Meet the Team
Melissa Peskin, PhD
Dr. Peskin is an assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science and epidemiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health. She has expertise in the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based programs, particularly in the areas of adolescent sexual health and dating violence. She is co-principal investigator on a study to disseminate It’s Your Game…Keep it Real to students in 10 school districts across Harris County. She is also principal investigator on a study to develop and evaluate a healthy relationships curriculum for 6th grade youth.
Christine Markham, PhD
Dr. Markham is an associate professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at The University of Texas School of Public Health with over 20 years’ experience in the development, implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of adolescent HIV, STI, and pregnancy prevention interventions, including school-, clinic- and family-based interventions. She is also associate director of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Texas School of Public Health. She was the lead researcher for the It’s Your Game…Keep it Real Risk Avoidance randomized controlled trial. She is joint lead researcher on a project to adapt It’s Your Game…Keep It Real for Native American and Alaska Native youth.
Paula Cuccaro, PhD
Dr. Cuccaro is an assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science at The University of Texas School of Public Health. She has over 25 years of experience working on projects focused on improving the health of children and adolescents. Her current research activities involve the development, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of adolescent life skills development and HIV, STI, and pregnancy prevention interventions. Dr. Cuccaro was the lead researcher for a dissemination project to implement It’s Your Game…Keep It Real in a charter school system in Harris County.
Ross Shegog, PhD
Ross Shegog is an Associate Professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) and an investigator on the iCHAMPSS research team. He has over 20 years’ experience in developing and testing interventions that use health communication technology to promote better disease prevention and treatment behaviors. He contributed to the development of the original CHAMPSS adoption model and to the concept, design, and content of the iCHAMPSS decision support system. A graduate from the University of Sydney, Dr. Shegog received his PhD. in Behavioral Sciences, Master’s degree in Public Health, and post-graduate diploma in Biomedical Communications from the University of Texas. His projects have focused on the application of computer-based education, decision-support systems, and gaming in pediatric asthma management, tobacco smoking cessation and prevention, HIV/STI/pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, physical activity, and epilepsy self-management. He enjoys research that involves the collaborative creation of innovative strategies and products to positively impact the public’s health.
Belinda F. Hernandez, PhD
Dr. Hernandez is an assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences for The University of Texas School of Public Health’s San Antonio Regional Campus. She has extensive research experience with adolescents, U.S. service members and their families, intervention development, evaluation and dissemination. She is the lead researcher for a pilot project to identify the determinants of sexual harassment and assault among enlisted airmen and lead evaluator for the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Abstinence Education Services. Additionally, Dr. Hernandez serves as a planning committee member for the San Antonio Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative.
Susan Tortolero Emery, PhD
Dr. Tortolero Emery is a professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, as well as the Allan King Professor of Public Health, at The University of Texas School of Public Health. She is also the director of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at The University of Texas School of Public Health.
Kelly Reed-Hirsch, MPH, CHES
Kelly is the School Health Program Manager at Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) with 20 years’ experience in public health and education. For the last 10 years, she has coordinated and facilitated the HCPHES School Health Leadership Group, which has been recognized nationally for its ability in impact change in schools as it relates to school health issues. She has served on the Texas School Health Advisory Committee since 2008 and is a member of several ISDs’ School Health Advisory Councils. Kelly was the principal investigator on the 2011 and 2013 Harris County Youth Risk Behavior Survey studies and uses this data to assist ISDs with the development and implementation of policies, programs and best practices that impact health outcomes and academic achievement.
Efrat Gabay, MPH
Efrat is co-director for the iCHAMPSS project and works on a number of other studies, including development and evaluation of a high-school sexual health curriculum and a healthy relationships curriculum for 6th grade youth, as well as a study to disseminate It’s Your Game…Keep It Real. She has expertise in the development, implementation, and dissemination of evidence-based programs. Her research interests include preventing adolescent risk behaviors, child and adolescent mental health, and chronic disease management in youth.
Sara is currently a masters student at The University of Texas School of Public Health’s San Antonio Regional Campus.