Key Staff

The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research, education and advocacy organization that promotes the health and safety of adults and children. The key staff of the National Center for Health Research also manage the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.

Diana ZDiana Zuckerman, Ph.D., President

Diana Zuckerman received her Ph.D. in psychology from Ohio State University and was a post-doctoral fellow in epidemiology and public health at Yale Medical School. She started her career on the faculty of Vassar College and then directed a research project on children as a faculty member at Yale University.

After a post-doctoral training at Yale Medical School, she took a position at Harvard directing a groundbreaking research study of college students. Dr. Zuckerman left her academic career in 1983, to come to Washington, D.C. as a Congressional Science Fellow in the program run by the American Association of the Advancement of Science. After spending the year as a staff member in the House of Representatives, she spent the next ten years working as a Congressional staffer in the House and Senate, and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working to improve federal health programs and policies for adults and children. She initiated highly influential Congressional hearings on a wide range of health issues, including cancer prevention and treatment and the safety of medical products.

In 1995, Dr. Zuckerman served as a senior policy advisor in the White House, working for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Since 1996, she has served in leadership positions at nonprofit organizations, and has been in her current position since 1999.

While in her current position, Dr. Zuckerman was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics for several years. She is currently on the Board of Directors of two nonprofit organizations, the Congressionally mandated Reagan Udall Foundation and the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. She was previously the chair of the Women’s Health Promotion Council appointed by the Governor of Maryland.

Dr. Zuckerman is the author of five books, several book chapters, and dozens of articles in medical and academic journals, and in newspapers across the country. Her policy work has resulted in news coverage on all the major TV networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, public television, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Voice of America, National Public Radio, and in major U.S. print media such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, New York Daily News, Newsweek, Time, U.S. News and World Report, Family Circle, New Yorker, Glamour, Self, as well as many other newspapers, magazines, and radio programs.

She is the proud mother of two adult children. She can be reached at


Jack Mitchell, Director of Health Policy and Government Relations

Jack Mitchell is responsible for health policy issues of importance to the Center, particularly regarding the quality of medical care.  He provides research-based information regarding health policy issues to nonprofit organizations representing patients, consumers, and providers, as well as to legislators and their staff.  He represents the Center at meetings with officials and staff from agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also works with the media and coordinates the health policy activities of the Patient and Consumer Coalition.

Prior to joining NCHR in 2016, Jack has had a broad range of experience working on behalf of public health and science policy, Congressional oversight, and journalism.  At FDA, he directed the Commissioner’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which had a key role in the agency’s landmark efforts to regulate the tobacco industry.  At HHS, Jack held a senior legislative position in the Office of the Secretary whose responsibilities included managing all Departmental oversight responses to Congress.  At the National Science Foundation (NSF), he was as the Director’s Senior Advisor and chief inter-agency liaison whose duties included serving as Executive Secretary of the White House Committee on Science.  For more than a decade, Mitchell was chief investigator for two Senate Committees, the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on Aging.  His Congressional oversight work on health and medical issues laid the foundation for the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act” transparency regulation, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Prior to his government work, he was an on-air CNN Washington correspondent and has authored two books on presidential and electoral history.

Jack is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. He can be reached at


JGR-933x809Jay G. Ronquillo, M.D., M.P.H., M.M.Sc., M.Eng., Director of Biomedical Informatics

Jay G. Ronquillo focuses on health policy issues with broad potential impact on public health, health information technology, and precision medicine and interoperability.

Prior to joining NCHR, Dr. Ronquillo worked as a programmer analyst at Goldman Sachs, research investigator at the National Institutes of Health, medical officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on the Precision Medicine Initiative, and also founded a biomedical informatics startup.  He has developed informatics software for diverse healthcare applications as well as performed, published, and presented collaborative research in several health informatics journals and conferences.

