Mental Health Equity Lab Team


Marne Chacon is a third-year PhD student at SMU with a concentration in medical anthropology. She received her B.S. in Anthropology and a Certificate in Biomedical Research from Texas A&M University. Her goal is to do research on palliative and hospice care, bioethics, and end-of-life decisions. She received a Maguire Public Service Fellowship in 2021 and has contributed to a paper on female Maasai voice-hearers. Currently, she is working as a teaching assistant and is a team member for Dr. Myers’ research project on early psychosis.

Nusaiba Chowdhury is a PHD candidate at SMU with a concentration in medical anthropology. She received her B.A. in Medical Anthropology and Master’s of Public Health from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Her research focus is on how Muslim refugees resettled in the Dallas area envision a good life and their future. She also received a Maguire Center Public Service Fellowship, a Humanities without Walls Fellowship, and funding from the Forced Migration Project. Nusaiba will be engaged in dissertation fieldwork starting in June 2022.

Imani Holmes is a senior at SMU majoring in Biology with a minor in Mathematics. She is a member of the University Honors Program as well as the Dedman College Student Advisory Board and serves as the community service chair for Minority Association of Pre-Health Students. Imani will be applying to medical this upcoming application cycle and looks forward to working with underserved medical communities.

Claire Janssen is a junior at SMU majoring in Psychology and Health and Society. As a Dedman College Scholar and member of the Honors program, she is eager to further her involvement and leadership on the SMU campus. On campus, she is involved with Mustang Heroes, a community service organization, the Women and LGBT Center, and UKirk, a LGBTQ+ affirming student ministry. She aspires to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist, so she is deeply invested in the critical work being done in the Mental Health Equity Lab where she has a Hamilton Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Summer 2022.

Pauline Laizer graduated with a degree in Science Education from Mwenge Catholic University in 2018 and volunteers with the Women Water Project in Longido, Tanzania which provides pregnant women and women in their literacy program with filters for water to ensure safe drinking water.

Elizabeth Lesitey graduated from the Community Concern Training Institute in Kenya and holds a diploma in counseling psychology. She is self-employed and volunteers in her community by taking patients with cancer and HIV to hospital appointments.

Dr. Mihiret Mesganaw is an anthropological researcher from Gondar, Ethiopia. He graduated with an MA in Social Anthropology from Addis Ababa University in 2011 and graduated with a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Washington State University in 2020. Dr. Mesganaw’s previous work has focused on immigration and identity construction in the United States. He is currently a Moody Research Fellow at SMU.

Taylor Shimizu is a sophomore at SMU double majoring in Chemistry and Biological Sciences. She is a President’s Scholar, University Honors Mentor, Vice President of the Chinese Student Association, and member of Alpha Kappa Psi. Previously, she conducted research with the University of California, San Diego, and is a published author in Nature: Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy. She is also a first author in The Breast Journal from clinical research she did at Scripps Health. She is keenly interested in mental health issues and upon graduation, she hopes to attend medical school and become a physician.

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.

Halle Tarvin is a second year PhD student at SMU with a concentration in medical anthropology. She received her B.A. in Psychology with minors in Medical Anthropology and Social Science from the University of North Texas, and co-founded UNT’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter. She is pursuing research on the therapeutic use of cannabis for veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, she is working as a teaching assistant and is a team member for the NIMH-funded project on early psychosis and substance use.

Rafay Wahid is a junior majoring in Biological Sciences and Health and Society. During his free time, Rafay helps mentor middle school students who are a part of the college readiness program called EAGLE Scholars. His post-graduation goal is to attend medical school with the hopes of becoming a physician.

Justin Wilkey is a Senior Research Assistant working on multiple projects. Her graduated in 2022 with a B.S. in  a Biological Sciences and Psychology. He is a past recipient of the Hamilton Undergraduate Research Award. He plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in academic medicine.

Yang Liu is a PhD student 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. One of her research focuses on postpartum depression (PPD) in urban China, exploring the embodied and moral experience and the subjectivity of postpartum depressed women and the knowledge production of PPD in urban China. 

Lab Alumni

Katherine Fox is a doctoral candidate in medical anthropology at SMU. 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. Her dissertation explores well-being and resilience among LGBTQ+ immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at Texas Christian University and Baylor University, where she teaches a variety of courses in anthropology and global health. Her research interests and recent work also include health-decision making, substance use disorders, and intersections of immigration and health, especially for Latinx groups.

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 and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

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 is a PhD candidate at Ecole des Haues Etudes en Sciences Sociales (the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris, France. Her research work is led by anthropologist-psychiatrist Richard Rechtman. 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.

Ekiomoado (Eki) Olumese is an SMU alumna (’18) and majored in Biochemistry, Health and Society and French. 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. After graduating from SMU, she went on to complete a Master of Philosophy Degree in Health, Medicine and Society at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK. There, she adopted a historical approach to examine health care policies in colonial 20th century Sierra Leone and how they shaped health care policies of independent Sierra Leone. Currently, Eki is a third year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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.

Samantha Blair Schwartz graduated from SMU in 2017 with a BS in Anthropology, concentrating in archaeology, and a BA in Human Rights and World Languages (Spanish and Arabic). She volunteered for Dr. Myers in Spring 2015 assisting her on various projects. Since graduating, she has been an archaeology intern with the National Park Service and completed her masters in Conflict Archaeology & Heritage from the University of Glasgow. Her thesis research focused on ethical methodologies for preserving and remembering genocides. Currently, she works in cultural resource management and is applying to doctorate programs to further her research in Holocaust archaeology.

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.

Gillian Wright was part of Dr. Myers lab from 2015 to 2017. 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. Currently, Gillian is pursuing her MD at UTMB-Galveston.

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