Alumni & Recent Graduates
Dr. Michelle G. Thompson, Ph.D., LMHC
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Office of the Vice Provost for Research/School of Social Policy & Practice | University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Michelle Thompson graduated with her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Florida International University in 2019. After her graduation, Dr. Thompson started a 3 year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Thompson’s research focuses on the well-being and (mental) health of sexual and gender minorities of color, examining the impact of racism, micro-aggressions on mental health disparities.
Dr. Thompson was a therapist and evaluator on CBRI’s EMPOWER study from 2005 to 2008, while she was completing her master’s degree in Psychology at Florida International University. She also completed her 2 years internship for state licensure under Dr. Staci Morris’ clinical supervision post graduation. From 2012 to 2018, Dr. Thompson returned to CBRI and was the SACRED study project coordinator during her graduate research assistantship while enrolled as a Ph.D. graduate student in Social Welfare at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University. With Dr. Eric Wagner as supervisor and Dr. Michelle Hospital on her committee, Dr. Thompson received her degree in 2019. During her time at CBRI, Dr. Thompson received training in Motivational Interviewing (MI), Community-Based Research practices and grantsmanship.
Dr. Thompson was interviewed on December 7, 2020, and shared her thoughts and memories of her experiences at CBRI.
In what ways has working with the CBRI-team shaped your professional path?
“First, I learned about community-based research, how to make meaningful connections, and the importance of giving back in creating relationships with the communities we are serving. I learned that when making a study’s promotional materials, make them unique to the needs of the participants and the community. If it’s in a school, we’ll donate pencils promoting our project. This is the unique type of training that people don’t often get in the classroom. Second, I learned about behavioral interventions and how to apply them to help the community. Third, CBRI has shaped everything I’ve done professionally… from the mentoring, guidance and support, the family environment as a protected space… these have all led to my growth. Even with all the pressures of research at an R1 Research Intensive Institution such as FIU, creating the familial environment and mentoring was important at CBRI, and important especially for minorities of color, and first-generation students like myself. I am not sure if I would have stayed in academia without this environment. Finally, that mentorship is so important, no matter what level someone comes into CBRI. They facilitate mentorship in a way that someone comes out stronger in research and in work ethic, all of which I am grateful to have received.”
What do you remember most from your time at FIU-CBRI:
“I remember the potlucks; those were the greatest moments. Celebrating birthdays, baby showers, promotions, or whatever was going on. Despite the pressures of deadlines and deliverables, CBRI made it a point to celebrate everything, which spoke to the cohesiveness. The family is important, it’s about creating family.”
John Bushman, Ph.D.
Dr. John Buschman recently earned his Ph.D. in Social Welfare from FIU’s Robert Stempel School of Public Health & Social Work under the direction of Dr. Wagner as his major professor. As part of his doctoral program Dr. Buschman served at our research center as both volunteer and graduate assistant, working on the ABLE2, Facilitating Self-Change for Adolescent Alcohol Problems and SUD Treatment Preferences & Perceptions Among Minority Populations research projects. Dr. Buschman’s own research and community engagement work is centered on food systems sustainability, community food insecurity and food recovery. He is particularly engaged in the rescue and redirection of leftover foods from hospitality operations to community shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens. Dr. Buschman currently teaches corporate social responsibility and international tourism at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism and serves on the boards of the Florida Food Policy Council and the Sustainability Events Network Florida/Caribbean.
Sofia Fernandez, Ph.D., MSW
Dr. Sofia Fernandez, Ph.D., MSW, is a clinically trained social worker with a doctorate in social welfare. She is currently a post-doctoral associate on FIU-RCMI’s Investigator Development Core, a program designed to provide early stage investigators with pilot grant and training opportunities to pursue research careers in the health sciences. Fernandez graduated from Florida State University with a Masters and Bachelors in Social Work. She later began her doctoral education at FIU where she worked on the “Miami-Dade Partnership for Preventing Health Risks among Young Adults” (Wagner-PI), a SAMHSA funded health promotional project that bridged together an academic-community partnership. As the project coordinator, Dr. Fernandez played an integral role in the development and implementation of large scale, environmental prevention strategies that aimed to reduce risky sex behaviors and substance abuse among Hispanic young adults in the South Florida community. Fernandez’s dissertation focused on empirically evaluating the use of social-media based communication efforts as a way to increase awareness and engagement in HIV testing services. Fernandez’s research has an emphasis on utilizing community-based approaches to addressing health disparities and empowering communities. She is particularly interested in involving priority populations in the development and implementation of interventions, especially when working with marginalized and at risk young adult groups.
Thomas Guerra, M.S.
Thomas Guerra, M.S., is a recent graduate of Florida International University (FIU) with a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. He also received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from FIU in 2015. During his time as a student, he founded Panthers for Recovery, a student organization dedicated to helping students in recovery. For his efforts with Panthers for Recovery, he received a Shining Star award from FIU Student Affairs and was recognized as a Worlds Ahead Graduate during his recent graduation. Thomas divides his time between South Miami Recovery and volunteering at FIU, helping to lead the transition of Panthers for Recovery into a Collegiate Recovery Program. Thomas’ favorite job, though, is being a father to his kids, Anthony, 2, and Anabella, 5. His personal recovery has allowed him to be present for his family and help others do the same Worlds Ahead: https://commencement.fiu.edu/day-of-ceremony/worlds-ahead-graduates/past-worlds-ahead-graduates/people/summer-18/guerra.html
Lynn Hernández, Ph.D.
