Welcome to our 2020 Inaugural TL1 Postdoctoral Scholars!

Welcome to our Academic Learning Health Systems Scholar Program (aLHSS) 2020 Inaugural TL1 Postdoctoral Scholars!

November 23, 2020

2020 TL1 Scholars

From Director Gary Rosenthal, MD, FACP, Tinsley R. Harrison Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine.

We are excited to announce the inaugural class of Academic Learning Health Systems Scholars at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. This NIH-funded postdoctoral training program (TL1 mechanism) is offered through the Wake Forest Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Division of Public Health Sciences.

Our Scholars represent a diversity of professional backgrounds. In addition to initiating a Learning Health System research project, the Scholars are completing coursework in learning health system methods that may lead to a 1-year certificate or a 2-year Masters of Science degree, through the Wake Forest Translational and Health System Science Program.

The work of each Scholar is guided by an Individual Development Plan and by a multidisciplinary mentoring committee with a primary mentor/ co-mentor, a TL1 core faculty mentor, a peer mentor, and a health system mentor. This committee assists the scholars in all aspects of the training program and helps them to gain a deeper insight into the many facets of an academic Learning Health System. All current scholars joined the program in summer 2020.

Please join us in welcoming them!

2020 TL1 Scholars

 LaShanda Brown, PhD, MSN

LaShanda Brown, PhD, MSN

lybrown@wakehealth.edu | Download CV

Dr. Brown joined the TL1 from her position as Research Nurse Manager at the Center for Healthcare Innovation at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Her current research interests focus on implementing strategies to improve blood pressure control in ambulatory settings. Research has shown that tight blood pressure control improves cardiovascular outcomes and decreases incidence of dementia in older adults. Addressing accurate measurement of blood pressure using proper technique and updated equipment has demonstrated improvements in systolic blood pressure readings in the outpatient setting. Implementation of a research-driven protocol for accurate measurement combined with ongoing monitoring and reporting of blood pressure averages for each clinic will have significant implications for our health care system as we strive to improve short- and long-term cardiovascular outcomes for all of our patients. As a long-term career goal, Dr. Brown plans to become an independently funded faculty researcher.

Dr. Brown is supported by her mentoring team: Jeffrey Williamson, MD; Justin Moore, PhD; Callie Brown, MD; and Cathleen Wheatley, DNP.

Nicholas Casacchia, PharmD 

Nicholas Casacchia, PharmD

ncasacch@wakehealth.edu | LinkedIn Profile

Dr. Casacchia received his doctorate in Pharmacy from Wingate University. His research interests include increasing patients’ accessibility to their health data and enhancing patient engagement, as well as patients’ adoption and use of mobile apps to reduce preventable hospital readmissions. In his current research he is evaluating factors affecting patient adoption of patient portals. With the accumulation of clinical data in the electronic medical record, he hopes to help health systems leverage the secondary use of clinical and patient-reported data for improving clinical decision support and advancing the Learning Health System. As an LHS researcher, Dr. Casacchia plans to become a leader in the design, implementation, and evaluation of health information technology applications that augment patient care.

Dr. Casacchia is supported by his mentoring team: Gary Rosenthal, MD; Deepak Palakshappa, MD; Kirsten Feiereisel, MD.

 Beata Debinski, PhD, MHS

Beata Debinski, PhD, MHS


Dr. Debinski received her PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her dissertation research focused on assessing organizational factors associated with implementation of intimate partner violence prevention and response in the Catholic Church. Dr. Debinski’s current research interests center on improving recognition and understanding of adverse experiences among patients, particularly using secondary data to identify child abuse and neglect, and in turn promoting opportunities for earlier intervention. She is also committed to advancing the scholarship of injury violence prevention through the dissemination of research through academic and lay channels, and through training others in academic and non-academic settings. As a long-term goal, Dr. Debinski plans to pursue a faculty position focused on translational research.

Dr. Debinski is supported by her mentoring team: Stephanie Daniel, PhD; Eric Kirkendall, MD; Parissa Ballard, PhD; Katherine Poehling, MD.

Nikolas Koscielniak, PhD, MPH  

Nikolas Koscielniak, PhD, MPH


Dr. Koscielniak received his PhD in Health Infrastructures and Learning Systems at the University of Michigan. In his dissertation, he used a learning health sciences approach to study clinical documentation practices for orthopedics and pediatric rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy. In his current research, Dr. Koscielniak will use a similar learning health sciences approach to examine the gaps in pediatric to adult care transitions for patients with Type 1 Diabetes in large-scale health systems based on EHR data. He further plans to elucidate the role of information infrastructure and consideration for digital health technology in supporting the measurement of care transitions, and explore how a Learning Health Systems approach can support the improvements in care transition. As a long-term career goal, Dr. Koscielniak plans to pursue a faculty position and become a leader in advancing the field of LHS science around pediatric to adult care transitions for patients with chronic diseases.

Dr. Koscielniak is supported by his mentoring team: David Miller, MD; Stephen Downs, MD; Kristie Foley, PhD; Jaime Speiser, PhD; Chad Miller, MD.

Brandy Sullivan, MD, MPH 

Brandy Sullivan, MD, MPH


Dr. Sullivan completed her MD at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Her research interests as a TL1 Scholar focus on developing methods of mitigating the effects of at-risk patient populations in the health care delivery system and on identifying interdisciplinary strategies that will encourage prevention to lower overall health care costs. Specifically, Dr. Sullivan plans to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of telehealth utilization in mitigating effects of chronic disease progression in low-risk and rising-risk patients. As a long-term goal, Dr. Sullivan plans to pursue a clinician scientist career, both as an internist specializing in hematology and oncology, and as oncology and health care systems researcher, to improve health care outcomes in cancer patients with special focus on at-risk patient populations.

Dr. Sullivan is supported by her mentoring team: Eric Kirkendall, MD; Gary Rosenthal, MD; Rebecca Wells, MD; Russell Howerton, MD.

 Sherrie Wise Thomas, DrPH

Sherrie Wise Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MCHES


Dr. Wise Thomas has a doctorate in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center, in the field of Social and Behavioral Sciences, with a minor in Leadership. Her dissertation focused on the socio-cultural predictors of exercise among Latinx women living in a high-risk community along the US-Mexico border. Dr. Wise Thomas is interested in helping healthcare providers implement evidence-based chronic disease self-management and lifestyle interventions. She wants to expand her prior research into the effectiveness of Community Health Workers (CHW) to the utilization of CHWs in clinical settings for patient-centered support via health coaching, navigation of social services, and health education. Dr. Wise Thomas is also interested in veterans’ health, health disparities, food insecurity, and public health education. As a long-term career goal, Dr. Wise Thomas seeks a faculty position that blends education with community-clinical service, to lead public health initiatives and programs, and to help shape public health policy.

Dr. Wise Thomas is supported by her mentoring team: Mara Vitolins, PhD, Janet Tooze, PhD, Thomas Houston, MD, Jennifer Houlihan, MSP, MA, and Stephanie Sohl, PhD.

Find out more about Postdoctoral Training: Academic Learning Health System Scholars Program (aLHSS)