Augusta University is honored to attract a cohort of outstanding individuals to the Applied Health Sciences PhD program. We are committed to provide an environment of academic excellence to help these high-achievers to fulfill their potential in becoming accomplished scholars. These are the next generation of intellects who will make significant contributions to the advancement of discovery, dissemination, and application of new knowledge in the health sciences.


Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Gianluca De Leo


Raphael is a pharmacist at CVSHealth


I am a board-certified Pharmacist with a fierce passion to employ digital technology with pharmaceutical formulations to deliver high quality treatment outcomes for my patients. To pursue this dream, I enrolled in the Augusta University Applied Health Sciences Doctoral Program to focus in research health and practice outcomes using everyday digital technology.


I received my master’s degree in health outcomes management from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and my B. Pharm degree from the University of Jos, Nigeria where I was the recipient of the top graduating pharmacist of my class.


Prior to immigrating to the United States, I was a Product (Brand) Manager for Roche prescription products- Rocephin and the benzodiazepines in the Roche affiliate, Swiss Pharma ltd -SWIPHA, one of the top leaders in Nigeria’s pharma industry. During my tenure, I achieved multiple milestones including country generic pipeline development for Ocefix® (Cefixime) as well as brand swap for the anti-inflammatory Relev®. I was recognized as the outstanding medical representative and product champion for antiretroviral and anti-infective medicines.


Currently, I am board registered in Georgia and the Carolinas, and I have been working as a pharmacist with CVS Health for the past 5 years. A member of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomic and Outcomes Research (ISPOR), I also volunteered for the Partnership for Health, a non-profit in Lowndes County Georgia involved in improving health access to the non-insured.


I now live in Augusta, Georgia with my wife Joy and our children with who we enjoy scouting and adventures in the outdoors. My deep desire is to pursue continuous self-improvement, gain, share deeper research insights and translate into health care


Angela Allen

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Pavani Rangachari


Angela is Director of Healthcare Analytics at Augusta University Health | AU


This is what I've always wanted to do!


Benjamin Ansa, PhD, MD, MSCR, CPH

Graduated Spring 2022

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Steven Coughlin


Dr Ansa is Assistant Professor at the

Institute of Public & Preventive Health at Augusta University. He was a Senior Research Associate during his PhD training.


I am a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health (IPPH) at Augusta University.  I changed jobs from Morehouse School of Medicine and moved to Augusta University because of the job opportunity offered at IPPH. My hobbies include traveling, reading, cooking and music. I love meeting people from diverse ethnic groups, and learning about their cultures.

My background is in Medicine, Clinical Research and Public Health. I received my medical education (MBBS) from the University of Nigeria, and my Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) from Morehouse School of Medicine. I also have my certification in Public Health (CPH). I am a member of the American College of Epidemiology (ACE), American Public Health Association (APHA), the Georgia Public Health Association (GPHA).


My research interests include Health outcomes Research, Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, and Veterans Health. Some of my research work include survival outcomes among patients with cancers of digestive organs (e.g., pancreatic and colorectal cancers), breast cancer and rare cancers such as paranasal sinus cancers. My work also involves studies related to lifestyle behaviors and risk factors for chronic diseases. ‘Big data’ analyses and robust statistical models are utilized for the majority of my work.

I am an author of several published peer-reviewed articles, and a contributor to a book. I am also a member on the editorial board of some scientific journals and a reviewer for several high impact scientific journals.

Becoming an expert in Health Outcomes Research, and pursuing a career in Academic Medicine are part of my career goals. I desire to learn current and advance methods in the science and practice of healthcare in line with the vision of the PhD program in AHS..


Shafisha Bamfield-Cummings

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Diagnostics
Advisor: Dr. Jeane Silva


Shafisha is Cytogenic Technologist at

Augusta University Health | AU


I have a bachelor's degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences from Augusta University. I am a Board-Certified Clinical Laboratory Scientist. I currently work in Augusta Medical Center's Cytogenetic Department. I have always wanted to be a scientist and tackle healthcare problems by discovering, spreading, and implementing new revolutionary information. I am a member of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Medical Technologist, and the Caribbean Association of Medical Technologists.


