/NRMN Team
NRMN Team2021-05-03T16:45:47-04:00

Our Team

Jamboor Vishwanatha, Ph.D.
Jamboor Vishwanatha, Ph.D.Principal Investigator
Dr. Vishwanatha is the principal investigator of the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center. He is also a Regents Professor and Vice President, and Founding Director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. Additionally, he is the principal investigator of the NIH Specialized Center of Excellence in Health Disparities.
Toufeeq Ahmed, Ph.D.
Toufeeq Ahmed, Ph.D.Co-Investigator
Dr. Toufeeq Ahmed is the co-investigator and an Associate Director for the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center. He is also Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and directs the Education Informatics program at the Health Informatics Technologies and Services division of the Vanderbilt University
Medical Center.
Damaris Javier, MA
Damaris Javier, MAAssociate Director, Program Management
Damaris Javier is the Associate Director, Program Management for the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center.

As the Associate Director, Program Management, Damaris leads the strategic efforts relating to NRMN recruitment, partnership and presence at national conferences and meetings as well as manages project goals and deliverable, fiscal/ reporting matters and day-to-day activities.

Damaris holds a master’s in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and Mathematics, minor in Economics from the University of Vermont. Prior to joining the National Research Mentoring Network, Damaris worked in Residence Life for 3 years and thereafter served as the Director for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. In this role, Damaris directed diversity programs for underrepresented populations interested in STEM and health professions and directed recruitment/retention initiatives for underrepresented medical students. Damaris has been blessed with working in communities that support her passion for access, retention, and student success.

Jay Johnson
Jay JohnsonWeb Developer
Jay Johnson is the Web Developer for the National Research Mentoring Network’s networking & mentoring platform, MyNRMN.

Jay Johnson is also the Principal Application Developer for Vanderbilt University’s Biomedical Informatics Mentoring Lab. He has led the development effort for MyNRMN for the past 5 years and has been a leader in education technology since 2006. Jay’s creativity and commitment to quality is evidenced in MyNRMN’s many useful features, including the new Guided Virtual Mentorship platform! When he’s not working on elegant solutions Jay can usually be found in his home studio writing and recording his own musical creations.

Zainab Latif, MCS
Zainab Latif, MCSSr. Application Developer
Zainab Latif is the Sr. Application Developer for the National Research Mentoring Network’s networking & mentoring platform, MyNRMN.

Zainab has a Masters of Computer Science specializing in database systems and software engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL. Zainab obtained her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq.

Zainab is a Senior Application Developer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Biomedical Informatics Department, bringing with her more than 12 years of experience in the programming field. Zainab joined the NRMN Team in November 2019.

Katie Stinson, MLIS
Katie Stinson, MLISVirtual Engagement Strategist
Katie Stinson is the Virtual Engagement Strategist for the NRMN Resource Center.

Katie completed both a Bachelors in Journalism with minors in English and Marketing and a Masters in Library and Information Science with an emphasis in Health Informatics at the University of North Texas. She is starting a PhD in Sociology at the University of North Texas in Fall 2019. Katie spent the first portion of her career working in advertising in the Dallas market before transitioning to health care to work in Graduate Medical Education at a Dallas community hospital.

As Virtual Engagement Strategist, Katie works to help manage recruitment, engagement, user support, and reporting of the NRMN’s virtual community, MyNRMN.

Erika Thompson, PhD, MPH, CPH
Erika Thompson, PhD, MPH, CPHCo-Investigator
Dr. Erika Thompson is serving in an evaluator role for the National Research Mentoring Network Resource Center. She is also an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.
MariaElena Zavala, Ph.D.
MariaElena Zavala, Ph.D.Professor of Biology & Associate Director of California State University Northridge
​In 2016, California State University, Northridge biology professor Maria Elena Zavala, Ph.D., was named the first Latina fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), a professional scientific society devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. Dr. Zavala was named a fellow in honor of her service to the society and her distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology.

The first Mexican-American woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in botany, her research focuses on the manipulation of genes as a way to improve plant productivity by enhancing root growth. She’s also studying ways to make beans more nutritious and says plant research is critical in the effort to combat hunger around the world.

Zavala has taught at CSUN since 1988 and plays an integral part in building the national reputation of CSUN’s Department of Biology as a place where students, particularly those from underserved communities, thrive and successfully pursue advanced degrees at top-tier research institutions.

She has served as the director of CSUN’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) program since 1990 and Research Initiatives for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) since 1993. Her work as a mentor and advocate for the countless students who have gone through these programs earned her recognition from the White House. In 2000, Zavala received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Bill Clinton.

Michael Burcham, Ph.D.
Michael Burcham, Ph.D.Healthcare CEO of Narus Health
Michael is on faculty at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt
University, where he teaches Launching New Ventures, Healthcare Innovation and
Business Modeling.
A serial entrepreneur, Michael most recently served as Founder and CEO of Narus
Health (2015 – 2019), a healthcare solutions firm focused on innovations in care
management and population heath. Michael was the founding CEO of the Nashville
Entrepreneur Center, serving in that capacity from 2010 – 2015. He served as President
of ParadigmHealth from 2000-2007. Prior to ParadigmHealth, Michael was President of
Theraphysics, a venture-backed, specialty rehabilitation firm he founded in 1992. He
began his healthcare career at Hospital Corporation of America.
Michael began his healthcare career in 1983 after graduating from the University of
Mississippi Medical Center. Michael holds an MBA from Belmont University and a
Doctorate in Health Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Burcham also serves as an Executive Partner with Shore Capital Partners, a private
equity investment from with offices in Chicago and Nashville.
Mercedes Rubio, Ph.D.
Mercedes Rubio, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Training Branch Program Director-NIGMS
Mercedes Rubio, Ph.D., is a program director in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, where she handles the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) of the NIH Common Fund Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-funded Workforce Initiative, the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA), the Bridges to the Baccalaureate, and the Research to Understand and Inform Interventions that Promote the Research Careers of Students in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences portfolios. She also will serve in the role of program officer in the NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program.

Before joining NIGMS, Rubio was chief of the Psychopathology Risk and Protective Factors Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health and was assistant director of that Institute’s Individual Research Fellowship Program. Rubio earned a B.A. in sociology from California State University, Bakersfield, and a Ph.D. in medical sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she also completed postdoctoral training in nursing in the area of HIV intervention and health disparities.

To contact Rubio, send email to

If you’re a reporter wishing to interview Rubio, contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at or call 301-496-7301.

Michael Sesma, Ph.D.
Michael Sesma, Ph.D.Chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch Program Director-NIGMS
Michael Sesma, Ph.D., is chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD), where he oversees postdoctoral programs for research training, postdoctoral fellowships, career development programs, as well as the Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) and research programs in training interventions. Sesma also is program officer for the Genetics of Behavior and Circadian Biology Research grant portfolio in the Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Sesma began his NIH career at NIGMS in 1994 as a scientific review administrator in the NIGMS Office of Scientific Review and a program director in the Institute’s Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology. He moved to the National Institute of Mental Health in 2002, where he was chief of the Research Scientist Development Program in the Office for Special Populations. He returned to NIGMS in 2012 as a branch chief in TWD.

Sesma earned his B.A. in biology and psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and the Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Riverside. He conducted postdoctoral research at Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining NIH, Sesma served on the faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry and the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.

To contact Sesma, send email to

If you’re a reporter wishing to interview Sesma, contact the NIGMS Communications and Public Liaison Branch at or call 301-496-7301.