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Board of Directors

SAPHA Board
The Board of Directors is an elected group of professionals representing a diverse set of disciplines, skills, and expertise and is committed to furthering SAPHA’s mission. Our Board members serve a maximum of four two-year terms. If you are interested in running for the Board or have other general inquiries, please contact us.

Samira Khan, MPH

President (2022-2024)
Samira Khan, MPH is currently a Research Manager at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. The research Samira manages focuses on examining the relationship between sleep-disordered breathing, specifically obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular outcomes. She previously worked as a research assistant at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, working in research that focused on examining the effects of aerobic exercise on cognition in individuals with schizophrenia. Her public health research interests include examining and reducing health disparities in immigrant populations, focusing primarily on South Asian and Muslim communities and their social and behavioral determinants of health.

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Samira serves as the President of the South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA), a national nonprofit that aims to promote the health and well-being of South Asian communities in the United States through advocacy, communication, and collaboration. Samira Khan received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from CUNY – The City College of New York in 2013, and a Masters in Public Health from Hofstra University in 2016, where she completed her thesis, which looked at the relationship between provider communication and patient understanding and how it influences health behaviors in a Muslim population. In November 2018, her thesis was selected for a roundtable discussion at the APHA conference.

Akanksha Arora, MPH

Vice President (2022-2024)
Akanksha Arora is a public health professional passionate about expanding healthcare access for marginalized communities while promoting systematic change for health equity. Her work across hospitals, community care centers, and skilled nursing facilities, both in the United States and internationally, embolden her to pursue opportunities that focus on healthcare policy and administration. Her professional and service experiences focus on quality and performance improvement while recognizing the need for strategic management within healthcare organizations. Her research ventures have centered around the critical intersection between clinical and administrative strategies in aging health settings, as well as for perinatal care services.

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Akanksha completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with dual majors in Global Public Health and the Spanish Language. She earned her Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy & Management from the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine. She further completed a healthcare administration fellowship and is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Currently, Akanksha serves as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the Accreditation Commission for Health Care, in Cary, NC.

Trushna Rao-Nadig

Trushna Rao-Nadig, MS(ENT), MBA

Treasurer (2018-2024)
Trushna's background encompasses 35 years of practice as an ENT specialist in India, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, currently balancing between home, family, yoga, and public health awareness and part-time ENT Specialist. Having schooled in India and UK, her under-graduate Medical Degree and post-graduate ENT Degree were conferred by the M. S. University, Vadodara, India. Trushna achieved her MBA, specializing in Technology and Healthcare Management, from the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia, and Brenau University, respectively. She has a Diploma in Teaching Healthcare Professionals from Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland.

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Having achieved success as an ENT Surgeon, her focus has shifted to community services, public health awareness, and promoting the health benefits of yoga. With her global experience with disadvantaged communities, she brings an emotionally intelligent level to SAPHA, with empathy and compassion. Her accomplishments include setting up various time and cost-saving initiatives in her department in Ireland, mentoring medical and nursing students, and being on the Medical Examiners' Panel of Ireland. To assimilate the sidelined illiterate groups in Toccoa, NE GA, into their local community, she spearheaded the first representation for the Center at the Annual Sheriff's Christmas Parade and Festival of Trees Competition. Trushna is a family-oriented person and takes humble pride in supporting her ENT-practicing husband, her 3 self-confident, community-oriented children, and her pets. She is a caring, fun-loving individual who enjoys hiking and exploring the NE Georgia mountains with local groups. Yoga is her life-harness which she externalizes as the Medical Lead of the Safety Committee Member for the International Day of Yoga Celebration NPO (registered 501(c)3) held annually in Atlanta by the Indian Consulate. Devoting time to her family, friends, keeping connected with extended family, as well as staying conversant with current trends in all fields of life are favored leisure time activities.