The enthralling nature of science language has always sparked my curiosity. So, after getting an Associate Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science/Microbiology from the University of Guyana in 2000, I became a Clinical Laboratory Scientist. Working at the Guyana National Blood Transfusion Service Infectious department increased my knowledge about the versatility of viruses and infectious diseases. This degree provided me with over ten years of biochemical analysis of blood and bodily fluids for different surface markers. Some of these markers include ABO grouping, Compatibility testing, Blood donor collection, Venereal Disease Research Laboratory test, Elisa for Human Lymphocytic Viruses, Human Immunodeficiency Viruses, and Hepatitis. In 2003, I began working as a multi-disciplinary senior medical technician in clinical chemistry, hematology, blood banking, microbiology, parasitology, serology, virology, immunology, and infectious diseases at the Ministry of Health Pathology Laboratory in St. George, Grenada.


I have received several honors and awards throughout my career. In 2016, I received the "Outstanding student award- Who's Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges and the "University of Alabama Recipient of Super Scholar Transfer Scholarship Award." Also, in 2014, I was honored with the Phi Theta Kappa (lambda) honors student Award.


My research interest is in the area of multiple myeloma. With this in mind, I chose to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Health Science in Diagnostic Sciences, allowing me to enhance my knowledge and find definitive answers that will help me give back to society.


Giti Bayhagh

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Diagnostics
Advisor: Dr. Jeane Silva


Giti is Associate Professor at the Department of Undergraduate Health Professions | AU


I am a board-certified Medial Laboratory Scientist and member of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) and American Society of Clinical Pathologist (ASCP). I also have been actively participating at the ASCLS Georgia Chapter meetings for the past 5 years to support my profession.


I received my Associate degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences from Iran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran; my bachelors of Science in Microbiology from Tehran Azad University; and my Masters of Health Sciences in Clinical Laboratory Science from Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University). I had the privilege to work at the National Iranian Oil Company Hospital core laboratory as a Medical Technologist, Clinical Coordinator, and Microbiology lab supervisor for 14 years prior to my immigration to United States.


Upon my graduation from Augusta University in 2011, I began working for Genova Molecular Biology and Immunology Laboratory in Duluth, GA. In 2013, I was honored to be appointed as an Assistant Professor for Clinical Laboratory program in Augusta University and was teaching CLS distance students with all their lab courses including Hematology, Immunology, Immunohematology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Diagnosis at the Lawrenceville Mobile Lab. I now serve the Department of Undergraduate Health Professions as an Associate Professor and enjoy teaching.


I have been a major advisor for Master of Health Science in Clinical Laboratory Science graduate students and mentored them in the development and presentation of their poster research projects at Graduate Research Day in Augusta University. The outcome of the students’ research projects promised to improve the Clinical Laboratory Science Profession.


I am grateful for the opportunity to be in this PhD program and am eager to expand my knowledge in research through the program.


Amanda Behr, MA, CCA, CMI, FAMI

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. A.j. Kleinheksel


Amanda is Associate Professor at the 

Department of Medical Illustration | AU


I am a board certified Medical Illustrator and Certified Clinical Anaplastologist. I serve the Department of Medical Illustration as Associate Professor and work clinically as an anaplastologist at Dental College of Georgia’s Anaplastology Clinic.


I have a degree in Biological and Medical Illustration from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. I  completed internships in anaplastology at the Johns Hopkins Facial Prosthetics Clinic and Prosthetics at Graphica Medica. I am the only Certified Medial Illustrator and Certified Clinical Anaplastologist in the United States (and technically the world). Prior to joining AU, I served as Director of Medical Illustration for Quality Medical Publishing, Inc (QMP) for over 8 years. I have experience and expertise in business practices and print industry standards.


I am a member of the International Anaplastology Association, and served as President from 2014-2016. I am a board member of the Board for Certification in Clinical Anaplastology where she serves as Treasurer. I received numerous awards for my work as an illustrator, animator and art director including eight awards from the Association of Medical Illustrators. In 2017 and 2018, I received the Members’ choice award for New Media for my animation work. In addition, I have more than 65 publications to my credit.


My PhD research will focus on validation of surgical simulation models.  I created the first hollow bladder simulation model for cystotomy repair and cystoscope simulation.  That model will be further refined and validated through my research training at AU.   


