The mission of the University of Arizona Center for Health Disparities Research (CHDR) is to conduct high quality, multidisciplinary research to better understand and alleviate health inequities faced by underserved and vulnerable populations in the American Southwest.
Our focus is on communities at greatest risk where the unequal burden of disease is due to race, ethnicity, gender, education, socioeconomic status, disability, phenotypic and genotypic characteristics, geographic location, sexual orientation, or cultural and religious beliefs. Our vision is to promote health equity through the advancement of empirically guided, sustainable programs and interventions that promote health through community engagement.
News & Events
Dr. Kelly Palmer is one of the recipients of the Innovations in Heathy Aging Seed Grant FundingRead Here
Dr. David Garcia Named to American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s National Board of DirectorsRead Here
Meet the Team
- David G Marrero, PhD – Director
Dr. Marrero, Center Director, is a distinguished research expert in diabetes prevention, treatment and education. His work focuses on strategies for promoting diabetes prevention, improving diabetes care practices used by primary care providers, and the use of technology to facilitate care and education. He has also conducted research on medication adherence, community health programs, and translational medicine. He served as the Director of the Diabetes Translational Research Center at Indiana University School of Medicine for 22 years where he was the J.O. Ritchey Endowed Chair in Endocrinology.
Dr. Marrero has published extensively with over 300 articles and has presented at numerous national and international conferences. He was twice awarded the Allene Von Son Award for Diabetes Patient Education Tools by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, served as an associate editor for Diabetes Care (1997-2002) and is the associate editor for Diabetes Forecast and Frontiers of Endocrinology. He was selected as the Outstanding Educator in Diabetes in 2008 by the American Diabetes Association and served as the national president for health care and education of the ADA in 2015. In 2006 he voted the Alumni of the Year from his alma Mater, the University of California, Irvine where he received a bachelor’s degree (1974), master’s degree (1978), and doctorate (1982) in Social Ecology.
- Kelly Palmer, PhD – Associate Director
Dr. Palmer is the Associate Director of the UAHS Center for Health Disparities Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Broadly, her research seeks to understand sociocultural influences of health behavior and to design and implement culturally informed interventions to achieve health equity for vulnerable and underserved populations. Her desire is to understand how to better engage these populations- particularly Black women in research, chronic disease screening, and cardiometabolic risk reduction interventions. Her work is centered on how experiences and perspectives impact cardiometabolic related health outcomes using community and asset-based approaches. She employs qualitative inquiry to solicit comprehensive personal accounts and contextual information from individuals that can help to improve interventions and health care delivery in populations experiencing disproportionate burden of cardiometabolic disease.
- Melanie Bell, PhD – Director of Biostatistics
Dr. Bell is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and the Head of the Biostatistics and Design core at the Center for Health Disparities Research, University of Arizona. Her research focus is statistical methods for handling missing data in individual and cluster randomized trials, and the design and analysis of studies using patient reported outcomes. She is currently engaged in collaborative research in the fields of health disparities, chronic disease prevention, tobacco cessation and psycho-oncology. She has over 170 peer reviewed papers including 40 that are methodological. She has served on several data and safety monitoring boards, research advisory committees and grant review sections. Dr Bell has mentored individuals ranging from undergraduates to post-docs and junior faculty, and has served on mentoring committees for successful K-awards. Dr. Bell earned her PhD in Biostatistics from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 2002, an MS in Mathematics in 1992 from Northern Arizona University, and an AB in Mathematics from Occidental College in Los Angeles, in 1990.
- David Garcia, PhD
Dr. Garcia is an Associate Professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. He has extensive experience in short and long-term intervention trials in the areas of physical activity, diet, and weight management. He received his training from leading institutions and mentors in the field. Since 2006, Dr. Garcia has worked on numerous funded research projects, including research funded by industry, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and foundations. This includes working as a lifestyle interventionist/exercise physiologist in several clinical trials with overweight and obese adults, morbidly obese adults (Class II and III obesity), and individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Since arriving at the University of Arizona, his research has focused on the development of gender and culturally-sensitive weight-loss interventions for Hispanic males. To support this effort, Dr. Garcia established “Nosotros Comprometidos a Su Salud -Committed to Your Health”, a program developed to support research through community service and partnering with underserved Tucson residents. Dr. Garcia is currently examining the burden of obesity-related disease and cancers, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and hepatocellular carcinoma, in Mexican-Origin adults.
- Karl Krupp, PhD
Dr. Krupp is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Public Health Practice & Translational Research in the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, Phoenix. He has been involved with public health in disadvantaged communities in the U.S. and India since 2002. His earliest work focused on childhood asthma among African Americans in San Francisco public housing. For the last 15 years, he has been working in India on the social determinants of health and non-communicable diseases in slum and rural populations. His research on HIV prevention, maternal health, primary and secondary prevention of cervical cancer, vaccine hesitancy, and cardiovascular disease has been documented in more than 80 peer-reviewed publications including AIDS, BMJ, Vaccine, International Journal of Cardiology, Journal of Medical Microbiology, BMC Infectious Disease, Journal of Adolescent Health, Preventive Medicine, and many others. Dr. Krupp holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Minnesota, a master’s in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at London University, and a Ph.D. in Public Health from Florida International University. Dr. Krupp has written more than fifty successful grants to the US National Institutes of Health, the US Environmental Protection Agency, multiple foundations in the US, Europe, and India for research in the US and India.
