The Center for Health & Nature is privileged to have leading scientists as our collaborating Faculty Fellows.

Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, FAHA

University of Louisville

Aruni Bhatnagar, PhD, is a professor and distinguished university scholar in the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, a professor of medicine, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville since 1998. Bhatnagar is a distinguished university scholar and a fellow of the American Heart Association. His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes, and sepsis. Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology. His research is supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, including two program-projects.

Ohbet Cheon, PhD, MPA

Assistant Professor
David D. Reh School of Business
Clarkson University

Dr. Ohbet Cheon is an assistant professor at the David D. Reh School of Business, Clarkson University. Dr. Cheon mainly focuses on the Health Care Management MBA program.  Her research agenda primarily focuses on quality management, health disparities, and cost-effective policy interventions in healthcare services.  She has worked with multidisciplinary teams in wide-ranging areas from opioid stewardship to workplace wellness programs. Her papers have been featured in journals such as American Journal of Medical Quality, Population Health Management, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Public Management Review, American Review of Public Administration, and International Public Management Journal.

John Cooke, MD, PhD

Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter and Carole Walter Looke Presidential Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Disease Research
Houston Methodist

Dr. Cooke has 30 years of experience in fundamental and translational research in endothelial biology and vascular diseases, with a record of developing therapeutic molecules to address atherosclerosis, angiogenesis, and lymphangiogenesis, including 30 patents granted or pending, licensed to companies including Lumen, CoMentis and Vermillion. More recently, his lab has focused on endothelial regeneration and stem cell biology. They have refined small molecule based methodology to derive endothelial cells (ECs) from pluripotential cells or from fibroblasts (by transdifferentiation), and have demonstrated their therapeutic benefit in a pre-clinical model.

Yingling Fan, PhD

Urban and Regional Planning Program
Humphrey School of Public Affairs
University of Minnesota

Dr. Yingling Fan is a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Minnesota. Her research connects land use and transportation to public health and social equity. Her recent work focuses on transit corridor development, transportation happiness, and community-engaged transportation equity research. She is the Editor-in-Chief at the Journal of Transport and Land Use. She is co-founder and CEO of the Daynamica, Inc—providing new technology for measuring human behavior and emotional well-being.

D. Kirk Hamilton, PhD

Department of Architecture
Texas A&M University

Dr. Kirk Hamilton is a fellow and associate director of the Center for Health Systems & Design and professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, where his research area is the relationship of evidence-based design of health facilities and measurable organizational performance. He is also a Founding Principal Emeritus, WHR Architects, Houston and Dallas, TX. WHR is an internationally recognized firm that specializes in healthcare architecture. A board certified healthcare architect with 30 years of experience in hospital design, he was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows for his advocacy for excellence in architecture for health, innovations in design, for research, and his visions for the hospital of the future. His experience includes professional training in facilitation, graphic recording, conflict resolution and small group dynamics through the American Leadership Forum and a Master of Science in Organization Development at Pepperdine University.

Steven Hankey, PhD, MS

Affiliate Faculty
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Virginia Polytechnic and State University

A major societal and research question is how best to build healthy, clean cities. Dr. Hankey’s research and scholarship assesses how built and natural environments impact health with a focus on (1) planning for active travel (cycling and walking) and (2) reducing exposure to air pollution. As a faculty member at a land grant institution, he is dedicated to integrating his research agenda with teaching and outreach efforts, e.g., by collaborating with jurisdictions in Virginia to design active travel count programs and developing new courses on the societal benefits of active transportation. By necessity, his work spans disciplinary boundaries (i.e., urban planning, engineering, environmental health, and public policy) and prioritizes partners in practice. In his view, this collaborative approach is necessary to maximize the impact and translation of my research.

Perry Hystad, PhD

Assistant Professor
Oregon State University

Perry Hystad is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. He is the program director for the environmental health program and leads the Spatial Health Lab. His research focuses on connecting people to places to determine chronic disease risk factors and prevention opportunities. He is developing new methods to assess environmental exposures for large population-based health studies using new technologies and data science approaches. He has been principal investigator and co-investigator on grants that assess green space and built environment exposures, determine associations with health outcomes, and translate information into effective policy and prevention activities.

Peter James, ScD, MHS

Department of Medicine
Harvard Medical School

Dr. Peter James trained in environmental health and epidemiology. Dr. James has focused his research on estimating the influence of geographic contextual factors, including exposure to nature, the built environment, the food environment, air pollution, light pollution, noise, and socioeconomic factors, on health behaviors and chronic disease. He has almost a decade of experience working with large prospective cohort studies, including the Nurses’ Health Studies, the Framingham Heart Study, and the Southern Community Cohort Study, where he has aided in the creation of many geographic-based variables and linked them to health data. More recently, he is developing methodologies to assess real-time, high spatio-temporal resolution objective measures of location and behavior by linking smartphone-based global positioning systems (GPS) and wearable device accelerometry data to understand how contextual factors influence health behaviors.

Karla M. Kurrelmeyer, MD, FACC, FASE

Medical Director
DeBakey Cardiology Associates
Houston Methodist

Karla Kurrelmeyer is the medical director of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates and an associate professor of clinical cardiology at Houston Methodist. Dr. Kurrelmeyer´s research centers on the role of inflammatory cytokines on disease progression in heart failure. Dr. Kurrelmeyer began her research activities while still a cardiology fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine where she won the Best Basic Research Award in 1998. That same year, she was also the recipient of the American Heart Association Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award in Cardiovascular Science.

Zhipeng Lu, PhD, LEED AP BD+C

Associate Director, Center for Health Systems & Design
Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture
Texas A&M University

Dr. Zhipeng Lu is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, and the associate director of the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M University. Dr. Lu’s research examines the influence of physical environment on people’s health and behaviors. His research projects, funded by agencies such as NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Institutes of Architect, investigate design for older people, healthcare environment, healthy community and healthy city, design to promote active living, and building information modeling.  Dr. Lu teaches graduate and undergraduate courses that emphasize design for health.

Terri Menser, PhD, MBA

Center for Outcomes Research
Houston Methodist

Terri Menser is a scientist at the Center for Outcomes Research at Houston Methodist and an assistant member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Ohio State University in the Department of Family Medicine working on projects related to health information technology, patient engagement, implementation evaluation, and health disparities. She received her doctoral degree in Health Services Research, with an organizational focus, from Texas A&M University. During her studies, Terri worked as a Research Assistant for the NSF-funded Center for Health Organization Transformation, and later as a Research Associate to evaluate the implementation of primary care into mental health care settings through the Texas 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver Evaluation. Her current research examines surgical outcomes, burnout, patient portal use, and telemedicine.

Selina M. Stasi, DrPH

Instructional Assistant Professor
Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences
Texas A&M University

Selina M Stasi, DrPH is an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences. In this role, she is responsible for teaching courses to undergraduate students offered through Public Health Studies. She has over 8 years of experience advocating for or with community-based organizations within Los Angeles, CA, Miami, FL, Honolulu, HI, Pasadena, TX, and currently the Bryan/College Station area, TX. In addition to her work within academia and community outreach, she is a personal trainer, health, fitness, and CrossFit coach.

Renee Stubbins, PhD

Senior Oncology Dietitian
Houston Methodist

Renee Stubbins grew up in Houston, Texas and received her bachelor’s in science and her doctorate in Nutrition Biochemistry and Cancer Metabolism from the University of Texas at Austin. Renee is a senior oncology dietitian for Houston Methodist Cancer Center and an assistant member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. As a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Oncology Nutrition Practice group, Renee currently serves as the chair elect and future chair. Renee’s research interests include utilizing medical nutrition therapy throughout the cancer care process and using nature to address patient barriers (pain and anxiety) to improve patient’s quality of life.

Ashley Verzwyvelt, RN, OCN

Registered Nurse
Houston Methodist

Ashley Verzwyvelt is an oncology certified registered nurse with experience in both hematologic and oncologic conditions. Six of the last nine years working in the Outpatient Center of Houston Methodist were also spent as chairman of the People and Service committee, spearheading initiatives to maximize patient safety and streamline processes. She has juggled simultaneous roles as preceptor, charge nurse, and infusion nurse. In the last year, she created and piloted the clinical liaison position which has positively impacted the care of the oncology patients transitioning between the outpatient and inpatient settings by increasing treatment compliance, enhancing provider communication, increasing patient satisfaction, and minimizing length of stay and hospital readmission rates. As an educator, she teaches chemotherapy classes to patients/ families, provide medication inservices, and administers yearly chemotherapy administration competencies.

Susan Xu, PhD

Senior Biostatistician
Houston Methodist

Dr. Susan Xu is a senior biostatistician in the Center for Outcomes Research and Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Houston Methodist Research Institute. Her research specialties include clinical data analysis, survival data analysis, longitudinal data analysis, multivariate analysis, experimental design, and nonparametric statistical analysis. Her services provide broad analytical support, including consulting and advising researchers on study design, sample size and power calculations, statistical analysis plan, data analysis, and writing statistical section. She regularly collaborates with investigators and researchers in the preparation of data for scientific presentations and the writing and revision of research manuscripts and proposals.

Huey-Wen Yien, MD, PhD, EMBA

Chief Executive Officer
YongLin Healthcare Foundation
Taipei, Taiwan

Dr. Huey-Wen Yien received his PhD in Medicine from National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan and his EMBA from National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. He conducted post-doctoral research at Presbyterian Medical Center in Columbia, New York and was a visiting scholar at New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. His specialties include critical care medicine and anesthesiology. Dr. Yien was the chief of the surgical ICU at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, as well as, the deputy superintendent at Zhong Xing Branch of Taipei City Hospital. Currently, he is the CEO in YongLin Healthcare Foundation and the vice president at the Taiwan Society of Critical Care Medicine. He, as the project leader of National Taiwan University Cancer Center for more than ten years, is well experienced in hospital design.