Research Assistants

Will Bowling

Will Bowling, BS, is a third year PhD student in Psychology at the University of Kentucky. Will graduated from Berea College with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in health and wellness. While at Berea, he became interested in health equity research because of his first-hand experience with health disparities while growing up in Appalachia. Will chose a doctoral program that allowed him to pursue his passion for both clinical psychology and health inequities in rural areas. He began working with faculty researching cancer survivorship in Appalachia, and the normalized health inequities he witnessed while growing up in eastern Kentucky attracted him to a position with CHET. Will’s personal and research experiences inspired him to develop the mentality of “If I don’t do anything, who will?” in order to research and address health outcomes in Appalachia. He hopes to contribute his unique perspective as a member of the LGBTQ+ community from Appalachia, and his experience with cancer survivorship research, to help ensure that CHET’s work with Appalachia is both beneficial and effective. Will believes that because CHET gives researchers from different backgrounds the opportunity to come together and conduct meaningful research within communities, CHET will advance the vision of health equity at UK and beyond.


Burton Burrows

Burton Burrows, MPH is a first year PhD student in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Kentucky. He graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. He then graduated from the Brody School of Medicine at ECU with a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. While a graduate student he worked as a research assistant in an Environmental Health lab. There he fostered his interest in rural health while working on developing solutions for improving drinking water in rural environments. After graduation he worked at a rural academic medical center where he helped first time healthcare researchers from a variety of disciplines develop and implement their research ideas. His hope for the future is to work alongside an interdisciplinary team to use data to develop solutions for the health issues that many rural communities face. 


Madeline Dunfee

Madeline Dunfee, MPH, M.ED, is an MD/PhD student at the University of Kentucky, and is in the fifth year of her program to earn an MD and a PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Madeline graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and a focus on ecology and nutrition. Prior to matriculating to UK, Maddie taught middle school science in Dayton, OH as a part of a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, and earned an MPH from University of Cincinnati. Through her teaching position, Madeline saw the impacts of health disparities on the lives of her students and their families, leading her to pursue work on promoting health equity. Through her work with CHET, Madeline hopes to gain experience in conducting community-engaged health equity research, as well as use her knowledge of developing curriculum and facilitating educational programs to support CHET’s mission. Madeline believes that because CHET researchers not only develop and carry out research projects aimed at promoting equity, but also invest extensively in training the next generation of health equity researchers, CHET will advance the vision of health equity at UK and beyond and inspire the next generation to do the same. Her current research explores the influence of environmental context and social network structure on health behaviors and chronic disease.


Jimmy Robinson

Jimmy Robinson is a first year PhD student in Sociology at the University of Kentucky. Jimmy graduated from Centre College with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and a minor in Environmental Studies. Jimmy is an aspiring rural sociologist and has expanded his research focus to include both community development and the sociology of education within rural contexts. The numerous links between rural sociology and health equity research led him to pursue a position with CHET to explore the relationships between these two fields of study. Through his work with CHET, Jimmy hopes to gain experience in transdisciplinary research and work alongside colleagues that are conducting research in fields of study that he has yet to explore. He also hopes to contribute his own unique research background and interests in order to help maintain CHET’s transdisciplinary environment. 


Maria Rockett

Maria Rockett, MA, is a first year PhD student in Sociology at the University of Kentucky. Maria graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, where she focused on environmental justice issues such as the Flint water crisis. After graduating from Northern Michigan University, Maria  served in the AmeriCorps program, where she was inspired to her to earn her Master's of  Mental Health Counseling degree from the University of Cincinnati. Maria's interest in health equity began as an undergraduate student,  and her experience working in underserved communities as a mental health counselor allowed her to see how health equity affects entire layers of community. Through her work with CHET, Maria hopes to gain experience working with researchers from different fields and backgrounds that can help her learn about new aspects of health equity research and participate in community-based health equity research initiatives. Maria also hopes to contribute her community engagement experience to help to bridge the gap that often exists between research and issues that are most important to members of the community. 


Carina Zelaya

Carina M. Zelaya, M.A., is a fourth year PhD candidate in Health Communication at the University of Kentucky. She also received her BA and MA in Communication from the University of Kentucky. Carina moved to the United States from Honduras when she was 16, allowing her to see the differences in healthcare in the two populations. This inspired her to pursue health equity research in order to have the opportunity to address these health disparities that she has seen throughout her life. Her primary research interest is in health communication, specifically the intersection of interpersonal communication and mass media in health contexts. Her current and past research projects focus on health campaigns, message design, persuasion, and interpersonal communication. In the past, Carina has worked on projects focused on reducing the intake of smokeless tobacco products in rural areas, promoting the proper disposal of unused prescription medications in Appalachia, increasing colorectal cancer screening among Black women, and several projects focused on minority women’s sexual health. Through her work with CHET, Carina hopes to gain experience working with transdisciplinary research teams in order to discover new areas health equity research and gain exposure in areas she has yet to explore. She also hopes to bring her unique perspective as an international student and a health communication researcher to help those in other disciplines address health equity issues from a different point of view- one that focuses on the processes of how people think about, communicate, and engage in, health behaviors. Carina believes that because CHET’s passionate faculty focuses on collaborative, community-based action and research, CHET will help to advance the vision of health equity at Kentucky and beyond. Currently, Carina has nine publications, one book chapter, and several projects in progress. 

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