Dr. Ronquillo received his B.S. and M.Eng. in Electrical/Computer Engineering from Cornell University, Post-Baccalaureate training from the University of Pennsylvania, M.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, M.P.H. in Quantitative Methods from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Medical Sciences in Biomedical Informatics from Harvard Medical School, and completed a Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics at Massachusetts General Hospital.  He can be reached at


                                    Stephanie Fox-Rawlings, Ph.D., Senior Fellow

Stephanie Fox-Rawlings is a senior fellow, focusing on health and policy issues related to brain development and function across the lifespan. Prior to joining the NCHR, she conducted basic and early translational research on developmental neuroscience.

Dr. Fox-Rawlings received her Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Neurosciences, where her work focused on the genes regulating the maturation of serotonergic neurons. During her postdoctoral work at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, she studied how the brain repairs itself following injury in a model of very preterm birth. She earned her B.S. degree at Kansas State University in Biology and Psychology. She can be reached at


Miara JeffressMiara Jeffress, Ph.D., Senior Fellow

Miara Jeffress is a senior fellow focused primarily on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and health disparities.  She also has a major role as NCHR’s liaison to patient advocates, and manages NCHR’s outreach to patients and our Patient Training Project, including Workshops and related activities.

Prior to joining NCHR, Dr. Jeffress conducted basic science research on alcoholic cardiomyopathy and guest lectured at the Howard University College of Pharmacy. She received her Ph.D. from Howard University in Physiology and Biophysics, where her work focused on the molecular mechanisms responsible for alcohol-induced heart failure.  She earned her B.S. degree at North Carolina Central University in Biology.


Megan Polanin_Website Professional Photo2Megan Polanin, Ph.D., Senior Fellow

As a Senior Fellow, Dr. Polanin works on NCHR’s Patient Advocate Training Project and manages the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Project. Her work focuses on empowering and training patients so that they have the information they need to improve the quality of their health care and mental health care. Prior to joining NCHR in 2016, Dr. Polanin worked with children and families as a therapist, assessor, behavioral health consultant, and preventionist within the mental health field. She specializes in evidence-based mental health interventions, school- and community-based prevention programming, and multicultural education.

Dr. Polanin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington, D.C. She received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and M.A. in Community Counseling from Loyola University Chicago and B.A. in Psychology and Spanish from Butler University. She completed her postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She may be reached at


unnamedSamantha E. Watters, M.P.H., Director of Communications and Outreach

Samantha E. Watters manages all communication and outreach for the Center. This includes overseeing the Center’s web presence, newsletters, digests, outreach and educational materials, and social media presence. She works to strategically improve NCHR’s operations, communications, and donor and public relations.

Before joining NCHR in 2016, Samantha worked at Adventist Hospital, providing tobacco cessation counseling to inpatients, outpatients, and community members, while also acting as the program director and project manager. She previously conducted health communications research in the area of risky driving behavior and taught community health courses. During this time, she produced several scientific publications. She has also worked with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in scientific communication and infectious disease research, the Food and Drug Administration in food safety risk analysis, and the US Department of Agriculture in database production and website search and retrieval. Samantha has a passion for video production and development, and developed several videos for NIH while working in their communications office.

Samantha received her Masters of Public Health from the University of Maryland, as well as a B.S. in Biochemistry and a B.A. in English Language and Literature.  She can be reached at


Christine Skubisz, Ph.D. Senior Fellow

As a Senior Fellow, Christine Skubisz is co-investigator on our project on thyroid cancer, which is focused on improving communication between health professionals and patients regarding screening, diagnosis, and treatment.  As is the case with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and prostate cancer, there is controversy about screening because the results of screening are often ambiguous, resulting in difficult decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment options.  Prior to joining NCHR in 2016, Dr. Skubisz has worked as a social scientist in the areas of health message design, risk communication, behavior change, and comparative effectiveness research. The topics of her research have included vaccination behavior, tobacco control, cancer, medical decision making, nutrition, food defense, and food labeling.

