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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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WOMEN Center of Excellence's Staff

Who We Are

Mission: To provide clinical care consultation and cutting-edge research for women Veterans exposed to Military Environmental Exposure (MEE)

Vision: To enhance women Veterans’ health through research and dissemination of findings on MEE

Our Staff

Jennifer Jennings, MD
Jennifer Jennings, MD
  • Position: Clinical Director, CA WRIISC and WOMEN CoE

Dr. Jennifer Jennings joined the CA WRIISC to focus on post-deployment research on traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease, and chronic pain as a fellow in 2016, and has served as clinical Director of the CA WRIISC since 2019. She was appointed as the Clinical Director of the Women’s Operational Military Exposure Network Center of Excellence (WOMEN CoE), designed to address deployment related exposure health concerns in Women Veterans, at its inception in 2023.

Dr. Jennings graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Human Biology. She has worked in Women’s Health at the Native American Women’s Health Resource Center on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota and with the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco. She earned a MD at UTHSCSA (University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio) in her home state of Texas. She completed a her residency in Neurosurgery at SUNY Upstate and served as the Chief of Neurosurgery of the Syracuse VA and a Clinical Associate Professor at SUNY Upstate for two years, specializing in Spine surgery and Deep Brain Stimulation. Dr. Jennings subsequently worked as a minimally invasive spine surgeon in private practice before returning to serve the Veteran population. She has been seeing deployed Veterans for their toxic exposure concerns related to their general health in her time at the WRIISC, and welcomes the opportunity to extend this into translational research to help Veterans, focusing on conditions unique to Women Veterans.  

Maheen Mausoof Adamson, PhD, MHL
 
  • Position: Research Director, WOMEN CoE

Dr. Maheen Mausoof Adamson is the Director for Research in Women’s Operational Military Exposure Network Center of Excellence (WOMEN CoE), Senior Scientist in Rehabilitation Department at VA Palo Alto Healthcare System and Clinical Professor (Affiliated) in Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.

After finishing undergraduate degrees in Biology and Women's Studies at UC Irvine, she went to complete a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Southern California, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford School of Medicine. She has a Master’s in Healthcare Leadership from Brown University and is a Faculty Fellow of Byers Biodesign at Stanford University.

Dr. Adamson has 20 years of experience directing large diverse teams to develop and implement several multi-site and longitudinal studies revolving around the complex problems faced by the Veteran population.  For instance, she has employed advanced structural and functional imaging modalities and biomarker assessments for diagnostic and neuromodulation treatments such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)) for patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), psychiatric problems, and Alzheimer's disease.  She has been a leader in identifying sex differences in brain injury, particularly in the Veteran population. She is intricately involved in mentoring research postdoctoral fellows and clinical residents in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Psychiatry & Neurosurgery Departments at Stanford School of Medicine. 

Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
Stacy Moeder, MHA, MBA
  • Position: Program Officer

Ms. Moeder started with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1994 as an Administrative Fellow at the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California. In 1995, she transferred to the VA Health Care System in Palo Alto, California as an Employee Relations Specialist. In 2000, Stacy became the Administrative Officer for Surgical Service and in 2003, she moved to Research Service. In 2007, she became the Administrative Officer for the new CA WRIISC. In 2015, Ms. Moeder was promoted to the CA WRIISC Supervisory Program Officer.

J. Wes Ashford, MD, PhD
Wes Ashford, MD, PhD
  • Position: Director

Dr. Ashford is the Director of the WRIISC at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, a Clinical Professor (affiliated) in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, a Senior Research Scientist at the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center and Alzheimer's Center, and a staff psychiatrist at the VAPAHCS. Dr. Ashford is an authority on Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and experienced in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of these and numerous other neuropsychiatric disorders. He has contributed major innovations to the fields of neuropsychological testing, brain imaging, and dementia treatment, with more than 160 scientific publications on Alzheimer's disease, MCI, genetic factors in Alzheimer's disease, and testing methodologies.

Dr. Ashford has worked in the VA for 35 years and run several programs, including a memory disorders out-patient clinic and substance-dependence in-patient unit.  He has studied numerous clinical problems which afflict Veterans and published manuscripts on several of these, including PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and Gulf War Illness.  He is the Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Dr. Ashford's training includes a BA from UC-Berkeley; an MD from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA, where he directed a geriatric psychiatry clinic 1980-1985 and set up the Alzheimer's PET Scan Study. He is a prolific scientific writer and speaker as well as a frequent presenter at international conferences.

