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, 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 know 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.

Awards: 

  • 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.

Awards: 


Alexis Chavez is from Glendale, Arizona and is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s of Science 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.

Awards: 
  • 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.

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 Student Technical Support responsible for maintaining communications.


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.

Awards: 

  • 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.

Awards: 


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.

Awards: 


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

Please note that we do not accept or respond to unsolicited requests to post content to our website.