College of Health and Human Services

Health Equity Research Center (HERC) Team



Shipra Singh

Shipra Singh, Ph.D., MBBS, MPH

Associate Professor, School of Population Health
Program Director, Doctoral Program in Health Education
Faculty, School for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education (IPE)

College of Health and Human Services


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Dr. Shipra Singh is an Associate Professor and the Program Director for the Health Education doctoral program at the School of Population Health. She is the Director of the Health Equity Research Center (HERC) at the College of Health and Human Services. She is also a key faculty at the School for the Advancement for Interprofessional Education (IPE) at the University of Toledo. Dr. Singh holds an MPH and PhD in Public Health from University of Michigan, and completed her medical school in India and Medical Externship at S.I.U. School of Medicine, Illinois. 

The primary focus of Dr. Singh’s work is at the intersection of medicine and public health, with an emphasis on social determinants of health, health disparities and interprofessional education. Her work has been consistently externally funded and published in peer reviewed journals. Her current research focuses on examining the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH) on adverse health outcomes and healthcare-based disparities among vulnerable populations. Specifically, her research examines the system-level factors in healthcare that contribute to health disparities with special attention to developing strategies to improve access and utilization of health services and improving patient-centered value-based care by enhancing continued cross-cultural training for health professionals.


Mounika Polavarapu

Mounika Polavarapu, Ph.D., MBBS, MPH, CPH

Assistant Professor, School of Population Health

College of Health and Human Services


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Dr. Mounika Polavarapu’s primary research interests are in the area of maternal and child health and cancer survivorship, focusing on health disparities and improving the health and wellbeing of women, infants, children, and adolescents. She has worked on several projects including but not limited to diagnostic markers for childhood asthma; barriers, concerns, successes, and risks of fertility preservation in girls and women of reproductive age; late effects and risky behaviors among childhood cancer survivors; role of primary care physicians in caring for breast cancer survivors; and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among college students. Some of her ongoing projects are in the areas of prediction models for diseases in infants, integration of spatial factors in determining vulnerability to issues in public health, and health outcomes in children born after in-vitro fertilization.


Shelley Cavalieri

Shelly Cavalieri, J.D.

Professor, Law-Instruction
College of Law


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Professor Shelley Cavalieri is a Professor of Law, coordinator of the JD/MPH and JD/MD programs, and core faculty in the Public Health Policy and Law major in the Master in Public Health Program. A feminist legal theorist by training and disposition, she is expert in intersectional feminist theory and property law. Her research focuses on constructions of women’s agency in the law, which she has explored in the contexts of the United States and Ecuador, and in the field of human trafficking. More broadly, her scholarship engages questions of the role of law in advancing equality and justice, which she has taken up in the field of property law through her scholarship on land reform in the developing world and land banking in the legacy cities of the Midwest. She has also written on the capabilities approach, which she enlists to consider the role of states in fostering citizens’ agency and how citizens strategize to advocate on their own behalf. Professor Cavalieri is co-author of a property law casebook with Toledo Law Dean D. Benjamin Barros and Anna Hemingway. Her work has a global reach. In 2018-19, she was named a Fulbright Faculty Scholar in Quito, Ecuador. Her contribution to HERC will be the use of legal interventions to address problems of inequality, conceptualizing how law can be used as a tool to advance health equity.


Sujata Shetty

Sujata Shetty, Ph.D.

Professor, Geography and Planning
College of Arts and Letters


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Sujata Shetty is Director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center and a Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, at the University of Toledo.  She holds a B.Arch. from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India, and an M.U.P. and Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.   

She has worked as an architect and urban planner concentrating on community-based planning, research and evaluation with a focus on the challenges faced by old industrial cities experiencing deep population loss.  Her research explores inequities in under-resourced communities and the role of planning in addressing these from multiple perspectives, including land use planning, urban design, community development and education.  She has received external funding from multiple external sources including the NSF. Her recent projects include research on evictions and the challenges they pose to mental health service consumers; an analysis of poverty in Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio; the planning and design challenges posed by abandoned auto factories in the manufacturing belts of the U.S. and Europe; water access and affordability; and using small neighborhood planning projects to introduce under-represented groups of students to geography and planning education and careers.


Qin Shao

Qin Shao, Ph. D.

Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics


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Dr. Qin Shao received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Statistics from Nankai University in China. She entered the Doctoral program in Statistics at The University of Georgia and took up a position as Assistant Professor at The University of Toledo upon graduating in 2002. She achieved the rank of Professor in 2013. Her research interests encompass both the methodology and applications of statistics. She has published in several prestigious statistical journals, including the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B and The American Statistician. Dr. Shao also dedicated seven years to serving as the Director of the Statistical Consulting Service. She currently holds the roles of Associate Editor for Statistics in Biosciences and Editor-in-Statistics for Translation: The University of Toledo Journal of Medical Sciences. Dr. Shao is the founding advisor for the data science concentration in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. She has served as the principal organizer of the Data Science Seminar since the Spring of 2019, which aims to introduce this burgeoning area to a general audience, explore interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities in education and research, and enrich students' education. She has organized several series of presentations, including "Python: The Most Popular Data Science Software" and "Challenges and Opportunities of COVID-19 for Data Science”. Her achievements include being recognized with a merit-based elected membership in the International Statistical Institute and the prestigious Outstanding University Woman Award.


