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

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

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

Graduate Research Assistant

Janelle is a second-year graduate student at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health within the Behavioral Social and Health Education Sciences Department and gaining 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 and writing manuscripts and abstracts while also assisting Dr. Epps in supporting other GRA team members’ research with the Faith Village Research Lab.

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

Graduate Research Assistant

Mayra is a current Master of Public Health student at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, concentrating in Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences. She is expected to graduate in May of 2021. She is interested in working with community partners to conduct research that explores, addresses, and evaluates programs that reduce health disparities in marginalized communities.

Gianna Tajadillo-Strong

Graduate Research Assistant

Gianna is a Family Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science candidate at Georgia State University. She has been working as a registered nurse in the metro-Atlanta area for about 5 years and has experience in various areas of nursing. She is passionate about providing health and wellness education to help eliminate some of the health disparities that exist against underserved, underinsured, and minority communities. She has served in many leadership roles across both academic and clinical settings. 

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.

Jenyl Henry

Graduate Research Assistant

Jenyl is a current graduate student at Grand Canyon University pursuing her Master’s in Public Health Administration.  Currently a change control coordinator has had the opportunity to be a part of a larger corporation of taking plasma results to create new medications, vaccinations, organ transplants and more. This has catered to her strong desire and passion in the improving the wellness of the community. Her professional and personal experiences have motivated her to continue her education in the public health in order to fulfill her aspirations of ensuring the safety and health of those in underserved communities. 

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.

Kennedy Thomas


Kennedy is a fourth year student studying Biology and Chemistry attending Oglethorpe University. She is a member of the Tau Pi chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. In addition, she is an ambassador for the Miss Earth USA organization who has a passion for the betterment our planet and advocating for the involvement of young people in STEM.

Divya Vikram


Divya is a senior at Alpharetta High School. A leader and an avid volunteer, she strives to effect change in her community. She is a dedicated leader of Women in STEM, YMCA Jr. Stem Specialists, FBLA, wind ensemble (plays the oboe), the varsity swim team, and Girl Scouts. She hopes to support those with dementia by combining her interests in civic engagement and STEM. She has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for initiating “Project Memories,” where she created multilingual resources to help Dementia patients and encouraged volunteers to spend time at memory care facilities.