Mark Padilla | Principal Investigator | Email:

Dr. Mark Padilla is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies, Florida International University. Mark is the Principal Investigator for the Syndemics Project, and is a medical anthropologist with cross-training and experience in public health, both domestically and internationally. Most of his work is located within what he terms a productive synergy between anthropology and the more applied concerns of public health.

As an anthropologist trained in ethnographic methods, globalization, and critical medical anthropology, and has sought to trouble the terms of discourse and “intervention” in public health, and to bring structural inequalities and material processes into greater focus in public health.

Armando Matiz | Project Director | Email:

Dr. Matiz has a wealth of interdisciplinary experience which he brings to the project. Dr. Matiz is a trained dentist and holds a certificate in Psycho-social self-help from the Association of International Facilitators (IAF). Dr. Matiz has extensive training in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis from the Clinical Hypnosis Institute in Michigan.

The main focus of Dr. Matiz's work has been in the area of helping people living with chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer. Armando has devoted much of his career to helping economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized persons: the incarcerated, sex-workers, LGBT youth, and the homeless throughout Latin America and Caribbean. Most recently, Dr. Matiz has worked as part of research projects that explore training and education on issues of sexual health, violence, at-risk youth, and drug use.

Dr. Matiz is the founder of "Intelligent Transformation" a resource for public health workers that combines different perspectives to strengthen the internal synergy of human beings on a fundamental level and providing the ability to break through previously-held, limiting beliefs. Dr. Matiz's accumulated experience and knowledge is key in his professional work, enabling him to assist teachers, researchers, students, organizations, communities and their leaders in research processes, allowing for restructuration and improvement.

Nelson Varas | Co-Investigator | Email:

Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz has previously received funding from NIDA, NIMH, and NICHD to carry out qualitative and quantitative oriented HIV/AIDS stigma research in Puerto Rico, has published multiple articles on HIV/AIDS stigma in peer-reviewed journals, a book on HIV/AIDS stigma in Puerto Rico in 2004, and another on health and stigma in 2007. He has had extensive experience in the field of HIV/AIDS stigma among health professionals, having documented how they hold stigmatizing attitudes towards people with HIV/AIDS. He has also developed the first stigma attitude reduction intervention that is currently being tested among medical students in Puerto Rico through a randomized controlled trial. Dr. Varas-Díaz has published several papers on HIV/AIDS stigma attitudes measurement and socio-cultural factors that influence their manifestations among health professionals in Puerto Rico. He has also engaged in NIH funded projects to address the role of HIV/AIDS stigma experiences among serodiscordant couples and the transgender community in Puerto Rico.

Jorge Asjana | Local Principal Investigator | Email:

Dr. Jorge Asjana graduated from the School of Medicine of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, UASD, specializing in General Surgery. Dr. Asjana was the distinguished Professor of Surgical Pathology at the Teaching Hospital Padre Billini, from 1993 to 1994 and was Professor of Human Anatomy and General Surgery at the UASD. He has held several important positions in the UASD: General Coordinator for Internships from 1995 to 1997, Director of the School of Morphological Sciences from 1999 to 2005, Program Chair for Dissection and Experimental Surgery from 1996-1999, and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences from 2005 to 2011. Dr. Asjana is currently the Vice-Chancellor for UASD, a position he has held since 2011. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Temple University's College of Science and Technology.

Tor Neilands | Co-Investigator | Email:

Dr. Tor Neilands is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Prevention Science in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He has a PhD in social psychology and a minor in quantitative methods and psychometrics and directs the Methods Core at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. His area of specialty is the analysis of quantitative data arising from behavioral research studies, with an emphasis on latent variable modeling, survey scale development, and longitudinal data analysis. Dr. Neilands also co-directs a program at CAPS designed to accelerate the research programs of early-career social and behavioral scientists who conduct HIV/AIDS-prevention research in U.S. minority communities.