My research and teaching interests include:

  • Integration of 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies in medicine:
  • Use of DICOM data and 3D printing to create custom surgical implants and custom medical models for surgical planning and education.
  • Use of 3D Design, 3D scanning and 3D printing in Anaplastology and other medical specialties such as OT and PT or education and patient treatment.
  • Use of serious games and simulation for medical education.
  • Role of Anaplastologist in facial or limb transplant teams
  • Visual standards for patient education materials


Kendra Bufkin

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Diagnostics
Advisor: Dr. Jeane Silva


Kendra is Medical Laboratory Scientist at

Augusta University Health | AU


I am an American Society for Clinical Pathologist (ASCP) certified Clinical Laboratory Scientist. I work as a Clinical laboratory scientist in the hematology department at Augusta University Medical Center.


I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Winthrop University, Master of Science in Biochemistry from Virginia Tech, and Master of Health Science in Clinical Laboratory Science from Augusta University. I was able to complete an internship in Biomedical and Imaging at the University of Notre Dame and guest lectured as a part of Winthrop's Initiative for STEM Educators.


I have authored and co-authored several scientific articles and have received several awards. In 2017, I placed third at the Southeast Enzyme Conference poster presentation for my research on the hydroxamate formation in siderophore albachelin. In 2020, I was awarded the Dr. Walter L. Shepeard Achievement Award from the Clinical Laboratory Science Department at Augusta University.


I am also a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. My area of interest is in interprofessional research primarily focus on clinical diagnostic. In obtaining my Ph.D., I hope to become a qualified expert in diagnostics science.


Wendy Burnett

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Andrew Balas


Wendy is Instructor of Anatomy and Physiology at Aiken Technical College


My deepest passion is to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals, which has inspired me to advance my own education. Hence, I am currently enrolled in the Augusta University’s Applied Health Sciences program to become a scientist in Health Outcomes with an emphasis on educational innovation and curriculum development.


With a bachelor’s degree in biology from Erskine College, I began my career as a certified Cytogenetic Technologist specializing in blood, bone marrow, and tumor cytogenetics. While working at the Mt. Sinai Tumor Cytogenetics Laboratory, I had the privilege of writing 7 articles with Dr. Vesna Najfeld. Following which, I completed my master’s degree from East Carolina University. After several years of working and going to school, I became a stay-at-home mom to raise my 4 children. I enjoyed homeschooling my children and taking them to all of their extracurricular activities. At that point, my life took an unfortunate turn. After 23 years of marriage, I suddenly found myself raising four children alone. This changed my life’s course and my career plans. Fortunately, I found a position as a medical assistant at a women’s medical center and now work as the clinical supervisor. Simultaneously, I am teaching anatomy and physiology as an adjunct instructor at Aiken Technical College. It is here I found my calling to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals. Ultimately, my goal is to earn my Ph.D. to be qualified to teach college-level asynchronously.


My secondary dream is to travel shortly after completing the Ph.D. program since I was raised in a family that traveled extensively. Hence, when time permits, I am renovating my 1978 Airstream, Silver Lining. I cannot wait until the day I graduate to set sail in my Airstream.


Amy Gates, PhD, RD, CSP, LD

Graduated Summer 2020

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Gianluca De Leo


Amy is Medical Scientific Laison at Mead Johnson Nutrition. She was previously Neonatal Dietitian at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at AU during her PhD training.


I am an Instructor at the AU School of Medicine and a Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Department of Nutrition. I am a Clinical Preceptor for the Augusta (Georgia) Area Dietetic Internship and serve as Preceptor and Co-Director of the Augusta University Neonatal Nutrition Fellowship. I am employed as a Neonatal Dietitian at the AU's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I am a Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition. I have served on the AU Nutrition Committee as well as the Perinatal Centers Surveillance Clinics Committee in Macon, Georgia. I am certified in Childhood, Adolescent, and Adult Weight Management by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.


Since 1999 I have worked in the level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. I am the director of the AU Human Milk Lab. My research interests include the safety of powdered infant formula, human milk and the preterm infant, and feeding strategies for neonates with oral-motor dysfunction. I have presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) as well as other international, local, state, and regional meetings. I also frequently speak to school-aged children on nutrition topics.


I am a member of the ADA, ASPEN, and other professional organizations. I authored the Augusta University Neonatal Nutrition Handbook, which is revised yearly, and am the co-author of a book chapter titled Trace Elements, Enteral and Parenteral in Nutrition for the Premature Infant.


I earned my bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, and did my internship in Clinical Dietetics with the Augusta (Georgia) Area Dietetic Internship.


