The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Faculty and Staff

photograph of Monika Mitra

Monika Mitra - Interim Director 

Monika Mitra, PhD, is the interim director and associate professor at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School. Her research examines the health care experiences and health outcomes of working age adults with disabilities, with a particular focus on the perinatal health of women with disabilities, violence victimization against people with disabilities, and disability-related disparities in health and access to care. Her research has been supported by a range of federal and state funding sources, including the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).  Currently, Dr. Mitra is the Principal Investigator on two NICHD grants on: (1) examining the health needs and barriers to perinatal care among women with mobility disabilities, and (2) understanding pregnancy complications and outcomes among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  She also has extensive experience in public health program development, evaluation, and implementation. She received her PhD and MA from Boston University, and her MS from Calcutta University, Kolkata, India.  More

photograph of Ilhom Akobirshoev

Ilhom Akobirshoev - Senior Research Associate 

Ilhom Akobirshoev, PhD, MA, MSW is the Senior Research Associate at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University. Dr. Akobirshoev's research examines the contribution of different "contextual environments" - family, neighborhood, and other social and economic systems and health and social welfare policies - to disparities in health care service utilization, quality of in health care, health outcomes, and economic wellbeing, mincluding racial/ethinc disparities in these indiciators among highly vulnerable populations of children and adults with disabilities, and their caregiving families. Dr. Akobirshoev's current research projects included investigations of (1) racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes and hospitalization costs among mothers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, (2) racial and ethnic disparities in health care access of children with special health care needs, (3) pregnancy and birth outcomes of women with intellectual and developmental disabilities, (4) trends, patterns, quality, costs of hospitalization among working-age adults with autism spectrum disorders. Currently, Dr. Akobirshoev is the co-investigator and bio-statistician of a federally funded grant focusing on: (1) examining the health needs and barrriers to perinatal care among women with mobility disabilities, and (2) understanding pregnancy complications and outcomes among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities, (3) disability-related disparities in sex education, contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy, and (4) research on health and economic wellbeing of parents with disabilities funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDLIRR). Dr. Akobirshoev also serves as an invited reviewer  for the American Journal of Public Health, Disability and Health Journal, American Public Health Association, and Health and Social Work Journal. He is also a consultant to the INstitute of Medicine, National Academies of Science and advises the Study Committee, Evaluation of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability Program for Children with Speech Disorders and Language Disorders. Prior to joining Brandeis, Dr. Akobirshoev was Social Policy Officer at the United National CHildren's Fund (UNICEF). Before that, he was Senior Program Officer at the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). He received his PhD and MA in Social Policy from Brandeis University, and his MSW from Washington University in Saint Louis.


Disability-related disparities in health and health care access; autism; financial well-being of people with disabilities and their caregiving families; intellectual and developmental disabilities; mother and chil health; racial/ethnic disparities; poverty and people with disabilities; health care services and disability resesarch; health insurance; health economics; cost-effectiveness analysis; cost-benefit analysis; large national dataset analysis; quantitative methods; statistical analyses. 

photo of Subharati GhoshSubharati Ghosh - Visiting Scholar

Curriculum Vitae

Subharati Ghosh, PhD, MSW, is a former post-doctoral fellow and current visiting scholar at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. Her work focuses on the life-course impacts of parenting a child with developmental disabilities and severe mental illnesses. She is primarily interested in studying how long-term caregiving affects wellbeing of families. Dr. Ghosh completed her doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison, School of Social Work, and holds an MSW degree from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India. She was the recipient of the first Doctoral Student Research Paper Award, School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Prior to joining her current position, Dr. Ghosh worked as a Research Associate at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, where she was responsible for developing the research core of the department of Family and Community Medicine. She continues to nurture her research interests in disability and family caregiving.

photo of Eun Jung Kim

Eun Jung Kim - Research Associate

Eun Jung Kim is currently a PhD candidate at the Heller School. She worked as a research associate over two years at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA), where she participated in studies of welfare officers’ work task and burden, social service performance and social service block grants. Ms. Kim’s area of interest is balancing work and family life, particularly gender differences in work-family conflict and comparing family policies internationally. She is currently writing her dissertation on the determinants and effects of utilization of work-family policies in South Korea. Ms. Kim holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work from Ewha Women University, and a Master’s degree in social policy from Seoul National University.

photo of Walter Leutz

Walter Leutz - Associate Professor

Curriculum Vitae

Walter Leutz, PhD'81, MSW, is an Associate Professor in the Heller School's Schneider Institutes, where he teaches courses in aging policy and long-term services and supports for persons with disabilities. He has led and participated in numerous studies that use beneficiary and provider surveys, case studies, qualitative interviews, utilization and cost analysis, and policy analysis, particularly concerning Medicare and Medicaid and their beneficiaries. He is currently PI for the evaluations of two federal demonstrations of enhanced services to newborns exposed to illegal substances and their families and was recently PI of an evaluation of a federal demonstration of the delivery of Medicare home health services in adult day care settings. He has led research on beneficiary choices between high- and low-option Medicare supplements (Leutz, Brody, et al. 2007), the relationships between public benefit systems and the welfare of aging and disabled populations (Leutz, Greenlick, et al. 2003), long-term care/medical care integration (Leutz, 1999), what service users want from care service systems (Leutz, Capitman, et al. 2007), and how systems respond to wants in the context of new financing, and how needs, utilization, and costs evolve over time in enrolled populations (Leutz, Gurewich, et al. 2007). He is currently working on an initiative to develop and implement a plan for Healthy Aging for Massachusetts in conjunction with the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum. Overall, his work reflects intimate understanding of the needs of vulnerable persons and the health care and supportive services systems that serve them.  More

photograph of Henan LiHenan Li - Postdoctoral Fellow

Henan Li, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. Henan received a PhD in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His dissertation looked at the relationship between obesity and health care expenditures among Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a member of the American Public Health Association Disability Section since 2009, Henan has been interested in examining the intersection of health, disability, and health care in a multi-faceted context. Originally from China, Henan has his BA in sport and exercise psychology.