Naveen Shoaib, MPH

Secretary (2022-2024)
Naveen Shoaib graduated with a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management from New York University. She is a public health practitioner passionate about health justice, community-based advocacy, and approaching solutions with the structural determinants of equity. Naveen has a background working in local, state, and federal sectors nationwide and globally. Her focus is on community interventions using implementation science frameworks and combating strategies against oppressive systems, with an emphasis on the BIPOC community as a way to decolonize public health. In addition, she works directly with environmental and behavioral research, grant writing, and women’s health services. Naveen hopes to become a pivotal part of a larger system that educates the next generation with leadership qualities to uplift exploited communities and bring forth change. With a strong emphasis on policy, Naveen is determined to bring awareness to the South Asian community around mental health, substance use, and health promotion.

Ayesha Azam, MSHIA

Partnerships Coordinator (2022-2024)
Ayesha Azam is the Vice President of Medical Affairs at the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation. She manages the clinical parameters of PAN’s assistance programs, oversees provider and pharmacy outreach, and leads research and development for PAN’s programs. Ayesha helped to develop FundFinder, the first free app designed for patients to help them find financial assistance for their medications. She is committed to connecting patients, their families, and their providers with solutions to maximize their healthcare coverage and reduce healthcare disparities.

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Previously, Ayesha worked at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to implement a prior authorization tool at cystic fibrosis clinics and administered a genetic testing program for people with cystic fibrosis.  She holds a Master of Science degree in Health Informatics Administration from the University of Maryland University College and is a certified Lean Six Sigma black belt.

Aisha Bhimla, PhD, MPH

Research Committee Co-Chair (2021-2023)
Dr. Bhimla is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Asian Health at Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine. In this position, she provides support to federally funded projects that address health disparities among Asian American, Black/African American, and Latinx communities. Her involvement in health disparities research has included a broad range of community-based interventions and assessments related to chronic disease and cancer, physical activity, mental health, cognitive functioning, and teen pregnancy/STI prevention.

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She is specifically passionate about using epidemiological methods to understand how social determinants of health, such as the neighborhood environment affects disease outcomes and health behaviors among racial and ethnic minority populations. She holds a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Temple University and an MPH in Epidemiology and Global Health from the University of South Florida.

Anto Paul

ANTO PAUL, RN-BC, MS/MPH, CDE, CPHQ

Research Committee Co-Chair (2020-2024)
Anto Paul is a population health nurse with a public health background. He completed his Masters in Public Health from Hunter College New York. For the last 10 years, he has been working in chronic disease management in various capacities. He is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and Board Certified Advanced Public Health Nurse (PHNA-BC). From 2008-2010, Anto worked as a diabetes educator in the South Asian community-based research program. He was instrumental in developing the first South Asian diabetes education program in New York City in primary care settings. This experience helped him to understand the various aspects of chronic diseases and their impact on the South Asian community.

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Currently, Anto is working as a population health nurse, where he is coordinating the chronic disease data available through disease-focused registries and reports. The information from these datasets helps design and develop public health interventions in a defined population and to reduce the impact of chronic diseases among that population. This approach is also useful in helping health leaders better understand the relationship between social determinants and their impact on population health.

Anita Balan, MPH

Event Planning and Professional Development Committee Co-Chair (2021-2023)
Anita Balan is a program manager at the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM). She manages a couple of grants funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen public health systems and national partnerships to protect and improve the nation’s health. She oversees the development of a curriculum to help physicians integrate population health principles within various work settings. In partnership with national organizations such as the American Medical Association and the Black Women’s Health Imperative, she manages a grant to build the capacity of healthcare systems to improve their screening, testing, referral strategies of high-risk patient population with prediabetes to CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Programs.

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She has developed workshops, webinars, and other educational opportunities for physicians on health systems transformation, CDC’s 6|18 initiative, and the National Violent Death Reporting System. She provides staff support for the College’s Graduate Medical Education Committee comprised of program directors who manage the Preventive Medicine residency programs across the nation. Ms. Balan is passionate about chronic disease prevention, health education and promotion, public health advocacy, and eliminating health disparities. She earned her MPH from Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University and BA in Political Science from Rutgers University. She is a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES). In her spare time, Anita enjoys theater, long walks, doing word puzzles, and practicing south Indian classical music and dance.

