Faculty & Staff

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Director
Dr. Irwin Redlener
Irwin Redlener, MD

Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness;
Professor of Health Policy & Management at CUMC; Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, College of Physicians & Surgeons;
Co-Founder and President, Children’s Health Fund

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Dr. Irwin Redlener is the Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute, which works to understand and improve the nation’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. He is a nationally recognized expert on disaster preparedness policies, pandemic influenza, the threat of terrorism in the U.S., the impact and consequences of major natural disasters and related issues. Dr. Redlener is the author of Americans At Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared For Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now, published in 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and recently served as one of the ten members of the congressionally established National Commission on Children and Disasters.

Dr. Redlener is also President and Co-Founder, along with singer-songwriter Paul Simon, of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), a philanthropic initiative created to develop health care programs in some of the nation’s most medically underserved communities. CHF programs are now active in 25 urban and rural communities around the U.S. providing quality comprehensive medical care to more than 80,000 children each year. Dr. Redlener holds an M.D. degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Hunter College of the City University of New York and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Hofstra University.

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The Children's Health Fund

Faculty & Staff
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David Abramson, PhD MPH

Deputy Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness; Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at CUMC

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As Deputy Director and Director of Research at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Dr. Abramson’s areas of study include disaster recovery and resiliency, the social ecology of vulnerability, risk communication targeted at high-risk or elusive communities, and survey research on preparedness attitudes and behaviors.  He is the principal investigator of the longitudinal Gulf Coast Child and Family Health Study, an examination of need and recovery among 1,000+ randomly sampled displaced and impacted families in Louisiana and Mississippi (2006-2010), and is Co-Investigator of an  NIH study of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on children’s health.  Additionally, Dr. Abramson is leading a foundation-funded effort to identify pediatric need along the Gulf Coast. Other current or recent disaster-related research activities include studies of how US cities recover from disasters, evolving trends in disaster philanthropy, the public health response to Hurricane Irene, and a FEMA-funded “community tabletop” that focused on how well school systems can prepare for disasters. From 2007 – 2010, Dr. Abramson served as an Associate Editor of the AMA peer-reviewed journal, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. 

Prior to entering the field of public health in 1990, Dr. Abramson worked for a decade as a national magazine journalist, having written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, Outside, and the San Francisco Examiner, among other publications. A former paramedic, Abramson holds a doctorate in sociomedical sciences with a specialization in political science, and a master of public health degree, both from Columbia University. 

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Jaishree Beedasy, PhD

Research Associate

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Jaishree Beedasy is a Program Manager at NCDP. She has a master’s degree in Information Processing and holds a PhD in Spatial Decision Support Systems and GIS. She is working on projects studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster on the physical and mental health of the Gulf Coast residents with a special focus on children’s health. Prior to joining the NCDP she was a Research Associate Professor at the Institute of Rural Health, Idaho State University.

Her prior experience includes the management and evaluation of emergency preparedness training for healthcare workers and first responders under the Bioterrorism Training and Curriculum Development Program. She implemented a broad spectrum of learning modalities ranging from face-to-face to simulation-based training for emergency preparedness. She was the recipient of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Scholarship at the University of York and the Fulbright Research Scholarship at Pennsylvania State University. She co-designed Play2Train, an Interactive MultiUser Virtual Environment for experiential learning which received a Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge award by the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center.  

Maegan S. Berliner, MPH
Maegan S. Berliner, MPH

Project Manager

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Maegan Berliner graduated from the Boston University School of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Sciences and a certificate in Managing Complex Humanitarian Emergencies and Disasters. Ms. Berliner also served as a member of AmeriCorps NCCC where she was involved with community disaster recovery and community engagement projects in Louisiana and Mississippi post Hurricane Katrina. While serving in NCCC, she assumed leadership roles coordinating and conducting community needs assessments and recovery activities with local health agencies, government and non-profit agencies, while leveraging volunteer and community involvement in disaster recovery. Ms. Berliner is certified in HSEEP exercise and design and evaluation, ICS levels 100 and 200 and multiple Red Cross shelter and preparedness trainings.

