Our Staff

Core Staff

Evan Blecher, PhD

Evan Blecher is an Economist at the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He is also an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Economics, University of Cape Town. Prior to joining UIC, he was an Economist in the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases department at the World Health Organization in Geneva, where he led tobacco tax efforts in the African region. Between 2008 and 2013, he was a Senior Economist in the Health and Economic Policy Research Program at the American Cancer Society and an Affiliate in the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town where he served as the Project Director of the Economics of Tobacco Control Project.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Strategy from the University of Cape Town; an MA in Economics with Distinction from the University of the West of England, Bristol; and a PhD in Economics from the University of Cape Town.

Evan’s work focuses on tax policy and the influence of tax policies on health behaviors, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Email: evanb@uic.edu

Twitter: @evanblecher

Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD

Frank J. Chaloupka is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he directs of the UIC Health Policy Center. He is the Director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on the Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control and co-Director of Bridging the Gap: Research Informing Policies and Practices for Healthy Youth. Dr. Chaloupka’s research focuses on the effects of national, state, and local policies and other environmental influences on youth, young adult, and adult cigarette smoking and other tobacco use, alcohol use, illicit drug use, physical activity, diet, and related outcomes.

An economist, Dr. Chaloupka earned his BA from John Carroll University in 1984 and his PhD from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center.

Phone: 312-413-2287

Email: fjc@uic.edu 

Kai-Wen Cheng, PhD

Dr. Cheng’s research focuses on various issues in the area of economics of tobacco control. Her earlier research focused on analyzing impacts of clean indoor air laws and cigarette prices/taxes on cigarette smoking and its related outcomes, such as secondhand smoke exposure, voluntary smoke-free rules in private places, and obesity. Recently, her research expanded to analyze the impacts of smoke-free air laws and taxation on use of other tobacco products. In addition, she studies impacts of potential FDA regulatory actions, with an emphasis on understanding how the regulations/policies enhance smokers’ self-control, and ultimately attempts to quit smoking. Dr. Cheng received her PhD in Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and finished her postdoctoral trainings at UC San Francisco and Georgia State University Tobacco Control of Regulatory Science. She is currently a Senior Research Specialist in the Institute for Health Research and Policy and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Phone: 312-355-0578

Email: kwcheng@uic.edu

Maryam Mirza, PhD

Maryam Mirza is a postdoctoral researcher at the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The unifying theme of her earlier research is the study of unintended consequences of policies designed to increase education and health outcomes. At present, she focuses on fiscal policies for health, primarily in low- and middle-income countries.

Maryam received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration–Management Information Systems from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Pakistan, and her PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Phone: 312-996-1612

Email: mmirza3@uic.edu

Twitter: @maryamsmirza

Elissa Resnick, MPH

Elissa Resnick, MPH, is a Research Specialist in the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining the Health Policy Center in 2008, she conducted multiple intervention-based studies aimed at improving various health behaviors. More recently, she has been involved in national studies to examine environmental and policy-related factors that influence physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco use. Elissa is interested role that policy and media advocacy can play in improving public health and is the author of the textbook, Marketing Public Health: Strategies to Promote Social Change. She earned her Master of Public Health with a concentration on Social and Behavioral Sciences from Boston University.

Phone: 312-355-5932

Email: eresnick@uic.edu

Germán Rodriguez-Iglesias, MSc

Germán Rodriguez-Iglesias is an Economist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). In his previous position as a researcher for the InterAmerican Heart Foundation – Argentina (FIC Argentina), he focused his professional activity on developing policy-oriented research and media advocacy projects to implement effective tobacco control policies. He has contributed research to several studies that served as a basis to promote an increase in tobacco taxes, analyzing governmental subsidies for tobacco production in Argentina. Rodriguez-Iglesias has applied lessons learned from tobacco control economics and tobacco taxation to study the economics of non-communicable diseases, agricultural/food policies, and other public policies. His research interests also include the economic determinants of food consumption; access to drinking water, fruit, and vegetables; and sugar-, salt-, and fat-reduction policies.

He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the National University of Mar del Plata (Argentina); and an MSc in Economics from the University of the Basque Country (Spain).

Ce Shang, PhD

Dr. Shang is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago Institute for Health Research and Policy’s Health Policy Center. Her research focuses on the economic analysis of health behaviors, with an emphasis on how taxes and policies impact physical activity and substance use and abuse. She is a recipient of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Career Development Award to study alcohol taxation and affordability. She is also the lead of several tobacco control research projects under the Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) funded by the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr. Shang is a member of the World Heart Federation (WHF) Emerging Leader Program 2016 cohort and has conducted extensive research on tobacco use and tobacco control policies in low- and middle-income countries. In 2015, Dr. Shang’s research on the impact of prices on smoking initiation and cessation received the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Kaafee Billah Memorial Award in Economics Research.

