Engaging Muslim Americans for Research on Community Health [E-MARCH]

The E-MARCH Cohort

Since August 2018, the E-MARCH cohort has diligently worked to develop the knowledge, skills, and networks required to effectively engage in Muslim community-relevant patient-centered outcomes research. Through engagement in a learning institute, participation in webinars and group discussions, and the development of their leadership projects, the group has outlined the top Muslim health issues that are amenable to patient-centered outcomes research. Learn more about the members below.

Meet the Cohort

Heba Abolaban, Massachusetts

Dr. Abolaban is a very passionate Muslim public health physician who obtained her medical degree from Damascus University school of medicine in Syria, then got her Master degree of Public Health from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. She has had the privilege to educate hundreds of non-Muslim health professionals and medical staff at various hospitals, health centers, and universities on cultural competency training and teach them how Islam shapes Muslim patients health using real life examples. She teaches about patient-provider interaction including preserving modesty, dealing with fasting Muslim patients, dietary and medications needs, breastfeeding in Islam, ritual maternity services for the Muslim newborns and the needs of female Muslim patients, etc. She also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Cancer Prevention Department) as a Women’s Health Consultant for several years before she moved to California in mid 2019. 
Dr. Abolaban is currently working part time at the Muslims & Mental Health Lab at Stanford University as a lab manager and researcher. Her research focuses on studying Muslim refugees mental health as well as the history of mental health and psychology in Islam. 
Yasser Aman, California

Dr. Yasser Aman served as the founding CEO of the UMMA Community Clinic for 15 years. During that time he pursued his masters and doctorate in health policy with a focus on healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations. Dr. Aman was also the co-principle investigator, in partnership with the UCLA School of Public Health, for the nation’s first Muslim breast cancer study. He currently serves as the Chief of Medical Campus Integration at Los Angeles County Martin Luther King Outpatient Center and as a health policy assistant professor at both USC and Charles R. Drew Medical School. He enjoys teaching and engaging students around real health policy implications for underserved communities.

Alia Azmat, Indiana

Alia Azmat is a Ph.D student in Counseling Psychology at Purdue University focusing on identity, culture, mental, and reproductive health. She investigates definitions of womanhood, objectification theory, spiritually-integrated therapy, and stigma reduction from an feminist-intersectional lens. She is also passionate about qualitative methodology and program evaluation. In addition to her research and clinical work, she is an educator for HEART Women & Girls Project.

Alia hopes to work with men and women in the community to develop and increase access to culturally-relevant health education resources. She received her B.A in Global Health from Arizona State University and considers herself an transdisciplinary learner in anthropology, psychology, education, and public health.

Amal Killawi, New Jersey

Amal Killawi is a clinical social worker, researcher, and community educator, and is pursuing her PhD in Social Work at Rutgers University. She is a research fellow with The Family & Youth Institute and scholar with the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding. Amal holds a Bachelors in Psychology, Masters in Social Work, and a Certificate in Sexual Health from the University of Michigan. Her previous experiences include working as a counselor with college students and domestic violence survivors, conducting research on family and health challenges in American Muslim communities, and serving as an online counselor and writer. Her research interests focus on help-seeking behaviors and culturally competent care.

Nasir Malim, New York

Nasir Malim, MPH is currently a 4th year medical student at TouroCOM in Middletown, NY. He received his MPH from Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, CA and a B.A in African American Studies from the University of California Irvine. He has a strong interest in evaluating the intricacies of health disparities and exploring possible solutions. Additionally he currently serves as the National Director of Health Disparities for the Student Osteopathic Medical Association, where he has created and began implementing a program to increase awareness of the social determinants of health among medical students in order to create a generation of physicians more well informed about the root causes of health disparities.

Sharif Mohamed, Minnesota

Imam Sharif Abdirahman Mohamed, also known as Sheik Abdirahman to many in Minnesota, is the cofounder of the first Mosque to be opened by the Somali community in Minnesota in 1998, The Islamic Civic Society of America/Dar Al Hijrah Mosque.  Six years ago, Imam Sharif co-founded the nonprofit, Open Path Resources (OPR), which builds partnership with mainstream institutions to increase the capacity of youth, families, and faith centers to better serve the needs of Somalis and all Muslims in the community.  He has led efforts to connect Islamic principles to key mental and physical health issues common to the East African immigrant community. Sharif is certified as a trainer in Mental Health First Aid and a nationally certified trainer in Mind Body Medicine. Graduating from Metropolitan State University with a BA degree in Family Counseling.  With 20 years of experience of family and marriage counseling and as a faith leader, he is well known both locally and globally as a leading Islamic scholar in North America.  He serves as national chair for the Islamic League of Somali Scholars of America (ILSSA). Additionally, he has also become the first Imam in Minnesota history to earn the credentials of Chaplain in hospital systems.