José Félix Colón Burgos | Project Ethnographer | Email:

José Félix Colón Burgos completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Mental Health, and a minor in Sociology. He continues his graduate studies on the Graduate School of Public Health of the University of Puerto Rico where he earned a Masters in Science on Research and Evaluation of Health Systems. Currently, he is a doctoral candidate on Public Health specializing in the study of the Social Determinants of Health. Jose has worked as a research evaluator with various community, state and international organizations aiming to tackle social and public health problematics from a social justice perspective. His research interests include the study of the social determinants of health, the effects of inequality and social structure in health, maternal and child health, access to health services and the study of the political economy of health. José is the principal ethnographer for the Syndemics Project and is responsible for carrying out and supervising ethnographic work as well as managing field data collection.

Leda Herasme | Field Coordinator | Email:

Leda’s professional background is in Early Education, and she holds a degree in School Administration and Supervision, as well as a bachelor’s of science degree in Environmental Protection and Natural Resources. As an expert in project monitoring and evaluation, Leda developed and implemented various projects related to HIV/AIDS for USAID-funded projects that spanned several countries in the Caribbean. Leda was part of a research project jointly developed by the University of Michigan and la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, UASD in 2010. Leda has facilitated and implemented several courses and workshops on HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the Ministry of Health of the Dominican Republic. Leda has authored numerous educational materials, including the "Manual for Community Health Promoters in Reproductive Health HIV/AIDS", the "Manual for the Prevention of STIs/HIV/AIDS”, as well as educational modules specifically aimed at adolescents entitled "Learning is Life."

Martin Tsang | Post-Doctoral Research Affiliate | Email:

Dr. Martin Tsang is a graduate of the Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University (FIU), and currently holds a post-doctoral research position at the University of Miami. Martin is an anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in Cuba on religion, identity and transnationalism that bridge Chinese-Cuban and Afro-Cuban diasporas. Martin is working as an affiliated researcher for the Syndemics Project, and in particular is working to help disseminate some of our team's results through resources at UM.


Caroline Parker | Graduate Researcher | Email:

Caroline is a second year PhD student at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and is pursuing her Ph.D. in medical anthropology. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Human Sciences in 2012 from St. John’s College, University of Oxford. Currently, Caroline is working on an NIMH-funded ethnographic study - The PrEP for Black MSM project - which investigates the feasibility of introducing PrEP among Black MSM in Harlem. This community-based ethnographic research explores the structural and cultural factors that shape men's sexual relationships and health systems engagement, and findings will inform the design of a PrEP-based package of care targeted and Black MSM who are initiating PrEP. Caroline is broadly interested in the political economy of public health and in the relationship between evidence and public health policy. Caroline was an intern on the project in summer, 2014, and is currently assisting the team with some analysis tasks.

Joelma Nascimento | Research Coordinator | Email:

Joelma Nascimento currently serves as research coordinator for the Syndemics Project while pursuing her graduate degree in Foreign Language Education at Florida International University (FIU). She attended Fisher College in Boston, Massachusetts, and received a bachelor’s degree in business management. Previously, she was research coordinator for The Children’s Amalgam Trial, a two-arm randomized safety trial comparing amalgam with a mercury-free material. For 5 years, the study followed 534 children from New England, ages 6-10. The research was funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). In her spare time, she volunteers for Books for Brazil a nonprofit organization dedicated to help children in Brazil have access to books; Future Educators Association (FEA) at FIU with Dr. Claudia Page; and ESToPP - Eradicating the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Dr. Debra Pane.

Karina Livingston | Research Assistant | Email:

Karina is a second year graduate student in the Global and Sociocultural Studies department at Florida International University (FIU) pursuing her master’s degree in cultural geography and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She received double bachelors in International Relations and Anthropology and a certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from FIU in 2013. Currently Karina works as a research assistant on the Syndemics Project focusing on the geographical analysis of the data. This work focuses on using mixed methods to map participant’s migratory patterns and visualize their spatial realities. She has presented on behalf of the project at the Florida Society of Geographers conference in 2015 and won an award for presenting at the South Eastern Division of the Association of American Geographers conference earlier this year. Karina is also in the process of preparing a step-by-step manual of the mixed method approach developed by the team. ​

David Robles | Graduate Researcher | Email:

David is pursuing a PhD degree in the Global and Sociocultural Studies Program at Florida International University, focusing on water governance on the Guajira Peninsula of northern Colombia with the Wayuu indigenous people. He studied cultural anthropology at the University of Kansas where he received a BA degree in 2000 and an MA degree in 2008. Since then, he has worked in Colombia with the Wayuu and most recently with the World Food Program on food security. David is a graduate researcher for the Synedmics Project since May 2015, working on coding and data analysis.

