National Center for Disability and Pregnancy Research

Our Team

Our team is made up of investigatorsstaff, students, and consultants. In addition, our advisory board assists our team. Below our team, you will find our funding sources.


Monika Mitra, Director and Principal Investigator

Monika Mitra, PhD

Director and Principal Investigator

Dr. Monika Mitra is the Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Disability Policy, and Director of the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University. Her research examines the health care experiences and health outcomes of people with disabilities, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health of women with disabilities. She is currently Principal Investigator of three national centers operating out of the Lurie Institute: the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities focused on addressing knowledge gaps regarding the needs of parents with diverse disabilities; the Community Living Policy Center, aimed at improving policies and practices that advance community living outcomes for people with disabilities; and the newly-funded National Center for Disability and Pregnancy Research. She is Principal Investigator of two NIH-funded R01 grants, one on pregnancy outcomes and experiences of deaf and hard-of-hearing women; and one examining the intersections of race, ethnicity, and disability in Black women and Latinas with physical disability. Dr. Mitra is co-editor-in-chief of the Disability and Health Journal and the 2017 recipient of the Allan Meyers Award from the American Public Health Association Disability Section. Prior to joining Brandeis, Dr. Mitra was Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She received her PhD and MA from Boston University, and her MS from Calcutta University, Kolkata, India.

Willi Horner-Johnson, Co-Principal Investigator

Willi Horner-Johnson, PhD

Co-Principal Investigator

Willi Horner Johnson, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Institute on Development and Disability at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and in the collaborative OHSU-Portland State University School of Public Health. She received her PhD in Community Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and joined OHSU in 2001. Willi’s research focuses on disparities in health and access to health opportunities as they impact people with disabilities. She has particular interests in reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes among teens and adults with disabilities and in compounded disparities that may occur when disability intersects with other sociodemographic characteristics. She has been engaged in disability research for more than 20 years and is a past chairperson of the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association. She also directs the Oregon Office on Disability and Health (OODH), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The mission of OODH is to promote the health and wellness of people with disabilities in Oregon.

Anne Valentine, Co-Investigator and Project Manager

Anne Valentine, MPH

Co-Investigator and Project Manager

Anne Valentine, MPH, PhD, is NCDPR's Project Manager. Her research interests include maternal and child health policy, mental-health and substance-use services research, healthcare disparities, and social and behavioral determinants of health status. Anne received her doctorate from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and is a research associate at the Lurie Institute. Prior to beginning her doctoral degree, she was the project manager for the NIMH Advanced Center Mental Health Disparities at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research.

Jaime Slaughter-Acey, Co-Investigator

Jaime Slaughter-Acey, PhD


Dr. Jaime Slaughter-Acey (she/her) is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She received her doctoral training in maternal and child health epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and postdoctoral training at Michigan State University. Broadly, her teaching, research, and service focus on the socio-environmental and psychosocial determinants of women’s and family health, with emphasis on health equity. But a focal area of Dr. Slaughter-Acey’s research is the study of structural, cultural, and intergenerational racism and how systemic racism impacts health before, during, and after pregnancy. Dr. Slaughter-Acey is the Principal Investigator of the Interdisciplinary Research Invested in Social Equity (I-RISE) Collaboratory, which aims to integrate social science literature with epidemiologic- and system-science methods to study the patterning of health and healthcare inequalities. This work has received funding from the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Commonwealth Fund.

Kara Ayers, Co-Investigator

Kara Ayers, PhD


Kara Ayers, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics for the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the Associate Director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She’s co-founder of the Disabled Parenting Project and has focused much of her research on the pregnancy and parenting experiences of people with disabilities. Dr. Ayers is a disabled mother to three children and infuses the mantra, “Nothing about us without us,” into her work.

John Harris, Co-Investigator

John Harris, MD


John Harris, MD, is an Assistant Professor at the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences. He is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist and Director of the UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital Center for Women with Disabilities.

Dr. Harris’s work focuses on improving healthcare for women through understanding healthcare systems, particularly for people with disabilities. His expertise also includes examining healthcare access and quality in gynecologic care. He is interested in issues of access and quality in hysterectomy and infertility care.

Mike McKee, Co-Investigator

Michael McKee, MD, MPH


Michael McKee, MD, MPH, is a family physician with clinical and research expertise in disability health. As a bi-cultural physician with hearing loss, he is especially interested in advocating for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing patients to obtain equitable healthcare including accessible communication. His research focus includes health disparities for individuals with various disabilities, health information accessibility, health literacy, and telemedicine applications.

