PIA Executive Committee:
Diversity and Disparities
Chair: Ganesh Babulal, PhD, OTD
Dr. Ganesh Babulal is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, an investigator in the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and a faculty scholar in the Institute for Public Health. His research investigates the relationship between cognition, mood/affect, and their impact on instrumental activities of daily living in populations with chronic neurological diseases, specifically, dementia. Dr. Babulal’s current research efforts identify changes in driving performance via road tests and behavior via naturalistic driving methodologies to understand decline in older adults with and without preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, he focuses on health disparities in ADRD by examining the intersection of race, ethnicity, mental health, and social determinants of health. Dr. Babulal also collaborates with a team of researchers to determine the prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia in low and middle income countries and assess how prevalence is influenced by multidimensional poverty, stigma, armed conflict, and disability. Ganesh is honored to continue serving the Diversity and Disparities PIA and welcomes any questions, comments, and inquiry about the field, ISTAART or the PIA.
Vice Chair: Megan Zuelsdorff, PhD
Dr. Megan Zuelsdorff is an Assistant Professor in the University of Wisconsin School of Nursing and an Investigator in the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She received her PhD in Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016 and completed postdoctoral training in the UW’s Health Disparities Scholars Program and Center for Demography of Health and Aging. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the NIA- and Alzheimer’s Association-funded Stress and Resilience in Dementia (STRIDE) study. STRIDE explores social-biological mechanisms in cognitive and brain aging, and the role for these mechanisms in racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in cognitive health and dementia risk.
Dr. Zuelsdorff’s training in social epidemiology and public health informs her broad research interests in (1) life course socioenvironmental determinants of risk and resilience in historically disadvantaged communities and (2) measurement of cognition and dementia across diverse populations. Progress in these areas is necessary for understanding and addressing disparity, and will require prioritizing the inclusion of underrepresented populations in cognitive and brain aging study cohorts. The identification and mitigation of barriers to participation in cognition and biomarker research is a key program goal for Dr. Zuelsdorff and a crucial focus of the Diversity & Disparities PIA.
Programs Chair: Shana D. Stites, PsyD
Shana D. Stites, PsyD, MA, MS, is an Instructor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a clinical psychologist and a researcher with the Penn Project on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB). Dr. Stites’s research focuses on advancing diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease dementia. The goal is to understand ways to promote quality of life and psychological wellbeing. This includes understanding the impacts of the disease on individuals who may be directly affected by pathology as well as their family members. It includes both personal experiences as well as population-level interactions. Her work aims to better understand how aspects of identity, such as age, gender, and race, operate as determinants in the disease experience. Understanding these features of the disease experience may offer insights into disease-mechanisms and into development of interventions that help limit burdens of the disease. Dr. Stites earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from Chestnut Hill College and masters of arts in Sociology from Lehigh University. She completed her internship at Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. Her clinical concentration was in psychological assessment with a special focus on the role of multicultural diversity in clinical practice and representation in research.
Communications Chair: Robert W. Turner ll, PhD
Robert W. Turner II, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Neurology, at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is a biobehavioral health disparities researcher with ethnographic and mixed methods training. His current National Institute on Aging (NIA) funded K01 award examines the interrelationship between multiple measures of psychosocial and neurocognitive risk and protective factors associated with accelerated cognitive aging & mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (AD/ADRD) among former collegiate and professional football players. This line of research encompasses understanding how traumatic injury, as an occupational hazard, hinders daily living and career planning over the life course. These are many of the same concerns faced by military personnel returning from war. He is also the author of “Not For Long: The Life and Career of the NFL Athlete” (Oxford Press) and a contributor on the LeBron James HBO documentary “Student Athlete.” His experience as a former professional NFL player (SF 49ers) and as researcher provides an insightful perspective on the various factors that contribute to Black male health disparities.
Student/Post-Doc Representative: Sanne Franzen, MS
Ms. Franzen started her career in 2015 as a neuropsychologist at the Alzheimer Center of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In late 2015, she became the coordinator of the new multicultural memory clinic at this Alzheimer Center. As a researcher, her work focuses on improving diversity in clinical trials, e.g. by adapting informed consent procedures for illiterate patients, on culture-fair cognitive tests, on culture-sensitive support after a dementia diagnosis, and on community education programs about dementia and healthy aging. In 2017, Ms. Franzen received a governmental grant for her research in the multicultural memory clinic. She also received funding for two programs to educate the diverse community in her city and to carry out a research project in Morocco to improve dementia diagnostics in illiterate patients. Ms. Franzen is a commission member of the Cultural Diversity Commission of the Dutch Association of Psychologists, was an advisor to the City of Rotterdam for their 2019-2020 policy regarding the elderly community, and was on the advisory board for the 2020 Dutch National Health Care Standard for Dementia.
Immediate Past Chair: Yakeel T. Quiroz, PhD
Dr. Quiroz is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School. She completed her Ph.D. training in Clinical Psychology at Boston University and a fellowship in neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She currently serves as Director of the MGH Multicultural Alzheimer’s Prevention Program (MAPP), and as Director of the MGH Familial Dementia Neuroimaging Lab.
By applying her efforts to a large Colombian family that carries a genetic mutation that causes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Dr. Quiroz’s research has focused on characterizing brain changes that may predispose individuals to develop memory loss or dementia later in life. Her work has already provided evidence of brain abnormalities in cognitively-intact individuals at high risk for AD decades before their clinical onset. Her findings have helped the field to re-conceptualize Alzheimer as a sequence of changes that begins decades before cognitive decline, and which may be targeted by promising disease-slowing treatments at a time in which they might have their most profound effect. Her research work has resulted in several publications that have generated considerable discussion in the field, and has achieved recognition by colleagues at the regional, national, and international level.
Dr. Quiroz also has strong clinical interests in cultural neuropsychology and assessment of monolingual and bilingual Spanish-speaking patients.
Thank you to our previous serving Executive Committee Members!
Miguel Arce Renteria, Student/Postdoc Representative (2019 - 2020)
Alejandra Guerrero, Student/Postdoc Representative (2018 - 2019)
Mario Parra, Programs Chair (2017 - 2020)
Janet Sherman, Vice Chair (2017 - 2018)