Dr. Skubisz received her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Maryland, M.A. in communication from Michigan State University, and B.A. in communication from Purdue University.  Her postdoctoral training was completed at the University of Pennsylvania in the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. She can be reached at


Amelia Murphy

Amelia Murphy, B.A., Programs and Outreach Coordinator

Amelia Murphy is the Programs and Outreach Coordinator, responsible for gathering research, writing web/newsletter content, managing NCHR’s social media presence, and digital outreach. She also handles the online Health Helpline, edits the newsletters, and provides general program support. In her work with NCHR, Amelia applies her research skills, experience writing for a public audience, and passion for cause-driven work. Prior to NCHR, Amelia was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia.

Amelia graduated from Smith College in May 2013 with a B.A in Psychology and Italian. While at Smith, Amelia worked at a psychology clinic in Italy, served as the health representative for her college residential house, and wrote for a magazine and her own blog. She can be reached at


farzanaFarzana Akkas, BSc, MSc, Research and Public Health Fellow

Farzana Akkas is a research and public health fellow, focusing mainly on the NCHR Affordable Care Act (ACA) project, assisting with the health hotline, and also working on our survey of Essure patients. Prior to joining NCHR, she was an intern at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, supporting the international grants team. She has an MSc in Health Promotion and Public Health and a BSc. in Biomedical Science from universities in London, where she also interned and worked for the largest voluntary sector provider of HIV and sexual health services in the UK, the Terrence Higgins Trust.


Mingxin (Manimg_9246dy) Chen, M.H.S, B.S., Research and Public Health Fellow

Mingxin Chen started working at NCHR after graduating from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in May 2016 with a Master of Health Science in Health Economics. At NCHR, Mingxin focuses on health economics and policy issues related to women’s health and cancer treatments. Mingxin is passionate about making high-quality health care more affordable and hopes to apply her expertise and skills in research and statistical analysis to advance the well-being of others.

Mingxin’s current work includes investigating the association between the use of talc and ovarian cancer, and studying the difference in efficacy and safety of newly approved drugs across different gender, age and racial groups.

Prior to attending graduate school, Mingxin studied Microbiology and Applied Statistics at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Spring 2017 Interns

Siena Brown (George Washington University ’17,  Public Health, minor in Psychology)

Sage Wylie (George Washington University ’19, Public Health, double minor in Nutrition and Journalism)


unnamedNatalie Rosseau, our Ruth Nadel intern, Fall 2016

Ruth Nadel was a staunch advocate for women’s health issues – many of the same issues that Natalie is working on at NCHR.  One of Natalie’s major projects is ensuring women’s access to medically necessary procedures,  as well as collecting data and analyzing health insurance plans as a part of the NCHR Affordable Care Act project.

Natalie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University in January 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in History, with minors in Law & Society and Inequality Studies. Natalie is passionate about providing patient-centered and culturally competent clinical care, as well as the intersection between health and policy, and health disparities. She will be starting medical school in August 2017. Natalie hopes to combine her enthusiasm for history and languages with her passion for medicine into a career that will include clinical practice, global health, and health policy.


Summer 2016 Interns

Summer 2016 internsfrom left to right:

Simon Essig Aberg (Amherst College – Economics, Mathematics)

Natalie Rosseau (Cornell University, ’16 – History, Minors in Law & Society and Inequality Studies)

Kristine Chin (Smith College – Biology and Government)

Elsie Yau (Yale University – Economics and History of Science, Medicine and Public Health)


Spring 2016 Interns

from left to right:

Miriam Mosbacher (University of Maryland – College Park, Community Health)

Nisa Hussain (University of Maryland – College Park, Community Health)

Hannah Kalvin (George Washington University, Public Health)


In Memoriam

Gwendolyn Lewis, a former sociology professor with important positions in the National Research Council, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a professional photographer who volunteered her time as our photographer since our founding in 1999 until she died from cancer in 2012.

As our photographer and friend, Gwen is responsible for the many memorable color photographs of the exceptional women who received our Foremother awards, as well as capturing many other important people and moments through the years.  As an artist, however, she specialized in black-and-white photography, with an emphasis on architectural subjects. Her work was exhibited in more than 100 shows in the Washington area and won many awards.