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Claudia A. Serna, Ph.D., D.D.S., M.P.H., M.B.A.

Chair, MPH Director & Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health
(954) 262-1652

Dr. Claudia A. Serna holds a dental degree from Javeriana University, a master and doctoral degree in public health with a specialization in health promotion and disease prevention from Florida International University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She furthered her education by completing a residency in dental public health at NYU Langone Health, and a certificate in social media marketing from Rutgers University School of Business.

She is also master certified in health education, a certified communicator in public health, board certified in public health, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Public Health. She is the recipient of the 2017 American Public Health Association Anthony Westwater Jong Memorial Community Dental Health Post-Professional Award, the 2017 Leverett Graduate Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dental Public Health from the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD), and the 2020 KPCOM M.P.H. Golden Apple Award.

Serna’s research has been published in scientific journals, including the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, American Journal of Public Health, AIDS Education and Prevention, Family and Community Health, and the International Public Health Journal. She also authored a chapter in the American Public Health Association Book Oral Health in America: Removing the Stain of Disparity.

She currently teaches the Public Health Field Experience course in the M.P.H. program and the Health Communication and the Independent Study course in the B.S. in Public Health program.


Kristi Messer, DSHc, MPH, LCSW

Assistant Dean of Bachelor Degree Programs
Director, Bachelor of Science in Public Health|
Office (954) 262-1072 | Cell (954) 817-7413

Kristi Messer relocated to Florida from Washington D.C where she had spent years working with the Department of Health and Human Services to successfully launch community health centers across the nation. As a passionate public health professional, Kristi currently serves the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine (KPCOM) at Nova Southeastern University as an Assistant Dean overseeing undergraduate academic programs, as well as the Director of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program. Dr. Messer serves on the Board of Directors for two local non-profit organizations dedicated to positively impacting individuals experiencing homelessness, Broward County Taskforce fore Ending Homelessness and Showering Love, a non-profit providing mobile showers to those experiencing homelessness. For more than twenty years, Dr. Messer has dedicated her professional life to underserved and vulnerable population groups through her involvement with the homeless, individuals with disabilities, communities affected by disasters, and persons impacted by mental illness. Dr. Messer has presented her research and academic achievements at over 40 international, national, state, and local conferences. Dr. Messer is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is committed to positively impacting communities, children, families, and adults.



Josiah Alamu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1207

Josiah Alamu is an infectious disease epidemiologist/environmental health professional. He obtained his Ph.D. from the College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, and his M.P.H. from John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. Alamu, an experienced educator and administrator, has taught several courses in epidemiology, environmental health, biostatics, and global health at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Prior to his NSU appointment, Alamu served as chair of the public health department at the University of Illinois, Springfield. His research interests include viral hepatitis and coinfection with HIV among the vulnerable population, water quality assessment and waterborne diseases, and environmental risk factors and their association with infectious disease in low-income countries.

Alamu has coordinated and supervised several study-abroad trips to Gambia and Ghana in West Africa, where American students were immersed in cultural and experiential learning activities. He is a board member of the Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Epidemiology.


Stephen G. Grant, Ph.D.

Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1375

Stephen G. Grant, a geneticist and a toxicologist, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. Grant did his research and clinical fellowships at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the University of California, San Francisco, respectively. He was a staff scientist in biodosimetry at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a faculty member in Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

His work on environmental, occupational, and medical exposures and genetic predisposition to cancer has generated more than $14.7 million in funding and led to more than 100 published scientific papers and almost 300 abstracts and presentations. Grant teaches at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels and trains interns, graduate students, and postgraduate fellows in the laboratory. He has served on expert panels for the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, state and foreign governments, private foundations, and universities.


Lucas Hollar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1498

Lucas Hollar has served as an evaluator for federally funded initiatives that address tobacco, childhood obesity, patient-centered medical home programs, interprofessional primary care and public health, housing opportunities for people with AIDS, and afterschool programming for at-risk youth. Additionally, he has performed foundation and corporation-funded research and evaluation in the areas of patient experience of care in federally qualified community health centers, cancer screening and education for underserved women, and childhood obesity prevention and intervention in public schools.

His current research focuses on policy, systems, and environmental change for improving the health of populations, patient experience of care, childhood obesity, and tobacco-control policies. Based on his research, Hollar’s work has been published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals, such as the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, and the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, among others. Hollar also serves as chair of the Health Advisory Board for Broward County, the Humana Bold Goal Broward initiative, and as a board member for two health-oriented organizations in Broward County.

As a KPCOM faculty member, Hollar teaches graduate-level courses in health policy and program planning and evaluation, as well as undergraduate courses in health policy and health equity. Before joining NSU, Hollar served as an assistant professor of government at Stephen F. Austin State University and as an adjunct professor of public administration at Florida Atlantic University. In addition to his teaching and research, Hollar is an alumnus of the class of 2011–2012 American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine’s Health Policy Fellowship.


Jennifer Maizel, Ph.D., M.P.H., CHES

Instructor, Department of Public Health
(954) 262-1505

Jennifer Maizel is a public health faculty member at NSU KPCOM with expertise in diabetes, health equity, health psychology, and workforce capacity building. She received her PhD in Public Health: Social and Behavioral Sciences at University of Florida (UF) in 2023. She also has a MPH in Health Promotion from The George Washington University (GW) and a BS in Psychology from George Mason University (GMU), and she is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).

