Maasailand, Tanzania, where she works on numerous public health-related projects. She has been a co-author on team publications and her insights on Maasai culture have been critical to the success of those projects.

Rob Meeker is a Master’s student in social work at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. In 2019-2020, he helped Dr. Myers and Valerie Odeng with a project focused on African immigrant pastors’ beliefs about mental health. In addition to pursuing clinical work, he has research interests in medical anthropology and youth experience of psychotropic medications.


Magnifique Neza visited the lab as a PhD candidate at Ecole des Haues Etudes en Sciences Sociales (the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris, France. As a research scholar at SMU, she worked on her dissertation with Dr. Myers. Her research focuses on the issues of mental health in Rwanda with a particular focus on trauma. Her interests include the impact of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 on Rwandans’ mental health. Since her time at SMU, Magnifique has returned to Paris to complete and defend her dissertation.

Valerie Odeng was a graduate research assistant in the Myers Lab at SMU from September 2018-December 2019. Her practicum focused on the perspective of African migrant pastors on issues related to psychosis among young people in their congregation was supervised by Dr. Myers. She received her B.A. in Biology and Minor in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Arlington and her Master of Public Health from The George Washington University. Her interests include the effects of mental illness on stroke. A lab team publication based on her work is under review.

Ekiomoado (Eki) Olumese is an SMU alumna (’18) and majored in Biochemistry, Health and Society and French. She received a M.Phil. in Health, Medicine and Society at the University of Cambridge and then graduates from Vanderbilt University Medical School. She is currently an Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Chicago. While at SMU, Eki was a Hamilton Scholar and worked with Dr. Myers on a medical anthropology project to examine barriers that African and Latinx immigrants may experience when trying to access mental healthcare in Dallas. 

Lauren Philpott received her B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Health and Society from Southern Methodist University. During her time at SMU, she was the recipient of the Engaged Learning Fellowship and focused on improving mental health resources for students on campus. Additionally, she was a Hamilton Scholar and worked on Dr. Myers’ research on care seeking patterns within the homeless and mentally ill populations. Currently, she is a financial analyst for AIG in Houston, Texas.

Emily Stein is a recent SMU graduate (2022) who double majored in Biology and Health and Society. At SMU, she was a Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt Leadership Scholar and an Honors student, a troop leader for the Mustang Heroes community service organization, and the vice president of the SMU chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. In the past, she has researched at UT Southwestern Medical Center examining Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and is an author on the published paper: Modulation of mutant KrasG12D-driven lung tumorigenesis in vivo by gain or loss of PCDH7 function. In the lab, Emily has published a research poster that won 3rd prize at the SMU Undergraduate Research competition in 2022. She turned this into a research article that appeared in the SMU Undergraduate Research Journal in 2023.

Lydiah Achieng Wambo graduated from Tumaini University Arusha with a Diploma in Law in 2018. She is currently managing the Green Mountain Hotel in Arusha where she lives with her husband and son. Lydiah assisted Dr. Myers in her lab with fieldwork, interviews, and translations from 2013-2016 and also worked on the COVID-19 journaling project for part of 2020.

Justin Wilkey graduated in 2022 with a B.S. in a Biological Sciences and Psychology and will begin medical school at UT-Southwestern in Fall 2024. He is a past recipient of the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Award. In the lab, from 2020 to 2023, Justin worked as a Hamilton Scholar, a Senior Research Assistant and a Lab Manager. He presented his work at the International Early Mental Health Association conference in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2024 and has authored publications with the lab team.

Gillian Wright worked in the lab from 2015 to 2017. Currently, Gillian is pursuing her MD at UTMB-Galveston. At SMU, she worked extensively as an undergraduate research assistant on the Pathways through Care project focusing on early psychosis in young adults. She was awarded both the distinction of Summer Research Fellow and the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Fellowship during this time. After graduation from SMU, Gillian joined Dr. Myers again as a research consultant from 2019 to 2020, working on a LA County Dept. of Mental Health project on innovative programs for chronically mentally ill homeless populations. 

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