- Tze-Woei Tan, MD – Affiliate
Dr. Tan is a health service researcher and former Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Arizona. Dr. Tan has a long-standing interest in understanding the determinants of racial/ethnic disparities in leg amputation and is a core faculty for Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). He is the recipient of an NIDDK K23 Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Award which seeks to understand the disparities in limb salvage (i.e., amputation prevention) among Hispanics and Native Americans with diabetic foot ulcerations. His team is quantitatively and qualitatively studying the potential patient-level, provider-level, institutional, and health system factors underlying the disparate risk of amputation in vulnerable populations, with the long-term goals to create, implement, and evaluate culturally sensitive, evidence-based interventions to reduce leg amputation for the at-risk minority populations in the Southwest.
- John Ruiz, PhD
Dr. Ruiz is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona. Dr. Ruiz’s program of research focuses on psychosocial influences on health. His NIH-funded research examines relationships between individual level psychosocial factors, social behaviors, and cardiovascular and cancer diseases with an emphasis on biobehavioral mechanisms. In addition, Dr. Ruiz has recognized expertise in sociocultural aspects of racial/ethnic health disparities, particularly the epidemiological phenomenon referred to as the Hispanic Health Paradox. His work reflects a broad range of methodologies from laboratory to community-participatory research to population-level epidemiology. He is increasingly recognized for his efforts to advance health equity from local to national levels.
Dr. Ruiz is the current President of the Behavioral Medicine Research Council (BMRC) and is the incoming Editor-In-Chief of APA’s Health Psychology (2023-2028). He has active leadership roles in multiple professional societies including in the Society for Health Psychology, the American Psychosomatic Society, and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. Dr. Ruiz serves on the editorial boards of several journals (Journal of Latina/o Psychology, Health Psychology, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Behavioral Medicine), is an associate editor for 4 journals (PLOS One, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Journal of Research in Personality) including Senior Associate Editor of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, and has guest edited several special issues. Dr. Ruiz is also a leader in the push for health equity as Past Chair for APA’s Committee on Socioeconomic Status (CSES), member of the inaugural APA Health Equity Committee, and appointment to the 2021 APA Presidential Task Force on Health Equity for which he received a 2021 APA Presidential Citation. He is a permanent member of the NIH Behavioral Medicine Interventions and Outcomes (BMIO) study section, and he served on the external advisory board for NIH’s Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) effort. In 2022, Dr. Ruiz began a 4-year, federal appointment to serve on the 16-member, US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Dr. Ruiz is an elected fellow of the American Psychosomatic Society, Association of Psychological Science, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research.
At the University of Arizona, he is the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in the Department of Psychology, is a member of the Sarver Heart Center, UAHS Center for Health Disparities Research, Center on Aging, the Hispanic Center of Excellence, the BIO 5 Institute, and has multiple adjunct/affiliate appointments across campus.
- Melanie Hingle, PhD
Dr. Hingle is an Associate Professor, School of Nutritional Sciences and Wellness at the University of Arizona. Dr. Hingle is a nutrition scientist, public health researcher, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with experience and training in medical nutrition therapy, health promotion, behavioral sciences, and related research methodologies. Her work is conducted at the intersection of nutritional sciences research and public health practice, where I seek to understand predictors and consequences of behavioral risk factors associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes and apply this knowledge to the design and delivery of lifestyle behavior modification interventions for children and families at risk of diet-sensitive disease. Dr. Hingle is committed to interdisciplinary and team science, and her collaborations and work reflect this commitment. The overall goal of her research is the prevention of type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders, with an emphasis on youth and families. Three aims focus her research program activities: (1) understand predictors and correlates of the lifestyle behaviors associated with energy balance and diabetes risk, including diet and physical activity behavior; (2) develop and test new approaches to support participants in modifying lifestyle behaviors associated with diet-sensitive disease risk; and (3) integrate research findings with clinical and community practice, while identifying and addressing potential barriers that impede implementation at scale.
