March 24, 2015

Our Team

ALI GIUSTO, Doctoral Candidate, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience

Ali is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Duke University and a Duke Global Health Doctoral Scholar. Ali’s research interests center on the interaction between alcohol-use and father’s parenting behaviors. She is specifically interested in the subsequent impacts of this intersection on family functioning and youth well-being within low-resourced contexts with consideration for gender inequities and culture. She is further interested in community-based, multi-target intervention development to promote family functioning and child well-being (e.g., target alcohol use, domestic violence, parenting), as well as strategies to increase fathers and boys engagement in family-based interventions. In the lab, she primarily works with the Tuko Pamoja: project and Family Functioning Assessment, both in Kenya ,and previously supported qualitative analysis for Parents Make the Difference I: Liberia. As part of this work, Ali takes the lead on developing an observational assessment of family-functioning for families in Kenya designed to be generalized to other low-resource settings and supports intervention development activities.

Prior to coming to Duke, Ali obtained her bachelor’s degree from Yale University majoring in Psychology with a focus in early childhood education. Previously, she worked as a Research Associate at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, volunteered at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and worked as a Research Assistant for a community-based participatory research project between the University of Colorado-Boulder and Judi’s House, non-profit mental health center for bereaved families to study predictors of youth well-being, family-based intervention development, and program effectiveness.


ELSA FRIIS, Doctoral Student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience

Elsa is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Duke University and a Global Health Doctoral Scholar.  Her research interests center around the development and implementation of sustainable, evidence-based family therapy and parenting programs in developing countries. In particular, she is interested in the impact of poverty and cultural norms on family dynamics and utilizing this knowledge to develop innovative, technology assisted, family-centered interventions to improve adolescent mental health. She is currently developing a mobile application for use in the Tuko Pamoja Family Intervention: Kenya and led a team to win the Duke STEAM Challenge for this work. Elsa has traveled to Kenya multiple times for project fieldwork.

Elsa also has worked on many other projects in the lab including “Private Violence, Public Concern” and “Parents Make a Difference: Liberia”.   Prior to joining the doctoral program, Elsa received her Masters of Science in Global Health in 2014 from Duke University where she developed a culturally grounded model of family-based interpersonal violence in Kenya.


PUJA PATEL, Candidate, Master of Science in Global Health

Puja received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina and now she is a first year Master of Science in Global Health program at Duke University. Having worked in the mental health field in India combined with her experience in substance abuse and HIV research, Puja is now interested in family functioning, substance use, and HIV prevention in low and middle-income countries. Puja is currently working as a research Assistant on Tuko Pamoja Family Intervention: Kenya. She will be doing her fieldwork for the Master’s program in Eldoret, Kenya, for ten weeks over the summer of 2017. Puja’s thesis will focus on past barriers and facilitators to treatment faced by problem drinking fathers and its impact on immediate family.


BONNIE KAISER, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Duke Global Health Institute

Bonnie Kaiser conducts global mental health research with a focus on cultural aspects of measurement, communication, and intervention design. Dr. Kaiser holds a PhD in Anthropology and MPH in Epidemiology, and her work aims to bridge the methods and epistemologies of these fields in the study of mental health. She has conducted research on mental health in Haiti for 6 years, as well as having worked in Nepal and Kenya. Her research demonstrates how a nuanced understanding of perceptions and experiences of mental illness can improve clinical communication and intervention design. Dr. Kaiser’s publications have explored idioms of distress and mental health communication, development and testing of transcultural measurement tools, and treatment decision-making. Her postdoctoral research explores how attention to culture can improve the development, adaptation, and evaluation of mental health interventions. Her dual postdoctoral appointment capitalizes on DGHI’s expertise in global mental health and the Franklin Humanities Institute’s focus on Haitian studies.

Additionally, Dr. Kaiser is a founding member of the Health Humanities Lab, a joint venture between DGHI and FHI. In the Puffer lab, she is conducting implementation science research as part of the Tuko Pamoja in Kenya, through funding from the Trent Fund. Her research aims to identify culture-specific practices that arise naturally in the course of intervention delivery and are associated with better treatment outcomes. Through codifying those practices in the form of implementation guidelines, she will test whether such culture-specific practices can be incorporated formally into interventions for potential scale-up. Read more about Dr. Kaiser’s work here.


LEAH WATSON, Master of Science in Global Health 

Leah received her Bachelor of Science (Hons.) in Life Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and she is in her first year of the Master of Science in Global Health program at Duke University. Her years of experience working with an NGO in rural Zimbabwe during her summers have led to her interest in child and caregiver health and psychosocial outcomes. Leah is thrilled to be involved with the Puffer Lab this year, and is currently working on the Parents Make the Difference II project in Liberia as well as the Family Functioning assessment development project in Kenya. She completed her fieldwork for the Master’s program in Eldoret, Kenya in summer 2016. In conjunction with the Family Functioning assessment study, her Master’s thesis focused on validating a measure of caregiver mental health and determinants of caregiver mental health in Kenyan families. Leah graduated in May 2017 and continues to collaborate with the Puffer Lab.


TAYLOR HAYNES, Master of Science in Global Health (graduated 2017)

Taylor received her bachelors’ degree in 2014 from Duke University in psychology, with a focus in global mental health. She joined the lab in the fall of 2015 as a first-year student in the Master’s of Science in Global Health program, and currently focuses on Tuko Pamoja and the Family Functioning Assessment project in Kenya. Her research interests include the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology risk, child and adolescent mental health, and the development of community-based interventions to improve child mental health and well-being. Taylor spent summer 2016 in Eldoret, Kenya completing data collection for her master’s thesis, which focused on predictors of child mental health in the Kenyan context. Taylor graduated in May 2017 and plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.


SOFIA STAFFORD, Trinity ’17, B.A. Global Health and Cultural Anthropology 

Sofia is a senior at Duke double majoring in Global Health and Cultural Anthropology with a concentration in adolescent girls’ health and development. She has spent her summers and semesters working at USAID’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact, Rise Up at the Public Health Institute in California and Innovations in Healthcare, where she has gained experience implementing innovative, low-cost solutions in low-resource settings. Last year, Sofia was a member of the Duke STEAM 2016 grand prize winning team, “Pocket Counselor: Health in Hand”, to develop a mobile app to support a family based intervention therapy in Eldoret, Kenya developed by the Puffer Lab. After graduating in May 2017, she joined USAID to work in the global health world before getting her masters in public health or PhD in Clinical Psychology.