Working Group Members


Kimberly Garza : Chair

Kimberly Garza


(334) 844-8360

Dr. Kimberly Garza is an assistant professor in the Health Outcomes Research and Policy Department of the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy. Her research interests include application of behavioral economic theory to study preventive health behaviors, including medication adherence, diet, and physical activity.

Deanne Allegro : Member

Deanne Allegro


(334) 244-3630

Dr. Deanne Allegro is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Auburn University at Montgomery. Her research interests include nutritional contributions to health disparities, nutrition and environmentalism, as well as yoga and health.

Tannista Bannerjee : Member

Tannista Bannerjee


(334) 844-2903

Dr. Tannista Bannerjee is an assistant professor in Auburn University’s Department of Economics. She is interested in health economics, including obesity.

Onikia Brown : Member

Onikia Brown


(334) 844-3161

Dr. Onikia Brown is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Human Sciences. Her area of specialty is community-based participatory methods to prevent and decrease obesity and other diet-related health disparities.

Sue Duran : Member

Sue Duran


(334) 844-6722

Dr. Sue Duran, is a clinical pharmacist for the College of Veterinary Medicine, researches new products for treating diseases in food animals and works with veterinarians to study proper dosages and withdrawal times to ensure meat and milk safety.

Drew Fruge : Member

Drew Fruge


(334) 844-3271

Dr. Drew Fruge is an assistant professor and director of the Didactic Program of Dietetics in the College of Human Sciences. As a registered dietitian, he has delivered diet and lifestyle interventions in cancer patients and survivors and is investigating the impact of diet on the gut microbiome, systemic inflammation and carcinogenesis.

Courtney Gamston : Member

Courtney Gamston



Dr. Courtney Gamston is discipline chair for pharmacology at the Auburn campus for the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her current research includes assessing a web-based application that incorporates elements of gamification to identify opportunities for healthcare intervention; assessing the efficacy and economy of an employer-based biometric screening program as a platform for diabetes prevention; evaluation of opioid metabolism in chronic pain patients; and researching the impact of a diabetes prevention initiative.

Linda Gibson-Young : Member

Linda Gibson-Young


(334) 844-5601

Dr. Linda Gibson-Young is an associate professor with Auburn University School of Nursing. Her research interests include home interventions for families of children with chronic conditions and school-based health education for school-aged children. Recently, her team of interdisciplinary providers implemented a project called TigerCHAT (Community Health, Awareness, and Training) with the Alexander City Schools.

Wendy Gray : Member

Wendy Gray


(334) 844-6643

Dr. Wendy Gray is currently an assistant professor in psychology. Her research is primarily focused on interventions to promote adherence to medical treatment among youth with chronic illness, particularly adolescents. She has a strong interest in improving self-management among adolescents and young adults with chronic conditions during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood.

Josh Hollingsworth : Member

Josh Hollingsworth



Dr. Joshua Hollingsworth is an assistant professor of pharmacology at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine's Auburn campus. His primary research interest is facilitating the formation of healthy habits and routines, including those related to diet, physical activity and exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and medication adherence.

Jan Kavookjian : Member

Jan Kavookjian


(334) 844-8301

Dr. Jan Kavookjian is an associate professor in the Harrison School of Pharmacy. Her research interests involve behavior sciences applied to health behavior changes like medication taking, being active and healthy eating, particularly in the context of diabetes and cardiovascular disease management and obesity.

Ann Lambert : Member

Ann Lambert


(334) 844-5965

Dr. Ann Lambert is an assistant clinical professor in the Auburn University School of Nursing and maintains practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Her research interests include childhood obesity prevention and prenatal factors that influence childhood obesity.

Yingru Li : Member

Yingru Li


(407) 823-1031

Dr. Yingru Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida. She is a former assistant professor of geography at Auburn University. Her research interests include social environmental disparities and childhood obesity in the Black Belt region; China’s heavy metal contamination and public health; and GIS and statistical modeling.

Sondra Parmer : Member

Sondra Parmer



Dr. Sondra Parmer is a specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Nutrition Education Program and an affiliate faculty member with the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management.

Danielle Wadsworth : Member

Danielle Wadsworth


(334) 844-1836

Dr. Danielle Wadsworth is an assistant professor in the Auburn University Department of Kinesiology and director of the Physical Activity Promotion Laboratory. Her research focuses on developing, implementing, and assessing interventions to encourage physical activity and exercise.

Chih-Hsuan Wang : Member

Chih-Hsuan Wang


(334) 844-7986


Dr. Chih-Hsuan Wang is an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology. Her research interests are motivation and academic performance in online learning settings and using technology to teach statistics and research methods, and she has worked on project design with other Working Group members.


Kathe Briggs : Alabama Obesity Task Force

Kathe Briggs

Alabama Obesity Task Force

(334) 705-3265

Kathe Briggs is director of health promotion and disease management at East Alabama Medical Center’s Diabete and Nutrition Center. She is also chair of the Alabama Obesity Task Force.

Why we belong to the Obesity Working Group

Idea teamwork

The Auburn University Food Systems Institute (AUFSI) was created to promote interdisciplinary research, and a good way to do this is through working groups. The Obesity Working Group is a good example. Faculty members from kinesiology, nursing, pharmacy care systems, veterinary medicine, nutrition, geography, and education first met with East Alabama Medical Center’s Kathe Briggs, a member of Alabama’s Obesity Task Force, to write a proposal for NIH funding. They soon realized there was a need to learn more about the roots of obesity in Alabama, one of the most obese states in the country. The group decided to pursue funding opportunities but realized this could provide seed data for other funding opportunities. They committed to meet regularly, with the understanding that not every member would be involved in every proposal. As they have met, members have shared their research and have found many possibilities for collaboration, with an emphasis on mentoring young faculty. AUFSI’s role is to not only introduce faculty to each other, but to research funding opportunities, provide help with grant writing and administration, and develop integrated interdisciplinary solutions to research challenges.