Shwetha Bhaskar, MA
Shwetha Bhaskar, MA

Instructional Designer

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Shwetha Bhaskar designs, develops, and deploys training and distance learning related to emergency preparedness, planning, and response for the CDC-funded Columbia Regional Learning Center (CRLC), which caters to thousands of learners in the US and internationally.  She works closely with subject matter experts at NCDP and Columbia University at large.  Her areas of expertise include e-learning courseware, web and multimedia production, learning management systems, and social media.  Ms. Bhaskar holds a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Media from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a graduate degree in new media journalism, along with an undergraduate degree in communications.

Thomas Chandler, PhD
Thomas Chandler, PhD

Associate Research Scientist;
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

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Thomas Chandler is an Associate Research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Communications, Computing and Technology in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He focuses on the human impact of natural disasters, geographic and social networks, and distance learning. He has authored several book chapters and journal articles related to these themes. His work has appeared in The Journal of Social Studies Research, The National Council for Social Studies Bulletin, and in Interactive Learning Environments. As part of a grant with the CDC, he has been developing and evaluating online curricula pertaining to disaster response and the needs of vulnerable populations, with course content completed by more than 100,000 learners. He previously worked as a writer for the award winning Teaching the Levees curriculum guide.

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Teacher's College

Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson, MPS

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Children's Health Fund

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Dennis Johnson directs NCDP’s public policy, government affairs, and advocacy agendas and manages NCDP relationships with a broad spectrum of federal and state public officials, public and private sector entities and advocacy organizations. In addition to his role at NCDP, he is Executive Vice-President for Government Affairs at the Children’s Health Fund, a non-profit organization that initiates and supports innovative pediatric programs designed to meet the complex health care needs of medically underserved, economically disadvantaged children. 

Prior to his tenure at The Children’s Health Fund, Mr. Johnson was a senior program officer at the Fund for New York City Public Education and a research analyst at the Public Policy Institute of the Business Council of New York State. Mr. Johnson received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 and his Master’s Degree in Political Management from the Graduate School of Political Management at Baruch College in 1990.

Robert K. Kanter, MD
Robert K. Kanter, MD

Adjunct Senior Research Scientist;
Professor of Pediatrics, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine;
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, VA

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Dr. Kanter is Professor of Pediatrics & Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University. His research investigates the matching of children’s needs and services during responses and recovery from public health emergencies in order to better integrate pediatric disaster services into regional systems of care.

Recent work includes field studies in communities recovering from disasters, quantitative modeling studies, and analysis of publicly available data to assess potential hazards, disaster needs, and resources. He has served on preparedness policy advisory panels for the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the New York State Department of Health. 

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Shoko Kubotera

Research Assistant

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Shoko Kubotera graduated from Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University with a certificate in Molecular Epidemiology from the Environmental Health Sciences department.  She joins NCDP as a Research Assistant on the study assessing environmental health impacts of Hurricane Sandy, a NIOSH funded project working with Center for Disaster Medicine at New York Medical College and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Before NCDP, Shoko worked as an intern assisting in public health surveillance of foodborne illnesses with the Bureau of Communicable Disease at NYCDOHMH. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Binghamton University (SUNY).

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Alexis Merdjanoff, MA

Research Coordinator

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Alexis Merdjanoff is a Research Coordinator with NCDP.  She is currently a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Rutgers University with research interests in disasters, health, housing, and inequality.  Prior to joining the Center, she served as Managing Editor for the ASA Rose Book Series, taught undergraduate courses in sociology, and was a member of Superstorm Research Lab.  At NCDP, she is involved with the Gulf Coast Child and Family Health Study, which focuses on the social and health impacts of Hurricane Katrina; the Gulf Coast Population Impact Study, which examines the effects from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on children and their families; and, a mold mitigation study, which examines public mold remediation trainings post-Sandy.  Alexis received her BS in Sociology from New York University and completed her MA in Sociology at Rutgers University.

