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Trainee Leadership Bios
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Trainee Network Advisory Board 

Meg E. Fluharty, MRes (Co-chair)
Meg E. Fluharty is a Ph.D. student in Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG) at The University of Bristol. Meg has been at Bristol since completing her MRes in Psychology and BSc in Psychology with Biology at The University of St. Andrews. Her research focuses on the association of childhood social cognition with adolescent substance abuse and mental health.



Stephen J. Heishman, Ph.D. (Senior Investigator Co-chair)
Dr. Heishman leads the Office of Education and Career Development at the NIDA Intramural Research Program. He develops and presents workshops for postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, postbaccalaureate students, and summer interns on topics such as mentoring, science communication, leadership, and career exploration. For 25 years, he conducted research on the psychological and pharmacological determinants of tobacco addiction, focusing on the effects of tobacco withdrawal and nicotine administration on cognitive processes in smokers and nonsmokers.


 Omar El Shahawy, Ph.D. (Co-chair) Omar El-Shahawy MD, PhD, MPH  is a post-   doctoral fellow in New York University School of Medicine, Population Health   Department, Section on Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use. His current research   interests include novel tobacco products with a focus on waterpipe smoking,   tobacco use cessation, and patient-physician decision making.

  Dr. El Shahawy received his undergraduate medical training at the University of   Ain Shams in Cairo, Egypt and obtained his MBBCh degree (MD equivalent in the US) and medical practice license in 2002. He later obtained his Master of Public Health in international health development from the Royal Tropical Institute and the Vrjie University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 2007. He was a Hubert Humphrey fellow supported by the U.S. Department of State and the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2010. During his Humphrey fellowship, Omar enhanced his experience in drug abuse policy and prevention, with a particular focus on gender issues in adolescent and marginalized groups. He also collaborated on several research projects with different universities and research institutions across the US. Omar later obtained his PhD degree from the Department of Health Behavior and Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015.


Networking Subcommittee 

 Nancy Jao, Ph.D. (Co-chair) Nancy Jao is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical   Psychology Ph.D. program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine   working with Dr. Brian Hitsman in the Department of Preventive Medicine. Nancy's   research interests include the utilization of biological and behavioral measures to   study and quantify vulnerability and persistence of nicotine dependence and   smoking behavior. Her current research interests lie in examining the influence of   tobacco flavorings, especially menthol, and targeting the brain-behavior   relationships and mechanisms to understand disparities in and vulnerabilities to   sustained smoking. 


Communications Subcommittee

Lauren Pacek, Ph.D. (Co-chair)
Dr. Pacek is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center.  She completed her Ph.D. in Public Health in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and a postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her current research focuses on investigating outcomes associated with very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes among vulnerable populations and harm reduction strategies among smokers living with HIV.


Melissa Mercincavage, Ph.D. (Co-chair)
Dr. Mercincavage is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in Biobehavioral Health from the Pennsylvania State University in 2015. Her current research focuses on understanding the impact of low nicotine content cigarettes on perceptions, use patterns, and harm exposure. Additional research interests include biobehavioral determinants of nicotine dependence, biomarkers of exposure, and marketing of tobacco products.


Education Subcommittee

Paul T. Harrell, Ph.D. (Chair)
Dr. Harrell is an Early Stage Investigator at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at American University in 2010 and completed post-doctoral fellowships in Drug Dependence Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in 2013 and in Behavioral Oncology at Moffit Cancer Center. He specializes in understanding health behavior decision-making, with a focus on the use of psychoactive substances. The goal of this research is to inform potential clinical and public health interventions by understanding how beliefs about substances emerge and change over time.


 Allison Borges, M.S. (Co-Chair) Allison Borges is a clinical psychology doctoral   student at Rutgers University working with Dr. Teresa Leyro and Dr. Edward Selby.   She received her B.A. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Boston University.   Allison’s research focuses on the role of transdiagnostic vulnerabilities in   maintaining cigarette smoking and substance use, and she hopes that this research   will inform treatment and health policy. 



  Laura Twyman
 Laura Twyman is a Ph.D. Candidate within the School of Medicine and Public   Health at the University of Newcastle, Australia where she studies with Associate   Professor Billie Bonevski. Laura's research interests include tobacco use in   socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, the co-occurrence of tobacco use and   other drug use, and the ability to harness technology in addressing socioeconomic   disparities in tobacco use. Additional research interests include the role of   electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) in tobacco cessation and the measurement of socioeconomic disadvantage.


Network Operations Coordinator

Jesse D. Kosiba, M.S.
Jesse Kosiba is a clinical psychology doctoral student working with Dr. Joseph Ditre at Syracuse University. Jesse’s primary research interests are health psychology and addictive behaviors among persons with chronic medical conditions.




Former Members

John Hughes, Ph.D.

Jessica Cook, Ph.D.

Melissa Blank, Ph.D.

Erika N. Peters, Ph.D.

Cendrine Robinson, B.S.

Mollie Patrick, Ph.D.

Amanda R. Mathew, Ph.D.

Patricia E. Bunney, Ph.D.

Adrienne L. Lidgard, B.S.

Bryan Heckman, Ph.D.

Erika Litvin-Bloom, Ph.D.

Emily L. Zale, Ph.D.

Jennifer Dahne, M.S.

Elena Hoffman, Ph.D.

Olga Rass, Ph.D.  

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