Vanessa Leon | Research Assistant | Email:

Vanessa is a Ph.D. student in the Global and Sociocultural Studies (GSS) Program at Florida International University (FIU). Since Fall 2015, she is a research assistant in the Syndemics Project, analyzing qualitative data. Additionally, she is Treasurer of the Global Indigenous Group – an FIU student club 2015-2016. Her work is mainly related to coastal communities in Ecuador. Her research interests entails State-society relationships; Tourism and Development; Anthropology and Geography of Tourism; Tourism in Ecuador. Vanessa has presented her work at several conferences, such as Annual Conference of American Anthropologists Association, Annual Conference of American Geographers Association, FIU–Forums, University of Santa Elena Peninsula. Since 2006 to 2014, she was an Associate Professor (tenured) at the University “Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral” – ESPOL – in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She did Lectures and Seminars in the Tourism Program – Department of Maritime until she decided to engage a doctoral study in the US.

Jack Vertovec | Email:

Jack is a PhD student in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University, with an interest in examining the informal economy that exists in the contemporary moment in Cuba. Specifically, Jack is interested in exploring the ways in which the informal economy is understood and perceived across intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and geographic location on the island. He studied cultural anthropology and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder where he graduated magna cum laude with a BA in 2012. Jack has worked as a graduate researcher for the Synedmics Project since February 2016. He currently codes and helps with data analysis.

Silvana Nuñez Geraldo | Email:

Silvana is working towards her Doctor degree in Medicine at the Faculty of Health Sciences - Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD). She is the visual technician communication and digital illustration, specialist in digital communication and social media marketing strategy. She is interested in the community approach to research projects that generate solutions to issues such as drug use and overcoming addictions, inclusion, eliminating stigmas and reducing social gaps with their dissemination among the population. Silvana is working on the Sindemias project since 2014 as communication and publicist in the management of social media and marketing strategy.

Maria Isabel Baylon Guillen | Email:

Marisa is a first generation Mexican immigrant holding International Relations and Political Science degrees from the University of Colorado Boulder. Marisa’s emphasis is largely on socioeconomic issues facing immigrant populations today, having worked in advocacy, education, and policy targeting this demographic. She has recently served as Board Member for the Latino Task Force in Boulder County (Colorado) advocating for immigrant rights, as well as Intercambio, a Colorado based non-profit organization helping immigrant populations integrate through English language education and cultural comprehension. Her volunteer efforts include work with the Boulder County Latino History Project, Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services, and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Marisa has worked as a researcher for the Synedmics Project since March 2016, working on coding and data analysis.

Andrea Nuñez | Research Assistant | Email: 

Andrea Nuñez is a Master of Arts student in the Global and Sociocultural Studies program at Florida International University (FIU). She received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and a Certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from FIU in 2011. After completing her undergraduate studies, Ms. Nuñez became a union organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ organizing janitorial, landscape and food service workers throughout South Florida. In 2013, Ms. Nuñez became a research assistant with FIU’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy studying the labor relations and working conditions of Miami-Dade County low-income workers. Currently, she is a research assistant with the Syndemics Project since 2016 coding qualitative interviews, performing data analysis and interpretation, and co-authoring a journal article on the role of touristic escapism on the HIV/drug use syndemic. Her area of interests are in applied social research for policy reform in education, health and labor.

Kevin Garcia | Research Assistant | Email:

​ Kevin Garcia is a Research Assistant with the Syndemics Project and The Neuroinformatics and Connectivity Lab of FIU. He is a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policies Board of Directors and co-chairs the Scientific Research and Harm Reduction Committees. Kevin is a certified SSDP Peer Educator, and has spoken at events and conferences on harm reduction, post-traumatic stress, problematic drug use, student activism, and cognitive neuroscience. Kevin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Florida International University.

Melissa Dotel | Administrative Coordinator | Email:

Katherine Nin | Administrative Assistant | Email:

Roberto Espinal Concepcion | Email: