Who We Are

The Center’s leadership team (below) has a wide range of backgrounds and interests. You can also learn more about our research activities by visiting our Research page

Sara Benning, MLS, has a background in family social sciences. She directs the day-to-day activities of the HRSA-funded Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health. If you’re interested in learning more about the Center, the technical assistance we provide or how to partner on an educational event or training, contact Ms. Benning at sbenning at umn.edu.


  • UMN School of Public Health Outstanding P&A award for Lactation Advocacy Committee efforts— This award was established to recognize annually a member of the Academic Professional and Administrative (P&A) staff who has made distinguished contributions to the missions of the University of Minnesota and the School of Public Health.
  • Equity and Diversity Outstanding Unit Award, UMN’s Office of Equity and Diversity (awarded to the Lactation Advocacy Committee)— presented annually at the Equity and Diversity Breakfast and highlights units that are working to bring transformational and sustainable change to the University of Minnesota.

Zobeida Bonilla, PhD, MPH, MA, is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology & Community Health. She is also a Co-Investigator on the HRSA-funded Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health training grant. Her areas of interest and expertise include health disparities, global MCH and qualitative research. Learn more about Dr. Bonilla’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations.


Alexis Chavez is from Glendale, Arizona and is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona with a BS degree in Public Health: Health Promotion and minor in Health and Human Values. She is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Maternal and Child Health. She has a passion for child health and has much experience in volunteering, interning and working with children in different clinics and hospitals. She also has experience in research and grant writing. Alexis is passionate and dedicated to learning and becoming involved with the community at the University of Minnesota.

Alexis is our MCH Student Blog editor. Alexis will help guest authors showcase their research and practice skills. 

Rachel Hardeman, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management. Her areas of interest and expertise are in the racial aspects of birthing, sexual and reproductive health, health equity, structural racism, population health and medical education. Learn more about Dr. Hardeman’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations.

  • 2021 Bush Fellowship— The Bush Foundation’s Fellowship recognizes people for their accomplishments, commitment to inclusivity, and potential to do even more for their communities.
  • Twin Cities Business’ list of top influencers in 2021— This year’s list emphasizes local experts who will lead the community out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a business climate increasingly defined by its commitment to equity. 
  • Alice S. Hersh Emerging Leader Award— from AcademyHealth. The award recognizes professionals early in their career who show exceptional promise for future contributions to the field of health services research. 
  • McKnight Presidential Fellow Award 2020-21 to 2022-23— The University gives this three-year award to faculty who show excellence in research and scholarship, leadership, and ability to advance University of Minnesota priorities. 
  • Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award— from the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity during a ceremony on Nov. 4. The award was established to recognize Dr. Josie R. Johnson’s lifelong contributions to human rights and social justice both within and beyond her tenure at the University.

Erin Marten is a third year student in the MCH program. She lives in Toledo, Ohio where she currently works part time as a Certified Nurse Midwife in an FQHC and is working to develop a non-profit sexual and reproductive health, wellness, and justice organization. Erin currently holds a Masters in Nurse Midwifery and Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, Ky. Erin’s professional interests include sexual and reproductive health disparities in racial and sexual minority populations, reproductive and racial justice, and forging community connections to renew trust and dignity in health care and public health.  

Erin is helping launch and organize the Reproductive Justice Book Club, working closely with Drs.. Jaime Slaughter-Acey and Rachel Hardeman to identify articles and resources to share and discuss with students.

Favi Ramirez is pursuing her MPH in MCH. She graduated in May 2020 from Beloit College with a major in Health and Society and minor in Spanish. Originally from Chicago, she grew to be youth health advocate for safe sex education, health policy, and action civics. As an artist, she enjoys different forms of storytelling through several arts such as creative writing, embroidery, and dancing. She hopes to use her visual creativity and passion for reproductive rights to the MCH Program and Center role. 

Favi is the Center’s Communications Research Assistant responsible for the Center’s social media presence, compiling the Center’s monthly newsletter, documenting evaluation data and updating databases, and managing the website.

Lauren Roach is pursuing her MPH focusing on maternal and child health. Her previous work with drug treatment courts in Milwaukee, WI inspired her to explore research and learning opportunities that combine promoting women’s holistic health and health education. Lauren has experience in non-profit work and public speaking, and holds a master’s in criminal justice.  She is a FEMM instructor and loves telling stories and building maps that advance research and education efforts. 

Lauren will work with Jamie Stang, Zobeida Bonilla and a team of nutrition students running the Bright Spots Qualitative Mini-Lab, a joint LET-COE effort, to arrange trainings, schedule lab usage, update the webpage, conduct participant evaluations, and more.

Rebecca Shlafer, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health. Rebecca’s areas of interest and expertise include developmental outcomes of children and families with multiple risk factors, and the impact of incarceration on children. Learn more about Dr. Shlafer’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations.


  • Excellence in Child Health Advocacy, Department of Pediatrics (UMN)
  • Award for Faculty Contribution to Honors Education (UMN)
  • Excellence in Health Equity, Program in Health Disparities Research (PHDR) (UMN)

Jaime Slaughter-Acey, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in Epidemiology & Community Health. Jamie’s areas of interest and expertise include health equity, maternal and child health/perinatal epidemiology, social determinants of health, racism, colorism, lifecourse perspective, perinatal health, women’s health, prenatal care and prenatal home visiting. Learn more about Dr. Slaughter-Acey’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations.


Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RDN, is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology & Community Health. She is Principle Investigator for the HRSA-funded Center for Leadership Education in Maternal and Child Public Health, and the director of the Leadership Education and Training Program in MCH Nutrition and co-chair of the Midwest Center for Lifelong Learning in Public Health. Jamie’s area of interest and expertise includes nutrition and weight status in pregnancy, child and adolescent nutrition, behavioral counseling in child obesity and eating disorders treatment. She also serves on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (Departments of Agriculture (USDA). Learn more about Dr. Stang’s research areas, courses taught, publications and collaborations.


Jenna Kacheroski is a first year MCH student who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2019 with a degree in Forensic Science and a minor in biochemistry. She recently returned to MN after working 2 years on Oregon’s South Coast at a rural county public health department; one year as an Americorps VISTA promoting breastfeeding education + outreach and internal health equity efforts, and one year as a sexual and reproductive health educator working with the county youth population in various modalities. Her interests include reproductive justice, health equity, and sexual + reproductive health.

Jenna is working with Zobeida Bonilla, students enrolled in the Foundations of MCH Leadership course (PubH 6630) and MDH staff to update the MN Women’s Health Report Card and corresponding website, which serves as a periodic progress report on chronic disease, mental health, and substance use data specific to women.

Briana Wells is pursuing her MPH in MCH. In 2019, she graduated from Baylor University with her Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences where she studied in their Child and Family Studies program with a concentration in Child Development. During her time at Baylor, she oversaw the transfer mentor program where she gained experience in public speaking, event planning, and mentor matching. In addition to working with the Transfer Offices, Briana worked as an education coordinator intern at a local pregnancy center. In this position she was designated with tasks such as teaching various maternal and child health topics, creating curriculum, and reviewing curriculum for accreditation. Briana is excited to attend the University of Minnesota and to work with the Center to expand her knowledge in the MCH field that she is so passionate about.

Briana is the Center’s Student Liaison Research Assistant responsible for communicating with and building community among current, prospective and former MCH students through a variety of activities including organizing MCH Peer Program activities and helping to launch the MCH Skills Leadership Institute. She is also responsible for the creation of Student Spotlights and of the monthly MCH Student eNews.

Questions about the Center? Email us at mch at umn.edu.

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