Leadership & Committees


Dallas Swendeman, PhD, MPH


Dallas Swendeman, PhD, MPHDallas Swendeman is an applied social and behavioral scientist whose work focuses on multi-level interventions at the intersection of empowerment, prevention, self-management and mobile and social media technologies. Dr. Swendeman has multi-disciplinary training in psychological and medical anthropology, sociology, organizational studies, epidemiology and community health sciences (public health).

Over the past 20 years, he has led and supported projects developing, testing, adapting and scaling up evidence-based interventions for HIV prevention, substance abuse, self-management and empowerment with youth, sex workers, and persons living with HIV. More recently, Dr. Swendeman's work has focused on mobile health ("mHealth") using text-messaging, interactive voice response, smartphone applications and social media for research and intervention. In particular, his work explores mixed-methods research and context sensing mobile technologies with adolescents and parents, mobile applications to support home visiting community health workers to address pre- and post-natal support and for sex workers around HIV/STD prevention. His work has been conducted with community-based partners in the U.S., India, and South Africa.

  • Associate Professor In-Residence, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine

Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH

UC San Francisco

Ushma Updahyay, PhD, MPHUshma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH, associate professor-in-residence in the UC San Francisco Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, is based at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health Program at UCSF's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. Her work encompasses two overarching themes: the effects of women's empowerment and gender equity on reproductive health and improving access to contraception and abortion care. Her current research focuses on understanding and documenting the impact of state-level abortion restrictions on women's lives.

She also has a National Institutes of Health K01 Award to study gender-based power and masculinities among young men and women and its effect on contraceptive use. Dr. Upadhyay's research interests also focus on measures of women's empowerment and assessing its influence on contraceptive use, abortion decisions and fertility. Dr. Upadhyay has developed and validated the Reproductive Autonomy Scale to quantitatively measure the power to decide about and control matters related to contraceptive use, pregnancy and childbearing, which researchers can incorporate into interview assessments in a variety of evaluations and research contexts.

Deputy Directors

Melissa Smith, MD

UC Santa Barbara
Education and Training lead

Melissa Smith, MD

Melissa Smith, M.D., is a family medicine physician who has worked in primary care clinics in low-income communities in the US and Central America for three decades. Dr. Smith is the Director of Health Equity Initiatives at UC Santa Barbara, where she co-teaches a seminar on Community-based Participatory Research on health disparities, and is involved in collaborative efforts to address health concerns of historically marginalized communities in Santa Barbara County. She is also a member of UCGHI’s Black Lives Matter Task Force. 

Dr. Smith has developed culturally sensitive training programs for community health workers and midwives in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and has been engaged in a Participatory Action Research project focused on maternal health in Mexico. She has served as medical editor and writer for Hesperian Health Guides, who produce widely used public health manuals on community health and empowerment. Dr. Smith is lead author of Hesperian's book, Health Actions for Women: Practical Strategies to Mobilize for Change, which is now translated into six languages and accessed by people around the globe on Hesperian’s open-source digital platform.

Dr. Smith obtained a BA from Harvard University and an M.D. from the University of Washington.

Jennifer A. Wagman, PhD, MHS

Community Engagement Lead

Jennifer A. WagmanJennifer A. Wagman, PhD, MHS is an Associate Professor in the Fielding School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences at UCLA. She earned her Master of Health Science in International Health and PhD in Reproductive, Perinatal, and Women’s Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Wagman completed postdoctoral training at the UC San Diego School of Medicine in the Substance Use, HIV and Related Infections Training Program.

Dr. Wagman has been working in the field of global public health for the past 25 years and her work spans five intertwined domains. These include: (1) Conducting quantitative and qualitative research on violence against women (VAW), reproductive health and rights and risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI). (2) Looking at the epidemiology of intimate partner violence (IPV) and its relationship with HIV infection, STIs and alcohol and substance use in global, resource poor settings. (3) Conducing implementation science to adapt, assess and scale-up evidence-based interventions for global prevention of HIV infection, IPV and alcohol and substance use problems. (4) Addressing social disparities through research aimed at increasing health services access and prevention of STIs and violence among pregnant women in the U.S. who are uninsured, undocumented, low-income and/or substance users. (5) Conducting collaborative research on sexual assault and dating violence among college students in the U.S. and globally.

Stephanie Sumstine, MPH

Center Coordinator

Stephanie Sumstine, MPHStephanie Sumstine is the Center Coordinator for the UC Global Health Institute's (UCGHI) Women's Health, Gender, and Empowerment Center of Expertise (WHGE COE) and a Project Director at the UCLA Center for Community Health. She earned her Master of Public Health from California State University Long Beach with an emphasis in community health education. Stephanie's research interests are in substance use, sexual health, and addressing health disparities in historically marginalized communities. Stephanie was the UCLA Coordinator for the WHGE COE's UC Speaks Up project. Prior to working at UCLA, Stephanie worked on several community and place-based evaluation initiatives, including the Building Healthy Communities and Narrative Change Strategy for Youth Investment projects, as well as a study examining substance use in college students in California.