Jason Hughes, PhD, MS, OTR/L, CWCE

Graduated Fall 2018

Concentration: Rehabilitation Science
Advisor: Dr. Leigh Lehman


Dr. Jason Hughes is Assistant Professor and director of the Occupational Therapy program at Lincoln Memorial University. He was previously Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at AU during his PhD training.



I was Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Augusta University (AU).  I taught content related to kinesiology and adult intervention.  Before coming to AU I worked as an occupational therapist for the Department of Defense.  I earned my Masters from Milligan College, located in Johnson City, TN.


My dissertation research focused on identifying the best predictors for high functional recovery based on variables such as, age, gender, comorbidities, duration of symptoms, and surgical history. The project used the Rasch Analysis to identify item-level characteristics of the Elbow, Wrist and Hand Computer Adaptive Test to create key forms that will better guide clinicians in goal setting and treatment planning. My hopes is that the results of this project will be applicable in the clinic setting, allowing clinicians to provide more effective treatment to their clients.


In my spare time, I enjoy participating in Ironman triathlons and mountain biking. I am thankful for the love and support of my wife and three children, as well as, the faculty and mentors of AU.


Stephanie Jones

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Jeane Silva


Stephanie is Sr. Client Services Manager | St. Jude Children's Research Hospital


I began my healthcare career in the Neonatal ICU at Northside Hospital, then accepted a position at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta as an ICU float nurse. I quickly found my home in the Pediatric Cardiac ICU; I learned how to be a better human caring for the critically ill and their families.  I now work as an executive consultant.  I am passionate about improving the way healthcare is delivered. I obtained an MBA in Healthcare Management in 2018.

I never imagined the career path ahead of me in consulting. I have implemented Epic and Cerner, a variety of ERPs, scheduling systems, and ancillary applications. The critical thinking skills that I honed at the bedside in the CICU have paved the way for my career progression where experience, organizational insight, technical innovation, and service line development are valued and sought-after skills.  Instead of impacting one or two patients per shift, hundreds of thousands of patients across the country have received safer care because of my work.
We need more clinicians in decision making roles in healthcare. We need more clinicians involved in research.  Large scale healthcare delivery models in our nation's future must begin at the intersection of clinical critical thinking, making scientific research actionable, innovating the approach to population health, and stewardship. This program will help me to prepare to be a voice to usher in those changes.


Stephanie Johnson, MHS, OTR/L

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Charlotte Chatto


Stephanie is Assistant Professor at the

Department of Occupational Therapy | AU


I am an Assistant Professor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for the Department of Occupational Therapy at AU. I enjoy teaching, specifically adult neurodegenerative disorders. My specialties include neurological and movement disorders. I practice in the ALS Clinic and Interdisciplinary Clinic for Movement Disorders. My research interests include ALS and quality of life. I earned a Master of Health Science in Occupational Therapy from the Medical College of Georgia in 2008 and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Shorter College in 2005.


Hari Kashyap, OTR, CLT

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Rehabilitation
Advisor: Dr. Jorges Cortes


Hari is Lymphedema Therapist at Augusta University Health | AU


I am a board-certified occupational therapist with advanced certification in lymphedema therapy. I work at Georgia Cancer Center (Augusta University Medical Center) in the rehabilitation services department.


I have two master’s degree: the first one is in occupational therapy from Mount Mary University (Milwaukee, WI) and the second one is from Brenau university (Gainesville, GA) in health administration. I received my bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland (U.K.) and diploma in occupational therapy from IPH, New Delhi, India.  


I am a member of Lymphology Association of North America (LANA) and a proud member of American Occupational Therapy Association.


I have been fortunate enough to study, travel, and work internationally acquiring rich cultural perspectives that I intend to utilize to broaden my research and to help my students understand the concept of culturally appropriate care that is meaningful to our clients. By working in different healthcare systems, I have also gained purposeful insights into the complexities associated with socialized medicine versus privately funded healthcare system and how they may influence cost effectiveness and care outcomes of the clinical services provided.


To further grow professionally, I have also pursued various specialized certifications such as in Yoga Therapy and Lymphedema Therapy. Yoga training has helped me achieve a heathy and relatively stress-free lifestyle; as a result, I often incorporate the principles of alternative and complementary medicine into my occupational therapy treatment careplans to assist my cancer patients who are experiencing high level of stress and disruption in their lives.


To better serve the needs of my patients, I completed further specialized Lymphedema Therapy certifications (Basic and Advanced levels). I was awarded membership in the prestigious Lymphology Association of North America (LANA) organization that indicates the highest level of competency and dedication to advanced learning. It also signifies professional leadership, commitment to patients as well as clinical expertise in the field of Lymphedema Therapy and Oncology Rehabilitation.


Additionally, I have attained more than 25 years of healthcare industry experience as an occupational therapist across three continents, namely, Asia, Europe, and North America. I plan to utilize this diverse and rich patient-care experience in conducting research experiments to support the mission of Augusta University (AU). I am engaged in a mixed-methods research study in collaboration with the AU faculty. The purpose of this study is to identify and address the deficient compliance among patients diagnosed with Breast Cancer Related Lymphedema (BCRL) and its impact on their recovery.


My research interest lies in breast cancer related lymphedema. I wish to utilize my PhD training to conduct research in cancer rehabilitation field. 


Dominique Maldonado, MS

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Andrew Balas


Dominique is Research Associate at Augusta University Health | AU


My main research interest is to promote the well-being and health of people. From my research experience, I have developed a holistic approach to tackle research questions.  I have conducted research in Estuarine Ecology, Marine Biology, and Stem Cell research.  Also, I have obtained my MS in Health Care Ethics, giving me the opportunity to learn about Public Health, Health Law and Policy, and Bioethics, which all contribute to a better understanding of factors that influence overall public health as well as how to provide the best quality care for patients.  Through the holistic approach to research, I have developed the ability to recognize multiple factors (environmental, social, economic, policy, cultural) that impact overall human health.  My current research at a Ph.D. Applied Health Sciences student focuses on the quality of medical research.  From my perspective, improving the quality of medical research will promote the well-being of patients, because ground-breaking discoveries that help cure and treat health conditions and diseases originate from medical research.  


Tim McLane, ATC

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Diagnostics Science
Advisor: Dr. Raymond Chong


Tim is a Senior Athletic Trainer at the

Sports Medicine Center | AU


I was born in Jacksonville, FL., spent most of my life being raised there as well as a Navy brat with a brief stopover in Hawaii. However, we always were assigned back to Jax. I began college at CWRU in

Cleveland, Ohio playing baseball, but decided Cleveland was too cold and went to Gainesville and the University of Florida where I received my undergrad degree. I have an MBA from Webster University. Love music, sports, cooking and lots other things. Wait ... this is beginning to sound like a dating profile or something. Yes, humor too.


I have two great sons, one is 30 and assistant tennis Coach at USC- Upstate, the other son is 28 and a software engineer in Melbourne, Florida. 


I work at AU Health as Senior Athletic Trainer in the Sports Medicine Center and am assigned to Westminster HS as well as Columbia County Sheriff's Office SRT. When I heard about the PhD in Applied Health Sciences, it was an obvious choice for me to pursue in order to teach and do research at the collegiate level.


Hopefully, this doctoral training will enhance my abilities to conduct, critique, and produce quality research. It is challenging, enlightening, and you will get as much out of it as you put in it.


Nicole Moore, MS, RD, CNSC, LD

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Diagnostics Science
Advisor: Dr. Gianluca De Leo


Nicole is Assistant Professor & Director of the graduate Nutrition program at the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences | AU



I am Assistant Professor and director of the Nutrition program at Augusta University. I have been a clinical dietitian for 13 years working mostly inpatient and outpatient in academic medical facilities. I recently took a position here at AU teaching in the nutrition master's and dietetic internship program. I am excited to start this new phase of my career in education and expand my knowledge in research. My research interest is in clinical nutrition and nutrigenomics.


I recently passed the Advanced Practice Certification Exam in Clinical Nutrition. I am one of two Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the state of Georgia to have earned the specialization certification of Advanced Practice – RDN-AP. 


I am hoping to strengthen my research skills through this PhD program.


Patricia O'Neal, CNMT, NCT

Doctorate Status: Candidate

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Gregory Passmore


Patricia is Assistant Professor in the 

Nuclear Medicine Technology program | AU


I am a certified nuclear medicine technologist and I also have a specialty certification in nuclear cardiology. I graduated from the nuclear medicine program at Augusta University in 2013, and I worked in the nuclear cardiology department at University Hospital for six years. In 2019, I was hired as an Assistant Professor to teach courses for the nuclear medicine program at AU. I never would have guessed I would be an educator, but I love this new and challenging position.

