Our Staff

Core Staff

Frank J. Chaloupka, PhD

Frank J. Chaloupka is a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is the director of the Health Policy Center. He is also 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. In addition, he investigates the effects of policies on alcohol use, illicit drug use, physical activity, diet, and related outcomes.

Dr. Chaloupka earned his Bachelor of Arts from John Carroll University in 1984, and his Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center.

Email: fjc@uic.edu

Twitter: @FrankChaloupka

Evan Blecher, PhD

Evan Blecher is a Senior 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 (WHO) 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. Evan’s work focuses on tax policy and the influence of tax policies on health behaviors, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

He received his bachelor’s degree in economics and business strategy from the University of Cape Town; a Master of Arts in economics with distinction from the University of the West of England, Bristol; and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cape Town.

Email: evanb@uic.edu

Twitter: @evanblecher

Kai-Wen Cheng, PhD

Kai-Wen Cheng 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. 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 Ph.D. in policy analysis and management at Cornell University, and finished her postdoctoral trainings at the University of California San Francisco and Georgia State University Tobacco Control of Regulatory Science.

Email: kwcheng@uic.edu

Twitter: @kwchengc

Sharon Feldman, MPH

Sharon Feldman is the Director of Grants Implementation at the Institute for Health Research and Policy (IHRP). Throughout her 20 years at the IHRP, she has held multiple positions. Prior to joining the IHRP, Sharon was the site manager on the NHLBI-funded project, “ALLHAT,” at Rush University. In addition, Sharon completed her post-MPH internship at the Office of Smoking and Health within the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. Sharon’s work focuses primarily on tobacco control and non-communicable diseases.

Sharon received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Email: feldmans@uic.edu 

Maryam Mirza, PhD

Maryam Mirza is a postdoctoral researcher at the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Previously, her research focus was studying the 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 Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Email: mmirza3@uic.edu

Prabhu Ponkshe, LLB, MA

­­­­Prabhu Ponkshe is President of Health Matrix, Inc., and serves as the lead communications consultant for the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, Prabhu has worked on a wide variety of tobacco control projects during the last three decades, focusing on science communications, media and legislative advocacy, regulatory affairs and public health education. He worked on the American Heart Association’s early efforts in tobacco control, was a part of the senior leadership team on the National Cancer Institute & American Cancer Society’s ASSIST project, and directed the communications activities for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, which focused on alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Before coming to the United States, Prabhu was a reporter with the news agency, Press Trust of India.

Prabhu earned his Bachelor of Science and his LLB (JD) from the University of Bombay. He also has a Master of Arts in mass communications from Texas Tech University.

Email: prabhu@healthmatrixinc.com

Elissa Resnick, MPH

Elissa Resnick 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 in the 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.

Elissa earned her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in social and behavioral sciences from Boston University.

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. In his previous position as a researcher for the InterAmerican Heart Foundation – Argentina (FIC Argentina), his focus was on developing policy-oriented research and media advocacy projects to implement effective tobacco control policies. He has been a contributor on several research studies that served as a basis to promote an increase in tobacco taxes, and analyze governmental subsidies for tobacco production in Argentina. German 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.

Germán 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).

Email: gri@uic.edu

Twitter: @GRodriguezIgles

Ce Shang, PhD

Dr. Ce 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 Ph.D. in economics from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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. Her research interests include corporate income tax avoidance and evasion of transnational tobacco companies.

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

Twitter: @erikadayle

Violeta Vulovic, PhD

Violeta Vulovic is a senior economist at the Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Prior joining UIC, she worked as a tax policy economist with the World Bank Group from 2013 until 2017, where she led and supported the technical assistance on a variety of tax policy and administration issues in developing countries, focusing on the East and South Asia regions. Between 2010 and 2013, she worked as a research associate with the International Center for Public Policy at Georgia State University, and before that, between 2002 and 2005, as a fiscal analyst with the Ministry of Finance of Serbia. Violeta has published journal articles on the optimal tax structure, the macro-economic and distributional impacts of tax and expenditure policies, the tax effort, etc.

She earned her Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and her Ph.D. in economics from Georgia State University, with a focus in public finance.

Email: vvulovic@uic.edu 

UIC Collaborators

Jamie F. Chriqui, PhD, MHS

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

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Barnard College, Columbia University; an Master of Health Science in health policy from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health; and a Ph.D. in policy sciences (health policy concentration) from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Email: jchriqui@uic.edu

Twitter: @jfchriqui

David Merriman, PhD

Dr. David Merriman is a professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His current research focus is on the avoidance of tobacco taxes. In recent studies, he 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.

David holds a Ph.D. 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.

Email: dmerrim@uic.edu

Richard M. Peck, PhD

Richard M. Peck has worked on health-related aspects of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis for approximately 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 research has been the application of cost-effectiveness and cos- benefit techniques to tobacco control interventions.

Email: rmpeck@uic.edu

Sandy Slater, PhD

Dr. Sandy Slater is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, in the Department of Health Policy and Administration. Dr. Slater specializes in community-based health research and is involved in numerous 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  populations vulnerable to physical inactivity and high rates of obesity.

Email: sslater@uic.edu

John Tauras, PhD

Dr. 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.

John earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

Email: tauras@uic.edu

Ayda Yurekli, PhD, MA

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

Dr. Yurekli received her Bachelor of Arts in economics from Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey; a Master of Arts degree in economics from California Polytechnic University at Pomona; and a Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In addition, 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.

