Community Academic Leadership Committee

Tabia Henry Akintobi, PhD, MPH

Director, Community Engagement

Morehouse School of Medicine

Professor and Chair of Community Health and Preventive Medicine
Associate Dean of Community Engagement


Dr. Henry Akintobi, Professor and Chair of Community Health at Morehouse School of Medicine, is a globally sought health equity champion and social behavioral scientist, leading, or collaborating in the implementation of translational research and participatory evaluations that address health disparities and advance community or population health transformation.

She serves as Principal Investigator of the Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center (PRC), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 1998. Dr. Henry Akintobi leads the Georgia Community Engaged Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She also represents Morehouse School of Medicine as contact PI or Director for other NIH grants including the Georgia Center for Diabetes Translation Research, the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance Community Engagement Program, and Georgia RADx-Underserved Populations-Promoting Engagement and COVID-19 Testing for Health, among others. She is an extensively published contributor to the peer reviewed literature and co-author of the Johns Hopkins University Press text entitled The Morehouse Model: How School of Medicine, Revolutionized Community Engagement and Health Equity, editor of Black Health in the South and the CDC-NIH co-sponsored Principles of Community Engagement Primer (2nd and 3rd Editions) among many others.

As Associate Dean for Community Engagement at Morehouse School of Medicine, Dr. Henry Akintobi advances efforts to promote and strengthen effective partnerships between faculty, staff, and students and community residents and leaders, government agencies, faith-based organizations, or health and social service agencies. She has led collaborations with education, clinical, research, practice, and policy leaders to demonstrate preeminence in community health and related engagement strategies through successful acquisition of local and national awards including but not limited to the Carnegie Designation for the Advancement of Teaching in Community Engagement, and the Josiah Macy Inaugural Award for Excellence in Social Mission. Her public health research and practice leadership have been designed to advance the art and science of community engagement. Specifically, her work has focused on community engaged translational research science, the practice of community-based participatory research (CBPR), and approaches to build and sustain effective partnerships among academic institutions, community residents, health departments and policy leaders to understand, develop and shape research, policy, and practice strategies to address health disparities and their root causes thereby advancing health equity led. Her work is guided by training in public health social epidemiology, social marketing, community-based participatory research, and evaluation.

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L. "Neicey" Johnson, RN, BSN, Esq.


Community Health Disparities in Elimination of Social Determinants of Health

Founder and Executive Director, VSNS, Inc.


L. Neicey Johnson, registered nurse and attorney, is the founder and executive director of VSNS, Inc. (Visions), a Georgia not-for-profit personal service and mentoring organization in metro Atlanta since 2003. Its purpose is to provide an environment where persons are empowered to improve their economic status through education and skills development by simply changing the way they think. Under her leadership, the organization seeks opportunities to ensure its program participants overcome barriers to success with adequate skills, education, and access to available resources; the basis for its corporate existence.

Neicey has over 25 years of varying administrative and clinical healthcare experience and is the founder of a healthcare consulting firm and served over 10 years as co-producer of a local public television show. She is an active volunteer and participant of several community-based business boards, including the Diversity Leadership Council of the American Heart Association, Southeast Region Health Equity Council, and lifetime member of the Association of Black Cardiologists.

Omer T. Inan, PhD

CE Collaborator

Community Engagement / Georgia Institute of Technology

Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioscience and Bioengineering,
Professor, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Adjunct Professor, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering


Omer T. Inan is Professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioscience and Bioengineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Adjunct Professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 2004, 2005, and 2009, respectively. His research focuses on non-invasive physiological sensing and modulation for human health and performance. He has published 165 journal papers and 175 conference papers / abstracts, and has twelve issued patents. Dr. Inan, a Senior Member of the IEEE, received the IEEE Sensors Council Young Professional Award, the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, and the NSF CAREER Award in 2018. In 2021, he received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor Award. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and the American College of Cardiology. He is a Three-Time National Collegiate Athletic Association All-American in the discus throw.