Dr. Shang received her PhD in Economics from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Phone: 312-996-0774

Email: cshang@uic.edu

Twitter: @thecshang

Erika Siu, JD, LLM

Erika Siu is the Project Deputy Director at the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She most recently served as Secretariat Director of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation. Prior to that, Erika was a Researcher for the International Centre for Tax and Development in the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex and Tax Policy Advisor for the United Nations Development Programme, Office for South-South Cooperation. Erika is a graduate of New York University Law School’s Graduate Tax Program and member of the New York and New Jersey Bar.

Email: erikas@uic.edu



UIC Collaborators

Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD, MHS

Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD, MHS, is a Senior Research Scientist in the Health Policy Center within the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has over 23 years’ experience conducting public health policy research and analysis, with an emphasis on tobacco control, substance abuse, obesity, and other chronic disease-related issues. Her research focuses on examining the impact of public health policies on community, school, and individual outcomes.

She holds a BA in Political Science from Barnard College, Columbia University; an MHS in Health Policy from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health; and a PhD in Policy Sciences (Health Policy concentration) from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Phone: 312-996-6410

Email: jchriqui@uic.edu

David Merriman, PhD

David Merriman, PhD, is a Professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at and in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His scholarly work is on avoidance of tobacco taxes. In recent studies he has analyzed the tax stamps on littered cigarette packs to measure the degree to which smokers avoid cigarette taxes. He is also interested in using littered cigarette packs to monitor compliance with FDA regulations. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where his dissertation was awarded first prize for the outstanding doctoral dissertation in government spending and taxation by the National Tax Association.

Richard M. Peck, PhD

Richard M. Peck has worked on health-related aspects of cost effectiveness and cost benefit analysis for about 14 years. In this capacity he has served as a consultant to the World Bank, World Health Organization, National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control. The focus of his published research has been the application of cost effectiveness and cost benefit techniques to tobacco control interventions.

Phone: 312-413-2365

Email: rmpeck@uic.edu

Sandy Slater, PhD

Sandy Slater, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Administration. Dr. Slater specializes in community-based health research and is involved in numerous community-level studies designed to examine and reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical inactivity, obesity, and tobacco use. Her research activities focus on low-income urban communities of color and rural populations—two special populations that research shows are at greatest risk of physical inactivity and high rates of obesity.

Phone: 312-413-0475

Email: sslater@uic.edu

John Tauras, PhD

John A. Tauras is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He also holds a Research Associate appointment at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Dr. Tauras’ research focuses on the economic and policy aspects of disease prevention and health promotion.  Much of his research has examined the impact of government policies on the demand for tobacco products, placing special emphasis on modeling the dynamics of addictive consumption.  He has published numerous journal articles and chapters in conference volumes on this topic.  He earned a  PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Phone: 312-413-3289

Email: tauras@uic.edu

Ayda Yurekli, PhD, MA

Ayda Yurekli is a Visiting Senior Research Scientist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, since August 2015. Previously she was the Coordinator for the Tobacco Control Economics (TCE) unit within the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization since 2010.

Dr. Yurekli received her BA in Economics from Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, and postgraduate degrees in Economics from California Polytechnic University at Pomona (MA degree) and Cornell University (PhD degree) in Ithaca, New York. She completed her postdoctoral research at the Office of Smoking and Health (OSH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, between 1996 and 1998 and joined the World Bank, Washington DC, and worked as a tobacco economist until 2004. Between 2004 and 2006, Dr. Yurekli served as a Consultant for the World Bank and the WHO, before joining the Research for International Tobacco Control (RITC) unit at the International Development Research Center (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada, as a Program Leader in 2006-07. In 2007, Dr Yurekli joined the TFI, WHO, as the Lead Economist and the Senior Economic Adviser for the Director of the WHO/TFI. After the establishment of Tobacco Control Economics (TCE) in the WHO TFI, she became the coordinator.

Dr. Yurekli has experience in various areas on the economics of tobacco control, including excise tax systems, illicit trade, and privatization. During her tenure at the World Bank and the WHO, she incorporated with many researchers and authored or co-authored many book chapters and research papers. She has worked with over 80 countries’ Ministries of Finances and provided technical support on excise tax implementation and administration. She trained tax officials from MoF and Customs, health officials from Ministries of Health, and academics on the economics of tobacco control and taxation.



