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About Us

Learn more about our mission and team.

The Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab is part of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation. Since the lab's launch in July 2013, the scope of our research projects has evolved rapidly in response to emerging technologies and communication channels. Our current areas of focus include digital media data mining, surveillance, and analysis; technology development, use, and management; multi-disciplinary education, training, and research; and establishment of best practices for patient activation and engagement, security, and privacy.

Raina Merchant, MD, MS

Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, received her undergraduate degree from Yale University. She attended the University of Chicago where she obtained her MD and completed her residency in emergency medicine. She served as chief resident and completed a resuscitation fellowship. Following residency, she completed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also earned an Masters of Science in Health Policy.

Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Additionally, she works in the Office of Policy and Planning of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health & Human Services and serves as Director of the MyHeartMap Challenge, which has launched in Philadelphia and Seattle. She also serves on the American Heart Association's Emergency Cardiovascular Care Research Working Group and the Cardiopulmonary Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation Council, Leadership Committee as the Early Career Representative.

Her research is focused on preventing potentially avoidable deaths from cardiac arrest and improving the impact of resuscitation therapies. Specifically, she studies diffusion of innovation and new media in resuscitation and translation of research to policy. She is identifying communities at risk for cardiac arrest and evaluating unique strategies for improving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and automated external defibrillator (AED) availability. In the in-patient setting, she is studying best practices for improving in-hospital cardiac arrest care.

Follow her on Twitter @RainaMerchant.

Shawndra Hill, PhD

Shawndra Hill, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Operations and Information Management Department at the Wharton School. She is also Director of the Social TV Lab. Generally, she studies data mining, machine learning, and statistical relational learning and their alignment with business problems. Specifically, she researches the value to companies of mining data on how consumers interact with each other -- for targeted marketing, advertising, and fraud detection. Her current research focuses on the interactions between television content and social media.

Her past and present industry partners include AT&T Labs Research, ClearForest, and Siemens Energy & Automation. Her recent work has appeared in IEEE Transactions on Data and Knowledge Engineering, Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, SIGKDD Explorations, and Statistical Science. Her research is funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, Google, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Shawndra holds a BS from Spelman College, a BEE from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a PhD in Information Systems from New York University's Stern School of Business.

Follow her on Twitter @Social_TV_Lab.

Lyle Ungar, PhD

Lyle Ungar, PhD, is a Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also holds appointments in multiple departments in the Schools of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Medicine, and Business. Dr. Ungar received a BS from Stanford University and a PhD from MIT. He has published over 200 articles and is co-inventor on eleven patents. His research areas include machine learning, data and text mining, and psychology, with a current focus on statistical natural language processing, spectral methods, and the use of social media understand the psychology of individuals and communities.

David Asch, MD, MBA

David Asch, MD, MBA, is the Executive Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation and the Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. He received an AB from Harvard University, an MD from Cornell University, and an MBA from the Wharton School. Dr. Asch researches clinician and patient decision making, health care management, and health policy.

John Hershey, MS, PhD

John Hershey, MS, PhD, is the Anheuser-Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science and Professor of Operations and Information Management and Healthcare Systems at the Wharton School. He received his BS from Carnegie-Mellon University, an MS in Operations Research from Stanford University, and a PhD from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. His research focuses on decision processes, operations management and health services.

Joseph Cappella, PhD

Joseph Cappella, PhD, is the Gerald R. Miller Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Cappella’s research has resulted in more than 150 articles and book chapters and four co-authored books in the areas of health and political communication, social interaction, nonverbal behavior, media effects, and statistical methods.  His research has been supported by grants from NIMH, NIDA, NSF, NCI, NHGRI, the FDA, The Twentieth Century Fund, and from the Markel, Ford, Carnegie, Pew, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. He is a Fellow of the International Communication Association and its past president, a distinguished scholar of the National Communication Association, and a recipient of the B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award.

Damien Leri, MSEd

Damien Leri, MSEd, started his first information technology company as a teenager in the 1990s, and he now works at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a BA in Psychology and an MSEd and is currently pursuing an MPH. He leads the Health IT consulting and development company Big Yellow Star. Follow him on Twitter @damienleri.

Heather Griffis, PhD

Heather Griffis, PhD, is a demographer focusing on population health and social media. She served as a data analyst for the MyHeartMap Challenge. Her recent work has focused on geographic analyses of automated external defibrillator (AED) placement, hospital use of social media, and crowdsourcing as a tool for health information collection. Her previous work included research on infant and child mortality in the United States, Africa, and Central Asia.