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Herman A. Taylor, Jr. MD, MPH, FACC, FAHA


Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Endowed Professor and Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute


Herman Taylor is an endowed professor and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, and a nationally recognized cardiologist with broad experience in invasive practice/research. His current research predominantly focuses on preventive cardiology, and his teaching is aimed at building research capacity at minority-serving institutions and enhancing the health of minority communities through research and health activism at the community level. Over the past decade, Taylor held the position of principal investigator and director of the landmark Jackson Heart Study, the largest community-based study of cardiovascular disease among African Americans, funded by National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. His extensive experience in epidemiological observation has led him to a deeper appreciation of the urgency of community-level intervention as a priority, as well as a keen interest in broadening the diversity of disciplines and scientists focused on the problem of health disparities nationally and globally. A graduate of Princeton University, Taylor earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and completed a cardiology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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Kimberly Davis, PhD

Committee Member

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Associate Director, Prevention Research Center


Kimberly E. Davis, Ph.D. oversees the administrative and programmatic operations for the Prevention Research Center. Dr. Davis is responsible for assisting the PRC in setting policies, defining research programs, and developing strategies to achieve program objectives and goals under the direction of the principal investigator and center director. She represents the PRC on the National Communications Committee, collaborating across institutions and with community partners. She also provides oversight in the communication and dissemination with effective, culturally appropriate health information and research.

Peter Baltrus, PhD

Member, Epidemiologist

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Associate Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine National Center for Primary Care


Dr. Baltrus is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and a researcher with the National Center for Primary Care in Atlanta, GA. He trained in Social Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, where he received his doctorate.  Dr. Baltrus has developed expertise in the use of advanced statistical methods (including multilevel modeling and group based trajectory analysis) and the computer applications necessary for the analysis of the requisite data. Currently, Dr. Baltrus is the project PI for the population project of the Morehouse Emory cardiovascular (MECA) study examining geographic disparities in census tracts in Metro Atlanta with an emphasis on resilience in cardiovascular outcomes among Black adults in Metropolitan Atlanta at both the individual and neighborhood level.  

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Supriya Reddy, PhD, MPH

Committee Member, Evaluator

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Assistant Director of Evaluation and Institutional Assessment
Prevention Research Center


Supriya Reddy, Ph.D. MPH oversees the overall evaluation of the Center. She sets the strategic evaluation direction of the Center in conjunction with CCB members and the Center’s Senior Leadership. She leads evaluation plan development and implementation efforts, creates data collection surveys, provides relevant evaluation training and supports data collection, reporting and dissemination efforts with other assigned faculty and staff. She also collaborates with the Center PI/PD to lead strategic participatory evaluation partnerships, grants, and contracts with internal (MSM) and external collaborators.

Alison Berg, PhD, RDN, LD

Community Engagement / University of Georgia

Assistant Professor and Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist


Alison Berg, PhD, RDN, LD, is an Associate Professor, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist at the University of Georgia. As a State Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist, she leads health education programs and interventions delivered by Cooperative Extension agents in Georgia in chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Dr. Berg's current research explores the impact of these Extension health programs on nutrition and health behavior (e.g., diet quality, physical activity, and adherence to self-management and preventive guidelines) to prevent and manage chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Additionally, she studies the implementation of evidence-based interventions, including the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), through the Cooperative Extension model. Dr. Berg serves on the Community Engagement Core of the Georgia Clinical Translational Science Alliance, facilitating community-engaged research across Georgia through training, capacity building, and helping match researchers with communities and extension programs with common goal.

Allisen Penn, Ed.D, M.Ed


Community Engagement / University of Georgia

College of Family and Consumer Sciences


Allisen Penn is the Associate Dean and State Program Leader for Extension and outreach in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences for the University of Georgia.  She leads the college to fulfill the land-grant university mission to provide Georgia's residents, businesses, and communities access to quality educational experiences and the institution's knowledge base.  Dr. Penn works with leaders of the other UGA colleges and units to successfully apply research to meet the state's priority needs through Extension faculty located in all 159 counties.  She also serves as the co-chair of the Georgia Clinical Translational Science Alliance Community Engagement function to address health and wellness needs, particularly in rural and underserved populations, by strengthening and expanding research collaboration with faculty from various disciplines.

Dr. Penn has over 30 years of experience in the Land-Grant University Cooperative Extension System. Before accepting her current position on August 1, 2019, Dr. Penn was a regional program leader for the University of Tennessee (UT) Extension with responsibilities for family and consumer sciences and 4-H in 31 counties in middle Tennessee. She began her career with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.  D Over a 22-year career, she served as an Extension Agent in four counties; Associate District Director with leadership and administrative responsibilities for Extension agents and programs in the Ouachita District; and as a Leadership Specialist and Associate Professor directing a division-wide faculty leadership program.

Dr. Penn received her doctorate in higher education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and holds a master's degree in counseling and a bachelor's degree in home economics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. 

Rowena Elliott, PhD, RN


Community Engagement / Emory University


Dr. Rowena W. Elliott is a Professor of Nursing at Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. She serves as one of the Co-Directors for the Community Engagement function of the Georgia CTSA. Dr. Elliott earned a BSN in 1982 and an MSN in 1992 from the University of Mississippi School of Nursing. She also earned a PhD in Education from the University of Mississippi School of Education in 2003. She received a post-graduate certificate as an Adult-Geri Primary Care Nurse Practitioner from the University of South Alabama in 2013. Dr. Elliott is certified in nephrology nursing and nursing education. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the Academy of Nursing Education.

