Faculty and Staff

Photo of Dr. Leah Karliner

Leah Karliner, MD, MAS, is the Director of the Center for Aging in Diverse Communities. Dr. Karliner is Professor in Residence in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Her research is focused at the nexus of health disparities, health communication, and systems interventions to improve quality of care delivery for older patients. She has focused her communication work on under-served and high-risk patients, their families, and communities. She has expertise in diverse participant recruitment, survey-based research design, as well as implementation and evaluation of technology-mediated interventions.


Nynikka R. Palmer, DrPH, MPH, is Associate Director and the Leader of the Research Education Component. She is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital at UCSF, and has secondary appointments in the Departments of Urology and Radiation Oncology. Her research program is at the intersection of multiple fields and methods, including cancer disparities, aging, health services research (e.g., quality of care), healthcare communication, community engagement, and qualitative and mixed methods. Her research focuses on addressing inequities in quality of care among African American men with prostate cancer, particularly older men who have higher incidence and prevalence, and more pronounced disparities. Dr. Palmer is co-leader of the Prostate Cancer Task Force of the San Francisco Cancer Initiative (SF CAN), which aims to eliminate prostate cancer disparities among African American men and currently serves on the Board of Directors as Expert in Communication Research to Promote Health Equity for the Academy of Communication in Healthcare.


Nancy Burke, Phd, is CADC Faculty and member of the Research Education Component. Professor Nancy J. Burke is a medical anthropologist and Professor of Public Health at UC Merced. Her research program focuses on structural vulnerability and inequities in cancer and primary care in the United States, and aging in the context of a changing political and economic system in Cuba. Her research builds upon principles and practices of community engaged and ethnographic research and includes ongoing studies on cancer navigation in safety-net oncology clinics, COVID-19 testing and vaccine access/acceptability in rural California, and youth and community engagement in nicotine and cannabis policy development and implementation in California's San Joaquin Valley.


Maria Garcia, MD, MPH, MAS, is the Co-Leader of the Research Education Component.  Dr. Garcia is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at UCSF, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She conducts research on mental health integration in primary care, with a focus on improving depression care for racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse older populations. Dr. Garcia uses health services, implementation science, and qualitative and mixed methods. Dr. Garcia is the Co-Director of the UCSF Implementation Science Training Program, the Multi-Ethnic Health Equity Research Center, and the Pre-Health Undergraduate Program at UCSF. 


Alison Huang, MD, MAS, is CADC Faculty and member of the Research Education Component. She is Professor in the UCSF Departments of Medicine, Urology, and Epidemiology & Biostatistics; Director of Research for the Division of General Internal Medicine at UCSF Health; and a clinical scientist dedicated to advancing understanding and improving management of the impact of aging on women’s health and genitourinary health. She has designed and led multiple NIH-funded randomized trials of pharmacologic, behavioral, and integrative health interventions in older women of diverse backgrounds and developed self-report measures of genitourinary and sexual function for use in multiethnic studies of women's health.  


Jennifer James, PhD, MS, MSW, is CADC Faculty and member of the Research Education Component.  Dr. Jennifer James is an Associate Professor in the Institute for Health and Aging, the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Bioethics Program at UCSF.   Jen is a qualitative researcher and Black Feminist scholar who conducts community-engaged research at the intersection of race, gender and health. Her research interests include cancer, aging, end-of-life care, patient-provider relationships, health decision-making, and reproductive justice. Her current work is focused on experiences of health and illness for people who are or have been incarcerated. Her work is informed by her background in social work and social policy. 

Photo of Dr. Julene Johnson

Julene Johnson, PhD, is CADC Faculty and member of the Research Education Component. She is a cognitive neuroscientist and Professor at the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging. Her research program focuses on cognitive aging and covers two primary themes: 1) developing cost-effective and novel community-based programs to promote health for diverse older adults and 2) studying mild cognitive impairment as a risk for dementia and functional decline. She is currently collaborating with 12 Department of Aging and Adult Services Senior Centers in San Francisco to study the effect of a community choir program on the health and well-being of diverse older adults. She is currently on the Fulbright Specialist Roster (2012-2017).

Celia P. Kaplan, DrPH, MA, is the CADC Community Advisory Board Liaison and member of the Research Education Component. She is a Professor in the Department of Medicine, UCSF. A Latina researcher, she holds a doctorate in public health and a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her past, current and future projects attest to her commitment to cancer prevention and control among minority populations. Dr. Kaplan is the Co-Director of the Minority Task Force, which promotes recruitment and retention of minorities into UCSF cancer-related clinical research projects.


Tor Neilands, PhD, is the Leader of the Analysis Core and member of the Research Education Component. He is Professor in the Division of Prevention Science in the Department of Medicine at UCSF. He is an applied data analyst and statistician. His methodological areas of interest are multivariate statistical models for social and behavioral science research, specifically latent variable models for survey scale development and validation, as well as mixed effects (i.e., multilevel; HLM) models for clustered and longitudinal data, including dyadic data. His substantive interests include training the next generation of health equity researchers working in U.S. minority communities.

Photo of Dr. Anita Stewart


Anita Stewart, PhD, is the Co-Leader of the Analysis Core and member of the Research Education Component. She is Professor Emerita at the Institute for Health & Aging at UCSF. She has extensive experience conceptualizing and measuring health, functioning, well-being, social support, physical activity, quality of care, and other health-related concepts. As director of the Analysis Core, she identifies issues in using measures that have been tested primarily on mainstream groups in studies of diverse population groups, and how to test the conceptual and psychometric adequacy of those measures.

Anita Ponce, MSc is the Project Director for the Center for Aging in Diverse Communities and Multiethnic Health Equity Research Center at UCSF.  She leads the research portfolio and other programmatic initiatives within both centers.

Anita has extensive experience in health and education program management.  She has expertise in diverse participant recruitment, data set management, and qualitative coding.  Her multi-disciplinary social science educational background is in Population and Development Studies (MSc) from the London School of Economics and Political Science-International Relations (BA) from the University of California, San Diego. 


Past Faculty

Photo of Dr. Tung Nguyen

Tung Nguyen, MD was as the Co-Leader of the Community Liaison and Recruitment Core and member of the Research Education Component. He holds several health disparities-focused leadership positions, e.g., Dean's Diversity Leader in charge of Diversity in Research, Director of the Asian American Research Center on Health. Dr. Nguyen was Chair of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from 2014-2017. He has conducted numerous community-engaged research projects with Asian American populations, including RCTs of interventions to promote cancer screening and hepatitis B and C testing.

Photo of Dr. Catherine Waters

Catherine Waters, PhD, RN, FAAN was a CADC Faculty and member of the Research Education Component. She is the Sally Bates Endowed Professor of Community Nursing & Health Disparities and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the UCSF School of Nursing. Her clinical background is in oncology and community/public health. She was a former Health Commissioner of San Francisco. Her primary prevention, community-based participatory action research, in collaboration with public and private partnerships, focuses on on lifestyle health behavior interventions (physical activity and nutrition) as protective mechanisms to prevent disease, in particular cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease to improve health equity and parity in underrepresented populations and communities. She also conducts end-of-life care planning research.