Meet our team

The Principal Investigators

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, MPH, is the PI and Director of CHES. She is a Professor in Preventive Medicine, Associate Dean for Community Initiatives at the KSOM. She is the Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center where she oversees the Patient Education and Community Outreach Center and the Office of Community Engagement. She collaborates with the Office of Community Engagement of the Southern California Clinical Translation Institute (CTSI), and the founding Director of the Center for Health Equity in the Americas. She conducts research on cancer, health disparities, tobacco among vulnerable population groups. She has a Courtesy Appointment at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Dr. Baezconde-Garbanati has a solid reputation as a widely recognized national and international community engaged scholar in culture and community health, with an emphasis on Hispanic/Latino health. Her work is known for its creativity, and transdisciplinary nature, where academic disciplines and community talent converge with ingenuity to produce unique programs of research that advance science while fulfilling community needs. She develops and tests innovative interventions that help modify cultural and lifestyle risk factors at the community level and works on translational programs that move research into policy. She teaches about gender and ethnic minority health, health promotion and disease prevention, culture, international health and on community organizing and mobilization for health locally and globally. 

Doe Mayer is Co-PI and Co-director of CHES, holds the Mary Pickford Chair at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, teaching documentary and fiction filmmaking. She also holds a joint appointment with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, focused on practical applications of communication campaign strategies and designs for social issue and health-defined organizations.

Professor Mayer has been working in film and television for the past 30 years and has produced, directed and provided technical support for hundreds of productions in the United States and developing countries worldwide. Although her expertise is primarily in family planning, basic education, health and nutrition promotion, HIV/AIDS prevention, population, and women’s issues, she has developed communication campaigns on subjects as wide-ranging as providing evacuation information on a dangerous volcano in Vanuatu, and teaching farmers to use less, and safer, pesticide on their cabbages in Fiji. She has designed workshops for non-governmental organizations on how to get effective messages to their target audiences using media, especially better storytelling, and face-to-face communication.

At USC, Professor Mayer has worked on numerous multidisciplinary  grant-funded activities as co-investigator including an NIH Project comparing narrative and non-narrative techniques to encourage Latinas to get Pap Tests (under Co-PIs Dr. Lourdes Baezconde Garbanati  and Dr. Sheila Murphy); and La Clave, a communication intervention to inform Latinos of the symptoms of serious mental illnesses and to  motivate them to seek  services (Dr. Steve Lopez, PI). She has received numerous acknowledgements, including USC’s Remarkable Woman Award, the Associates’ Award for Excellence in Teaching (USC’s top teaching award), and the Mellon Mentoring Award for graduate students.

Charles Kaplan is Co-PI and Co-Director, received his PhD in Sociology in 1973 at UCLA and has had a distinguished academic career as both a research and administrative leader in academic centers in the U.S., Europe and Africa. His current appointment is as Research Professor at the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social, University of Southern California School of Social Work, Los Angeles. His research integrates social science and biomedical research theories and methodologies. His career-long interests are in the interrelationships among addiction, mental health and infectious diseases and the biopolitical, public health and ethical issues presented by genetic and neuroscience interventions targeting specific culturally diverse populations. In recent years, he has been active in the development of a specific science of social work that actively aims at uniting theory with practice through forging fundamental research partnerships with community-based organizations in reducing social and health disparities and achieving social and health equity.

Support Team

Letech Caldera (Project Coordinator), Institute for Prevention Research (Project Specialist). Ms. Caldera-Huerta has been working at USC for approximately 17 years. She has devoted most of her career in working with community health education efforts. Ms. Caldera-Huerta is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project. She will handle all logistic issues related to CHES and will be the liaison between community organizations and CHES members. 

Rosa Barahona (Administrator), Institute For Prevention Research (Project Manager), Center for Health Equity in the Americas. Ms. Barahona is a Project Manager in the Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC.  Ms. Barahona has extensive experience in implementing health education and promotion campaigns both in Latin America and within Latino communities in California She has devoted most of her career to working on participatory community based initiatives, bridging academia with community-based settings and working with promotores de salud. She works closely with Vision y Compromiso, a network of over 5,000 Promotores de Salud in California.  Ms. Barahona maintains consistent communication with in-country partners, managing financial concerns, and ensuring that the team is meeting its deadlines.

Agnes Premkumar (Website Developer) is a second year medical student at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a major in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and a minor in Biomedical Research. She is interested in underserved health, community health education efforts, and global health policy.