Nancy Romanchek, Illinois

Nancy is a graduate student at Benedictine University preparing for a Masters in Public Health with a certificate in Health Education and Promotion. She attended the Loyola University of Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Nancy is Specialty Certified in Hospice and Palliative Care with a decade of Case Management experience. She is on the Executive Board of the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association, Chicagoland Chapter. Nancy is a Faith Community Nurse(FCN) through the Advocate Health System Network, having trained at Marquette University and has extensive experience in the Catholic setting in this capacity. She has engaged in numerous projects in the Muslim community including initiating a partnership with the Lutheran School of Theology to provide workshops to Chaplains around the Chicago area to prepare them to minister to their Muslim patients. Nancy collaboratively organized, and now coordinates a Free and Charitable Clinic at Islamic Foundation North(IFN), for uninsured residents of Lake County. She initiated and now is Chair of the IFN Health Committee. She is currently seeking funding for a FCN position at IFN to combine her interest as Coordinator of the IFN Health Clinic with introducing the Muslim community to the value of an on-site Nurse in the Mosque Community, integrating faith beliefs and health practices.

Michael VanKeulen, Minnesota

Dr. Michael VanKeulen was born and raised in Minnesota. He became a high school teacher in the 1980s where he developed is philosophy of a family centered childhood development system.  He worked to connect diverse communities the public and private institutions to increase community stakeholders in developing our society’s next generations of civic leaders.  With a strong interest in human cultural diversity and social justice, Michael traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, and Africa – seeking new models of child development and community well being.

Michael has been involved in the development of numerous new programs including the nation’s first public school that provided a full Mandarin language immersion for all its students.  This school has since been replicated numerous times over.  His work has been an effort to blend his expertise in public schooling and child development and the further development of a more inclusive democratic society.  He has for the last 18 years been a leading member of the Dar Al Hijrah mosque.  This work focuses upon development of systems and institutions that demonstrate their ability to strengthen Muslim families to play a more central role in developing our next generation of wise leaders.  Later this summer he is leading a trip of 20 Muslim youth to Turkey to help these youth further explore their Muslim heritage and identity while also mapping routes to engaged civic leadership in Minnesota.  He often speaks to his goal to support efforts to help Muslim youth, in cooperation with their families and community owned institutions to discover what it means to be Muslim, in this time, in this place, and in a manner that results in dignity and wellbeing for all citizens of our community.

Sameera Ahmed, Michigan

Dr. Sameera Ahmed is the Director of the Family & Youth Institute (www.thefyi.org). The Family and Youth Institute (The FYI) is a non-profit organization that strengthens and empowers individual, families, and communities through research and education efforts. These efforts are tailored to the needs of the American Muslim community and focus on promoting positive youth development, healthy marriages, effective parenting, and improving mental health. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and specializes in American Muslim youth and Muslim Mental health. She also serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health (JMMH) and is a Board certified Licensed Psychologist in Ohio and Michigan. Dr. Ahmed has published numerous journal articles, book chapters, reports, and is the Co-editor of Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions. She speaks nationally at academic conferences and has been invited to speak at the White House, Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration, and the Department of Education. She has been quoted by media outlets such as The Washington Post, New York Times, and Huffington Post for her expertise. In addition, she has been an organizer within the American Muslim community for more than 25 years and is regularly invited to mosques and conferences across the nation.

Mohammad Aref, Indiana

Mohammad Aref is an MD/PhD candidate at the IU School of Medicine. He studied Biomedical Engineering as an undergraduate and worked in medical product development in both research and clinical settings. His PhD research focuses on combining biomechanics, blood flow and imaging with bone and mineral metabolism in an effort to understand the interaction between bone and other organ systems in disease. He has a passion for service – specifically, the provision of quality, accessible services to his neighbors. He currently serves as the Chair Elect of the Indiana University Outreach Clinic, volunteers regularly in free clinics in Indianapolis, and is in the process of founding a new free clinic in the near-northeast side of Indianapolis. Mohammad hopes to utilize community health programs to care for his neighbors and take part in meaningful social change. 