Email:  yureklia@who.int

External Collaborators

Dianne C. Barker, MHS

Dianne C. Barker is President of Barker Bi-Coastal Health Consultants, Inc. (BBHC), which is a health policy consulting firm based in Los Angeles. She also serves as a principal investigator on several tobacco and obesity-related research and evaluation projects administered by the Public Health Institute. For more than two decades, Dianne 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, Dianne holds a Bachelor of Science in child development and family relations from the University of Rhode Island, and earned her Master of Health Science 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

Dr. K. Michael Cummings is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and 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 Bachelor of Science in health education from Miami University of Ohio in 1971, and his master’s degree in public health (1977) and Ph.D. (1981) from the University of Michigan.

Email: cummingk@musc.edu

Sophia Delipalla, PhD, MA

Sophia Delipalla is a professor of economics at the University of Macedonia in Macedonia, Greece. Previously, she worked at the University of Kent at Canterbury, University of Wales Swansea, and University of Essex (UK). Her research interests include public, industrial, and health economics. As her research on excise taxation in oligopolistic markets applies to the tobacco industry, she worked as a senior economist at the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Currently, 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.

Sophia earned her Bachelor of Arts in economics (1985) from the University of Macedonia Department of Economics, and an Master of Arts (1987) and Ph.D. (1994) from the University of Essex.

Email: sd@uom.gr

Sherry Emery, PhD, MBA

Dr. Sherry 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 the University of Illinois at Chicago. Forthe 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. 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.

Email: slemery@uic.edu

Twitter: @SherryEmery

Geoffrey T. Fong, PhD

Geoffrey T. Fong is professor of psychology and public health and health systems at the University of Waterloo. He is also a senior investigator at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Dr. Fong is the founder and Chief Principal Investigator of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (the ITC Project), which is a transdisciplinary collaboration of over 100 researchers across 22 countries.

Email: gfong@uwaterloo.ca

Twitter: @ITCProject

Emmanuel Guindon, PhD

Emmanuel Guindon is the inaugural chair in health equity at the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA)/Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 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 a faculty member at the 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 behavior, health services research, and econometrics.

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 focus is 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 ENDS use. 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

Twitter: @JidongHuang

Andrew Hyland, PhD

Dr. Andrew Hyland is chair of the Department of Health Behavior at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the deputy editor of the Tobacco Control journal. 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.

Dr. Hyland holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology and a Master of Arts in statistics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Email: Andrew.hyland@roswellpark.org

Lloyd D. Johnston, PhD

Lloyd Johnston is a research professor and distinguished research scientist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, and a principal investigator of the Youth, Education, and Society study since it started 1997. In addition, he is a contributor on the “Monitoring the Future” study since its began in 1975. He has served as an advisor 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 12 foreign countries.

Dr. Johnston earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics from Williams College, a Master in Business Administration in organizational behavior from Harvard University, and an Master of Arts and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan.

Email: lloydj@umich.edu

Ede Lazar, PhD

Dr. Ede Lazar is an associate professor at the University Sapientia, Romania. Prior to joining academia, he worked 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.

Dr. Lazar received his Master of Economics degree at Corvinus University of Budapest, and holds a Ph.D. in marketing from the Szent-István University in Hungary.

Email: lazarede@gmail.com

Matthew R. Levy, PhD

Dr. Matthew R. Levy is an assistant professor at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science. 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.

Dr. Levy earned his Ph.D. in economics with a focus on behavioral economics and public finance at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Email: m.r.levy@lse.ac.uk

Patrick M. O’Malley, PhD

Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a Research Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. In addition, 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 both a member and chairman of several National Institute of Health review committees.

Dr. O’Malley received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Email: pomalley@umich.edu

Guillermo Paraje, PhD

Dr. Guillermo Paraje is a professor of economics at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez Business School in Chile. He specializes in health economics topics, such as health equity, health systems, and non-communicable diseases. Relating to non-communicable diseases, he has developed policy-oriented research to implement effective tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverage control policies in Latin American countries. Previously, he was a consultant for the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF, other organizations. 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 in Argentina and an MPhil and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Email: guillermo.paraje@uai.cl

Twitter: @gparaje

Michael Pesko, PhD, MA

Dr. Michael Pesko’s research lies at the intersection of health economics, behavioral health, health care  delivery, and econometrics. His current research focus is on 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, he analyzes hospital responses to external incentives in the Affordable Care Act. Third, he 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.

Email: mip2037@med.cornell.edu

Twitter: @mikepesko

Árpád Szabó, PhD

Dr. Árpád Szabó is an associate professor of macroeconomics at the MÜTF Educational Centre in Odorheiu Secuiesc in Romania, and an associate professor of management at Targu Mures University of Arts in Romania. 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. Dr. Szabó’s past research focus was 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 from 2006-2008.

Dr. Szabó is also the lead scientist of the Economic Impacts of Tobacco in Romania subproject, part of Building Capacity for Tobacco Research in Romania from 2012-2017. 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 the University of California, San Francisco. Prior to that, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Prevention Research Center. His research applies theories from health and behavioral economics to understand the factors that motivate individuals to adopt healthy behaviors, with a 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.

Dr. White holds a Ph.D. in health policy, and a concurrent Master of Arts in economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Email: justin.white@ucsf.edu

Twitter: @justinswhite