fances martinez

Frances Martínez-Pedraza - Postdoctoral Fellow

Frances Martínez-Pedraza, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. Frances received a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Boston. While at UMass Boston, she was a graduate student investigator in the Autism, Behavior, and Child Development (ABCD) Project, a study focused on disseminating autism screening tools in Early Intervention programs to improve the early detection of autism among racial and ethnic minority children. For her dissertation, Frances looked at the role of Early Intervention providers’ perceived cultural competence and the parent-provider working alliance on predicting service receipt outcomes for culturally-diverse children at-risk of autism spectrum disorder. Frances’ research interests include racial and ethnic disparities in service receipt and quality for children with developmental disabilities, provider cultural competence in disability-related services, and the impact of public policies on children with disabilities and their families. Additionally, Frances is a part-time clinical fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Learning and Emotional Assessment Program where she provides neurodevelopmental assessments of young children.

Joanne NicholsonJoanne Nicholson - Visiting Scholar

Curriculum Vitae

Joanne Nicholson, PhD is a clinical and research psychologist and is currently Professor of Psychiatry at The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Visiting Scholar at Brandeis University. Dr. Nicholson has established an active program of research on parents with mental illnesses and their children, in partnership with people in recovery. She is the lead author of Parenting Well When You’re Depressed and Creating Options for Family Recovery, and is a co-editor of Parental Psychiatric Disorder, 3rd ed., which received the President’s Choice Book Award from the British Medical Association in 2016. Dr. Nicholson has written more than 100 publications and has been investigator on over 50 research grants and contracts. In 2006, Dr. Nicholson received the Armin Loeb Award from the national Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association for her significant career contribution to research. She has been a W.T. Grant Foundation Distinguished Fellow and a NIDRR Switzer Distinguished Research Fellow. In 2008, Dr. Nicholson received the inaugural Steven Banks award for Outstanding Research Mentoring from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is the 2010 recipient of the University of Massachusetts Medical School Women’s Faculty Committee Outstanding Community Service Award, the 2011 recipient of the Katharine F. Erskine Award for Women in Medicine and Science, and in 2012 was named a Fellow of the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth. In 2016, she received an Ambassador Award from the Australian Children of Parents with a Mental Illness Initiative for her contributions.

photo of Susan Parish

Susan Parish - Senior Scientist

Curriculum Vitae

Susan L. Parish, PhD, MSW, is the Dean of the Bouvé College of Health Science at Northeastern University. Dr. Parish also served as the Lurie' Institute's inaugaral director through 2016. Her research examines the health and financial well-being of children and adults with disabilities, as well as their caregiving families. She is particularly interested in family support, the health of women with intellectual disabilities, and the impact of health and poverty policies on people with disabilities and their families. She is currently principal investigator on a study funded by the US Department of Education (NIDRR) that is testing an intervention to increase cervical and breast cancer screening of women with intellectual disabilities. She is co-principal investigator on an HRSA-funded study of the health care access of children with autism. At the Heller School, she teaches classes in disability policy and both quantitative and qualitative research methods. She has won numerous awards for her teaching and her research, including the Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research and the Research Matters! award from the Arc of the United States. She is a Fellow of the American Association of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities.  More

Eliana Rosenthal Eliana Rosenthal - Research Associate

Ellie Rosenthal '16 majored Psychology and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies  and was selected to Phi Betta Kappa. While at Brandeis, she worked as a Research Assistant for the Lurie Institute.  Additionally, she continues to manage Sibs' Journey, an organization which aims to provide support and resources for siblings of individuals with disabilities. Ellie's main interests are Autism Spectrum Disorders and their intersections with mental illnesses and family dynamics.  

photo of r powellRobyn Powell - Research Associate

Robyn Powell, JD , is a Lurie Institute Doctoral Fellow and Research Associate. She received her JD from Suffolk University Law School and her BS in Social Work from Bridgewater State University. Her research interests include disability law and policy, particularly the needs, experiences, and rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Most recently, Robyn served as an Attorney Advisor at the National Council on Disability.

photo of lauren smithLauren Smith - Research Associate

Lauren Smith is a Research Associate with the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. She received her MPH from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has extensive experience implementing public health policy research studies using a variety of research methods. The extent of her experience includes every aspect of the process from grant writing and submission all the way to dissemination. She is currently coordinating two NIH R01 studies about pregnancy and disability; one focuses on women with physical disabilities and the other on women with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her research interests include health disparities and dissemination. Prior to joining The Lurie Institute, Lauren worked at UMass Medical School in the Center for Health Policy Research, Disability, Health and Employment Policy Unit.

photo Michelle TechlerMichelle Techler - Assistant Director

Michelle Techler is the Assistant Director for the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. She received a BA from Bates College and has studied at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Michelle has worked in the field of nonprofit arts management for several years, most notably at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She remains actively involved in local arts organizations.  Currently, Michelle is attending the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College.

photo of Marji Erickson WarfieldMarji Erickson Warfield - Director of the Starr Center

Marji Erickson Warfield, PhD '91, is a senior scientist and director of the Nathan and Toby Starr Center on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Her research has focused on investigating the development of children with disabilities and the adaptation of their families over time and examining the impact of parenting a child with a disability on balancing work and family roles. She has also directed projects evaluating early intervention and other educational, health, and support programs and services for children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs and for young children at risk of delay due to a variety of environmental factors. New initiatives focus on participant-directed service models and transition services for individuals with autism.  More

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