Scholars and Fellows

The Nova Institute’s Scholars and Fellows are accomplished leaders and young trailblazers whose cutting-edge work promotes integrative approaches to health. They hail from esteemed institutions across the country and around the world. Our program gives them the freedom and resources to take their work in new, pioneering directions. 


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George “Bud” Brainard, PhD

For more than 30 years, George Brainard, PhD, has studied the effects of light on the biology and behavior of animals and humans. His research has been widely supported by public, industrial, and private sources.

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Paul Dieppe, BSc, MD, BS(Lond), FRCP, FFPH

Dr. Paul Dieppe is among world’s preeminent osteoarthritis researchers and one of only 23 health researchers in the UK to hold the prestigious Emeritus Senior Investigator award from the National Institute for Health Research.

Rebecca S. Etz, PhD

Rebecca S. Etz is a cultural anthropologist at Virginia Commonwealth University with expertise in qualitative research methods and design, primary care measures, practice transformation, and engaging stakeholders.

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Frederick O. Foote, MD, CAPT, MC, USN (Ret.)

Frederick O. Foote, MD, a retired U.S. Navy physician, leads the Epidaurus Project, which aims to integrate whole-person care in hospitals and clinics throughout the U.S. Military Health System.

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Richard Hammerschlag, PhD

Dr. Hammerschlag, with a background in neurobiology, works primarily in acupuncture and biofield physiology research and serves as the executive director of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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David Scott Jones, MD

David Scott Jones, MD, is president emeritus and a member of the board of directors of The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), where he served as president and director of medical education from 2000 to 2013.

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George Kaplan, PhD

Professor George A. Kaplan, PhD, is a social epidemiologist whose work on the role of behavioral, social, psychological and socioeconomic factors in health and health inequalities has been cited more than 63,000 times. A major theme in his work is the complex linkage between “upstream” and “downstream” factors in maintaining health.

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David John Lary, PhD

David John Lary, PhD, is an atmospheric scientist whose work focuses on using remote sensing from robotic aerial vehicles and satellites coupled with machine learning to facilitate scientific discovery and decision support.

Osagie K. Obasogie, JD, PhD

Osagie K. Obasogie is the Haas Distinguished Chair and Professor of Law at the University of Califorina, Berkeley School of Law with a joint appointment in the Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health. He is also Co-Director of the Berkley Center for Law and Technology.

Susan Prescott, MD, PhD

Professor Susan Prescott, MD, PhD, is a pediatrician and an internationally acclaimed physician-scientist, well known for her cutting-edge research into the early environmental determinants of health and disease.

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Judy Rollins PhD, RN

Judy Rollins, PhD, RN, brings 30 years of arts and healthcare experience in research, consulting, program development, and education. She is a registered nurse with a BFA in the visual arts, an MS in child development and family studies, and a PhD in health and community studies.

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Kurt C. Stange, MD, PhD

Kurt C. Stange, MD, PhD, is a family and public health physician, practicing at Neighborhood Family Practice, a federally-qualified community health center in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Stange examines the integration of relationship-centered care at the crossroads between person and population.

Sara L. Warber, MD

Sara L. Warber, MD is nationally and internationally recognized as a leader, researcher, educator and clinician in integrative healthcare, known for her work studying the use and measurement of integrative therapies, the phenomenon of healing, nature and health, and the effects of complex interventions on human well-being.

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Claudia M. Witt, MD, MBA

Dr. Witt is a physician, epidemiologist, and research methodologist focusing on the evaluation of non-pharmacological interventions in integrative medicine, as well as non-specific factors such as therapy outcomes.

Steven Woolf, MD, MPH

Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, is Professor at the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Woolf researches the many social determinants of health and aims to establish a new model for communicating scientific evidence to decision-makers.


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Andrew C. Ahn, MD, MPH

Dr. Ahn is a junior faculty member of both the Massachusetts General Hospital Martinos Center and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Division of General Medicine and Primary Care. His research interest is in computational medicine and large-scale electrophysiological processes within the human body.

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Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD

Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD, is a psychologist and psychoneuroimmunologist on the faculty of University of California, San Francisco. The overarching goal of Dr. Aschbacher’s research is to illuminate the psychobiological mechanisms by which chronic and traumatic stress contribute to cardiometabolic disease, in order to develop integrative interventions to restore health.

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Valentina A. Morani, Dipl.O.M., L.Ac.