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Courtney Brown, PhD, RDN

Community Engagement / UGA Extension Offices / University of Georgia

Community Health Engagement Coordinator

Dr. Courtney Brown, Community Health Engagement Coordinator, works with Georgia Communities, UGA Extension specialists and agents, and across the Georgia CTSA to build capacity for and implement community-engaged clinical and translational research that furthers the critical land-grant mission of UGA and expands the impact of GA CTSA. Dr. Brown has a history of community-based participatory research work as well as work in health education for youth.  Her bachelor’s degree is in Dietetics and Consumer Foods. Her master’s and doctorate are both in Foods and Nutrition and she is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Rakale C. Quarells, PhD

Committee Member

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Associate Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine


Dr. Rakale Collins Quarells is a Behavioral Scientist and an Associate Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and an adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and Health Education in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.  She also served as the Associate Director of the MSM Cardiovascular Research Institute, overseeing population science research. Dr. Quarells also serves as course director for the MSM, Emory, GA Tech, and UGA’s joint course titled:  Community Engagement and Health Disparities in Clinical and Translational Research

Dr. Quarells joined MSM in July 2000 following the completion of a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Prevention at the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the Stanford University School of Medicine.  Dr. Quarells received her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in personality psychology from Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Quarells’ primary research focuses on utilizing community engagement to enhance the prevention and self-management of chronic diseases (including cardiovascular diseases and epilepsy) among African Americans.   

Dr. Quarells has been the recipient of National Institutes Health funding, including her Career Development Award (K-01) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as well as funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.  These two awards funded her Families Implementing Good Health Traditions for Life (F.I.G.H.T. for Life) study.  This pilot intervention resulted in reductions in cardiovascular risk among Black families through the increase in physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption.  Building on that study, Dr. Quarells was funded to conduct the FIGHT Against MetS study, another family study to address metabolic syndrome among Black families.  In 2012, Dr. Quarells served as the principal investigator of the Minority Health Genomics and Translational Research Bio-Repository Database Network (Minority Health-GRID), a $13 million NIH funded, multi-site research study with multiple aims designed to create a minority focused research network, link health information with genetic data, and assess genetic, personal, and environmental factors associated with severe hypertension.  Dr. Quarells recently expanded her research interests to explore the self-management in epilepsy when she received funding from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention for the Adapting Evidence-Based Epilepsy Self-Management Programs for Blacks in Georgia study.  Using a community-engaged approach, this project adapted and replicated the Project UPLIFT, a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program for depression, among African Americans with epilepsy.  Taking the lessons learned from that project, Dr. Quarells recently received funding to also adapt the Project UPLIFT intervention for Black men with heart failure and depression.

Adrianne Proeller

Community Health Worker

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine


Adrianne Serrano Proeller is a Community Health Worker (CHW) with Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center (PRC) and Community Engagement Coordinator for The Center for Translational Research in Health Disparities at MSM. Her role as a CHW at Morehouse School of Medicine has included community outreach and education on a number of projects, including the REACH Healthy Corner Stores and Safe Routes to School initiatives, as well as the PRC’s Community Health Needs and Assets Assessment.  She is also the community health worker for the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, where she works on capacity-building projects for CHWs across the state.

Adrianne currently serves as the Georgia Ambassador to the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW).  She is a graduate of Loyola University of New Orleans and her background includes 6 years as a senior writer in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and 8 years as Senior Manager of Corporate Communications for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.  She is actively involved in many community-based organizations in SW Atlanta, where she has lived for 10 years.  

Gail McCray, MA, MCHES

Health Educator/Capacity Building Liaison

Community Engagement / Morehouse School of Medicine

Community Health Educator and Faculty member


Gail McCray serves the Georgia CTSA as part of the training and capacity-building team and as a long term champion of Community Health Workers (CHW). Since 2016, there has been a renewed effort to have CHWs recognized as essential members of the healthcare team. She serves on the statewide Advisory Council and on national committees to advocate for appropriate credentialing of this workforce. Additionally since 2016, she has worked to develop an innovative high school CHW program – and has been working on an online curriculum for this program. Her research interests include cancer prevention and control (especially multiple myeloma), hypertension, bioethics, and health literacy.  She also co-teaches a Community Health Course for first-year medical students. Her professional foci are to help develop innovative ways to improve the quality and satisfaction of the patient experience and of the many areas of overall community health promotion.

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