External Collaborator

Dianne C. Barker, MHS

Dianne C. Barker is President of Barker Bi-Coastal Health Consultants, Inc. (BBHC), a health policy consulting firm based in Los Angeles. She serves as a Principal Investigator on several tobacco and obesity-related research and evaluation projects administered by the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA.  For more than two decades, Ms. Barker has designed and conducted various studies examining how environmental influences and public and private policies affect tobacco quitting behavior among older adolescents, young adults, and pregnant women. Her most recent research focuses on the emerging electronic cigarette market.

A demographer by training, Ms. Barker holds a BS in Child Development and Family Relations from the University of Rhode Island and received her MHS in Population Dynamics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1987.

Email: dcbarker@earthlink.net

K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH

K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina and co-leader of the Hollings Cancer Center Tobacco Research Program.  In 2002, he helped establish the ITC Project along with Geoff Fong, Ron Borland, and Gerard Hastings. Dr. Cummings is widely recognized for his research on smoking behavior, product marketing and consumer perceptions, and the influence of cigarette design on smoking behavior. He received his Bachelors of Science degree in Health Education at Miami University (Ohio) in 1971, his MPH (1977) and PhD (1981) from the University of Michigan.

Sophia Delipalla, PhD, MA

Sophia Delipalla is a Professor of Economics at University of Macedonia in Greece. Previously she has worked at University of Kent at Canterbury, University of Wales Swansea, and University of Essex (UK). Her research interests include public economics, industrial economics, and health economics. As her research on excise taxation in oligopolistic markets applies to the tobacco industry, she has worked as a senior economist at the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Today she still continues her collaboration with the WHO as a temporary advisor. She has published articles in various economics journals, and contributed in various handbooks and monographs on health and tobacco control.  She holds a BA in Economics (1985) from the Department of Economics at University of Macedonia (Greece) and an MA (1987) and a PhD (1994) from University of Essex (UK).

Email: sd@uom.gr

Sherry Emery, PhD, MBA

Dr. Emery is a Research Professor in the School of Public Health, a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy, and Director of the Health Media Collaboratory at UIC. Over the past 17 years, she has conducted extensive analyses of a variety of public health media campaigns, focusing on tobacco and other drug use, obesity prevention, and pharmaceutical advertising (52–55). She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, and is recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in tobacco control policy and health communication. As principal investigator of an NCI-funded U01 project (CA154254) and the project director for the Data Core that supports University of Pennsylvania’s Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science (TCORS), Dr. Emery has been a pioneer in curating and analyzing social media data on tobacco issues.

Phone: 312-355-2758

Email: slemery@uic.edu

Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD

Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. He also holds the position of Senior Investigator at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. Fong is Founder and Chief Principal Investigator of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (the ITC Project), a transdisciplinary collaboration of over 100 researchers across 22 countries—Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Mexico, Uruguay, New Zealand, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mauritius, Bhutan, India, Kenya, and Zambia.

The mission of the ITC Project is to conduct rigorous evaluation of the psychosocial and behavioural effects of tobacco control policies of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first-ever international treaty on health; to date, 178 countries have become Parties to the FCTC. The FCTC policies being evaluated by the ITC Project include higher tobacco taxes to lower demand, smoke-free laws, pictorial warnings, bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, tobacco product regulation, and illicit trade.

Phone: 519-888-4567 x33597

Email: gfong@uwaterloo.ca

Twitter: @ITCProject

Emmanuel Guindon, PhD

Emmanuel Guindon is the inaugural Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA)/Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Chair in Health Equity, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (HEI) and an associate member of the Department of Economics at McMaster University. Prior to joining McMaster University, Emmanuel was on Faculty at Université de Montréal and a staff economist at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Overall, Emmanuel’s research interests cover a broad array of topics in health economics, health behaviour, health services research, and econometrics.

Phone: 905-525-9140 x24658

Email: emmanuel.guindon@mcmaster.ca

Jidong Huang, PhD

Dr. Jidong Huang is an Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy and a Second Century Initiative (2CI) scholar in the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. His research focuses on the economic analysis of substance use and abuse, and how prices, taxes, and other substance control policies affect the demands for tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Dr. Huang’s current research involves examining the marketing and promotion of new and emerging tobacco products, particularly Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), and how policies and regulations affect use of ENDS. In addition, Dr. Huang has also conducted extensive research on the impact of tobacco taxes in reducing tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries.

Email: jhuang17@gsu.edu

Andrew Hyland, PhD

Andrew Hyland, PhD, is Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park  Cancer Institute, and he is the Deputy Editor of the journal Tobacco Control. His primary research interests lie in evaluating the impact of policies aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with the use of tobacco products. He has over 220 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Hyland holds a PhD in Epidemiology and an MA in Statistics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Lloyd D. Johnston, PhD

Lloyd Johnston is a Research Professor and Distinguished Research Scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, and Principal Investigator of the Youth, Education, and Society study since its inception in 1997 and of the Monitoring the Future study since its inception in 1975. He has served as adviser to the White House, Congress, and many government agencies and other universities, as well as for the World Health Organization, United Nations, Pan American Health Organization, Council of Europe, and twelve foreign countries.

