Skip to main content


Who We Are

The MH-RITES Center is a multidisciplinary team committed to driving evidence-based innovation in research and practice. Learn about our senior leadership, advisory board, and Center research affiliates, and staff.

Connect with Us

Please reach out to us about shared research interests or to collaborate using the provided contact information below.

Founder Title & Research Interests Connect

Robin Gearing 
Center Director: Robin Gearing

PhD, Founder & Director of MH-RITES Center, Professor of UH Graduate College of Social Work, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Texas Health McGovern Medical School Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Research Interests:

1. Improving outcomes for adolescents and emerging adults with serious mental illnesses and their families.
2. Client engagement and adherence to evidence-based psychosocial and pharmacological treatments.
3. Service access and utilization for underserved racial, ethnic/cultural, and stigmatized populations.
4. Patterns of service delivery, service utilization, and treatment adherence.
5. Strategies for addressing barriers and enhancing promoters to mental health treatment and services.
6. Interventions to maintain clients in treatment and improve outcomes and recovery.


Advisory Board

Board Members Title & Research Interests Connect
James M. Mandiberg, PhD 

Associate Professor | Hunter College, City University of New York, NY


Research Interests: Community and economic development of highly stigmatized populations, such as those with serious mental health conditions (SMI) and those with long-term histories of homelessness.

Sarah Narendorf, PhD 
Sarah Narendorf

Associate Professor & Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston


Research Interests: Mental health and mental health service use during the transition to adulthood for marginalized groups including youth aging out of foster care, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth involved in the criminal justice system.

Steve Schnee, PhD

Retired Executive Director of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD in Houston, Texas


Research Interests: Improving services provided by clinicians, improving connectivity within and across organizational components to positively engage seriously impaired, economically challenged individuals of diverse backgrounds with significant mental disabilities.


Jair C. Soares, MD, PhD 

Professor & Chairman, Pat R. Rutherford, Jr. Chair in Psychiatry, Director, Center Of Excellence on Mood Disorders, Executive Director, UTHealth HCPC


Research Interests: Adult general psychiatry, bipolar disorder, depression, second opinion, deep brain stimulation, mood disorders, neuroendocrinology, neuroimaging, neuropsychology, and psychopharmacology.


Renae Vania Tomczak, MBA, EDFP, HDFP 

President & CEO | Mental Health America of Greater Houston


Research Interests: Community mental health, prevention, and early intervention efforts with vulnerable families.


Center Research Fellows

Fellows Title & Research Interests Connect

Dana Alonzo, PhD


Associate Professor |  Director, Suicide Prevention Research Program, Fordham University


Research Interests: Suicide prevention and intervention, mental health treatment engagement and adherence, mood disorders and suicide attempt, protective factors against suicide attempt, and race, ethnicity and culture in mental health research.


Juan Barthelemy, PhD, LCSW-BACS


Assistant Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston


Research Interests: Community engagement strategies to reduce juvenile violent crime, community capacity building, violence intervention development and implementation, and monitoring the effects of group violence reduction strategies on homicides and other violent crimes. 


Shanondora Billiot, PhD, MSW


Assistant Professor | School of Social Work, Affiliate, Department of American Indian Studies, University of Illinois


Research Interests: The intersection of culture, the environment, and wellbeing among Indigenous peoples; understanding health and wellbeing in relation to global environmental changes such as chronic disasters and climate change.


Sharon Borja, PhD


Assistant Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston


Research Interests: Intergenerational adversity and resilience; migrant health and wellbeing; determinants of health and mental health and health inequities in low- and middle-income countries and in the United States; and culturally grounded social work prevention approaches and interventions.


Katheryn Brewer, PhD


Professor | University of New Hampshire


Research Interests: Adolescent resilience, strengthening self-regulation, increasing engagement in social services, and justice-involved adolescents.


Nicole F. Bromfield, PhD


Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston


Research Interests: Social well-being of persons who are vulnerable and at risk for exploitation, especially women and children in a global context; divorce from arranged marriages and global surrogacy arrangements.


Michael Coffey, PhD


Professor of Mental Health Care | Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences, Swansea University, UK


Research Interests: The organization, delivery, and experience of mental health care; negotiating identity for people leaving forensic mental health services; care planning and coordination in community and acute inpatient settings; recovery and shared decision making.

Lisa Kan, PhD

Director of Research | Harris County CSCD


Jamison (Jami) V. Kovach, PhD


Professor and Director | Lean Six Sigma Professional Training Program, College of Technology, University of Houston


Research Interests: Application of engineering design and process improvement methods in healthcare, changes organizations need to implement in order to improve their operational processes to achieve their strategic objectives and better serve their clients.


Marcus Lam, PhD


Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management | School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego


Research Interests: Identifying strategies for the sustainability of health and human service nonprofit organizations; the effect of organizational and environmental factors on nonprofit sustainable resources; and the influence of resources on organizational programs, services, and client outcomes.


Patrick Leung, PhD

Patrick Leung

Professor | Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston


Research Interests: Children and families, mental health, HIV and AIDS, refugee populations, Asian studies, and the elderly.


Pedro Isnardo de La Cruz Lugardo, PhD


Director of Research | Escuela Nacional de Trabajo Social (ENTS), Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM)


Research Interests: The evaluation of public policies, social community impact of public policies, migration, public health, security, social prevention of violence, and the design of institutional strategies in social policy.


Kiara Moore, PhD


Faculty Fellow | Silver School of Social Work, New York University


Research Interests: Multisystemic factors that lead to mental health disparities among marginalized young people, including youth of color, youth from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and LGBTQ youth that are experiencing mental health conditions.


Bernice Perez Ramirez, PhD


Associate Professor | Escuela Nacional de Trabajo Social, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico


Research Interests: Gender studies, body studies, trans issues, disability, and prison.


Ciwang Teyra, PhD


Assistant Professor | Truku Tribal Nation, Department of Social Work, National Taiwan University


Research Interests: Determinants of global indigenous health, wellbeing and resilience; historical trauma, healing, and resistance; culturally relevant psychometric measurement; and culturally informed interventions to address health concerns among indigenous communities internationally. 


Micki Washburn, PhD, LMSW, MA, LPC-S


Assistant Professor | University of Texas at Arlington School of Social Work 


Research Interests: The integration of technology into mental health and substance abuse interventions; the intersections of mental health, substance abuse and child welfare, and health disparities related to LGBTQ+ children and youth with child welfare and/or juvenile justice involvement.