Faith Village Research Lab Team

Dr. Fayron Epps

Principal Investigator

Dr. Fayron Epps is the Principal Investigator of the Faith Village Research Lab and an Assistant Professor at Emory University, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Dr. Epps has been a nurse for over 20 years and served in many clinical and leadership roles in the hospital setting. She received her BSN from Tuskegee University, MSN in Health Care Systems Management from Loyola University New Orleans, and a PhD in Nursing from Southern University and A & M College. In 2015, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship with the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. Dr. Epps enjoys mentoring students and cultivating their love for the field of gerontology. 

Dr. Epps has devoted her career as a nurse leader to reducing health disparities for underserved populations through innovative, culturally relevant programs for the African American community. She works closely with an interdisciplinary team to promote quality of life for African Americans living with dementia and their family caregivers/care partners through self-care and meaningful activities. Dr. Epps is also the founder of Alter, the only nurse-led dementia-friendly initiative to support African American congregations. Dr. Epps oversees several faith-based research related projects and is an active member in several local, regional, and national organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Southern Gerontological Society, the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter, and Meals on Wheels Atlanta. 

Mia Chester, MA

Alter Program Coordinator

Mia serves as the Project Coordinator for the Alter Program. She is working to build partnerships with churches anchored in African American communities to better support families affected by dementia. She provides program support to Dr. Fayron Epps and Dr. Dawn Aycock. Mia has been in healthcare since 2005 and has served in management as well as Program and Service Coordination positions for older adult populations throughout her career.  She holds a master’s degree in health studies from the University of Alabama. 

Adrianne Jones, MA

Community Liaison

Adrianne is an elder care gerontologist specializing in senior services and resource management and integration. She has experience in various dimensions of aging services including care management, senior center programming, senior living service coordination, and adult day health. Ms. Jones has worked with Fulton County Office of Aging and Youth Services, Clayton County Senior Services, Meals on Wheels Atlanta, and National Church Residences, the largest non-profit provider for senior housing in the country. Ms. Jones holds a B.A. (public relations) from Clark Atlanta University, and a M.A. (gerontology) from Georgia State University. She loves traveling, serving in her church, and hanging with friends.

Janelle Gore, MPH

Research Coordinator

Janelle is the  Research Coordinator with the Faith Village Research Lab at Emory University. She assists Dr. Epps in supporting undergrad and graduate student team members’ research projects within the Faith Village Research Lab. She graduated with her Masters of Public health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. Janelle focused her academic work within the Behavioral Social and Health Education Sciences Department and gained a Religion and Health certificate. Janelle is passionate about improving the health of underserved BIPOC among both young and older populations. Her commitment to contributing novel systematic solutions to the field of public health and research has driven her work thus far. Janelle focuses her work on collaborating on various research projects concerning mental health, physical activity & nutrition, dementia, and the Black community.

Sloan Oliver 

Graduate Research Assistant

Sloan is a global health MPH candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health, concentrating in community health and development. She is passionate about equity, human rights, environmental protection, and community engagement. These ideals are what led her to public health and will be vital in developing her career as well as the research she is fortunate enough to partake in at Emory. After the completion of her degree, she hopes to be an advocate for the advancement human and civil rights in the southeastern United States as well as globally.

Jamilla Toliver

Graduate Research Assistant

Jamilla is a graduate student in the MPH (Epidemiology) program at Eastern Virginia Medical School. She developed an interest in public health during her undergraduate studies at Old Dominion University where she earned her BSHS degree in 2014. Jamilla is passionate about reducing health inequities and improving food security. Her research interests include mental health, as well as chronic disease and nutritional epidemiology.

Mayra Sainz, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Mayra is a current doctoral student at Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and is expected to graduate in May of 2025. She was a Peace Corps Health Volunteer in Senegal, West Africa from 2017-2019. In May of 2021, she graduated from Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health where she received her MPH from the department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences. Her interests are partnering with community organizations to conduct research that explores, addresses, and evaluates programs that reduce health disparities in BIPOC communities. Specifically, she is interested in partnering with religious communities to improve the quality of life for families living with dementia. 

Ginger Heidbreder

Graduate Research Assistant

Ginger is an Emory alumna and a graduate student at the Georgia State University Institute of Gerontology. She produces the monthly Connections newsletter for the Alter program, and also serves as a research assistant to Dr. Candace Kemp’s study of meaningful engagement and quality of life for persons living with dementia in assisted living. Ginger enjoys helping older adults stay connected with their communities, and after graduation, would like to continue doing research and advocacy work to strengthen the policies and funding that provide support to vulnerable older adults.

Delphine Golly

Graduate Research Assistant

Delphine is a first-year MPH candidate at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, in the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences. Her public health experience has made her passionate about minority mental health disparities, stigma, and equity. With these interests, she plans to focus her efforts on behavioral/mental health advocacy, research, and education across various public health systems. 

Shani Strader, MPH

Graduate Research Assistant

Shani is currently studying nursing at Emory University where she plans to begin a career as a midwife once she graduates. She is also a graduate of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health where she received her Master of Public Health degree in May 2021. Her degree is in Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences. Shani has an overall interest in working in the Southern United States to help reduce mortality rates among Black and Brown women and infants.

Megan Henry

Graduate Research Assistant

Megan is a MPH candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health, studying Epidemiology with a certificate in Infectious Disease. She attended Biola University in La Mirada, CA, and got her B.S. in Marketing and a minor in Biblical Studies in May 2019. She plans on continuing her education and aspires to get a PhD in Immunology and Microbiology. Megan is passionate about community engagement and creating safe spaces for those who suffer from neurological conditions, and is excited to work with Faith Village Research Lab. Her research interests include emerging infectious diseases, chronic infections, drug resistance, and autoimmune/neurological disorders.

Katie Pierson

Graduate Research Assistant

Katie is currently a nursing student at Emory University pursuing her graduate degree to become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She was a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa from 2018-2019 where she focused on Malaria prevention education and recently finished two terms with the American Red Cross as an AmeriCorps Volunteer. Katie hopes to work as a women’s health nurse practitioner to support women, especially BIPOC women, and to help fight for equitable health care.

Taylor James

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Taylor is an undergraduate research assistant who is currently a fourth year student at Emory University, majoring in Creative Writing and Anthropology & Human Biology. After graduating from Emory, she plans to attend medical school. While she is passionate about qualitative research and bridging the understanding between health and religion, she is also enthusiastic about fields relating to self-empowerment and racial justice. 

Jane Xie

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Jane is currently a fourth year undergraduate student at Emory University studying Biology and Religion while on the pre-med track. Not only is she eager to facilitate the convergence of science and religion through research, but she is also passionate about whole person care, global medicine, helping medically underserved areas, and community engagement. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine domestically, and ultimately, internationally. 

Se Eun Kim

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Se Eun is an undergraduate research assistant who is a fourth year at Emory University, majoring in Quantitative Sciences with a track in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. After graduating, she is interested in participating in research related to nutrition or neurological diseases in older and disadvantaged populations, and eventually pursuing an MD/MPH.