A social psychologist by training, Johnston earned his BA in Economics at Williams College, MBA in Organizational Behavior at Harvard University, and an MA and PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Phone: 734-763-5043

Email: lloydj@umich.edu

Ede Lazar, PhD

Ede Lazar, PhD, is an Associate Professor at University Sapientia, Romania. He received his Master of Economics degree at Corvinus University of Budapest and holds a PhD in Marketing from the Szent-István University, Hungary. Prior to joining the academic sphere he gained experience at the Hungarian Central Statistical Office and TNS Hungary market research company. Dr. Lazar’s research focuses on econometric modeling of demand and price optimization.

Phone: 0040-723-662466

Email: lazarede@gmail.com

Matthew R. Levy, PhD

Matthew R. Levy is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer in Economics) at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He earned a PhD in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009, with a focus on behavioral economics and public finance. He also holds a SB in Economics from MIT. Prior to joining LSE, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University. His research focuses on consumer mistakes and procrastination on decisions regarding their long-term health and finances, including laboratory and field experiments on retirement saving, exercise, and smoking.

Patrick M. O’Malley, PhD

Patrick O’Malley is a Research Professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. He received his PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan. He is co-Principal Investigator on the Monitoring the Future study and the Youth, Education, and Society study. He has served on four National Academy of Sciences committees and has been a member or chairman of several National Institutes of Health review committees.

Phone: 734-763-5043

Email: pomalley@umich.edu

Guillermo Paraje, PhD

Guillermo Paraje is a Full Professor of Economics at the Business School of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile. He specializes in health economics topics, such as health equity, health systems, and the economics of non-communicable diseases. On the latter, he has contributed by developing policy-oriented research to implement effective tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverage control policies in Latin American countries. He has been a consultant for the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, etc. He was also a member of a Presidential Commission to Reform Health Insurance in Chile.

Guillermo received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from the National University of Córdoba (Argentina) and an MPhil and PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom).

Email: guillermo.paraje@uai.cl

Twitter: @gparaje

Michael Pesko, PhD, MA

Dr. Pesko’s research lies at the intersection of health economics, behavioral health, healthcare  delivery, and econometrics. His research to date covers three areas. First, with colleagues in the Division of Healthcare Policy and Economics, Dr. Pesko uses Medicare claims data to examine the effect of healthcare professional organization and social interaction on patient outcomes. Second, Dr. Pesko analyzes hospital responses to external incentives in the Affordable Care Act. Third, Dr. Pesko contributes to tobacco control regulatory efforts by examining individual responses to cigarette excise taxes, large-scale disasters, and emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes.

Árpád Szabó, PhD

Dr. Árpád Szabó is an Associate Professor of Macroeconomics at the MÜTF Educational Centre in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania and an Associate Professor of Management at Targu Mures University of Arts.

He also works as a business strategy and human development consultant. He was lecturer at the Sapientia University in Cluj, Romania, Partium Christian University of Oradea, Romania and Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, Kenya.

He did research on the impact of privatization on organizational behavior in Romania with a research grant of the Sapientia Centre of Research, Cluj, Romania in 2006, and on regional development in Romania’s Centre Statistic Region with a research grant of the Foundation of Comparative Minorities Studies, Budapest, Hungary in 2006-2008.

He is the lead scientist of the Economic Impacts of Tobacco in Romania subproject, part of Building Capacity for Tobacco Research in Romania (2012-2017) (1R01TW009280). He was awarded research grants by the European Centre of Comparative Minorities Research in Budapest, Hungary and by the Sapientia Research Centre in Cluj for doing research in the fields of privatization in Romania and regional development in the Central Macroregion of Romania.

Email: altszabo@gmail.com

Justin White, PhD, MA, MSPH

Justin White is Assistant Professor of Health Economics in the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF. Prior to that, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Prevention Research Center. Dr. White holds a PhD in Health Policy and a concurrent MA in Economics from UC Berkeley. His research applies theory from health economics and behavioral economics to understand the factors that motivate individuals to adopt healthy behaviors, with special emphasis on tobacco use. In doing so, he aims to identify individuals’ decision errors related to health behavior and design interventions to address these errors. He is working on several experimental studies to promote smoking cessation. Complementary to this work, Dr. White has led a series of studies that examine the behavioral responses of smokers to cigarette prices and taxes.