Mushira M. Khan, PhD

Event Planning and Professional Development Committee Co-Chair (2022-2024)
Dr. Mushira Mohsin Khan is a health and aging researcher with close to a decade of experience in community-engaged research. She uses a life course perspective to explore how intersections of gender, faith and spirituality, age, immigrant status, language proficiency, socioeconomic status, and cultural beliefs and practices shape and affect health and aging in underserved and marginalized communities over time. Her approach to research is informed by an asset-based perspective that values the role of community in public health policy and practice and builds on existing strengths, resources, and skills within local communities in order to address what matters to them.

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Dr. Khan has worked on several federally-funded research projects in the US and Canada, covering a wide range of public health issues such as barriers to healthcare access in ethnic minority older adults, caregiving and intergenerational support exchanges in immigrant South Asian families, chronic disease prevalence among immigrant populations, challenges to the uptake of health promotion interventions among older immigrants, and elder abuse in ethnic minority families. In the past, she has worked at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center (RADC) and The Joint Commission. Currently, Dr. Khan is a Senior Researcher at the Mather Institute. In this role, she conducts applied research to support the organization’s mission of promoting the overall health and well-being of older adults.

Swati Rayasam, MSc

Advocacy Committee Co-Chair (2022-2024)
Swati Rayasam, MSc is a Science Associate at the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. (PRHE) At PRHE, her work focuses primarily on the impacts of federal-level chemical policy on human and environmental health, with a focus on environmental justice. She also works to improve public and environmental health through effective communication of complex scientific research and by empowering scientists, academics, and clinicians to use their expertise to affect change. Her previous work has been to explore the connections between water and sanitation, infectious disease, reproductive health, and social epidemiology in the Global South.

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In addition to her paid work in public health, she has been actively involved in community organizing. For the past two years, she has co-led an all-volunteer anti-imperialist organization, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, and has been an active part of abolition movements in the Bay Area. In recent years much of her focus has been on using transformative justice to co-create transparent and accountable movement structures in pursuit of a more liberatory future. She is also a sitting board member of the Davis Putter Scholarship Fund. She completed her BS in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Journalism in 2013 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her MSc in Global Health and the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley in 2017.

Afrida Faria, MPH

Advocacy Committee Co-Chair (2022-2024)
Afrida Faria currently serves as a Senior Health Equity Policy Analyst at Texas Health Institute. In her current role, Afrida leads research and evaluations focused around the crossroads of the social determinants of health and health equity from a systems level perspective. In this position, she provides guidance for translational research through actionable data and cross-sector partnerships for communities across Texas and nationally to create fair and just opportunities for individuals to reach their utmost potential health. Prior to joining Texas Health Institute, Afrida worked for the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care at UT Southwestern Medical Center to implement behavioral health programs in the North Texas area.

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Afrida holds a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Bachelors of Science in Biology and Psychology from Southern Methodist University. Afrida’s professional interests lie in reducing health disparities in minority and underserved communities, evidence-based program implementation, technology and psychology in the context of mental health, and the functionality and dynamics behind cross-sector collaboration to drive systems change.

Namrata Madoor, MPH

Development and Sustainability Committee Co-Chair (2021-2023)
Namrata (she/her/hers) received an MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics with a context in Mental Health/Substance Use from Boston University’s School of Public Health in 2020. She is currently working as a Data Analyst for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene assisting with NYC’s historic response to COVID-19. In this role, she helps to provide targeted data management and analytic support regarding findings related to investigations of COVID-19 exposures that occur in facilities. She is interested in carrying out quantitative and qualitative data analysis with a racial equity, health equity, and social justice lens to shape public health programming and policy.