Susan Ernst, Co-Investigator

Susan Ernst, MD


Susan Ernst, MD, has been the clinical director of the reproductive health clinic for adolescents and women with disabilities at the University of Michigan since 2004. She is the parent of a young woman with developmental disabilities and is passionate about reducing healthcare disparities for adolescents and women with disabilities. She is faculty for the Michigan Medicine Center for Disability Health and Wellness and lectures on reproductive healthcare for adolescents and persons with disabilities both locally and nationally. Over the years, she has been a member of several research teams and was the senior author on a survey assessing menstrual issues in girls and young women with Angelman Syndrome, which was published in 2016. In 2016, her team received funding and has now completed qualitative and quantitative data collection on barriers to reproductive health services for women with disabilities in Ethiopia. In April 2018, an R21 was awarded to develop a decision-making tool for women with physical disabilities to weigh risks and benefits when considering pregnancy. Finally, in 2021 as co-investigator with Brandeis University, we received an NIDILRR award to establish a Center for Disability Health and Pregnancy.

Hilary Brown, Co-Investigator

Hilary Brown, PhD


Hilary Brown, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, in the Department of Health & Society and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She is also an Adjunct Scientist at Women’s College Hospital. Dr. Brown holds a Canada Research Chair in Disability & Reproductive Health. Her research program, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, uses epidemiologic methods to examine maternal and child health and mental health across the life course, with a particular focus on populations with disabilities and chronic disease, health equity, and the social determinants of health.

Ilhom Akobirshoev, PhD'15, Co-Investigator

Ilhom Akobirshoev, PhD'15, MSW


Ilhom Akobirshoev, PhD, MSW, is Research Scientist at the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy. He has extensive expertise in secondary data analyses and survey research on issues related to the perinatal health of women with disabilities. Dr. Akobirshoev is Co-Investigator working with Dr. Mitra on two NIH grants on the perinatal health of women with disabilities. In collaboration with NCDPR PIs, he will oversee the management and analysis of the datasets.

Robyn Powell, PhD'20, Co-Investigator

Robyn Powell, PhD'20, JD


Robyn Powell, PhD, JD, is Senior Research Associate at the Lurie Institute and Visiting Assistant Professor at Stetson University College of Law. As a disabled woman, her research interests include disability law and policy, particularly the needs, experiences, and rights of parents with disabilities and their families. She is one of the country’s foremost authorities on the rights of parents with disabilities and she was principal author of the National Council on Disability’s Rocking the Cradle report. She is currently also a co-investigator with the Lurie Institute’s National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities.


Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, Staff

Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, MA

Peer Facilitator and Research Assistant

Jennifer Lee-Rambharose, MA, has expertise in advocacy and community organizing. She has worked as a coordinator for independent living services for people with disabilities.


Photo of Mike Vetter, Graduate Research Assistant

Michael Vetter, MPH, MA'11

Michael (Mike) Vetter is a doctoral student in the Health concentration. Prior to joining the doctoral program, Mike worked as a project specialist in Mass General Brigham’s Population Health Management department. Most recently, his research experience focused on outcomes and measures of strain and distress for persons living with dementia and their familial caregivers. Mike plans to expand on this by examining the health services utilization of unpaid family caregivers among Medicare and Medicaid populations. He completed a Master of Public Health degree at Tufts University in 2018 and a Master of Arts in sociocultural anthropology at Brandeis University in 2011.


Marjorie Aunos, Consultant

Marjorie Aunos, PhD

Marjorie Aunos, PhD, is a single-mother-by-choice living with a Spinal Cord Injury. She is a psychologist and researcher in the field of Parenting with Disabilities and the Chair of International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities/Parenting Special Interest Research Group (IASSIDD Parenting SIRG). She is also an award-winning inspirational speaker and author of the book Mom on Wheels: The Power of Purpose as a Parent with Paraplegia. She lives in Montreal, Canada.

Lisa Iezzoni, Consultant

Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc

Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc, is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and based at the Health Policy Research Center, Mongan Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Iezzoni has conducted numerous studies examining the healthcare experiences of persons with disability. Her book Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities was published in 2022. Dr. Iezzoni is a member of the National Academy of Medicine in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD'07, Consultant

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD, JD

Linda Long-Bellil, PhD, JD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at University of Massachusetts Medical School with expertise in research, policy, and training related to health and employment of persons with disabilities. Dr. Long-Bellil will serve as Director of Training for the NCDPR. In this role, she will lead the development of all training activities, along with input from stakeholders, collaborators, and the Community Advisory Board.

Funding Sources

The National Center for Disability and Pregnancy Research is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90DPHF0011). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS.