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Steering the way towards an era of inclusive and equitable healthcare by integrating clinical and social insights through data-driven research


The CCSR is dedicated to advancing equitable healthcare through rigorous scientific exploration, enabling data-driven generation of deep insights on the intersection between clinical and social determinants of health. Powered by big-data and driven by scientific integrity and a commitment to minority communities, the CCSR endeavors to equip healthcare stakeholders with evidence-based, clinically meaningful and socially impactful research. Our ultimate goal is to help shape, with leading research and real-world data, a health landscape that embraces the increasing complexity, diversity and inherent dignity of the US and global populations.

Key Programs

Minority and Rural Coronavirus Insights Study (MRCIS)

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Alliance for Representative Clinical Trials (ARC)

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Healthcare Data Equity Project

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Dr. Salvatore (Salvo) Alesci, M.D., Ph.D. is the Senior Vice President of the Center for Clinical and Social Research. In this leadership role, Dr. Alesci spearheads the organization's efforts to advance health equity, improve healthcare outcomes, and drive research initiatives that address the disparities faced by minority populations. Dr. Alesci is a physician-scientist and healthcare executive with over two decades of working experience spanning multiple leadership roles in the government research and biopharmaceutical sectors. His expertise in R&D strategy and translational medicine have been applied to multiple therapy areas and drug pipelines. With a track record of groundbreaking work in medical research, health policy, and patient advocacy, a profound understanding of the intersection of clinical and social determinants of health, and a passion for addressing health disparities, Dr. Alesci is uniquely poised to lead NMQF's efforts in fostering innovative research to promote health equity. Dr. Alesci received his M.D. (cum laude) and a Ph.D. in Experimental Endocrine and Metabolic Sciences from University of Messina, School of Medicine (Italy). After his post-graduate training, Dr. Alesci spent almost a decade conducting cutting-edge basic and translational research on the interplay between the neuroendocrine and immune systems at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Alesci left the NIH to join the biopharmaceutical industry in 2006, serving in a number of Translational Medicine leadership roles at Wyeth, Pfizer and Merck. and leading efforts to “de-risk” several drug candidates as they progressed through the pipeline. In 2011, Dr. Alesci joined PhRMA as Vice President, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs to lead the association’s science advocacy and engagement efforts, serving as chief scientific and medical expert for input on biomedical policy issues. In 2015, Dr. Alesci joined Takeda, where his last appointment was Head, R&D Global Patient and Scientific Affairs. During his tenure, he enabled Takeda to more effectively partner with patients and their organizations throughout the drug life-cycle, ensuring early and continued access to investigational medicines. More recently, Dr. Alesci has served as Chief Scientist and Strategy Officer and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council at Beyond Celiac, the leading research-driven patient advocacy organization focused on accelerating discovery and development of treatments for Celiac disease. In his new role, Dr. Alesci will be responsible for leading development and implementation of a strategic and operational plan for the Center for Clinical and Social Research. Working collaboratively with NMQF cross-functional teams, Dr. Alesci will establish and maintain a clinical research network consisting of minority-serving community clinicians, oversee development of research grants and sponsorships, and coordinate research-based projects. As a member of NMQF executive team, Dr. Alesci will liaise with private organizations and public agencies to advance the research and government relations/public policy objectives of the organization. In particular, he will lead collaborative activities to raise public awareness on the value of diversity in research and clinical trials.
Dr. Makella S. Coudray is an infectious disease epidemiologist with the National Minority Quality Forum and a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Central Florida. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, 2020) in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from Florida International University, a Master of Public Health (MPH, 2016) in Epidemiology and a Bachelor of Science (BSc, 2015) in Biology from St. George’s University (Grenada). Dr. Coudray hails from the beautiful twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago and has strong ties to Guyana (maternal heritage). Currently Dr. Coudray’s work investigates sexual health disparities among marginalized populations- especially transgender women, and cisgender women of color- using a bio-behavioral lens. Specifically, she uses quantitative methods to examine the social determinants of sexual health risk factors. Additionally, her work also explores the impact of social and structural determinants of health on COVID-19 outcomes. As the Principal Investigator of a recently awarded K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, she is examining the validation of self-collected specimens for STI testing among trans women and the differences in STI prevalence and socio-spatial STI risk factors between trans women with and without neovaginas using self-collected samples. Through this award Dr. Coudray will also receive training in mixed methods research, social epidemiology methods, and spatial epidemiology methods. Dr. Coudray is also a Fellow of the HIV, Infectious Disease, and Global Health Implementation Research Institute and a Fellow of Data Science for All | Empowerment by Correlation One. In her role at NMQF, Dr. Coudray is tasked with ensuring participant retention for the Minority and Rural Coronavirus Insights Study (MRCIS). In this capacity, she is responsible for the development and ongoing management of the MRCIS study Community Advisory Board (CAB), liaising with site research coordinators, assessing and adapting study instruments, overseeing the administration of the study survey via REDCap and training study personnel in REDCap use. Dr. Coudray is also involved in the preparation of manuscripts to present the study’s findings.