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She believes that social determinants of health—class, race/ethnicity, neighborhood, gender and sexuality, and other factors that shape a person’s ability to be healthy and should be explored more to understand the constellation of factors that shapes ones’ health and overall well-being. Her passions include mental health/substance use and its intersection with communicable and non-communicable diseases. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, eating out, staying active, and watching the latest movies/TV shows.

Payal Sawhney, MHA, MSW, LCSW

Development and Sustainability Committee Co-Chair (2022-2024)
Payal is a currently the founder President and Executive Director of SAAHAS (Courage) for Cause, a nonprofit dedicated to educate, empower, and enable South Asian immigrants to uplift their quality of life. This organization is based out of Southern California but its reach has been growing all across the United States and beyond. Payal’s background is as a Mental Health practitioner, community organizer, and social worker. She has master’s degrees in both social work (MSW, Pune Univ) and health administration (MHA, Univ of Cincinnati) and holds the highest level of social work clinical licensure in both Ohio (LISW-S) and California (LCSW). She has over 20 years’ experience working in India and across various cities across the U.S., including New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, and most recently Los Angeles.

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Her current responsibility in leading SAAHAS has enabled a collective group of volunteers to engage in grass roots action and embedded efforts that are important and critical to the day-to-day well-being of the South Asian Immigrant community. This organization has worked on issues related to older adults and their mental health through culturally sensitive wellness programming, women’s issues by empowering their recovery from abuse and domestic violence through pro-bono access to legal and social support services, building bridges to our new generation of youth through the SAAHAS Youth Program which has its own podcast and social media presence to be envied, and last but not the least of  public health during the COVID19 pandemic SAAHAS has been particularly focused on spreading education around preventive medicine, vaccination drives, work against vaccine hesitancy in the community, and distribution of personal protective equipment to front line workers in the community. These works have been supported by grants from the South Asian Diaspora, private sector enterprises, and public funds from county, state, and federal agencies. Finally, Payal has always been focused on research and building new knowledge. Her past and current research interest have included i)predictors and outcomes of bariatric surgery in adolescents, ii) Error prevention in healthcare by involving patients and their family members iii) understanding of acculturation of South Asian immigrants to the United States, and iv) the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the mental health of high school students.

Harini Padmanaban, MD, MPH, CHES

Communications Committee Co-Chair (2022-2024)
Harini Padmanaban received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bowling Green State University in 2012,  and a Doctor of Medicine in 2018 from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She then completed a Master of Public Health from Columbia University in 2020, with a certificate in Health Promotion Research and Practice. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). She is currently completing an ORISE Fellowship at the CDC, in the Division of Adolescent and School Health. She is passionate about mental health and breaking down harmful social and gender norms. In her free time, she enjoys painting, dabbling in various DIY projects, and reading.

Hema Karunakaram, MPH

Communications Committee Co-Chair (2021-2023)
Hema Karunakaram is the Program Manager for Health Equity at IBM Watson Health. Hema coordinates research and evaluation of health analytics & AI through a public health lens and supports the incorporation of health equity & social determinants into offerings across market segments. She joined IBM in 2015 and previously worked in sales & marketing for life sciences and oncology products. Hema supported the launch of Medtronic’s Sugar.IQ with Watson app in 2018, the first consumer-facing product developed by IBM Watson Health, and nurtured millions of dollars in revenue growth as an engagement leader at the Watson Health Experience Center in Cambridge, MA.

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Hema’s master’s thesis focused on the quality and effectiveness of communication through patient-facing chatbots. She has also supported social justice and racial equity initiatives within and outside of IBM, as a leader in the Watson Health Diversity Council and the IBM Pan-Asian Executive Council, and a community organizer with Letters for Black Lives. Hema has a Master’s in Public Health from Dartmouth College and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. She is also a Bharatanatyam dancer and enjoys cooking, yoga, and long walks along Chicago’s lakefront.