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Benita Panigrahi, MD MS

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

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Benita joins the NCDP as a postdoctoral research scientist, involved in a project investigating the complex health systems response to disasters. Her past disaster experience includes providing general assistance and medical relief in Hurricane Sandy, Haitian Earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina response and recovery efforts. She has a clinical background in general surgery, having completed two years of postgraduate training at the State University of New York Downstate/Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Benita’s research interests are focused on optimizing complex health systems to maximize delivery of quality healthcare in resource limited settings. She has worked as a care and treatment analyst for the Clinton Health Access Initiative and was named a Hubert Global Health Fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Botswana. Benita is an alumni of Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Biology and her MD from the VCU School of Medicine. She also holds a Master’s degree in Global Health Sciences from the University of California, San Francisco.

Lori Peek, PhD
Lori Peek, PhD

Adjunct Research Scientist

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Lori Peek is Adjunct Research Scientist at the NCDP. She is also Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University. She is currently involved in a participatory project on children’s recovery after the Joplin tornado, the Slave Lake wildfires, and the Colorado floods and wildfires; a five-year project on the potential mental and physical health effects of the BP Oil Spill on children; a study of risk perception and evacuation behavior in hurricane-prone communities along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic Coasts; a global examination of earthquake risk reduction activities; and a state-wide survey of disaster preparedness among childcare providers in Colorado. She is co-investigator on the Youth Creating Disaster Recovery (YCDR) project and co-founder and co-director of the SHOREline disaster recovery and youth empowerment program. Dr. Peek has published widely on the sociology of disasters and is author of Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11, co-author of Children of Katrina, and co-editor of Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora. Behind the Backlash received the Distinguished Book Award from the Midwest Sociological Society in 2012 and the Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity in 2013. In 2009, the American Sociological Association Section on Children and Youth honored Dr. Peek with its Early Career Award for Outstanding Scholarship.

Faculty Page

Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis, Colorado State University

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Elisaveta Petkova, DrPH MPH

Research Associate

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Elisaveta Petkova holds a doctorate in public health from Columbia University and a master of public health from the University of Minnesota, both in environmental health sciences. She has particular interest in environmental health policy and public health preparedness and response to natural disasters. She currently focuses on the health impacts of environmental exposures and climate change and has published several articles on these issues.

Prior to joining NCDP, she was part of the research team of the Columbia Climate and Health program where she carried out a multidisciplinary research on the population health impacts of air pollution and temperature extremes. She has also served as a consultant on a variety of initiatives related to environmental health risk assessment, communication and management.

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Rachael Piltch-Loeb

Practicum Student

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Rachael Piltch-Loeb is a masters candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. For the past two years she has worked on public health systems improvement initiatives specifically in the area of public health preparedness as a research assistant at Georgetown University working on a sub-project of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Preparedness Emergency Response Research Center. At NCDP, Rachael is supporting the Sandy Child and Family Health Study. 

Jeff Schlegelmilch
Jeff Schlegelmilch, MPH MBA

Managing Director for Strategic Planning and Operations

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Jeff Schlegelmilch is the Managing Director for Strategic Planning and Operations at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He oversees projects related to the practice of disaster preparedness and guides the development of strategic planning for the center. His areas of expertise includes public health preparedness including planning, training and exercising.

Topics of past work include developing inter-organizational processes for operational epidemiological modeling, evacuation and sheltering planning for people with medical dependencies, and adapting private sector business processes to support disaster response and recovery operations. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from UMASS Amherst in Health Policy and Management, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Quinnipiac University.

