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Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council

Michael Alston, EdD, CCDP/AP- Chair
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Equity and Diversity/Chief Diversity Officer

Dr. Alston’s employment within The University of Tennessee System spans 30+ years with stints at UT- Martin, UT-Knoxville, and UT Health Science Center in Memphis, TN. Michael's work experience in higher education encompasses residence life administration, student recruitment and admissions, undergraduate instruction, employee relations, student conduct administration and equity and diversity.

He is an alumnus of The University of Tennessee at Martin earning a BS in Psychology and MS in Educational Psychology and Guidance. Michael also has an earned doctorate in higher education administration from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in addition to a professional certificate/certification in Diversity Management from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

Michael is a native of Brighton, Tennessee in Tipton County and graduate of Munford High School.

Chandra Alston, EdD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP - Advisory Member
Associate Vice Chancellor
Human Resources

Dr. Chandra Alston is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources at UT Health Science Center with twenty (20) years of service. She earned her Bachelors of Business Administration from UT Martin, and M.B.A. from Union University, and an Ed.D. in Leadership from the University of Memphis. Dr. Alston has worked in several departments on campus interacting with faculty, staff and students. Developing, training, and encouraging employees are passions that she has cultivated throughout her career.

Sally Badoud, MBA - Advisory Member
Assistant Vice Chancellor
Communications and Marketing

Sally Badoud joined The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in September 2016 as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing. Before joining the UTHSC team, Sally spent six years at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in three different roles: Director of Marketing, Student Recruitment; Interim Director of Admissions; and Assistant Director of Marketing and Media Services for the division of Professional and Continuing Studies. Prior to her time at UAH, she worked for nine years at StoneRiver, Inc., a marketing firm in Decatur, AL, where she was promoted from Graphic Designer to Art Director to Creative Director.

Sally holds both a BA in art and an MBA in management from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

James Carson, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
College of Health Professions

James Carson serves as the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Health Professions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis (UTHSC). Prior to moving to UTHSC in August 2018, he served on the faculty at the University of South Carolina (USC) in the Arnold School of Public Health for 19 years, where he held the rank of Professor, was Department Chair, and Associate Director of the Center for Colon Cancer Research at USC. His research focus examines biological mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle mass and metabolism, which has implications for health outcomes that include frailty with aging and cancer patient survival. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and received several million dollars in external research funding.  Student mentorship in research has been a cornerstone of Dr. Carson’s career and a focus of his laboratory. He has actively worked to promote diversity in biomedical research trainees, spanning high school students to post-doctoral fellows. He has served as a member of the American Kinesiology Association Diversity Committee and the American College of Sports Medicine Diversity & Leadership Training Program.

Kara Caruthers, PA-C
Associate Professor, Assistant Program Director and Director of Community Engagement, Diversity and Recruitment
Physician Assistant Studies

Ms. Caruthers joined the UTHSC PA Program faculty in January 2018. She holds her MS in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (2009) and a MS in molecular, cellular and systemic physiology with a Certificate in anatomy from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (2005).  Her career in academia started at SIUC as an anatomy instructor for the School of Medicine, but after earning her MSPAS, she served as PA faculty for approximately eight years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, while working clinically in emergency medicine and urgent care.  In between her academic and administrative responsibilities, she practices clinically in the University Health Services clinics. Her passion to increase the representation of students who are from rural communities, from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well those historically not represented within the health professions is reflected in her local, state and national participation in a variety of health professions outreach activities.

Connie Childs, MA
Director, International Affairs
International Affairs

Connie Childs is the Director of International Affairs at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis, TN. She first came to Memphis as an F-1 student from Denmark and obtained a BA in English as a Second Language and an MA in English Linguistics from The University of Memphis. She has worked with international students since 1993 at The University of Memphis and with international scholars and staff since 1997 at UTHSC. She has been involved with workshop curriculum development for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, where she has also served on the Policy and Practice Committee, as well as presented workshops and sessions at NAFSA conferences.

