UI PRC Faculty


View the diagram of the UI PRC-RH’s Organizational Chart


Rima Afifi, PhD-Center Director and Center Principal Investigator

Dr. Afifi is a Professor  in the Department of Community & Behavioral Health. She is also the Director of Graduate Studies. Dr. Afifi engages in public health research and practice with intent to promote social, community, and policy environments conducive to well being. Whenever possible, she uses methods of Community Based Participatory Research; applies an ecological lens to the understanding of the issues; engages multiple disciplines to widen the perspectives on any topic; and emphasizes knowledge transfer of research to practice and policy. She is specifically interested in intervention and implementation science, and adolescent and youth well being. rima-afifi@uiowa.edu





Natoshia Askelson, PhD – Deputy Director and Principal Investigator Core Research Project: Active Iowa

Dr. Natoshia Askelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health with an adjunct appointment at the Public Policy Center. Her research interest include the intersection of health policy and behavior change, family and child health, health communication, media effects and evaluation. She has recently completed studies on parent-child communication about nutrition and the implementation of the new school meal requirements with a focus on rural school districts. Dr. Askelson  is the Principal Investigator for the PRC’s core project, Active Iowa, which is a implementation research study translating Active Ottumwa to other micropolitan communities in Iowa using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). natoshia-askelson@uiowa.edu





PaulGilbertsm-130x182Paul Gilbert, PhD-Investigator
Dr. Gilbert is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health. His research seeks to understand alcohol-related disparities, investigating specifically the ways that gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation shape drinking patterns, risk of alcohol use disorders, and access to treatment services. A secondary line of research focuses on improving the health of immigrant Latino communities in non-traditional migration destinations through participatory, action-oriented research. He will be assisting in the training of the UI PRC. paul-gilbert@uiowa.edu






Helena Laroche, MD – Investigator

Dr. Laroche is the new scientific medical director for the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Associate Professor at University of Missouri- Kansas City.  She is also an Adjunct Professor in General Internal Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at University of Iowa (where she worked since 2006). Dr. Laroche is interested in diabetes, obesity prevention and treatment, and community-based intervention programs to promote health. One of Dr. Laroche’s research projects has focused on improving the food choices in high-school sports concession stands in Muscatine, Iowa and the developing of a guidebook and dissemination to other schools in Iowa of this program. She also works with low-income families at risk for obesity in Des Moines testing intervention combining motivational interviewing and connection to community resources. She assisted on the Active Ottumwa project and will be part of the new core research project. She is currently working with the PRC looking at food pantry utilization during COVID. hhlaroche@cmh.edu




Nicole Novak, PhD-Investigator

Dr. Nicole Novak is a Assistant Research Scientist in the Prevention Research Center and the Department of Community and Behavioral Health. Dr. Novak uses epidemiologic, community-engaged, and mixed methods to study community and policy-level factors that shape the health of immigrant, Latino and rural communities. Dr. Novak has contributed to the evaluation of PRC’s core research project, Active Ottumwa. She is also partners with the Active Ottumwa Community Advisory Board to conduct in-depth qualitative research about social and economic factors shaping well being for Ottumwa residents. nicole-novak@uiowa.edu






Daniel Sewell, PhD-Investigator

Daniel Sewell, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.Dr. Sewell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the College of Public Health. His primary area of research is in statistical models and inference for network data, and in particular the statistical analysis of dynamic social networks. He has also contributed to other subfields of statistics, such as clustering and particle filtering, and holds interest in broad research topic areas such Bayesian statistics and statistical computation.  daniel-sewell@uiowa.edu







Laurie Walkner, MA, RN – Investigator

Laurie Walkner earned a BS in nursing from Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a MA in instructional design and technology from the University of Iowa. She has worked in family planning, clinical research in the area of reproductive endocrinology, occupational safety and health, community health planning, public health preparedness and public health workforce development. Laurie is the Director of Education and Training at the Institute for Public Health Practice (IPHP) which promotes  the linkage between the academic and service activities of the UI CPH with public health practitioners at the local, state, and federal levels, and includes the Midwestern Public Health Training Center. She has developed curriculum for academic and continuing education courses, and will be assisting with translation at the UI PRC.  laurie-walkner@uiowa.edu








Shannon Watkins, PhD – Investigator

Dr. Watkins is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health. She is a scholar of public affairs Portrait of Prof. Shannon Watkins of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Healthwhose work aims to illuminate social and structural barriers that individuals face in achieving their full health potential in order to inform efforts that promote health equity. Her current work investigates patterns of tobacco initiation, product change, and cessation among youth and young adults, with a particular focus on the role of additive flavors in tobacco initiation, use, and tobacco-related health disparities. A core component of her research program is engagement with public and policy stakeholders and public dissemination of her work. Dr. Watkins assists the PRC with communication and dissemination efforts. shannon-watkins@uiowa.edu