Mona Elgohail, Illinois

Mona Elgohail is a clinical psychology PhD student at Drexel University with a concentration in healthcpsychology. She received her BA in Neuroscience & Behavior from Barnard College of Columbia University. Her research interests are in women’s health psychology with a focus on the infertility and pregnancy experiences of minority women. Since founding the Muslim Fertility Project in 2016, Mona has launched multiple empirical research studies focused on understanding and addressing the psychosocial needs of Muslim women experiencing infertility (3-minute video: https://bit.ly/mfpvideo). Because of her research, she was recognized as an “Agent of Change” in Drexel University’s annual magazine (article: http://bit.ly/MFertility). She was also invited to collaborate with the White House on multiple initiatives promoting the health of Muslims. Mona is passionate about advocacy and policy, particularly as it relates to marginalized groups; she co-founded the Diversity Advocacy Committee of the Drexel Psychology Department and was elected as the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) Member-at-Large for Diversity. She is currently completing her clinical internship at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago with a specialization in women’s health.

Angelica Lindsey-Ali, Arizona

Angelica Lindsey-Ali holds a degree in African and African American Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Angelica has spent the last 19 years working both locally and internationally in the fields of education, public health, refugee rights, and social work, endeavoring to help end systemic inequities inflicting Black people across the Diaspora.  She is a certified sexual health educator and lead consultant for Beautiful Abyss, a global online information-sharing portal for Muslim women’s health and wellness. After returning from a 5 year stint in the Middle East and West Africa, Angelica has been conducting program supervision and development, as well as capacity building for organizations who have established educational and public health initiatives within the African American community. 

Fatema Mirza, Illinois

As a certified Project Manager, Fatema Mirza has initiated and led several community health projects in past 12 years and provided healthcare and IT consultation to health care entities on electronic medical records, Accountable Care/Managed Care regulations, JCAHO and Medicare accreditations. Her team of ACA Navigators and health coverage counselors has been enrolling the uninsured in Obamacare and providing resources for underserved in since 2013 and continue to serve the states of Illinois, Texas and New York. She helped set up Senior Health Insurance Program sites for faith based and community-based organizations and designed Community health training programs to support the projects in mosque communities. She has been a co-founder of several organizations including Worry Free Health, Max Care Home Health Services, Max Health Network and Worry Free Community (WFC). While serving on the board of Compassionate Care Network, she designed and implemented community health worker training program and incorporated the peer education principles and methods learnt through Dr. Padela’s research. As the executive director of WFC, she strives to bridge the gap between healthcare competency and health disparities through trainings and workshops for all ages. Through her signature Program F.L.O.W. (for the love of wisdom) she is currently rolling out a Learning and Career Resource center program for youth that are focused on Islamic Seminary studies to get them engaged in community health leadership.

Samaiya Mushtaq, Texas

Dr. Samaiya Mushtaq is a physician in her final year of residency training in psychiatry. She studied chemistry and women’s studies as a President’s Scholar at SMU, from where she graduated summa cum laude. She holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Mushtaq is currently on the clinician-educator track at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas, where she provides outpatient treatment and therapy to patients with psychiatric illness. She conducts research on help-seeking behaviors and wellness in Muslim Americans and has designed and taught curricula integrating Islamic spirituality with evidence-based concepts in mental wellness to college MSAs, young professional Muslim groups, and community organizations. Dr. Mushtaq has also started a cross-department network supporting and connecting Muslim housestaff at UT Southwestern. Her work has been presented at her departmental Grand Rounds at UT Southwestern, AADPRT, and the annual Conference on Medicine and Religion. She has also authored a chapter on Islamophobia experienced by clinicians in the forthcoming book, Islamophobia and Psychiatry.

Muhammed Sackor, Nebraska

Muhammed Sackor was born in Liberia, but grew up in the Middle-East. He studied Islamic law at the Islamic university of Medina, (2007). He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha (2011) with MA in Liberal Arts, and from Bellevue University (2017) with MS in Global Security studies. Currently, he is working on his third MS in Islamic Finance and Banking at the Guidance University in Texas while also serving as an Imam at the Islamic Center of Omaha. He is happily married with three young boys.