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2023 Health Equity Research Scholars Selected

Portraits of four faculty members selected for the program.

The Health Equity Research Scholars Program aims to support RUSH University faculty in developing evidence-based research to advance health equity and create a pathway for measurable improvements in the communities RUSH serves.

“We need community-partnered research aimed at identifying evidence-based approaches to improve health equity,” said economist Tricia Johnson, PhD, an economist and a professor of health systems management in the College of Health Sciences. “The scholars program will increase the number of health equity investigators, accelerating our ability to test interventions and approaches in the community. By funding early and mid-career researchers, we are also investing in future research mentors who will continue to grow our pipeline of research.”

Established in 2021, the RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity focuses on strategic initiatives to eliminate the health disparities that lead to a shorter and lower quality of life for historically disinvested communities.

Through the assistance of generous donors, including a $10 million donation from BMO Financial Group, the institute has been able to further invest in the health of the communities we serve at RUSH through a coordinated, scaled, and sustained approach to its health equity programs. Four exceptional scholars have been selected to receive this year’s scholarships. The scholars are Amanda Mathew, PhD, Sylvia Herbozo, PhD, Lauren Little, PhD, and Fabian Sierra Morales, MD. The program, beginning in October, provides 30% to 50% salary time for 18 months, mentorship support and $10,000 in pilot program funding for non-labor expenses. 

Meet our scholars  


Amanda Mathew, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at RUSH Medical College. She is a licensed clinical psychologist as well as a certified tobacco treatment specialist. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Houston and completed predoctoral training in cancer prevention at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

She completed postdoctoral training in behavioral medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 

The Research Project: Her work focuses on smoking cessation treatment development and targets individuals with medical and psychiatric comorbidities. Dr. Mathew’s project will use a community-based research approach to study a variety of strategies to engage smokers who are not yet ready to quit. 


Sylvia Herbozo, PhD is an associate professor and clinical psychologist in the Department of Surgery and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She provides psychological services for patients at the RUSH Center for Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery and conducts research on obesity and eating disorders. As a bilingual psychologist, Herbozo’s clinical practice offers culturally relevant services for Spanish speaking patients. She is also the founder of Psicólogos Latinos Avanzando Nuestros Servicios, an organization for Latino undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students that aims to increase the representation of Latinos in the next generation of psychologists. She is committed to improving equity in health care and higher education.  

The Research Project: Herbozo’s research examines the social and cultural impact on body image and disordered eating behaviors following bariatric surgery. This project will be conducted in collaboration with community partners addressing food insecurity in Chicago. Her work will study the socioeconomic, cultural, and psychosocial factors that are associated with weight regain in Latino adult patients after bariatric surgery. 


Lauren Little, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is associate dean of Research and Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy in the College of Health Sciences. Little's clinical background is occupational therapy, and her program of research focuses on innovative service delivery for young children diagnosed and at-risk for neurodevelopmental conditions, with an emphasis on family focused intervention, caregiver coaching, and strengths-based ways to support caregivers of young children. The overarching goal and theme of her work is focused on evaluation and intervention related to inequities in access and utilization, as well as developmental care for young children with and at-risk for neurodevelopmental conditions. 

The Research Project: Little’s project aims to understand the differences among children who use Medicaid services and how these differences affect their health and development. They will look at medical records to find out if using different types of Medicaid services contributes to inequalities. 


Fabian Sierra-Morales, MD is the director of the neuroimmunology fellowship at RUSH Medical College and over the past five years has provided neurological care to patients at John H. Stroger, Jr. Cook County Hospital and RUSH. Morales is a board-certified neurologist with expertise in multiple sclerosis, neuroimmunology and neuroinfectious diseases. He completed his fellowship training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and RUSH. He is skilled in studies that examine poverty-related barriers that may impede access to neurological care in multiple sclerosis including helping people deal with psychiatric symptoms, transportation, financial instability, and unstable housing. 

The Research Project: Morale’s study will provide important information to guide future research and improve outcomes for individuals with MS, and use social determinants of health informed data to create effective interventions for MS. He will work with community partners and focus groups to identify barriers to access individuals with MS face. 

This program will support RUSH’s commitment to improve health and create a model of research to assist similar communities.