Valentina Morani works in Chinese Medicine and sound healing, and has a background in fine arts that she occasionally combines with her healing practices. She also explores the concept of wellness retreats and next generation healing centers.

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Chris D’Adamo, PhD

Dr. Chris D’Adamo is an epidemiologist with research interests in the synergistic effects of healthy lifestyle practices and genetics on human health, as well as outcomes evaluations of multi-modality, whole-practice integrative health interventions and programs

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Jeff Greeson, PhD

Dr. Greeson is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Rowan University in New Jersey, where he directs the Mindfulness, Stress & Health Lab and is Co-Director of Research for the Center for Humanism at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

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Heidi Gullett, MD, MPH

Heidi Gullett, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Center for Community Health Integration at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Gullett believes that it is vitally important to understand the root causes of the current fragmented system and to address the identified opportunities for integration of care to reduce the health effects of poverty.

Alan C. Logan, ND

Alan Logan, ND, is an award-winning author and historian of health sciences with nearly 100 publications in diverse scientific and medical journals. His work, which has more than 6,500 citations, explores the ways in which natural environments provide value to and impact human health and quality of life.

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Carley Riley, MD, MPH, MPP

Carley Riley, MD, MPP, MHS, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and an attending physician in the Division of Critical Care Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her work (with research partner Brita Roy) focuses on trends and geographic variation in well-being among US populations.

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Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MHS

Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MHS is Clinical Associate Professor at the Department of Population Health, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Clinical Associate Professor at the Department of Medicine, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, as well as Director of Community Health and Clinical Outcomes — Beyond Bridges at NYU Langone Hospital.

Media Fellows

Virginia Gewin

Virginia Gewin is a freelance journalist investigating the public health impacts of novel fine particulate matter.

Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan is investigating the plight and promise of Appalachia, particularly the health of Appalachia’s people and its landscape.

Lela Nargi

Lela Nargi is a veteran journalist covering the intersection of water poverty and food insecurity in several communities across the country.

Nature Sacred Fellows

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Denise Shante Brown

Denise Shanté Brown, MA, is a designer and mental health advocate strategizing compassionate interventions for connection, well-being and social transformation.

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Francesca Richardson, PhD

Francesca Richardson, PhD is a licensed clinical social worker and qualitative researcher. A clinical social worker for over 25 years, she has extensive experience working in mental health, hospice, employee assistance programs and in private practice.

Invited Faculty

Nova Invited Faculty share their expertise and interdisciplinary knowledge to help “connect the dots” across different issue areas and themes.  

Zinzi Bailey, ScD, MSPH

Zinzi Bailey, ScD, MSPH, is a social epidemiologist and an Associate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Nadine Clopton

Nadine Clopton is devoted to cultivating a world that places compassion, communities, & ecological wellness at the root of transformative change.

Mona El-Sherbini, MD

Dr. Mona El-Sherbini is an accomplished medical doctor and Associate Professor of Medical Parasitology at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Egypt.

Federica Lari

Federica Lari, PhD, is a cell biologist, yoga and contemplative practices instructor, and creator of Planetary Health Yoga. 

Sue Ishaq, PhD

Dr. Sue Ishaq, PhD, is Associate Professor of Microbiomes at the University of Maine.

Ashka Naik

Ashka Naik is an activist researcher and a food policy expert working across food and climate justice movements, corporate accountability issues, multilateral policymaking, and women’s rights.

David Nelson

David is an entrepreneur, polymath and dedicated generalist with a passion for connecting data, problems, people, and resources to emerging solutions.

Aterah Nusrat, MSc, DIC

Aterah Nusrat, MSc, DIC, serves as both Director of Programming in Integrative Medicine and Planetary Health and Senior Program Manager at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Aaron Schuh, MD

Dr. Aaron Schuh, MD, MPH is Assistant Professor in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Brian Smedley

Brian D. Smedley, PhD, is a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

Leslie Soble

Leslie Soble is a senior program manager at Impact Justice where she manages Impact Justice’s Food in Prison Project.

Kate Rudd

Kate Rudd is an interdisciplinary researcher, facilitator, and writer working at the intersection of new economics, social innovation, and inner development.

In Memoriam

Ellen Hughes

Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD


Ellen Hughes, MD, PhD, a cherished educator and physician, lived life as she inspired others to live: with joy, gratitude, profound spirituality, reverence of the great outdoors, and a deep commitment to others—most importantly, her family, friends, colleagues, and medical students.


Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.