Benjamin Cook, Director

Benjamin Cook, Ph.D., M.P.H. is the Director of the Health Equity Research Lab and the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, a Senior Scientist at Cambridge Health Alliance,  and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. His research interests are in improving methods for measuring disparities, and applying these methods to understanding the mechanisms underlying mental health and substance abuse treatment disparities, the association between acculturation and mental health, and geographic differences in mental health service use disparities. He received a Ph.D. in Health Policy at Harvard University concentrating in Evaluative Science and Statistics, an MPH from UNC-Chapel Hill in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, and a BA in psychology from Swarthmore College.


Phone: 617-806-8741

Recent Publications

Cook B,  Carson NJ, Kafali EN, Valentine A, Rueda JD, Coe-Odess S, Busch S. Examining psychotropic medication use among youth in the U.S. by race/ethnicity and psychological impairment. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2017. 45:32-39. 

Saloner, B, Akosa Antwi Y, MacLean C, Cook B. Access to Health Insurance and Utilization of Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act Dependent Coverage Provision, Health Economics, 2018.. 27:50-75. doi: 10.1002/hec.3482.

Fortuna L, Cook B, Porche M, Wang Y, Amaris A, Alegria M. Sleep disturbance as a predictor of time to drug and alcohol use treatment in primary care. Sleep Med. 2018;42:31-37. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.12.009.

Nicholas Carson, MD

Nicholas Carson, M.D., FRCPC is an Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Clinical Research Associate at the Health Equity Research Lab and the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research. He is also Associate Program Director for the child psychiatry fellowship program at the Cambridge Health Alliance, where he teaches clinical scholarship and psychopharmacology to child psychiatry fellows. Dr. Carson studies the quality of mental health services for multicultural communities, particularly among youth. He participates in intervention research to reduce mental health disparities through improvements in self-management and patient-provider communication. He is also interested in the impact of mass media and technology on youth development. Dr. Carson received his M.D. from McGill University and did his psychiatric training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School. 

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Phone: 617-575-5269

Recent Publications

Allen ML, Cook BL, Carson N, Interian A, La Roche M, Alegria, M.. Patient-Provider Therapeutic Alliance Contributes to Patient Activation in Community Mental Health Clinics. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental and Mental Health Services Research. 2015

Carson, NJ, Vesper A, Chen, C-N, Cook BL. Quality of Follow-Up After Hospitalization for Mental Illness Among Patients From Racial-Ethnic Minority Groups. Psychiatric Services 2014; doi: 10.1176/ [published online 4/1/2014]

Alegria M, Carson N, Flores M, et al. Activation, Self-management, Engagement, and Retention in Behavioral Health Care: A Randomized Clinical Trial of the DECIDE Intervention. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online March 19, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4519

Ana Progovac, PhD, Senior Scientist

Ana Progovac, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist at the Lab. She completed an NIMH mental health services research postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School in June 2017. She focuses on mental health care policy with interests in mental health, implementation science, integrated care, health disparities, psychological attitudes and women's health, and evidence-based policy. Her doctoral thesis in Health Services Research and Policy focused on psychological attitudes and health behaviors, while her B.S. thesis in Neuroscience examined the genetics of depression. She has worked directly in the fields of primary care – mental health integration, at the Department of Veteran Affairs and Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. She speaks English, Serbian, and Spanish.


Phone: 617-806-8738


Recent Publications

Progovac AM, LeCook B, Mullin BO, McDowell A, Sanchez MJ, Wang Y, Creedon T, Schuster MA. Identifying Gender Minority Patients’ Health And Health Care Needs In Administrative Claims Data. Health Affairs 2018;37:413-20.

Progovac, A.M.,Chang, Y.F., Chang, C.C.H., Matthews, K.A., Donohue, J.M., Scheier, M.F., Habermann, E.B., Kuller, L.H., Goveas, J.S., Chapman, B.P. and Duberstein, P.R., 2017. Are Optimism and Cynical Hostility Associated with Smoking Cessation in Older Women?. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, pp.1-11..

Weaver, K.E., Snively, B.M., Hogan, P., Josephs, K., Johnson, K.C., Coday, M., Progovac, A.M., Cirillo, D.J., Ockene, J.K. and Tindle, H.A., 2017. Predictors of Continued Smoking and Interest in Cessation Among Older Female Smokers. Journal of Aging and Health, p.0898264316687622.

Cook, B.L., Zuvekas, S.H., Chen, J., Progovac, A. and Lincoln, A.K., 2016. Assessing the Individual, Neighborhood, and Policy Predictors of Disparities in Mental Health Care. Medical Care Research and Review, p.1077558716646898.

Timothy Creedon

Timothy Creedon is a Research Associate at the Health Equity Research Lab and a PhD candidate in Social Policy with a concentration in Behavioral Health Policy at Brandeis University. He is currently the recipient of an F31 predoctoral training grant from NIDA and was previously supported by a T32 grant from NIAAA. His research interests include access to behavioral health services, racial/ethnic health disparities, social determinants of health, and community-based interventions (e.g., supportive housing) for individuals with serious mental illness. He holds a MA in Social Policy from Brandeis University and a BA in History from Tufts University.



Recent Publications

Creedon, T. B., and B. L. Cook. “Access To Mental Health Care Increased But Not For Substance Use, While Disparities Remain.” Health Affairs 35.6 (2016): 1017–1021. CrossRef. Web.

For the Atlantic article, please check out "Obamacare Is Making Mental-Health Care Better for Some."

Michael Flores, PhD

Michael Flores is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Health Equity Research Lab. He is a recent graduate of the doctoral program in Health Services Research at Brown University’s School of Public Health. His dissertation evaluated the impact of access and utilization of health services among Medicaid beneficiaries with serious mental illness of Rhode Island’s Medicaid Health Home through the use of quasi-experimental methods and longitudinal administrative claims data, His research interests include access and utilization of health services by populations with mental illness, healthcare integration, implementation science, social determinants of health, racial/ethnic disparities, community-based interventions, and patient-provider communication. Michael received BAs in Spanish Literature and Latin American Iberian Studies from the
University of California, Santa Barbara, and an MPH in Health Policy from Fresno State. He is fluent in English and Spanish. 


Sherry (Shu-Yeu) Hou, MPH
Sherry Hou, M.P.H. is a Research Coordinator and Project Manager at the Health Equity Research Lab. She received an M.P.H. with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics from Tufts University School of Medicine. Her role at the Health Equity Research Lab and the Center for Multicultural Mental Health has been assisting with data management, literature review, manuscript preparation, and statistical analyses

Email:   Phone: 617-806-8758


Recent Publications
Cook, B.L., Trinh, N.H., Li, Z., Hou, S.S.Y. and Progovac, A.M., 2016. Trends in Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Access to Mental Health Care, 2004–2012. Psychiatric Services, 68(1), pp.9-16.

Cook, B.L., Progovac, A.M., Chen, P., Mullin, B., Hou, S. and Baca-Garcia, E., 2016. Novel use of natural language processing (NLP) to predict suicidal ideation and psychiatric symptoms in a text-based mental health intervention in Madrid. Computational and mathematical methods in medicine, 2016.

Rajan Sonik, JD, MPH, PhD
Rajan is a postdoctoral fellow at Health Equity Research Lab interested in the connections between poverty alleviation, health, and health care costs. He received his PhD from the Heller School at Brandeis University, his JD from Harvard Law School, his MPH from the University of California, Davis, and his BA in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard College. Rajan has a background in advocating for low-income children with sickle cell disease, and he was an Equal Justice Works Fellow from 2012-2014.


Recent Publications: 

Sonik RA. (2016). Massachusetts inpatient Medicaid cost response to increased supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits. American Journal of Public Health, 106(3):443-448.

Sonik RA, Sprinz PG, Teasdale S, Parish SL, Champigny M. (2018). Health care costs and unmet legal service needs of children with sickle cell disease. Children and Youth Services Review. 84, 76-81.

