Legacy Programs Alumni: Scholars in Health Disparities Program P - S

Dean E. Robinson, Ph.D.

Dr. Dean E. Robinson, Associate Professor of Political Science, is currently examining the effects of political and public policy trends on racial health disparities in the United States. Racial minorities tend to bear a greater share of the burden of disease and death in the U.S. Professor Robinson''s work focuses on "upstream" causes of these patterns, particularly policies, past and present that reinforce inequality of social welfare provision and socioeconomic status. He is also working on a book on the general theme of the politics of racial and class health inequalities in the U.S. In 2001, Robinson''s book Black Nationalism in American Politics and Thought looked at the intersection of race and class in U.S. social movements and ideology.';'health disparities in the U.S., intersection of race and class in U.S. social movements and ideology.

Ronica N. Rooks, Ph.D.

Dr. Ronica N. Rooks is an assistant professor in health and behavioral sciences at the University of Colorado Denver. Prior to this, she was an assistant professor in sociology at Kent State University. She also completed a W. K. Kellogg postdoctoral fellow in health disparities at the University of Michigan and a postdoctoral fellowship in geriatric epidemiology at the National Institute on Aging. She graduated from the department of sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park with concentrations in demography and social stratification. Her research focuses on explanations for racial and socioeconomic status disparities in the health of African Americans, particularly focusing on neighborhood socioeconomic status and demographics to examine heart disease and physical functioning outcomes among the elderly; perceptions of unfair treatment on hypertension, mental health, and health care utilization among adults; and geographic variation in adult patients' perceived quality of and access to health care on health care utilization.

Mercedes Rubio, M.A., Ph.D.

Dr. Mercedes Rubio lives in Washington D.C. She is Program Chief, Psychopathology Risk and Protective Factors Research Program and Assistant Director for Training in the Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Dr. Rubio received her BA in sociology at California State University, Bakersfield; her MA and PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan; and completed her post-doctoral training in Nursing at the University of Michigan. Dr. Rubio has authored several manuscripts and book chapters on race as a social phenomenon, transnational migration and health, home ownership among Latinos, and health status among Latino elderly immigrants. Her areas of expertise include obesity, mental health, and immigrant health.

Lester Spence, Ph.D.

Dr. Lester Spence is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Spence's specialties include racial politics, black politics, public opinion, and urban politics. He is particularly interested in examining how what we watch and listen to, as well as who we watch and listen to influence our ideas about politics, and our public policy preferences. For example, how does reading a newspaper story about a black male HIV/AIDS victim change our attitudes about black men? How does reading that story change our attitudes about behavior related to HIV/AIDS? And he does not confine his analysis to the news. Chuck D. once said that rap was "black America's CNN". Dr. Spence's first book Stare in the Darkness: Rap, Hip-hop, and Black Politics (under review) examines how rap not only influences youth attitudes, but also how it reflects and at the same time creates black politics. His work has been published in a variety of outlets, from The Washington Post and the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, to web magazines like and, to prestigious academic journals such as The American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Political Analysis, the WEB Dubois Review, and the National Political Science Review. A frequent radio commentator he can regularly be heard on NPR. His goal is to continue to publish ground breaking social science research, while simultaneously engaging in critical dialogue with mainstream audiences.

Dr. Lisa Cacari Stone

Dr. Lisa Cacari Stone is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine and Senior Research Fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. From 1999 to 2004, she was a national recipient of the WK Kellogg Doctoral Fellowship in Health Policy Research and graduate of The Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University (2004). From 2005 to 2008, she served as an H. Jack Geiger Congressional Health Policy Fellow for Senator Edward M. Kennedy with the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and as a W.K. Kellogg and Alonzo Yerby post-doctoral scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her studies along the New Mexico-Mexican border and in state and national policy making processes have focused on the role of health and social policies in moderating health equity in the U.S. Currently, Dr. Cacari Stone is the principal investigator in a pilot project funded by the RWJF Center for Health Policy "the demographic significance of immigrant growth to new and emerging and traditional gateway counties across the U.S. and the policy responses of county governments and their localities to those changes and the implications concerning access to health care." She is also co-investigator with Dr. Howard Waitzkin on another RWJF Center study examining the role of counties as the fundamental units of health access for low income, racial/ethnic communities, and medically underserved populations in the U.S. Additionally, Dr. Cacari Stone serves as principal investigator for the Border Center of Excellence grant which is a consortium of researchers and providers in Texas, Arizona and California in developing a strategic plan for increasing the health care delivery and research workforce along the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Cacari Stone is trusted for her work in "moving knowledge to action for health equity" among government administrators, elected officials, community based organizations, coalitions and foundations including the New Mexico Executive and Legislative Health, Human Services and Educational Committees; NM Governors' Women's Advisory Council; Con Alma Health Foundation; New Mexico Border Health Association; and the Dona Ana County Health and Human Services Alliance.

Kim Dobson Sydnor, Ph.D.

Dr. Kim Dobson Sydnor is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Community Health and Policy Department in the Department of Behavioral Health Sciences at Morgan State University where she serves as Department Chair. At Morgan, Dr. Sydnor serves as Site Director for the W.K. Kellogg Health Scholars program – Community Based Participatory Research track. Dr. Sydnor received her B.S. in Psychology from Morgan State University and her doctorate in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Dr. Sydnor has published research in the areas of substance use, cancer, Head Start. Her current research efforts are focused on program evaluation in two key areas: child development and problem solving courts. For the child development projects, Dr. Sydnor partners with local Head Start programs to assess program effectiveness for both parents and children and with DRU Mondawmin Healthy Families, Inc. This work applies a life course framework that examines the key contexts of school and family utilizing a community based participatory approach. The current work with the courts includes Maryland mental health court and juvenile justice court evaluation, partnering with the University of Maryland College Park, as well as UM Law School and UM School of Social Work. She serves as an Associate Editor for the community-based participatory journal Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research Education and Association and is on the Executive Board of DRU Mondawmin Health Families, Inc.