Staff

Crystal Fuller Lewis, PhD  CV
Division Head & CCASE Director 

Dr. Lewis joined NKI in 2015 as head of the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research, Director of CCASE, and as an Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She earned a Ph.D. in infectious disease epidemiology from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University and launched a 15-year NIH-funded research program at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.  Through multilevel investigations of racial disparities, Dr. Lewis implemented several successful pharmacy-based intervention trials in low-income, urban neighborhoods to increase access to HIV prevention, harm reduction, and other needed social and medical services. At NKI, she has been investigating pharmacies as “access points” for opioid treatment, overdose prevention, mental health services, and COVID-19 screening and treatment.

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Helen-Maria Lekas, PhD  CV
Research Scientist & CCASE Co-Director

Dr. Lekas joined NKI in 2016 as a Research Scientist in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research, and as Co-Director of CCASE. She is an Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University and served an Associate Professor at Mailman School of Public Health and built a 13-year NIH-funded research portfolio on infectious and chronic diseases in low-incme communities. Engagement in care, patient-provider relationships, intersectional stigma, symptom interpretation and illness management in persons with behavioral health needs makeup her research agenda, using applied, sophisticated theory-driven research methods. Most recently, Dr. Lekas has developed a cultural and structural competence training for the peer advocate mental health workforce.

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Carrie Masia, PhD  CV
Research Scientist

Dr. Masia is a Research Scientist in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research, and a member of the CCASE Leadership Team.  She earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, followed by an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University.  She spent 13 years as an Associate Professor in the Department of Child Psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and now appointed as a Professor of Psychology at Montclair State University. Dr. Masia is an expert in implementation science, leading several randomized controlled trials addressing social anxiety among adolescents in community settings. Today, she is leading a federally-funded school-based trial evaluating best practices to identify and treat anxiety in Black and Latinx youth.

Kerstin Pahl, PhD 
Research Scientist

Dr. Pahl is a Research Scientist in the Divsion of Social Solutions and Services Research, a member of the CCASE Leadership Team, and a licensed psychoanalyst. She received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from NYU’s Steinhardt School for Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her research has focused on the longitudinal pathways to and the developmental patterns of health behaviors and well-being, including substance use and sexual behaviors spanning the life-course.  Her research interests also include development of ethnic and racial identities, impact of discrimination on development and health, and resilience resources that promote well-being in youth and adults of color. Today, Dr. Pahl is exploring longitudinal associations of socioeconomic disadvantage and racial discrimination with allostatic load among midlife African American and Latino adults.

Sharifa Williams, DrPH, MSc., MPH  CV
Research Scientist

Dr. Williams is a Research Scientist and Biostatistician in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research. She received a Doctor of Public Health (Biostatistics), Master of Science (Biostatistics), and Master of Public Health (Health Policy & Management) from Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and her Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from Rutgers University. Dr. Williams oversees statistical operations for the Division and CCASE. Her expertise includes Bayesian modeling approaches to improve inferences arising from behavioral health survey data. She’s adept in analysis of statewide data across NYS high priority areas (i.e., overdose, and suicide). Her NIH-funded research entails use of longitudinal psychosocial data to identify disparities across the life-course. She teaches graduate and undergraduate level biostatistics and epidemiology.

Babak Tofighi, MD 
Research Scientist

Dr. Tofighi is a Research Scientist in the Department of Social Solutions and Services Research, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health,  NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and practices primary care at Bellevue Hospital.  He previously completed a clinical fellowship in Addiction Medicine and a NRSA-funded T32 primary care research fellowship. He was then awarded a NIH/NIDA K23 Career Development Award to design and conduct usability testing of a text message-based intervention in support of OBOT Medical Management. Today, Dr. Tofighi is leveraging community pharmacies and technology-based interventions to enhance access to pharmacotherapies for substance use disorders in underserved urban, rural and suburban NY communities.

Dei-In Tang, PhD  CV
Statistician

Dr. Tang is a Statistician in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research. Dr. Tang has a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics from University of California, Los Angeles and devoted his earlier research to clinical trial statistical methodology, including multiple inferences resulting from multiple endpoints and multistage look into sequential data analysis. He is currently lead statistician for the Implementation of Best Practices for Treating Co-occurring Disorders in NYS behavioral health treatment settings. Dr. Tang is an expert in use of non-traditional statistical software such as CART (data mining) and IRT (Item Response Theory) software for psychometrics.

Gilbert Nick, LMSW, MPA  CV
Research Scientist

Mr. Gilbert Nick is a Research Scientist in the Division of Social Solutions and Services Research, a licensed social worker, and a doctoral student in Social Welfare at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He received his Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration from Columbia University, and Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College. His current research focuses on exploring risk and protective factors among racial and ethnic groups using behavioral health services, and identifying cultural and structural factors that impact access, quality and utilization of mental health services. Prior to NKI, he worked at the NYC Health Department, overseeing health promotion campaigns and programmatic initiatives for racial and ethnic groups, people with serious mental illness and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT), and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) persons.

Research Support

Jennifer C. Hernandez, MPA 
Division & CCASE Administrator

Linda Capobianco, MA 
Project Administrator

Blen Alemayehu, MPH 
Research Project Manager & Data Analyst

Lisa Wang, MPH 
Research Project Manager

Daniele Martino, MA 
Research Coordinator

Chloe Blau, MA 
Research Coordinator

Sebrena Tate, BS 
Research Trainer/ Evaluator

Pedro Batista, BA 
Field Coordinator

Daniela Galvez, BA 
Research Assistant

Tracy Lloyd, BS 
Research Assistant/ Evaluator

Parichat Pintong, BA 
Research Assistant

Ariadna Capasso, MFA 
Pre-Doctoral Student Intern (New York University)

DeVante Cunningham, MPH 
Pre-Doctoral Student Intern (Montclair State University