Leadership & Committees


Ndola Prata, MD

UC Berkeley

Ndola Prata, a physician and medical demographer, earned her medical degree from the University of Angola and an MSc in medical demography from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Prata practiced medicine in Angola for 10 years and served as head of the Social Statistics Department at the National Institute of Statistics of Angola. Shortly after moving to the US to begin her tenure as a researcher and lecturer at UC Berkeley, she also served as a demographer/analyst for the Centers for Disease Control's Division of Reproductive Health for six years, a role she resumed briefly from 2010 to 2011.

Her research interests include family planning, abortion, safe motherhood and maternal mortality. She focuses on the design, implementation and evaluation of family planning and maternal health interventions that increase access to contraceptives in developing countries, particularly for underserved populations. Her projects investigate strategies for harnessing existing resources, including human capacity and health care infrastructure, while also gathering evidence for setting priorities on national health agendas. In addition to her current research in sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Prata has conducted projects in Latin America and Central and South Asia.

  • Fred H. Bixby, Jr. Endowed Chair in Population and Family Planning
  • Professor in Residence, Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health
  • Director, Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability

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

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.

Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH

UC San Francisco
Research Lead

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.

Jennifer A. Wagman, PhD, MHS

UC San Diego
Community Engagement Lead

Jennifer Wagman, PhD, MHSJennifer A. Wagman, PhD, MHS is an Assistant Professor in the Fielding School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences at UCLA. She is also a Deputy Director of the UC Global Health Institute (UC GHI) Women’s Health, Gender, and Empowerment Center of Expertise (WHGE-COE). Dr. Wagman earned her PhD in Reproductive, Perinatal, and Women’s Health and her Master of Health Science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Dr. Wagman has been working in the field of international public health research for close to 20 years, focusing primarily on the prevention of HIV infection and violence against women and the promotion of reproductive health and rights.  

She received a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award (K01) from NIAAA to investigate the relationships between intimate partner violence (IPV), alcohol use and HIV infection in Rakai, Uganda. She has examined the relationship between intimate partner violence (IPV), reproductive health, and HIV infection in rural Uganda, and she has led intervention research to find effective, combination IPV/HIV prevention approaches. Beyond Uganda, Dr. Wagman collaborates with international partners in Haiti, Iraq, Kenya and Tanzania to adapt effective IPV and HIV prevention approaches for use in real life settings.

In St. Petersburg, Russia she co-leads a study to examine if differences exist between HIV-infected male and female injection drug users' patterns of risky sex practices, alcohol use and drug use behaviors. Findings will contribute to the design of gender-tailored HIV and substance use prevention approaches. Dr. Wagman’s current work focuses on the epidemiology of alcohol and substance use and their associations with IPV and HIV transmission, as well as the science of implementing proven successful violence and HIV prevention approaches in low resource settings. 


Stephanie Sumstine, MPH

Center Coordinator

Stephanie Sumstine, MPHStephanie Sumstine, MPH, is a research associate at the UCLA Global Center for Children and Families, where she assists on the development and testing of several behavioral interventions involving the intersection of substance use, sexual health, and empowerment. Stephanie's past experience consists of helping with several community and place-based evaluation initiatives, including the California Endowment-funded Building Healthy Communities Long Beach activities, the Female Leadership Academy and the Narrative Change Strategy for Youth Investment projects. She has also been continuously involved in a study that examines the illicit use of prescription stimulants among undergraduate college students in California.