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.

Gregory Bratman, PhD

Assistant Professor of Nature, Health and Recreations
University of Washington

Gregory Bratman’s work takes place at the nexus of psychology, public health, and ecology, and is focused on investigating the ways in which the environment is associated with human well-being. He takes both empirical and theoretical approaches to understand how nature experience impacts human mental well-being, specifically cognitive function, mood, and emotion regulation, with an emphasis on people living in urban environments. He is also working to inform the ways that the mental health effects of nature can be incorporated into ecosystem service studies, and in efforts to address health inequities. Gregory is a Harvard JPB Environmental Health Fellow and the Doug Walker Endowed Professor.

Miguel Cainzos-Achirica, MD, MPH, PhD

Associate Director of Preventive Cardiology Research and Education
Department of Cardiology
Houston Methodist

Miguel Cainzos-Achirica, MD MPH PhD, is a cardiologist and cardiovascular epidemiologist trained in Barcelona (Spain) and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD). He is the Associate Director of Preventive Cardiology Research and Education in the Division of Cardiovascular Prevention at the Department of Cardiology, Houston Methodist. His research interests include cardiovascular risk assessment using cardiac imaging tools, prevention of cardiovascular disease with a focus on low-income groups and immigrants from low and middle-income countries, and cardiovascular epidemiology using large healthcare databases. Both his training in the US and research have been funded by competitive European and US grants from public and private organizations.

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.

Robert Jackson, MD, MACP

Professor of Clinical Medicine
C. Richard Stasney, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Performing Arts Medicine
Houston Methodist

Dr. Robert E. Jackson, M.D., M.A.C.P. was born in Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honors and Special Honors in Botany in 1975. He received his Masters in Botany and then attended UTMB Medical School in Galveston Texas where he was awarded the Medical Student Research Award in 1981. Dr. Jackson completed his internal medicine residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and has been in private practice at the Texas Medical Center for over 30 years. Dr. Jackson is a Clinical Professor of Medicine of the Weill Cornell Medical College’s Houston Methodist Hospital campus. Dr. Jackson is a Past-President of the Medical Staff of the Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH) and presently serves as Medical Director of the Methodist Physicians Alliance for Quality. He completed his term as Governor of the Texas Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP) Southern Region in 2015. Dr. Jackson is also Past-Chairman of the Physician and Health Care Distribution Committee of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) and currently serves on the TMA’s Council of Legislation. While serving as the 2015 Chair of the Harris County Medical Society’s (HCMS) Board of Medical Legislation Dr. Jackson was instrumental in obtaining $300 million dollars for Graduate Medical Education (GME) and $4 million dollars to restore statewide programs for mentoring medical students in Primary Care. Because of this initiative Houston Methodist has received several million dollars in GME funding. Dr. Jackson is currently on the Board of Directors of the HCMS and will be President in 2024. Dr. Jackson serves as Chairman of the Continuing Medical Education Committee at Houston Methodist Hospital. In 2016, at the request of Dr. Dick Stasney, he assumed the role of Acting Chairman of the Center for Performing Arts Medicine (CPAM) at Houston Methodist Hospital.

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.

Bita A. Kash, PhD, MBA, FACHE

Director, Center for Outcomes Research
Co-Director, Center for Health & Nature
Houston Methodist

Bita Kash is the Director of the Center for Outcomes Research at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. The Center for Outcomes Research is a joint center with Texas A&M University School of Public Health. Dr. Kash is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M University. She is also Co-Director of a seven-university National Science Foundation (NSF) funded industry-university cooperative research center, the Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), anchored at Texas A&M University. As co-director and PI of the NSF Center for Health Organization Transformation (CHOT), Dr. Kash conducts research to support the implementation of evidence-based transformational strategies within healthcare organizations. She also currently serves as Co-director for the Center for Health & Nature, a partnership between Houston Methodist, Texas A&M University and Texan by Nature. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and an active member of Academy Health, the Gerontological Society of America, and Academy of Management. Her areas of research include organizational capacity for change and transformation, evaluation of organizational innovations and technologies in the healthcare delivery system, and healthcare strategic planning and marketing. Her most recent research projects focus on development of strategy bundles to reduce hospital readmission rates, and access to appropriate care. She has published over 80 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Kash’s research in the areas of perioperative care coordination and the effective use of health information exchanges has resulted in several publications in top-tier health services and policy journals, featured in the NSF’s “Industry-Nominated Technology Breakthroughs of NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC)” 2016 report, as well as Politico and other media. Finally, as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Healthcare Management (JHM), Kash lead a peer-reviewed journal in the field of healthcare management that incorporates a practitioner application for every research article published from 2014-2017. Total subscriptions for the JHM reach over 43,000 and include healthcare executives, practitioners, researchers, and students.

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.