Cassandra Christensen, RDH, MPA, EdD
Director of School-Based Programs and Community Outreach
College of Dentistry, Dental Hygiene

Cassandra Holder Christiansen graduated with Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Dental Hygiene from Tennessee State University/ Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN; She earned both a Masters of Public Administration degree and Doctorate of Education from the University of Memphis. Cassandra has over twenty-five years experience in dentistry, which began as a high-school part-time job and has evolved into a lifetime vocation. She is dedicated to the prevention of oral diseases focusing in underserved populations.   

Currently, Cassandra is a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, TN where she is serving as the Director of School Based Programs and Community Outreach

Her teaching responsibilities include Aseptic practices and Infection Control, Prevention & Patient Education, and Oral Radiology. Cassandra is a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the National Dental Hygienists’ Association, Sigma Phi Alpha, and Delta Sigma Theta. She has published various abstracts, articles, and a series of dental health manuals for West Virginia school teachers.  Cassandra has spoke and presented numerous scientific posters at local and national meetings. She serves as a dental consultant and provides continuing education in the area of Infection Control, Diversity in the Workplace and Dental Hygiene Practice Management.

Alicia Diaz-Thomas, MD, MPH
Associate Professor
Pediatrics

I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and came to the continental US as a young child.  As far as I can remember, I wanted to be a physician.  I completed my studies at Tulane University and Medical School and became board certified in Internal Medicine and in Pediatrics.  Later, I pursued a fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of South Florida and am also board certified in Pediatric Endocrinology.  I have been at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center since July 2011.  I am fortunate to have a position that allows me to grow in my clinical work, to teach medical students, residents, fellows, nurses and other medical staff, to participate in clinical research and to work together with my colleagues to use all of these avenues to improve the care of our patients in Tennessee and the Mid-South.

Martin E. Donaldson, DDS, MS
Associate Professor
Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health

My faculty appointments include being a Tenured Associate Professor in the College of Dentistry (COD), Department of Pediatric Dentistry and an Associate Professor in the College of Health Professions.  I joined the faculty of the Health Science Center in 2003 after a two-year stint at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, and prior to that, I taught at the University of Detroit Mercy and was an associate dentist in a pediatric dental practice in suburban Detroit.  My educational institutions include Northern Michigan (BA), Eastern Michigan University (MS), the University of Detroit (DDS) and the University of Pittsburgh (Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry).  I have board certification by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and am a Life Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  Currently, I am a member of the Pediatric Dentistry Review Committee of the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), a site visitor for CODA and a clinical examiner for the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.  I have served on numerous committees in the COD, am currently one of the faculty advisors for Unite, have been Faculty Senate President twice and have served on several committees at the Health Science Center and for the UT System, including the President’s Diversity Advisory Council.  I love the Blues, Motown and jazz, am a foodie, a craft beer lover, and a fan of bourbon, when the budget allows.

Andrea Franks, Pharm.D., BCPS
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education
Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science, College of Pharmacy; Department of Family Medicine, UT Graduate School of Medicine

Dr. Andrea Franks is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine. Her clinical practice, teaching, and research site is in Family Medicine at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Dr. Franks teaches throughout the Pharm.D. curriculum and serves as a preceptor in Family Medicine for Pharm.D. students as well as PGY-1 and PGY-2 pharmacy residents at UT Medical Center.

Lori S. Gonzalez, Ph.D.
Vice Chancellor
Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs

Lori Gonzalez, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky in speech-pathology and audiology; a Master of Arts degree in communication disorders from Eastern Kentucky University; and, a Ph.D. in communication disorders from the University of Florida.  She has held a number of academic leadership positions over her career including the Dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky; Provost at Appalachian State University and Special Advisor to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina General Administration, the North Carolina public higher education authority. In 2015, she became the Vice Chancellor for Academic, Faculty and Student Affairs at UTHSC. She is committed to leading and supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Rosalind Jackson
Administrative Specialist, II
College of Medicine

I am a native Memphian, a wife, mother of five children and grandmother of nine.  I married my childhood sweetheart.  After 15 years at The University of Memphis, then Memphis State I joined the FedEx family as a Customer Service Agent for three years.  I came to UTHSC in 2000 and I will be retiring in June 2020.  I interact mostly with prospective faculty who are recruited for upper level positions. I like to think that I serve as sort of an ambassador to our guests and I hope that it is a positive impression that I am leaving behind.  I will especially miss my supervisor with whom I have formed a special friendship.  I am thankful for all of the people that I have worked with at UTHSC and their influences in my life.

Mark A. Miller, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry
Office of Research
Research Integrity Officer

Dr. Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Biochemistry (MIB) and the Department of Medical Education (MedEd). As a member of MIB, he is a basic science researcher with a focus on bacterial pathogenesis/vaccine development and serves as the interim Director of the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and as the Chair of the Institutional Biosafety Committee. Dr. Miller teaches foundational immunology and serves as the Course Director for the 1st year medical school course known as Common Mechanisms of Disease, and he serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee for Evaluation and Assessment (SEA). Dr. Miller serves on a number of additional committees involving both the research and education missions at UTHSC.

Mukta Panda MD MACP FRCP-London
Professor and Assistant Dean for Well-Being and Medical Student Education; Past Chair Department of Medicine
Department of Medicine UTCOMC and Medical Education UTHSC-COM

Dr. Mukta Panda is Professor of Medicine and the Assistant Dean for Wellbeing and Medical Student Education at the University of Tennessee College Of Medicine Chattanooga.

Her roles include physician, educator, scholar and administrator with a proven track record in clinical, educational and administrative leadership, teaching, academics, student, resident, fellow and faculty education and development, and in hospital and university administration. She is working nationally, regionally, and locally on her research interests of health and wellbeing, fatigue, stress and burnout prevention in health care professionals, acculturation and enculturation, spirituality, and empathy in healthcare. Her new book Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being, will be launched in February 2020. This book is a narrative on her Journey to Champion Soul-Deep, System-Wide Self-Care. Dr. Panda gives voice to the exhaustion and gives courage for another way. She is also the author of the reflective and motivational book, “Rhythm of Our Hearts”, coauthored with her father, a retired surgeon, Dr. Shyam Parashar. She grew up in India and has studied and practiced in India, London, and Saudi Arabia. She is a proud mother and mother-in-law of Natasha and Rajas, and Nikhil and Anuja.

Trenton Pitts, JD
Director
Business Contracts

Trenton Pitts has worked at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center for more than 6 years. He worked in grants and research contracts for both St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and UTHSC, and currently serves as the Director of Business Contracts. Trent earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oklahoma and both a masters of arts in teaching and a Juris Doctor from the University of Memphis.

Cierra Richmond, BS, CAP
Human Resources Recruiting Assistant
Human Resources

Cierra is a HR Recruiting Assistant for the Employment & Records Office of Human Resources. She began her career at UTHSC April 2017.  During the first two years of her career, she was the HR Assistant supporting Benefits, Compensation, and Employee Relations. She obtained her degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She’s currently pursuing her MBA with an anticipated graduation date of spring 2021. She aspires to be a HR Generalist.

Cynthia K. Russell, PhD, RN - Advisory Member
Associate Vice Chancellor, Faculty Affairs
Office of Academic, Faculty, & Student Affairs

Dr. Russell holds a PhD in clinical nursing research from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She received a MSN in adult health nursing from West Virginia University in Morgantown and a BSN from Ohio University in Athens. The UTHSC Faculty Senate has honored Russell with three Presidential Citations, an Exceptional Meritorious Achievement Award, and the 2001 Faculty Senator of the Year designation. She has received Student Government Association Teaching Awards and nominations and was a member of the UTHSC Academy of Distinguished Teaching Professors.

Kunal Singhal, PT, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Physical Therapy

Dr. Singhal is an Assistant Professor in Department of Physical Therapy since 2014 and Director, Movement Science Laboratory since 2016. He is currently involved in research, teaching and clinical practice. He moved to Tennessee from Denton, Texas where he obtained his PhD in Kinesiology (Biomechanics) from Texas Woman’s University and completed his Post-Doctoral Fellowship from University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth. Since moving to UTHSC, he has successfully competed for one internal (iRISE) and two external (DoD) funded grants as a PI/ Co-PI.

