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 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.


Jenna Kacheroski is a second 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.

J’Mag Karbeah, 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.

Rosie Laine is in the second year of her master’s program in public health in the Maternal and Child Health track with a minor in sexual health. Rosie received her B.A. from Macalester College in History with a concentration in Community and Global Health. She has extensive experience in advocating for sexual and reproductive health and justice through research, patient advocacy, and organizing. In her free time, she enjoys running and hiking, trying out new restaurants in the Twin Cities, and spending time with her family and friends. 

Rosie authors a monthly eNewsletter on the intersections of pregnancy, parenting, and incarceration for the Cross-Center Collaboration of the Health of Justice-Involved Women and Children (JIWC). She also assists with coordinating national network calls for the JIWC and policy-related projects with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer. 

Cassie Mohawk is the Center’s newest 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 HG ENewsletter that shares MCH local and national events, training, resources, and research. She also focuses on technical edits for many Center communication efforts. 

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 and 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 and Community Health. She is a co-investigator for the HRSA-funded Center, 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 served 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.


Drissa M. Toure, 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.


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 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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