Meet The Team

Valerie B. Yerger, N.D.

Valerie B. Yerger, N.D.

Dr. Valerie Yerger is a licensed naturopathic doctor and Associate Professor in Health Policy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The overarching goal of Dr. Yerger’s work is to frame the disproportionate burden of tobacco among marginalized communities as a social justice issue and to inform public health policies so that they also effectively reach these communities. Her established research program has focused on the use of publicly available tobacco documents to uncover the industry’s targeting of marginalized communities, relationship building with African American leadership groups, and the disproportionate marketing of menthol cigarettes in inner-city communities. She has also incorporated tobacco documents into community-based participatory research projects on tobacco cessation and initiated the investigation of melanin’s potential role in nicotine exposure, nicotine dependence, and smoking behavior. Dr. Yerger has provided expert testimony to the US Food and Drug Administration on tobacco companies’ in-house research on the use of menthol as an additive in cigarettes. Dr. Yerger recently completed a research study funded by the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program that examined potential challenges of implementing a citywide smokefree multiunit housing ordinance in a diverse urban community. Currently, Dr. Yerger oversees “The LOOP,” a centralized one-stop delivery system designed to support grantees of the California Tobacco Control Program strengthen their capacity to connect, communicate, and collaborate with California’s populations hardest hit by tobacco.

Carol McGruder

Carol McGruder

Manager, activist, researcher, and writer, Carol McGruder is experienced in the fields of tobacco control, transnational tobacco issues, public policy, media advocacy, and community capacity building. She has served as a project director and consultant on a variety of projects in the public health arena. Ms. McGruder is a seasoned veteran of California’s tobacco control experience and has served as an advisor in many capacities, most recently as a founding member and Co-Chairperson of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.  She was a planning committee member and presenter for the California Department of Public Health-Tobacco Control Conference – “A Community Under Siege-the State of Black California and Tobacco Use.” In 2010, Ms. McGruder was honored with the Martin Luther King Civic Engagement Award for her work in tobacco control.  She is a recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award for community activism in tobacco control and in 2007 she was the American Legacy Foundation national honoree for “Community Activist of the Year.” Ms. McGruder will be heading up The LOOP’s- Leadership Development Program (LDP).  The LDP will start at the beginning of 2015.  Ms. McGruder  is honored to work with California’s future leaders in tobacco control.

Robynn Battle

Robynn Battle

Robynn Battle is an Associate Research Scientist and Study Director at PIRE’s Prevention Research Center (PRC) in Oakland, California. She completed her EdD in Learning and Instruction at the University of San Francisco after conducting doctoral research on informal reasoning responses to cross-cultural situations in an urban medical setting. She has a Master’s of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley with an emphasis in the behavioral sciences. Dr. Battle also served as a pre-doctoral research fellow at the University of California San Francisco’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies from 1992-1996.  Dr. Battle has spent years conducting evaluations for community level programs involving adolescent and adult health issues (e.g., pregnancy and HIV/AIDS prevention, smoking cessation, prostate cancer screenings, community mobilization), and programs working within the various communities. She is also the co-principal of CAMI Consulting, a research consulting group that provides strategic planning and evaluation services to non-profit and profit groups in the areas of public health, social justice and education. In addition to her work with the LOOP, she also is an adjunct professor at Holy Names University in the Department of Education, teaching in the area of evaluation for educational programs.

Bettina Friese, Ph.D.

Dr. Friese’s background is in sociology and public health with specific expertise in underage risk behaviors, including underage drinking and drug use. She has more than 15 years of advanced experience in the areas of evaluation, survey research, program design and implementation, as well as extensive experience managing large scale evaluation and research projects. Dr. Friese is the PI on an R34 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The goal of this study is to develop an intervention, using a combination of traditional media and mobile technologies, to reduce marijuana use among high school students. Previously, Dr. Friese was the principal investigator on an R01 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  The goal of this study was to gain an understanding of how youth access alcohol and how these sources relate to drinking behaviors and contexts in order to further the development of more effective policies and programs. This study also included interviews with parents to examine youth access to prescription drugs in the home, and parents’ knowledge and attitudes concerning social host ordinances. Dr. Friese’s publications, based on quantitative and qualitative research, include studies on alcohol and drug use among children and adolescents (Friese et al., 2012a; Friese et al., 2012b; Jennings et al., 2011; Friese & Grube, 2014); disparities in alcohol use among racial and ethnic groups, in particular Native Americans (Friese & Grube, 2008; Friese et al., 2011); youth access to prescription drugs in the home (Friese et al., in press); and the role of medical marijuana legalization on youth marijuana use (Friese & Grube, 2013).

Godfrey Ramos, MA

Godfrey Ramos, MA

Godfrey Ramos is the Coordinator Specialist for The LOOP. He received his Master’s degree in sociology from San Jose State University, with an emphasis on social theory and quantitative research methods. His research project entitled, “Beats, Rhymes, and Life: A Look at Hip-Hop/Rap Music and Behavior” examines how rap music promotes resistance, communication, and social change amongst different genders, races, and classes, even though many argue that rap music is actually negative and damaging to its listeners. His other research interests include: race, class, gender, social inequality, subcultures, deviance, and social justice. Although Godfrey is fairly new to tobacco control, he has always had a strong commitment to making the world a better place. He is also an adjunct Sociology professor at Diablo Valley College.

Michelle Connley

Michelle Connley

Michelle Connley is a strategic marketing consultant with 14 years of experience in managing communications, branding, advertising, events, and community outreach with corporate, non-profit, and government clients. Currently Michelle serves as the Marketing Consultant for The LOOP, leading the branding and communications efforts to launch and grow this new organization.

Michelle is also the College Success Manager for the National KIPP Through College team at the KIPP Foundation, a national non-profit public charter school network. In her role, she provides resources, innovative outreach and data-gathering tools, as well as programming guidance to KIPP Through College counselors as they support a growing number of 6,000+ KIPP college alumni at scale. The other primary part of her work is to help KIPP alumni connect, build community with one another, and empower themselves as they navigate through college on the path to graduation through campus-specific programming. From 2009 – 2013, Michelle was the Senior Marketing Communications Manager at the KIPP Foundation, managing KIPP’s national messaging platform, brand guidelines, and the development of the annual 80+ page KIPP Report Card.

Prior to KIPP, Michelle spent 8 years in the corporate advertising, marketing, and event management worlds at Reebok International, Ltd., Leo Burnett Worldwide, and Carol H. Williams Advertising, managing consumer advertising, events, and promotions for various national brands including U.S. Army, Proctor & Gamble, and General Motors, which involved leading the creation of messages and programs for the general public as well as to the African American market. Michelle holds a B.S. and M.S. in Advertising with a minor in Afro-American Studies, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Vera Nelson

Bio coming soon.