Jonathan Sury, MPH, CPH
Jonathan Sury, MPH CPH

Senior Research Coordinator

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Jonathan Sury is a Senior Project Coordinator and has a master’s degree in public health in Environmental Health Sciences with a concentration in Environment and Molecular Epidemiology from the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. He has a keen interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and their use in disaster preparedness and recovery.  Presently, he contributes to a variety of disaster-related research at NCDP, including evaluating the unanticipated consequences of pandemic flu, determining racially and ethnically appropriate emergency messaging, analyzing the long-term disaster resiliency and recovery issues in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, and the measurement and mapping of social vulnerability and the role of place and space in disaster recovery. 

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Jeb Weisman, PhD

Director of Strategic Technologies, Children's Health Fund

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Jeb Weisman has taught and practiced in the fields of anthropology and information systems for 30 years. In addition to his role at NCDP, he is CIO for the Children’s Health Fund, co-PI and Senior Researcher at the SmartLab Institute, University College, Dublin, Ireland, and holds an appointment at OCAD University, Canada.  Current research interests include Health Information Systems (HIS), communications infrastructure resiliency, HCI, and large data-set management. Dr. Weisman advises governments and NGOs in areas of HIS and security.  He has pioneered HIS and developed nationally recognized tools for health information management, analysis, and exchange. He holds a masters and doctorate in anthropology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, and an AB from Vassar College.

Administration
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Denise Dunlop

Administrative Coordinator

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Denise Dunlop is the Administrative Coordinator for The National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Ms. Dunlop began as the Administrative Assistant of the Pediatric Preparedness Program in May 2003. As Coordinator she is responsible for day-to-day financial accounting and office operations for the Center. Prior to joining Columbia, Ms. Dunlop was the Administrative Assistant/Office Manager for The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.

Christopher Porter
Christopher Porter

Administrative Director

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Christopher Porter is the Administrative Director at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He has over a decade of executive experience administrating faculty and managing staff. His previous administrative experience includes time at The New Yorker Magazine, Rutgers University, New York Law School, New York University, and Columbia University Medical Center.

He has studied at Rutgers College, New Brunswick and Teachers College, Columbia University.

Affiliated Faculty
Ronald Bayer, PhD

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Robert Bristow, MD

Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine
Department of Medicine at the College for Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University

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Robert Chen, PhD

Senior Research Scientist;
Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University

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Alwyn Cohall, MD

Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences, Clinical Population, Family Health and Clinical Pediatrics;
Director, Harlem Health Promotion Center;
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Arthur Cooper, MD

Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons;
Director of Trauma and Pediatric Surgical Services, Columbia University Medical Center Affiliation at Harlem Hospital

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George Deodatis, PhD

Santiago and Robertina Calatrava Family Professor
Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Columbia University

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Charles J. DiMaggio, PhD MPH PA

Associate Clinical Professor of Epidemiology;
Research Director, Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention;
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Amy Fairchild, PhD MPH

Professor Of Sociomedical Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Stephen E. Flynn, PhD MALD

Adjunct Research Scientist, National Center for Disaster Preparedness;
Founding Co-Director, George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, Northeastern University

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Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH

Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and Chair of Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Richard Garfield, DrPH MPH RN FAAN

Henrik H. Bendixen Professor of Clinical International Nursing
Columbia University School of Nursing

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Andrew L. Garrett, MD MPH

Adjunct Research Scientist, National Center for Disaster Preparedness;
Director of the National Disaster Medical System, ASPR, DHHS

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Robyn Gershon, DrPH MHS

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
University of California, San Francisco

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Christina Hoven, PhD

Associate Professor Of Clinical Epidemiology in Psychiatry
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Laurie A. Johnson, PhD AICP

Principal and Founder, Laurie Johnson Consulting | Research

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Arthur L. Lerner-Lam, PhD

Deputy Director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory;
Adjunct Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences;
Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

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Paula A. Madrid, PsyD

Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Specialist

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Stephen Morse, PhD MS

Professor of Clinical Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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David Rosner, PhD

Ronald H. Lauterstein Professor of Sociomedical Sciences;
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University;
Professor of History, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University

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