At NSU KPCOM, she teaches courses on public health leadership and management, global health, and health promotion. Her research addresses COVID-19 outcomes and health disparities among people with diabetes and evaluates psychosocial and digital interventions for people with diabetes. She formerly worked at the American Diabetes Association as a Senior Manager/Manager of Professional Engagement and Digital Marketing Consultant, and she was a Research Assistant at UF and GMU. In these positions, she led training and development programs for health professionals, designed and evaluated public-facing social marketing campaigns, and managed data collection and analysis for medical education, health equity, and human factors research studies.


Maria F. Montoya, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Assistant Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1498

Dr. Montoya is a passionate Public Health professional focused on issues related to health equity and vulnerable populations. Her focus is on eliminating health disparities and removing barriers to access healthcare for all. Addressing minority health and/or disparities is critically important because it is a viable way of reducing inequalities. The overall health of the US populations has improved in the past decades, but health disparities among racial and ethnic groups have persisted. She states, "Minority populations are disproportionately affected by multiple chronic conditions; I have an obligation to ensure better access to care for future generations through my work in public health research. As a public health scientist, it’s my goal to ensure greater equity, especially for vulnerable populations. Health disparities result in greater health care cost and reduced quality of life."

Her areas of research include topics related to the vulnerable populations. She has conducted research on domestic violence, health literacy, cancer screening, CVD, chronic disease management, obesity/physical activity, mask wearing, HPV vaccinations, and school safety among many others. Her areas of expertise include social behavioral health, social epidemiology, minority health, and health disparities.

Dr. Montoya is dedicated to training the next generation of public health professionals. She is proactive, dedicated, and flexible to meet the evolving needs of students. She applies enthusiasm, creativity and evidence-based learning pedagogies to her courses and provides real-world hands-on activities to build skills that will make our graduates marketable upon completion of our program. Dr. Montoya continuously motivates and engages students to encourage self-exploration and inquiry in public health issues to help them achieve their own professional goals. She values and respects the experiences and believes of our students and welcomes opposing views when discussing challenging topics like racism, diversity, poverty, and inequity. She strives to help students build self-confidence in their own ability to develop solutions to some of the most pressing public health problems.

A few of the courses Dr. Montoya currently teaches or has taught in the recent past include Research Methodology, Epidemiological Surveillance & Outbreak Investigation, Survey Method in Public Health, Social and Behavioral Health. In the Undergraduate Program, courses include Environmental and Occupational Health, Principles in Health Behaviors, Concepts in Epidemiology, and Community Health.


Christi M. Navarro, Ph.D., M.S.

Assistant Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1837

Christi M. Navarro is an assistant professor of public health at NSU, where she earned her M.S. in Educational Leadership. She has a Ph.D. in Public Health with a concentration in health promotion and disease prevention and a graduate certificate in women’s studies from Florida International University.

Navarro is a dedicated and enthusiastic educator who is driven to inspire students to academic success. She has more than 20 years of combined experience in education, public health, research/evaluation and social service. She has worked as an instructor in both secondary and higher education settings and has experience developing curricula. Navarro has previously worked in the South Florida community implementing, developing and evaluating community‐based programs that address overall health, mental health and risk behaviors among youth. Additionally, she has planned and implemented training programs for community stakeholders on results‐based accountability and evidence‐based practices.

Navarro is the course director for Community Health, Mental Health as Public Health, and Epidemiology Honors for the B.S. in Public Health program. She is also the course director for the Integrative Learning Experience—the culminating experience course for the M.P.H. program.


Stacey Pinnock, D.H.Sc., M.S.W.

Assistant Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1819

With a background in both the health and human services, Stacey Pinnock has extensive experience working with disadvantaged populations and meeting the needs of underserved communities. She previously served as a clinical social worker in both hospital and in-home settings and as a health promotion specialist and junior policy analyst in governmental settings in Canada. Pinnock is experienced in managing and working on federally funded training grant initiatives that educate medical providers in interprofessional education and geriatric care provision. Her current research interests are in health behavior, aging, and mental health.


Kasi Lou Van Heel, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.

Assistant Professor of Public Health
(954) 262-1613

Kasi Lou Van Heel is a DrPH Health Education and Promotion graduate of Loma Linda University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Spelman College and her Master of Public Health degree (M.P.H.) from Morehouse School of Medicine. After 10 years in Metro Atlanta, Kasi recently returned to her hometown of South Florida where she is currently a member of KPCOM Public Health Department. Her experience in public health ranges vastly from environmental health practice at Dekalb County Board of Health to economic development and public health consulting within the non-profit sector. With a niche for social media and infodemiology, her interests in public health mainly include increasing access to health education and health information resources for lay audiences and marginalized groups. Her research is grounded in her interest to explore social determinants of access to health information particularly via internet use. Her goal as a public health professional is to help others utilize and navigate credible resources in ways that are safe, accurate, and complemented by care or knowledge from professional providers.

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