FACULTY

Joel Milam, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine. He is also a member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. His research encompasses the field of positive health psychology, examining the roles of positive and protective psychosocial and behavioral factors that can influence health and wellbeing. This work comprises health promotion interventions and understanding the positive psychosocial and behavioral changes in response to major life events/stressors/disease among adolescents and adults, including ethnically diverse and clinical populations (e.g., cancer survivors, persons living with HIV/AIDS). Current projects include a large-scale population-based study (Project Forward) on the long-term adaptation to childhood and adolescent cancers. This survivorship research examines potential health disparities by ethnicity (with an emphasis on Hispanic/Latino health), patterns of health care use, health behaviors, and mental health/wellbeing outcomes. Similar research among adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancers is in development. Other projects include behavioral interventions focused on safer sex and medication adherence. He has designed and taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Keck School of Medicine, including: Happiness, Wellbeing, and Health (HP-440); Violence as a Public Health Issue (HP-421); Intervention Approaches to Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (PM-562); and HIV/AIDS in Society (HP-422). Dr. Milam continuously serves as a mentor for undergraduate and graduate students and co-directs the NCI-funded Cancer Control Post-Doctoral training program in the Department of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Milam received his B.A. in Psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University; M.A. in Psychology from the California State University, Long Beach; and Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine from the University of Southern California.

Thalida Em Arpawong, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California (USC), in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. Through her post-doctoral training, she was funded by an individual NRSA from the National Institute on Aging and began her research career through a pre-doctoral Intramural Research Training Award Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. She received her Ph.D. and M.P.H. from the Department of Preventive Medicine at USC, and her B.A. from Oberlin College. Dr. Arpawong’s research interests revolve around disentangling how risk and resilience processes combine to influence psychosocial and cognitive health throughout aging. She focuses on using longitudinal data to identify pathways that combine environmental, genetic, and behavioral factors. Additionally, she examines how these pathways result in differences in outcomes across ethnicity and sex.

Anamara Ritt-Olson, PhD, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Institute for Prevention Research, USC Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Ritt-Olson has significant expertise in intervention development in a cultural context and in a variety of qualitative methods. Her research focuses on the health and wellbeing of culturally diverse adolescents and young adults, and she has designed interventions across a spectrum of health issues including HIV, drug abuse prevention, physical activity, and cancer related follow-up care. She teaches several courses in the Master’s in Public Health program at USC, including health promotion intervention development and design. Dr. Ritt-Olson received her B.F.A. from New York University; M.A. in psychology from the California State University, Long Beach; and Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine from University of Southern California.

Kimberly Miller, PhD, MPH is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC where her research focuses on cancer control, prevention and survivorship among children, adolescents and young adults. Her interests include melanoma prevention and survivorship in high-risk, young adult, and ethnic minority populations, as well as quality of life and health care engagement among young adult cancer survivors. Dr. Miller received her B.A. in Philosophy from The George Washington University and her M.P.H. and Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine from the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Postdoctoral and Graduate Trainees

Rhona I. Slaughter is a doctoral candidate in the Preventive Medicine/Health Behavior Research PhD program at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. She received her M.A. degree in Psychology in 2009, and holds B.A. degree in Business Administration. Rhona is primarily interested in the application of positive psychology theories to promote psychological and behavioral adaptation to stress, substance use and other health-related issues in adolescents and their families.  She is also interested in the role of executive function on overall well-being, particularly as it relates within the family structure.  Rhona was named Outstanding Student Researcher in Child and Family Health from the Society of Behavioral Medicine in 2013 and is currently working with her mentor, Dr. Joel Milam, on positive health behaviors among childhood cancer survivors and the use of gaming to improve executive function processes among children in general and clinical populations.

Jessica Tobin, MS, National Cancer Institute Training Fellow, is a doctoral student in the Health Behavior Research PhD program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She completed her B.A. in Psychology and her M.S. in Kinesiology, and also spent several years working in the healthcare industry as a mental health program manager. Jessi is broadly interested in psychosocial, physical, and behavioral adaptation to chronic diseases such as cancer and HIV. Other areas of interest include stress and resilience, health-promotion interventions among diverse populations, and meta-analytic methodology. Recent projects have also explored cultural factors in relation to mental health and quality of life outcomes among childhood cancer survivors.

Cynthia N. Ramirez, M.P.H. is a doctoral student in the Health Behavior Research Ph.D. program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Cynthia’s primary research interests are in the development, implementation, and assessment of health promotion interventions to eliminate health disparities among ethnic minority populations. Other interests include the use of positive psychology to facilitate adaptation to major life events (e.g., stress, disease diagnosis), the role of biopsychosocial influences in the health outcomes of childhood and adolescent/young adult populations, and occupational wellbeing. Cynthia is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s progressive degree program, where she received her B.S. in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Prior to her enrollment in USC’s Ph.D. program, Cynthia spent several years working and consulting on the development of corporate wellbeing programs aimed at increasing job satisfaction, quality of life, and work life balance throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Undergraduate Students

We regularly offer undergraduate students research opportunities for class credit (HP 290/490). To learn more about potential volunteer opportunities that may be available, please visit our Contact page.