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Trainee Leadership Bios
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Trainee Network Advisory Board 

 Omar El Shahawy, Ph.D. (Co-chair) 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.


Allison Borges, M.S. (Co-Chair) 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.  



 Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D. (Senior Adviser & Co-Chair) is a Professor of   Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Her research is focused on   developing a bio-behavioral understanding of substance use behaviors in adult and   adolescent substance users, with the goal of developing optimal prevention and   cessation interventions. In the area of adolescent tobacco use, she has conducted   qualitative research including focus groups and surveys to understand patterns and   perceptions of use of tobacco products, clinical trials to develop and test the use   of novel behavioral and pharmacological cessation and prevention interventions,   and experimental evaluations of behavioral and neural predictors of use and cessation behaviors. Because of her expertise in youth tobacco use behaviors, she has contributed to the Surgeon General’s report on “Preventing Tobacco Use among Young People” and also serves as a member of the FDA’s Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee. Dr. Krishnan-Sarin is the Co-PI on the Yale Tobacco Centers Of Regulatory Science which is using a multidisciplinary approach to understand the role of flavors in tobacco and nicotine addiction.


Networking Subcommittee 

Nancy Jao, M.S. 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. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and  Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. 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 developing interventions to increase smoking cessation medication adherence among smokers living with HIV and investigating outcomes associated with the use of very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes among the general as well as vulnerable populations.


Melissa Mercincavage, Ph.D. 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

Meg E. Fluharty, MRes 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.




Network Operations Coordinator

Jesse D. Kosiba, M.S. is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Syracuse University working with Dr. Joseph Ditre. His research focuses on tobacco use and health behavior change among persons with chronic medical conditions.




New Members

Asti Jackson, Ph.D. is a NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry Division of Substance Abuse) at Yale School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Behavioral Pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2017. During her doctoral studies she investigated the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mouse models of nicotine dependence. Her current postdoctoral research focuses on adolescent e-cigarette use.




Carrie Rosario, DrPH, MPH, CHES focuses her research broadly to addressing tobacco-related health disparities as communities of color and low socioeconomic communities bear a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. She has three main goals which guide her work toward health equity; preventing tobacco use improving tobacco cessation outcomes, and fostering health literacy. In congruence with these goals, she specifically examines institutional, community, and policy-level influences on tobacco product usage patterns within young adults and college students. Currently, Dr. Rosario is investigating the relationship between health literacy dimensions, alternative tobacco product and poly use to determine how it can inform tailored health communication interventions and tobacco regulatory policies.


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.

Stephen J. Heishman, Ph.D

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