Heather Sloane

Heather Sloane, Ph.D., MSW, LISW

Associate Professor, Social Work
College of Health and Human Services


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Dr. Heather M. Sloane is an Associate Professor in the Social Work Program and teaches policy and macro practice classes. Dr. Sloane is a faculty member of the School for the Advancement for Interprofessional Education (IPE). Prior to her PhD she was a healthcare social worker in perinatal medicine (high risk pregnancy and the NICU). Dr. Sloane developed a mentoring program involving students from the University of Illinois and pregnant adolescents while at Carle hospital in Urbana. This program was the result of research looking at causes of premature delivery for teen mothers.

She earned her PhD in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University, her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a BS in psychology from William and Mary. Her dissertation research investigated medical education culture and understandings of poverty. Dr. Sloane is currently investigating implicit bias and empathy and how both contribute to disrupting health disparity. Dr. Sloane uses a variety of feminist and critical theory methods including cultural history, participatory action, poetry-informed, autoethnography, and literary analysis. She developed a social justice writing program with Toledo Public Schools named Fearless Writers.


Mark Merrick

Mark Merrick, Ph.D., AT, ATC, FNATA

Professor and Dean
College of Health and Human Services


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Dr. Merrick joined to the University of Toledo as the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services in the summer of 2020.  He came to Toledo from The Ohio State University where he served for 20 years as the Founding Director of the Division of Athletic Training in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences within the College of Medicine. At Ohio State, Dr. Merrick was instrumental in creating the university’s Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training program and growing the program to national prominence. Prior to his time at Ohio State, he has also been on the faculty at Xavier University and Indiana State University. His areas of scholarship are the pathophysiology of musculoskeletal injuries and the physiology of the interventions used to treat them.  He also has a scholarly focus in health professions education and its role in meeting society’s health needs. Nationally, Dr. Merrick is a member of the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education.  In this role, he joins thought leaders in health professions education from around the world in setting the course for the future of health professions education to meet the world’s health and healthcare needs.  Additionally, he brings extensive experience in programmatic accreditation, having served as the President of the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) where he helped lead his profession’s move to the master’s degree for professional entry and creation of new accreditation standards aligned with Institute of Medicine and Interprofessional Education Collaborative core competencies.  His work in these areas resulting is his winning of the CAATE’s Koehneke Award for lifetime contributions. Dr. Merrick also has an extensive history in research ethics.  At Ohio State, he was heavily involved in the university’s Office of Responsible Research Practices, where his commitment to ethical research conduct included 15 years as an IRB member, IRB Vice-Chair, and member of the IRB Policy Committee that oversees the university’s 3 on-campus IRBs and setting human subjects research policies.  He was the lead reviewer on many of the university’s most complex and difficult research non-compliance cases for over a decade and contributed heavily to the office’s AAHRPP accreditation efforts. He co-authored the university’s biobanking / repository policy.


Celia Will.iamson

Celia Williamson, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Distinguished University Professor, Social Work
Executive Director, Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute


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Dr. Williamson's research focus has been in the area of human trafficking with particular attention to domestic minor sex trafficking. She has published numerous articles on the subject and has delivered over 200 presentations and been the keynote speaker at more than 20 conferences. She also studies prostitution, vulnerable women, and drug abuse. She teaches social work practice courses and a human trafficking course. She founded the first anti-trafficking program in Ohio in 1993. She has completed 9 studies, 19 articles/reports, and edited 2 books on sex trafficking; & she has received federal funding from 2002 to 2012 to conduct research in this area. Additional accomplishments include: founding the annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference in Toledo; founding the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition; she sits as chair of the Research & Analysis Subcommittee for the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission; and is an Editorial Manager for the Journal of Human Trafficking. And most recently, she opened the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute in 2015 to further the mission of combating human trafficking & supporting victims of this crime through research, education, and engagement.


Katharine Neuburger

Katharine Vallerand, LMSW

Graduate Assistant, Health Equity Research Center

Doctoral Student, Health Education 
College of Health and Human Services

Katharine Vallerand is the Graduate Assistant for the Health Equity Research Center and is a Doctoral Student in Health Education at the University of Toledo. She serves as a Graduate Assistant for the School of Population Health. Katharine holds a B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University and a MSW from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Katharine’s primary research interests focus on the creation of inclusive sexual health education and its implementation at different education levels. She is also interested in the effects of altering health-care provider communication training on patient comprehension.


Yashika A. Bhoge

Yashika A. Bhoge

Intern, Health Equity Research Centre
Graduate Student, MPH
College of Health and Human Services

Yashika Bhoge is an intern for the Health Equity Research Center and is a Graduate student in Public Health Epidemiology at the University of Toledo. She serves as a Graduate Assistant for the School of Population Health. Yashika holds a B.S in Biological Sciences with a minor in psychology from the University of Toledo. She is interested in studying the social and structural factors that drive racial and gender health inequalities. She is also interested in understanding the effects of social determinants of health on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

Last Updated: 10/6/23