Tali Fleitman Soffer
Tali is a research collaborator at the Health Equity Research Lab. She attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate student, majoring in Health: Science, Society and Policy and minoring in Economics and French. Her previous work is in the non-profit sector where she focused on increasing access to health care for underserved populations by developing community outreach strategies. 



Esther Lee 

Esther is a Research Assistant at the Health Equity Research Lab. She recently completed her Bachelor at Wellesley College majoring in Women's and Gender Studies with a Global Health Concentration. Her research experience includes rotations at the Kenya Medical Research Institute as well as at the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. She is interested

in doing research related with gender and race/ethnicity health access. 


Ye Wang, PhD

Ye Wang is a data analyst collaborator at the Lab. She completed her Economics Ph.D at Boston University and received her Bachelor's of Science in Economics from the University of Michigan. Her expertise is centered on econometrics and statistical modeling and as well as on Health Economics and Labor Economics. She


Brian Mullin

Brian Mullin is a Senior Data Analyst at the Cambridge Health Alliance, and the Health Equity Research Lab. He specializes in quantitative analysis and uses his expertise to answer strategic business questions using raw data. Brian graduated Boise State University with a degree in Economics. His previous work experience includes Senior Research Analyst for the Centers for Disease Control and the state of Idaho. He also worked as a Senior Programmer for Abt Associates, a Senior Data Analyst for Neighborhood Health Plan, and a Senior Data Analyst for the Mental Health Services Program for Youth in the Greater Boston Area. Most recently, Brian worked as a Senior Medical Economics Analyst for the Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan/Well Sense Health Plan. 



Nicole Benson, MD
Nicole Benson, M.D, is a PGY-3 resident in the the combined child and adult residency program at Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital. Her clinical interests include the treatment of adolescents and young adults with acute psychosis while her research interests focus on the delivery of mental health care to psychiatric patients. Dr. Benson is a graduate of Haverford College and the University of Vermont School of Medicine. 


Staff Profile

Maria Jose Sanchez, MD

Maria Jose joined the Health Equity Research Lab after working as a research fellow at Boston Children's Hospital in a neurology laboratory. She obtained her medical degree in Quito, Ecuador and looks forward to pursue her residency in the USA. Her interests in research include patient preferences in diverse communities, and promotion of patient empowerment on decision making. 



Dharma Cortes, PhD 

Dharma recently joined the lab as a Co-Investigator. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, a Doctorate degree in Sociology from Fordham University, and completed her post-doctoral training in Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine. For more than twenty years Dr. Cortes has been conducting community-based research with Latinos in the U.S., focusing on acculturation, health, mental health, and access to healthcare. She has contributed as principal investigator, co-investigator and consultant to studies funded by the NIH, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Robert Wood-Johnson Foundation. She is currently an Instructor at Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Senior Research Associate at the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a member of the Health Literacy Studies Group at the Harvard School of Public Health.



James Barrett, PhD 

James is a nationally-recognized expert in child and adolescent mental health, school safety and juvenile justice.  He is a licensed psychologist and Counselor from Boston College, as well as a consultant, evaluator, psychotherapist, speaker and author. He is an Instructor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and practices at Cambridge Health Alliance. James developed the Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative on prevention, intervention and diversion at CHA. Additionally, James collaborated with the Project RISE for Boys and Men of Color, specifically with the analysis of the intersection of the Criminal Justice, Education, and Mental Healthcare Systems.  



Cambridge Health Safety Initiative 

Alex McDowell RN, MSN, MPH

Alex joined the lab to contribute with her expertise in research related with gender minorities, specially on transgender and gender non-conforming populations. She participated in the development and evaluation of the Transgender Curriculum Integration Project at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and has dedicated her work to understand the impact of health care policy and delivery system changes on health of gender minorities. She is currently a Ph.D student of Health Policy at Harvard University, but finished her previous studies at John Hopkins and Georgetown University. 



Health Equity Research Lab

1035 Cambridge Street, 2nd Floor

Cambridge, MA 02141

phone: 617-806-8741

fax: 617-806-8740