I have always enjoyed school and learning. However, starting the Ph.D. program has made me even more passionate about having a growth mindset and pushing myself beyond what I ever thought was possible. While I might be light-years away from being any kind of brain expert, I have a new appreciation for and interest in neuroscience. I think all of the research linking our gut health to our brain health and function is absolutely fascinating. I also enjoy reading about the science behind mindfulness and meditation practices and the benefits associated with taking the time to focus your breathing and attention to become more present.

I am very grateful to be in this program and for the opportunity to learn more about the process of conducting proper research. I can’t wait to see what doors open as a result of my growth, education, and the relationships that are formed from this experience.


Lawrence Ramiscal, PhD, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, COMT, FAAOMPT

Graduated Fall 2021 with Distinction

Concentration: Rehabilitation Science
Advisor: Dr. Raymond Chong


Dr. Ramiscal is Chief Editor of the Asian Journal of Physical Therapy. He was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Physical Therapy at AU during his PhD training.


Having my undergrad from a foreign country, at first, made it difficult to advance career-wise. When I moved to the USA in 1999, my Bachelor's degree from the Philippines was enough to land me employment. But as the Physical Therapy profession evolved, particularly the transition to a doctoring profession and emergence of specialties, it was inevitable to go back to school and do more training to remain competitive, marketable and challenging all at the same time. So I started finding my own nitch as a young therapist back then. I ended up choosing the specialty of orthopedics.


In 2007, I earned my Board Certification in Orthopedics and Diplomate status through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities. I also subspecialized in the field of manual therapy and earned 3 different certifications. I continued my fellowship training in the same subspecialty and became a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists in 2009. During this time, it was also slowly getting more and more difficult to apply for reciprocity of licenses to another state because of the minimum degree requirement as the profession shifts to a doctorate program. Due to that, I went back to school and earned my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Chatham University in Pittsburgh in 2010. Now, I have decided that I am in the point of my career to be the mentor to future physical therapists. That's why I am teaching at the Augusta University as professor of orthopedics in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the School of Allied Health Sciences.


My research interest is in orthopedic physical therapy specifically shoulder biomechanics and movement impairments leading to shoulder pathologies. My long-term interest in this topic is to produce clinical research by conducting intervention studies particularly the effects of manual therapy as a treatment for shoulder dysfunctions. As a physical therapist, I specialize in muscles, bones, and joints with a particular interest in the shoulder joint. Specifically, on how it moves in relation to the other parts of the body, what might cause it to have an impaired movement, how it is related to developing shoulder problems (e.g. impingement or rotator cuff tears etc.), and of course, how to fix it particularly using manual therapy. As a clinician and manual therapist myself, I want to help my fellow physical therapists in the clinics by providing the best treatment for their patients that is backed by the best evidence. At the end of the day, the ultimate and only question that a therapist and patient would ask is “How are we going to fix the (patient’s) problem?” and this is what I want to provide them – an evidence-based solution.


Jessica Stewart, PhD, MPH

Graduated Fall 2020

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Steven Coughlin


Jessica is a post-doc at the Department of Population Health Sciences. She was previously Research Assistant at the Institute of Public & Preventive Health | AU


My research focus is centered around healthy lifestyle interventions that incorporate technology and classroom instructions to promote physical activity and healthy eating in adult at-risk populations. I have an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Political Science (McDaniel College) and a Master’s in Public Health (Augusta University). I am a veteran of the U.S. Army. I also also served in the U.S. Peace Corps as a rural health and sanitation volunteer in El Salvador. I am fluent in conversational Spanish. 


In my spare time, I participate in several community outreach initiatives of Augusta University concerning Hispanic populations in and around the CSRA.   


Christopher A. Truelove, Jr., MSCIN, RRT-NPS

Doctorate Status: Student

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Raymond Chong


Chris is Assistant Professor and

director of the Respiratory Therapy program at the Department of Undergraduate Studies | AU



Since 2009, I have worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units of various hospitals as a respiratory therapist, most recently having been Clinical Coordinator of the NICU at Doctor’s Hospital. I am a Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist and have always envisioned myself as furthering our profession through research and discovery. I received my Associates of Science in Respiratory Therapy from Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, GA; my Bachelors of Science in Respiratory Therapy from the Medical College of Georgia (now Augusta University) in Augusta, GA; and my Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from Western Governor’s University in Utah, studying knowledge decay in resuscitative sciences for my capstone. I am a Neonatal Resuscitation Program Instructor Mentor and Provider and have travelled nationally on Road Shows as a member of the national faculty for the American Academy of Pediatrics.


In 2016, I joined the faculty of the Augusta University Respiratory Therapy program as a clinical instructor, guiding students through their clinical rotations. In 2017, I became a part time instructor for the RT program, and in September of 2019, I accepted a full time Assistant Professor position within the program, taking over the responsibility of Director of Clinical Education.


I entered into this PhD program to learn how to advance knowledge in my field of practice, namely neonatal care. As I have progressed through this program, I have come to reignite my love for mathematics and have decided to focus my dissertation work on a joint idea between evaluating educational deficiencies in neonatal resuscitative science, as well as creating a mathematical model of this educational deficiency with the goal of producing a usable prediction method for neonatal survival following resuscitation. My work is supported by members of the College of Allied Health Science, Population Health Science, Medical College of Georgia, and Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Once I finished my PhD, I plan to continue to pursue the mathematical side of healthcare, combining my clinical expertise with my mathematical expertise, bridging the gap between two sciences that normally do not interact.


Marlo Vernon, PhD, MPH

Graduated Summer 2018

Concentration: Health Outcomes
Advisor: Dr. Andrew Balas


Dr. Marlo Vernon is Assistant Professor at Augusta University's Medical College of Georgia. She was a Research Analyst in the College of Allied Health Sciences at AU during her PhD training.



My background is in obesity prevention and maternal and child health - I am continuing my work with mothers and babies. I received my MPH from the University of South Carolina, in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior in 2003, and then spent 10 years working at the Georgia Prevention Institute at AU as a research coordinator. I then moved to the Institute of Public and Preventive Health for 2 years as a public health analyst, and worked in the College of Allied Health Sciences as a Research Analyst. I am also a member of the APHA, GPHA, and the AAAS.


My dissertation research focused on the measureable and modifiable factors that promote life sciences research in an academic environment. My years of working in health research gave me a unique insight and sincere desire to see the work done at the “bench,” translated effectively to the “bed”– both clinical and community practice. I received student awards at both the GPHA and the APHA annual meetings, as well as at the 2016 GABio Innovation Summit.


One thing I have learned is that I love statistics, something you could not have convinced my younger self of. I am grateful for the support of my family, including husband and five children (two born during the program!), my mentors, and the faculty and staff of the CAHS. 


Sunitha Zechariah, PhD, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, FAND

Graduated Fall 2021

Concentration: Health Outcomes

Advisor: Dr. Leigh Lehman


Sunitha is Director of the Dietetic Internship Program at Morrison Healthcare

I earned my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in nutrition, food service management, and dietetics in India. In 1996, I was awarded a scholarship by the Australian government to pursue my master's degree through research in food and nutrition at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales. 


I am registered dietitian with Morrison Healthcare (MHC) for the last 11 years, currently serving as the Director of Dietetic Internship. Previously, I worked as the Division Clinical Director overseeing the largest clinical division in MHC. Prior to that, I was the Clinical Nutrition Manager at University Hospital, Augusta, GA and Regional CNM overseeing facilities in GA and SC. Prior to moving to USA in 2004, I was a nutrition faculty at a technical university in Singapore. I received one of the five Model Science Teachers award.


I also serve as a Reviewer for Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetic (ACEND) and as the Professional Development Chair for the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND). I have also served in numerous capacities in the local Augusta District Dietetic Association (ADDA).


I earned my Bachelors and Masters in Nutrition & Dietetics in India. I was awarded a full scholarship from the Australian government for a three-year research based MS Honors program which I completed at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. I also completed course requirements at the University of Alabama.


I have extensive multinational experience working in countries including India, Australia and Singapore in varied food & nutrition related positions, before moving to USA in 2004.


As the new education model for registered dietitians is moving toward competency based education, my goal is to become an expert in the development and validation of competency based assessment tools to facilitate demonstration of mastery in dietitian competencies and performances. The PhD program in Applied Health Sciences would greatly benefit me in achieving this goal.  


I was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year for Georgia by the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Outstanding Dietitian of the Year award recognizes members who have made distinguished contributions to advancing the profession and have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service in the state of Georgia.