Dr. Singhal’s specializes in applying mathematical and physics principle (biomechanics) in breaking down complex human motion (gait, walking aids, golf swing, ballet) to analyze their mechanics and adaptations (motor control) followed by translating those results in clinical environment by designing and providing therapy. His current research focuses on evaluating gait under realistic tasks and environment to further elucidate the nature of gait adaptations which occur as a result of healthy aging and the mechanism of failure of such adaptation which predispose individuals to fall risk. Subsequently, these approaches are also utilized in amputee and orthotic research to bring about clinical and translational impact in field of health care.

Robert St. Clair, MA
Media Specialist III
Print and Mail Services

Robert has worked at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center for ten years. Beginning in the Library as the Lab Media Manager, he later moved to Pharmacy as an Education Technology Coordinator. He currently works in Print and Mail Services as a Media Specialist III.

Robert attended Eastern Illinois University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Art and later his Master of Arts degree. He attended the University of Memphis to obtain a certificate in teaching.

Robert enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife and family.

Brad Terhune
IT Team Leader
Information Technology Services

Brad Terhune has lived in Memphis, TN since 1991.  He obtained a B. A. in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1991, and earned his Master’s degree from the University of Memphis in 1998.  During his time working at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Brad has been a Help Desk technician, an onsite computer repair tech and currently manages the UTHSC ITS Help Desk.

Brad enjoys learning about new technologies, and often helps friends and family with computer issues when he’s not in the office.  He’s always ready to play a game of racquetball.

Orpheus L. Triplett, D.D.S., B.S.
Assistant Dean, Community Oral Health and Outreach and Associate Professor                     
College of Dentistry, Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Triplett is an alumnus of Alcorn State University, graduating cum laude. He earned his DDS degree from Howard University College of Dentistry and completed a General Practice Residency with the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry. He is the recipient of many honors and awards including the College of Dentistry Dean’s Appreciation Award in 2017, a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Steve Cohen in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community in 2018, a City of Memphis Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding and Meritorious Contribution to Our Community in 2018, and a UT President’s Award Citation of Merit in 2019.

As the assistant dean of Community Oral Health and Outreach, Dr. Triplett will oversee, encourage, and support community engagement activities in the College of Dentistry. He will be involved in the development and implementation of new programs, and the establishment of new relationships as it relates to the college’s public service mission.

Ray West
Project Manager
Facilities Planning Services

Raymond “Ray” West is a Memphis native who has sent his entire life living in Memphis. He’s been in the Architecture Industry for over 20 years and has worked on many large projects throughout Memphis. Ray has been with the University of Tennessee for over 6 years.

Mona Newsome Wicks, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Professor and Chair, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Department
College of Nursing

Mona Newsome Wicks, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, a university educator for over 30 years, has participated in diversity, inclusion, health disparities, and cultural competence work for more than 20 years. Her research and scholarship in these areas include extramurally-funded research and invited presentations and peer-reviewed publications. In addition, she reviewed grant applications for the National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review for two terms as a member of the Health Disparities and Equity Promotion Scientific Review Group. Dr. Wicks developed and taught a doctoral course and participated in webinar development focused on diversity and inclusion, and previously served as Lead Co-chair for the American Academy of Nursing Expert Panel on Cultural Competence and Health Equity. She remains an active member of this group.

Lillian Williams (now Lillian Martin)
Finance Coordinator
GSM – Business Office (Knoxville)

Joined UT – Knoxville September 26, 2018.  Attended Diversity Certificate Program April 2, 2019 (received certificate).  Raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Studied at the University of Minnesota (Family Social Science). Received Accounting Degree at the North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, MN.  Lived and worked Decatur, GA for 13 years prior to moving to Knoxville, TN. 

Last Published: Apr 9, 2020