H. Andrew Schwartz, PhD

Andy Schwartz, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow focused on large and scalable language analyses for health and social sciences. Utilizing natural language processing and machine learning techniques he has discovered new behavioral and psychological factors of health and well-being as manifest through language in social media. He received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Central Florida in 2011, with research focused on acquiring lexical semantic knowledge from the Web. His recent work has been featured in WIRED and The Atlantic Cities.

Chileshe Nkonde-Price, MD MA

Chileshe Nkonde-Price, MD MA, is a cardiologist interested in the use of mobile technology and social media to measure and promote heart healthy behaviors in individuals and communities. She is currently in the Veterans Affairs/Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania and is a Senior Fellow and Media Correspondent for the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. She is also principal investigator of The ChangeMySteps Project, a smartphone-based project that combines gamification and social media to promote physical activity.

Chileshe received her BA and MA from Cambridge University and her MD from University College London. She is currently pursing her Masters of Science in Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Her recent work was featured on WHYY - The Pulse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital Blog.

Follow her on Twitter @DrChileshe.

Charlene Wong, MD

Charlene Wong, MD, is a pediatrician interested in examining the role of social media on children's health. She is currently in the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at University of Pennsylvania with clinical work at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her research focuses on the adolescent and young adult population and their access to health care and high quality health information.

Follow her on Twitter @DrCharleneWong.

Nathaniel DeNicola, MD

Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, is an obstetrician/gynecologist and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. He earned his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine, and completed his residency at Tulane University. He previously worked as an Assistant Medical Director in Southern California and served on The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Louisiana Legislative Committee. His research interests include decision modeling for elective deliveries, antenatal corticosteroids for late preterm births, and the use of social media in political action. He aspires to work in health policy and legislative affairs.

Follow him on Twitter @NDeNicolaMD.

Follow his newsfeed/blog on Twitter @ObGynHeadlines.

Yoonhee Ha, MSc, MPhil

Yoonhee Ha, MSc, MPhil, received her BA, BS, and BSBA degrees and minor from The Ohio State University. She received her graduate degrees from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Kevin Padrez, BA

Kevin Padrez, BA, graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human biology. Afterwards he worked for several years doing clinical research at Stanford Hospital as well as public health work with an NGO in rural Guatemala. He is currently in his final year of medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. Kevin’s research interests lie at the intersection of health, technology, and patient engagement.

Lauren Houdek, BS

Lauren Houdek, BS, is a joint degree MD-MPH student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research as an MPH student focuses on internet and social media use among homeless youth. She will be pursuing a career in pediatrics.

Gabrielle Ostapovich, BA

Gabrielle Ostapovich, BA, received her undergraduate degree in English literature from Rowan University. Gabby is a contributing research assistant for Social Media and Health Innovation Lab projects and an expert in Twitter language related to heart health.

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, MBE
Project Manager

Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, MBE, is Project Manager of the Social Media and Health Innovation Lab. She previously worked as a Social Media and Video Production Specialist in the Web Division of Strategic Marketing Services at Penn Medicine.

Emily recently completed her master’s degree in bioethics and certification in clinical ethics mediation at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2007, she graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where she received the Honorable Walter H. Annenberg Award.

Emily is a recognized leader in the health care social media community, with a particular interest in the use of social media for social change, participatory medicine, patient empowerment, and improved health outcomes. She has given nationwide talks at a TEDx event, the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication graduation, and Stanford University’s Medicine X conference, where she also served as an ePatient scholar.

Emily is also a co-founder of Emily's Entourage, a nonprofit organization that has raised over $600,000 to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis. She recently participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s strategic planning process as the patient representative on the communications team. In 2011, Emily was named Abbott’s CFCareForward “Thriving Graduate Student.”

Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyKG1.

Allison Sellers, BA
Clinical Research Coordinator

Allison Sellers, BA, received her undergraduate degree in economics from Smith College. Allison joined the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 and is a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Perelman School of Medicine and Social Media and Health Innovation Lab. She is currently pursuing her MBA with a focus in finance and health care administration and a career in health care management.

Maggie Debski, BA
Administrative Assistant

Maggie Debski, BA, received her undergraduate degree in international relations from Tufts University, where she was captain of the crew team. Prior to joining Penn Medicine, Maggie was involved in operations at several Boston-based startups and non-profits.

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