Chanam Lee, PhD, MLA

Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning
Coordinator, PhD Program in Urban and Regional Sciences
Director, Design Research for Active Living
Texas A&M University

Chanam Lee is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Coordinator of the PhD Program in Urban and Regional Sciences, and founding director of Design Research for Active Living (DrAL), at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Dr. Lee’s research focuses on linking the built environment with public health outcomes. Her expertise is in ‘active living research,’ a transdisciplinary area of research that deals with environmental and policy approaches toward promoting physical activity. Dr. Lee’s contributions to this relatively new area of scholarship is significant in: (a) developing methodological and theoretical foundations, (b) bringing attention to high-risk populations, and (c) translating research into tools/guides to facilitate evidence-based policy/design interventions. Dr. Lee has led 25 externally funded projects as the PI or Co-PI at TAMU, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute of Health, etc., totaling almost $15 million. Two of her on-going NIH R01 projects, titled Active Living Austin and Active El Paso, exemplify her current and continued focus on advancing environment-health research by establishing causality and addressing disparity. Dr. Lee (co)authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals/books in health and design/planning disciplines, and is among the most cited scholars in her field. The significance of her scholarship has been recognized by awards from the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture, the American Public Health Association, and American Society of Landscape Architects. Her work has also impacted professional practices in urban planning and landscape architecture, by informing new policy development and by providing evidence-based guides for multiple built and under-construction design projects in the US, Japan, and Nigeria. These projects range from hospital healing garden designs to large-scale health-oriented community planning projects.

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.

Jay Maddock, PhD, FAAHB

Co-Director, Center for Health & Nature
Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Texas A&M University

Dr. Jay Maddock is a Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and co-director of the Center for Health and Nature. Previously he served as Dean of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University and as Director and Chair of the University of Hawaii Public Health Program. His research has been featured in several national and international media outlets including The Today Show, Le Monde, the BBC, Eating Well, Prevention and Good Housekeeping and he has authored over 125 scientific articles and has served as principal investigator on over $18 million in extramural funding. He is internationally recognized for his research in health behavior and social ecological approaches to increasing physical activity. Dr. Maddock received his undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology, magna cum laude, from Syracuse University and his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Rhode Island.

Ann McNamara, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Visualization
Texas A&M University

Ann McNamara is an Associate Professor in the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University. Her expertise in computer graphics and human visual perception with a particular focus on mobile applications in Augmented and Virtual Reality. Her research focuses on novel approaches for optimizing an individual’s experience when creating, viewing, and interacting with virtual and augmented spaces. She is working with Renee Stubbins and Ashley Verzwyvelt at Houston Methodist on a pilot program funded by the Center of Health and Nature, to bring nature to oncology patients through Virtual Reality. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award titled “Advancing Interaction Paradigms in Mobile Augmented Reality using Eye Tracking,” where she investigates how mobile eye tracking, can be used to determine what objects in a visual scene a person is interested in, and thus might like to have annotated in their augmented reality view. In 2019, she was named one of 21 Presidential Impact Fellows at Texas A&M University.

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.

Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH

Jerold B. Katz Investigator, Academic Institute
Chief, Division of Cardiovascular Prevention and Wellness, Department of Cardiology
Co-Director, Center for Outcomes Research
Houston Methodist

Dr. Nasir received his MD from Pakistan, followed by a MPH at John Hopkins University. Dr. Nasir completed his internal medicine residency at Boston Medical Center and cardiology fellowship at Yale University. He also received postdoctoral research training at the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was recipient of NIH T-32 fellowship in cardiac imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital. He recently earned a Master’s degree in Health Economics and Policy Management from London School of Economics & Political Science. Dr. Nasir serves as Associate Editor for Circulation: Quality of Care and Outcomes, editorial board member for Circulation as well on the board of directors for American Society of Preventive Cardiology (ASPC). He was honored with the Johns Hopkins Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013, which acknowledges alumni who have typified Johns Hopkins tradition of excellence and brought credit to the University by their personal accomplishments, professional achievements, or humanitarian service Dr. Nasir has over 500 peer-reviewed articles which are published in top journals such as Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Archives of Internal Medicine, Circulation, Journal of American College of Cardiology and European Heart Journal. Dr. Nasir has lectured extensively throughout the world on coronary arthrosclerosis, cardiac imaging and prevention.

Garett Sansom, DrPH

Research Assistant Professor
School of Public Health
Texas A&M University

Dr. Garett Sansom is the Health and Environment Lead for the Institute for Sustainable Communities and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. His professional interests revolve around the human health implications of the environment, urban planning, and the impacts of natural and anthropogenic hazards. This research exemplifies the belief that investigators should be afforded the opportunity to achieve dual goals that extend scientific knowledge and build local capacity to enacting positive change within the communities they analyze. In addition to publishing widely in academic journals, his work also includes working papers, nature conservation pieces and he is a primary author on the Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan where he wrote the seventh chapter entitled The Value of Parks and Recreation in Physical, Mental and Social Well-Being.

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.

Courtney Suess, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Texas A&M University

Dr. Courtney Suess, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A & M University and the Tourism and Coastal Community Development Program at the Galveston campus. Dr. Suess’ research is at the intersection of experience design, tourism and hospitality management, community development, and built environments including their effects on human health and behavioral outcomes. Dr. Suess’ work involves collaborations with the College of Architecture’s Center for Health Systems Design and School of Public Health at Texas A&M University, and Agrilife Extension. She is also an Academic Scholar at Cornell University’s Institute for Healthy Futures. She has published over 35 journal articles and serves on the editorial board of the two leading tourism journals, Tourism Management and Journal of Travel Research. Notably, her research has recommended policy related to medical tourism, hotel and healthcare design, and traveler health. Dr. Suess has led grants as a principal investigator from the USDA, Building Hope Nevada, and Outside Las Vegas Foundation, recommending over $200 million in investment for nature tourism and recreation activities on public lands surrounding the Las Vegas metro area. She has been a co-investigator on a multi-year CDC Wellness Environments grant with faculty from Agrilife Extension.

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.