- Halimatou Alofè, PhD
Dr. Alaofè received the BSc degree in Biomedical Analysis from the University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin), and the Ph.D. and MSc degrees in International Nutrition from the University Laval (Canada). Since January 2016, she became an Assistant Professor at the Department of Health Promotion Sciences at the University of Arizona, US. Her focus has been on maternal, adolescent, and child nutrition, emphasizing dietary assessment and nutritional risk factors for malnutrition. Her research and publications have been multidisciplinary, including the relationship between diet and disease, ethnic differences in health outcomes, and the development of nutritional and lifestyle intervention programs to promote health. Dr. Alaofè has expertise in mixed methods research and its application for program development and evaluation. In particular, she evaluated culturally appropriate diet and lifestyle interventions for Indigenous and multi-ethnic populations. She was also the lead coordinator for SNAP-Farmers Market, which examined the effect of monetary incentives on healthier food choices amongst SNAP recipients. More recently, Dr. Alaofè conducted formative research to examine contextual factors that may influence adherence to recommendations of the Meta Salud Diabetes, a self-management intervention in Benin. As a consultant, Dr. Alaofè undertook the dietary analysis of Zambia's national food consumption survey and has made significant contributions to the interactions between agriculture and nutrition with a report to Feed the Future. She was also a Nutrition Research Advisor for USAID leaders on their Health Care Improvement (HCI) Project in Mali and was part of the ICF International team providing technical support to the Mali implementing partner.
- Melissa Flores, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dr. Flores grew up in Midland, Texas and was avidly curious about the natural and social world. Her undergraduate research experiences at The University of Texas, Austin and early community work in behavioral health spurred her interest in social dynamics and health. She continued her education at The University of Arizona where she graduated with a Ph.D. in Family Studies and Human Development and a formal minor in Biostatistics. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in The Department of Psychology at The University of Arizona working with Dr. John M. Ruiz. As a developmental scientist, she aims to understand both social and structural factors associated with the persistence of health disparities in Latina/o/x populations using a resilience-focused lens. She is interested in novel and advanced quantitative methods to model complex, social environments as they relate to cardiovascular disease. Dr. Flores is enthusiastic and committed to strengthening the academic pipeline for diverse scholars. She is currently an active mentor across several academic domains spanning middle (6th-10th grade) to graduate school.
- Rebecca Crocker, PhD – Affiliate
Dr. Crocker is an applied anthropologist, folklorist, and engaged community advocate and formally served as a postdoctoral fellow in the UAHS Center for Health Disparities Research at the University of Arizona. She is currently working as a Scientist - Cultural Anthropologist at Varian Bio. Dr. Crocker has studied Latin American immigration for the past 25 years and worked hands-on in immigrant communities in California, Arizona, and North Carolina as a public-school teacher, violence prevention organizer, and certified language interpreter. She takes a multi-disciplinary and action-oriented approach to studying the relationship between migration and health amongst Mexican immigrants, with a focus on contextual factors that influence the heavy burden of chronic disease and related complications affecting Latino communities, community levels sources of stress and resilience, the emotional experience of migration, traditional healing modalities, and binational barriers to medical care access.
- Abidemi Okechukwu, MBBS – Graduate Research Associate
Dr. Okechukwu is a Doctor of Public Health Candidate in the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Concentration and Epidemiology minor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. She is public health physician with extensive experience in designing and managing programs that tackle malaria and diseases that affect MCH populations. Her current research focuses on evaluating policies and interventions that reduce maternal morbidity and mortality with a focus on vulnerable populations including women who reside in rural communities and women of minority ethnic groups.
- Griselda Ruiz-Braun – Senior Program Manager
Griselda is the Senior Program Manager of the UAHS Center for Health Disparities Research. She is a first-generation Mexican descendant who has extensive experience in grant management, pre/post-award coordination, budget management, and community-based participatory research. Griselda has held several positions in different departments with the University of Arizona, including the Coordinator of a large NIH Center grant focusing on health disparities at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, the Executive Assistant of the Provost at the Office of Academic Affairs and Provost, and a Research Administrator for UAHS Research Administration. Prior to joining the University of Arizona, Griselda held a position with the Border Health Foundation as the Associate Director of Border Center for Substance Abuse Prevention for the Application of Prevention Technology, which provided substance abuse prevention services along the 2,000 miles long, 60 miles north and 60 miles south of the US-Mexico Border.
- Rosi Vogel – Senior Program Coordinator, Garcia lab (NOSOTROS)
Rosi is a Senior Program Coordinator for Dr. David Garcia’s Nosotros Comprometidos a Su Salud -Committed to Your Health” program. She graduated from Universidad Anáhuac in Mexico City from the College of Business Management and Economics. Rosi is a certified health coach and has over 20 years of experience in business management and community outreach. Rosi oversees the team operations and supports them in fulfilling their mission of reducing health inequities faced by the Hispanic community in Southern Arizona, through community-engaged research collaborations, service, and education.
- Julio Loya, PhD, RN
Julio Loya PhD, RN is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. Dr. Loya’s research interests include elucidating effective, culturally-tailored biobehavioral interventions to improve type 2 diabetes mellitus outcomes in the Hispanic/LatinX population. Dr. Loya has 18 years of clinical experience as a registered nurse, and has expertise in community-based participatory research. Dr. Loya is passionate about enhancing the health of the Hispanic/LatinX community through research to address health disparities.
For more information about the Center for Health Disparities Research, please email: