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

Grace Armon (she/her) is a first year Maternal and Child Health MPH student at the University of Minnesota and holds a BA in Geography with concentrations in Urban Studies and Community & Global Health from Macalester College. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Grace spent 11 months living in Germany through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals program, where she volunteered with a local cancer society and interned with a rural telehealth agency in Jena, Thuringia. Her broad area of interest is place effects on health, especially as it relates to maternal and reproductive health disparities.

Grace is the Mini-Lab and Women’s Health Report Card Research Assistant, and is the MCH Student Interest Group (MCHIG) Executive Committee member responsible for outreach activities, including MCHIG’s Reproductive Justice Book Club.

Sara Benning (she/hers), 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 (she/her/ella), PhD, MPH, MA, is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology and 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.


J’Mag Karbeah (she/her), PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in Health and Policy Management. Her research focuses on the impact of structural racism on maternal and child health outcomes. Learn more about Dr. Karbeah’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations. 


  • Diversity Scholars Program, AcademyHealth  This award aims to support the professional development of underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups in the field of health services research. 
  • Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award (UMN)  This award honors underrepresented undergraduate, graduate, and professional students for their outstanding work in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion while at the University of Minnesota and in the community.
  • Lester Breslow (UMN) 

Estefanía Henríquez Luthje (she/her) is a first-year Maternal and Child Health MPH student at the University of Minnesota and a Fulbright Scholar from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She obtained her medical degree from Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo in 2020 and received a certificate in clinical research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For two years, Estefanía worked as a research analyst in the Department of Nutrition of the Ministry of Public Health of the Dominican Republic. In this position, she supported the design, implementation, monitoring, and data analysis for the first national nutrition surveillance system for pregnant people and children under five. Her areas of interest include maternal and child nutrition, particularly lactation, and maternal and child mortality reduction in the Dominican Republic. 

Estefanía is the primary editor for MCH Leads, the competency-based, student-led national MCH trainee blog. In collaboration with a co-editor from UAlbany’s Catalyst program, she is responsible for maintaining the blog at all stages of the publishing process, from contacting students and directors from COE and Catalyst programs for author recruitment, to editing, publishing and promoting final pieces. In addition to her role as co-editor, Estefanía serves as Executive Board Member for UMN’s Maternal and Child Health Interest Group.

Cassie Mohawk (she/her) is the Center’s Communications Research Assistant. Cassie is a first-year Maternal and Child Health MPH student. She graduated in May from UMN Duluth with a BAS in Public Health Education. During her undergrad, she gained experience in health communication, event coordination, and data collection and analysis. She is excited to start this new journey in her academic and professional career!

Cassie consistently updates Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms for the Center for Leadership in Maternal and Child Public Health as well as updating this website. She authors the monthly Healthy Generations eNewsletter that shares MCH local and national events, training, resources and research. She also focuses on technical edits for many Center communication efforts. 

Rebecca Shlafer (she/her), 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)

Drissa M. Toure (he/him), MD, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in Epidemiology and Community Health. He is a trained physician, behavioral scientist, and maternal and child health expert with a vision to do research examining and reducing any detected disparities for underserved communities. He has dedicated his evaluation and research career to building community-based participatory programs to improve healthcare access for disadvantaged children and women. Learn more about Dr. Toure’s areas of research, courses taught, publications and collaborations.


Sarah Vandenbergen (she/her) is currently enrolled in the UMN MCH Program. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience from the College of Wooster. Her academic interests include but are not limited to societal factors that influence stress biology and cause long-term health effects. Outside of class, she can be found playing music – primarily flute, knitting, reading, and spending time outside.

Sarah will be organizing and implementing the MCH Leadership Skills Institute Workshops, developing Center student and alumni spotlights, crafting and distributing our monthly MCH Student eNewsletter, and facilitating the work of the MCH Student Interest Group (MCHIG).

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.