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Mehret Assefa, PhD, MPH
Mehret Assefa, PhD
  • Position: Epidemiologist

Dr. Mehret Assefa joined WOMEN CoE at VA Palo Alto in 2023 as an Epidemiologist. She has a PhD and MPH in Epidemiology from the UCLA Fielding School of Public, where she studied global health with a focus on infectious diseases including monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and group A streptococcal pharyngitis in low and middle-income countries. Her training also included positions at Population Council and International Medical Corps in Ethiopia, where she worked on projects such as HIV/AIDS, family planning, adolescent health, and food insecurity.

Dr. Assefa completed her postdoctoral training at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where she led a community-based participatory research study to evaluate barriers and facilitators to seeking/accessing formal and informal health services, and health beliefs and traditional practices among resettled refugees. At Stanford University School of Medicine, her research focused on the implementation and sustainment of integrated services for persons with co-occurring disorders, expanding access to medications for opioid use disorder in primary care, integrating behavioral health in primary care, and advancing the use of organizational measures. Most recently, Dr. Assefa worked at the Naval Health Research Center with a research focus on the mental and physical health of service members. There she led a project on the mental health and subsequent quality of life among injured service members. 

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 Dylan Jester, PhD, MPH
Dylan Jester, PhD
  • Position: Biostatistician

Dr. Jester is the lead Biostatistician for WOMEN CoE at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. He leads the database and statistical initiatives set forward by WOMEN CoE, trains VA research staff in programming and statistics, and assists on a variety of grant-funded projects. Dr. Jester is a Gerontologist and Social Epidemiologist with training in geriatric mental health, cognitive aging, and health services research. He completed a Ph.D. (Aging Studies) and M.P.H. (Epidemiology) at the University of South Florida and a T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship (Geriatric Mental Health) at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. His research is focused on how social determinants of health and structural inequities impact cognition and mental health in marginalized older adults, with a particular focus on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Another facet of his work examines nursing home staffing deficits, quality of care disparities in long-term care settings, and adverse health outcomes for vulnerable nursing home residents exposed to natural disasters. Dr. Jester uses his diverse training in gerontology, public health, and statistics to tackle modern problems within the VA system, such as quantifying health disparities borne by women Veterans and testing novel treatments for Veterans with complex medical histories  (e.g., traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, Gulf War Illness).

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Abou Ibrahim-Biangoro, MPH
Abou Ibrahim-Biangoro, MPH
  • Position: Health Science Specialist

Abou Ibrahim-Biangoro is the Health Science Specialist at WOMEN CoE at VA Palo Alto who joined in February 2023, where she is showcasing her expertise in research, program management, and healthcare advocacy. She is also a third year Sociology PhD candidate at UCSF where she is researching on the mental health of U.S.-born individuals with at least one African parent (i.e., second-generation Africans). Abou received her Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis, and completed her Master's in Public Health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Her Master’s capstone project addressed the impact of the Malibu, CA Woolsey fire on the immigrant population, primarily those who were the maids, nannies, and gardeners of the homes burned down. She has experience in both quantitative and qualitative research, and is in the stages of becoming a mixed-methods researcher. Her most recent publication was analyzing housing policies in South and East Los Angeles during COVID-19. Given her range of research, she hopes to utilize her work to build the foundation of improved healthcare for underserved populations through a lens of social medicine. Her previous work was in nonprofit, educational program management, as well as coaching. Many of her experiences shaped her interest in medicine, mindfulness, and public health, and she utilizes these skills in her research on women veterans and analyzing their needs.

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Gina Piehl
Gina Piehl
  • Position: Program Manager

Gina began working at the VA Puget Sound in Seattle, WA in 2015. She has supported numerous research studies ranging from R&D only to clinical trials. She has served administrative roles to support clinical efforts and VA Central Office. Her years of networking within VA Research and various departments led her to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System to serve WOMEN CoE as the program manager.

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Gladys Marina Veltkamp, PhD
Marina Veltkamp, PhD
  • Position: Neuropsychologist

Dr. Veltkamp joined the CA WRIISC clinical team in 2017 as a Neuropsychologist. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology with a concentration in Neuropsychological Assessment. She completed an APA Neuropsychology Internship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston where she also collaborated on research examining the long-term outcomes of deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s. Dr. Veltkamp has extensive experience in neurocognitive rehabilitation, pain management and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT). Her research interests include the evaluation and treatment of neurobehavioral and cognitive symptoms in Gulf War Illness.