Christina Edwards began her academic career at Howard University, earning her Bachelor of Science. She later earned her Master of Health Administration from George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. A research coordinator position at an NYC research clinic would offset her career into the clinical research field. Years later she ventured into academic research at Weill Cornell Medicine, managing a multisite, NIH funded, pediatric study for children with Crohn’s disease. She later transitioned to the NewYork –Presbyterian Health System coordinating industry sponsored clinical trials for the Department of Medicine- Pulmonary and Critical Care. Now serving as the Clinical Trial Director for Center for Clinical and Social Research at NMQF, she aims to increase research trial participation among underserved and underrepresented populations.
As a Research Epidemiologist with the National Minority Quality Forum, Dr. Derrick J. Forney brings a wealth of experience, technical proficiency, and a steadfast commitment to improving health outcomes and addressing health disparities. Dr. Forney is an accomplished researcher with a distinguished career focused on health disparities, public health analytics, and modeling. With a strong background in public health research, Dr. Forney has consistently demonstrated his expertise in transforming data into research-grade insights, executing research proposals, and effectively communicating complex findings. He has a Ph.D. in Public Health with a focus on Health Disparities from Florida International University. Additionally, he holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology from Michigan State University, which further strengthen his academic background in the field. Throughout his career, Dr. Forney has held various roles in prestigious institutions such as the University of Miami, where he previously served as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Public Health Sciences. In this capacity, he has been instrumental in formulating publications and leveraging statistical programming tools such as SAS, R, and SQL to perform regression analysis and develop machine learning models. His research efforts have been extensive, covering diverse topics, including HIV care, mental health, and social determinants of health. With a keen focus on continuous learning and professional development, Dr. Forney has pursued additional training in machine learning and data science. His expertise in data management, statistical analysis, and program evaluation reflects his commitment to staying at the forefront of emerging methodologies and technologies. His publication record further highlights Dr. Forney's career accomplishments, comprising peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts presented at national and international conferences. His research has contributed significantly to advancing our understanding of health disparities, HIV prevention and treatment, and social determinants of health among diverse populations.
Shantia is an experienced project manager, excelling at providing feedback and assistance on projects allowing individuals to successfully complete their educational and personal goals. With a passion for research and education, Shantia has coordinated and managed various projects for upper management and students by identifying current issues and developing solutions to overcome them. Shantia has previously served as a Research Project Manager in the Center of Excellence at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Here, she guided students of color toward success in the master’s program while leading multiple research projects through to completion, managed departmental budgeting, and performed research on topics relating to morbidity and mortality, including infectious diseases, marginalized groups, and pharmaceuticals. In addition, Shantia has experience in pharmaceutical sales and consumer engagement, where she helped to increase customer satisfaction and improve processes. Now serving as the Project Coordinator for the Center of Clinical and Social Research at the National Minority Quality Forum, she aims to address the need to increase diversity in clinical trials and refine clinical trial processes to ensure optimally performed trials. Shantia earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Professions with a minor in Healthcare Management from Temple University and a Master of Biomedical Sciences from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
Jennifer serves as Research Lead Epidemiologist at the National Minority Quality Institute (NMQF). She obtained her Bachelor's in Psychology with a Biology minor from The University of Houston and an MPH in Epidemiology from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. Prior to joining NMQF, Jennifer worked as a research associate in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine for several years. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology with minors in Biostatistics and Data Science. Throughout her career, Jennifer has engaged in diverse research projects encompassing maternal and child health, substance abuse, and infectious diseases. At NMQF, Jennifer's work revolves around analyzing Medicare and Medicaid Claims Data to highlight and understand healthcare disparities.
Deelip Mhaske is a distinguished leader in the public sector, celebrated for his achievements as a human rights lawyer and a fervent advocate for ethical AI. His impressive track record in problem-solving and the successful implementation of data-driven strategies in social development projects has earned him prestigious accolades. He was nominated for the renowned Jonathan Mann Award by the World Health Organization and received the New Jersey Governor Codey Award for his pioneering innovations in healthcare. As an X-Force Fellow, Deelip lent his expertise to a prominent project within the United States Congress known as GAMECHANGER, hosted at the Department of Defense's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). Additionally, his contributions at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were instrumental in the creation of the AI Incidents Database Knowledge Graph, accomplished through the adept utilization of advanced AI techniques. Deelip's dedication to excellence is underscored by his extensive educational background, encompassing seven degrees across various fields, including AI, law, management, and clinical social work. He is also an alumnus of the Senior Executive Fellow program at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School's MHCD program. His multifaceted career exemplifies his unwavering commitment to fostering positive change and harnessing the power of AI for the greater good.
Liou Xu serves as the Senior Principal Statistician and Vice President for Center for Clinical and Social Research at NMQF, where she conducts research and data analysis related to health and medical care delivery systems. She earned her PhD degree in Statistics from the University of Kentucky. After graduation she moved to Northern Virginia and joined the team in April 2011. She has worked on a variety of projects in health care research with application of real-world evidence and observational research data in all major therapeutic areas, providing statistical solutions to measure health status in small geographic areas and to identify care gaps across specific patient populations.