Dr. Lynn Hernández received her undergraduate at Florida International University. In addition, she received her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology at FIU in 2007. As a doctoral student, Dr. Lynn Hernández worked at FIU-CBRI between 2004 and 2007 and performed tasks in the role of evaluation specialist on various community-intervention studies. Among other responsibilities, she received training as a therapist/brief interventionist. After graduating in 2007, Dr. Lynn Hernández accepted a postdoctoral position at Brown University where her research focuses on health disparities and culturally-adapted behavioral interventions for adolescents of color. Dr. Hernández was hired as Assistant Professor at the Brown University Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences in 2009 and at the Brown University Medical School Department of Psychiatry in 2013. In addition, Dr. Hernández holds the position of Director of University Inclusion Programs since 2016.
Dr. Hernández was featured in our Alumni Spotlight, please see here for the interview.
Ana María Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Dr. Ana María Rodríguez recently earned her Ph.D. in Community Research and Action from Binghamton University (SUNY) in Binghamton, NY. She is currently a post-doctoral associate working with Dr. Michael Anastario in the department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) at FIU. She received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Florida International University (FIU) and her Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University. She has clinical and research experience in the areas of adolescent substance abuse and the delivery of family-based and school-based interventions. She served as a Research Coordinator at FIU’s Community-Based Research Institute (CBRI). Dr. Rodríguez coordinated the evaluation of Dranoff’s Piano Slam Project with the CBRI. Her research interest broadly focuses on adolescent substance use and positive youth development, with a particular emphasis on adolescents from underserved minority communities.
Julianna Sanjuan, MSW
Julianna Sanjuan, MSW, was a part of the FIU’s Community Based Research Institute (CBRI) team for almost 5 years. Throughout her time at FIU-CBRI, she coordinated various research projects: 1) teaching and examining yoga as an adjunctive treatment for teens aged 12-17 receiving concurrent outpatient mental health treatment; 2) examining the benefits of equine therapy on foster children in Broward County; 3) teaching and examining the psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness and mind body awareness strategies with Miami-Dade high school students; and 4) assessing and evaluating the current FIU BHWET Fellowship Program.
Julianna is currently the Program Manager at Gilda’s Club South Florida, where she is working towards her clinical social work license. Gilda’s Club is a nonprofit, dedicated to providing free programs for men, women, and children, as well as their families and friends who have been impacted by cancer.
Meenal Sawant, BAMS, MPH, Ph.D.
Dr. Meenal Sawant, BAMS, MPH, Ph.D., is a clinically trained Ayurvedic Medicine professional with a doctorate in social welfare from Florida International University (FIU). In 2010, Dr. Sawant graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center, Dallas with a Master’s in Public Health. As a master’s as well as doctoral student, Dr. Sawant has worked with a team of expert researchers from public health, psychology, and medical professions studying substance abuse problems among adolescent & young adults. While getting her doctoral degree at FIU, she worked at the community-based research institute (FIU-CBRI) on a SAMHSA funded project conducted in partnership with the adolescent clinic at Miami Children’s hospital (PI- Eric Wagner, Ph.D.). The goal of this project was to test the effectiveness of alcohol prevention text messages in reducing risky behaviors among adolescent substance users. As the project coordinator, Dr. Sawant played an integral role in the implementation of this intervention, analyzing the obtained data and reporting results. Data analyses of large data sets using different statistical software (EX: SPSS & MPLUS) and state-of-the-art analysis techniques such as Structural Equation Modelling (i.e. SEM) is one of the strengths of Dr. Sawant. For her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Sawant empirically evaluated the effectiveness of a community-based de-addiction program, “camp treatment”, among adult alcohol users residing in rural areas of India. Using her data analysis skills, she analyzed data obtained from a de-addiction treatment center in Chennai, South India. Dr. Sawant is specifically interested in developing, implementing and testing the effectiveness of community-based alcohol prevention programs targeted towards adult alcohol users residing in low-income and limited resources areas in India. Worlds Ahead: https://commencement.fiu.edu/day-of-ceremony/worlds-ahead-graduates/past-worlds-ahead-graduates/people/fall-17/meenal-sawant.html
Christine "Chrissy" Spadola, Ph.D., LMHC
Dr. Christine “Chrissy” Spadola graduated with her Ph.D. in social welfare from Florida International University in 2015. After graduation, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard Medical School. Her work was recently featured by Harvard University’s Clinical and Translational Science Center. Dr. Spadola is currently an Assistant Professor in the Sandler School of Social Work at Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Spadola was a graduate assistant at CBRI from 2013-2015, and was a postdoctoral research fellow at CBRI from 2015-2016. Her dissertation, completed under the direction of Dr. Eric Wagner, explored reasons surrounding an increase in among racially/ethnically diverse young adults. During her time at FIU, Dr. Spadola worked as a CBRI project coordinator on the Ware Foundation-funded study “FIU Yoga Teens.”
Dr. Spadola was featured in our Alumni Spotlight, please see here for the interview.