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Angela Malenfant, MSN, RNP
Angela Malenfant, MSN, NP
  • Position: Nurse Practitioner

Ms. Malenfant has been employed at VA Palo Alto Health Care System since 2013 initially with the Department of Interventional Radiology. She joined the California WRIISC team in August 2016. She graduated from the University of Connecticut and completed her graduate studies upon arrival to the beautiful West Coast at the University of San Francisco. Before joining the WRIISC team, she was employed at Hartford Hospital, Yountville VA, Kaiser Permanente and University of California San Francisco. In her free time, she spends time with her family and friends but her hobbies including reading, traveling and exploring California’s National Park system.

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Xiaojian Kang, PhD
Xiaojian Kang, PhD
  • Position: Researcher

Dr. Xiaojian Kang received his PhD in Physics and MS in Computer Science from Indiana University Bloomington. He joined the Diagnostic Imaging Science Center at University of Washington in Seattle for postdoctoral research. 

In 2017, Dr. Kang joined the Adamson Lab, his main tasks are to support the research projects funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, in the administration of windows and linux servers for neuroimaging studies.

Dr. Kang worked as an MR Physicist in the Human Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory in the Department of Neurology at the University of California at Davis.  His tasks were to maintain and modify the sequences for MR research on a 3 T Siemens Verio scanner and a 1.5 T Philips Eclipse scanner and develop new procedures for MR data analysis, statistics, and visualization. 

He has published 20+ papers to introduce the innovative methods for MR data analysis, including the local landmark method, high-resolution space method, and cortical surface projection mapping method, and automated method to detect brain abnormalities.

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Leah Eizadi, MSN, FNP-C
Leah Eizadi, MSN, NP, FNP-C
  • Position: Clinical Coordinator

Ms. Eizadi joined the CA WRIISC team in April 2019. She is the clinical coordinator for the CA WRIISC and runs the CA WRIISC Telehealth Exposure Clinic (TEC). She has a BA degree from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Samuel Merritt University. She spent nine years as a bedside nurse in critical care before returning to Samuel Merritt University for her Master of Science in Nursing. She is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and holds a Level 1 Military Environmental Exposures Certificate. She has a special interest in deployment-related exposures and the role that gender differences may play in long-term health needs post-deployment. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking, and traveling. 

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Lindsey Proctor, MS, RDN, LDN
Lindsey Proctor, MS, RDN, LDN
  • Position: Program Support Assistant

Lindsey Proctor is a registered dietitian and certified health coach. She obtained her Bachelors of Science in Biology/Nutrition from NC State University and her Masters of Science in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia, both of which she graduated Summa cum Laude. Her graduate school research focus was on appetite regulation. Ms. Proctor went on to complete her dietetic internship at Meredith College, obtain certifications in Adult Weight Management Levels 1 and 2, certification in Childhood Weight Management, and her certification as a Health Coach. Lindsey is a well-rounded dietitian with experience in numerous areas of the nutrition field, from hospital settings and oncology centers to private practice and the military/government realm. In her free time, Lindsey enjoys long walks with her dog, practicing yoga, reading, and baking treats for others.

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Vincent Torres
Vincent Torres
  • Position: Specialist

Vincent Torres is a Program Specialist for the California War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (CA WRIISC) program. He is a Veteran who served proudly in the United States Marine Corps and is honored to be working with and for fellow Veterans. Outside of work, Vincent enjoys coaching for a competitive youth fastpitch softball organization.

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Advisory Board

Scientific Advisory Board 

Susan Frayne, MD, MPH  

Associate Director of Development for Women's Health Center 

VA Palo Alto Health Care System 

Odette Harris, MD, MS  

Deputy Chief of Staff, Rehabilitation 

VA Palo Alto Health Care System 

Sally Haskell, MD  

National Director of Comprehensive Women's Health 

VA Connecticut Health Care System 

Samina Iqbal, MD  

Senior Medical Consultant with Office of Women's Health 

VA Palo Alto Health Care System 

Julie Weitlauf, PhD  

Director of Women’s Mental Health and Aging Core 

VA Palo Alto Health Care System 

Erin Dursa, PhD, MPH  

Senior Epidemiologist in Post Deployment Health Services 

Health Outcomes of Military Exposures 

Michelle Costanzo, PhD  

Research Director for WRIISC DC 

Washington VA Medical Center 

Shanna Smith-Jackson, DrPH, MPH, CPH  

Associate Director of Research 

Health Outcomes of Military Exposures 

Lisa McAndrew, PhD  

Director of Research and Fellowship 

VA New Jersey Health Care System 

Haley Moss, MD, MBA  

Director of the Breast and Gynecologic Oncology System of Excellence 

Durham VA Medical Center 

Terra Vincent-Hall, PhD, DABT  

Senior Toxicologist 

Health Outcomes of Military Exposures