Clinical Research Staff

Clinical Research Staff


Valerie Riis


Valerie received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida and her Master’s in Epidemiology from Temple University. She previously worked with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in infectious disease surveillance and Temple University’s CORE lab. Outside of work, Valerie enjoys watching/attending major sporting events, Barry’s Bootcamp, and listening to Podcasts.


Abby Coco

Clinical Research Coordinator

I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May 2020 with a degree in Comparative Literature and minor in Biology. As an undergraduate, I pursued molecular genetics research focused on better understanding transcription factor binding in the yeast genome. I currently recruit for all studies, splitting my administrative responsibilities between GLAM and MPM while also preparing to operationalize SPOON as the study champion. In my free time, you can find me running along the Schuylkill River or trying different restaurants in the city. I plan to attend medical school with the ultimate goal of improving sexual and reproductive health disparities both at home and abroad.


Allison (Allie) Dreier

Clinical Research Coordinator

Allie graduated from Penn undergrad in 2021, majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Creative Writing. Before doing clinical research, she worked in a translational lab studying the effects of THC e-cigarette vapor on the adolescent brain. She is pre-med and aspires to be an OB/GYN. When not at work, she is most likely snuggling with her adorable cat Cassie. 


Noor Banihashem Ahmad

Clinical Research Coordinator
Maternal and Child Health Research Program
University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine

After completing a bachelor’s degree at Bryn Mawr College, I started working as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Penn. I am primarily interested in issues that disproportionately affect women and marginalized communities, both in research and healthcare systems. While at Penn, I have primarily worked on the POWER and MOMENTUM Studies. I am working towards getting an MD/MPH degree while attempting to maintain a heavy focus on community health. In my free time I am a birthing doula, sexual harm counselor and rookie chef.


Kate Sohn

Clinical Research Coordinator

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a bachelor’s in Health and Societies and a minor in Bioethics. I am passionate about women’s health and equitable healthcare. Before working at the MCHRP, I conducted research in Seoul, South Korea on breast cancer survivorship. My main responsibilities are as the study champion of the GLAM study, but I also recruit for MCHRP’s many other studies such as MOMPOD, the immunology in pregnancy studies (PIPS) and MOMENTUM/POWER/MOMs. You can find me skating or skiing in the winters and hiking in the summers, but all year round finding the best food in Philly!


Sarah Stupp

CRC A, Lead coordinator for the Empower Mom weight loss study

Sarah is new to Philadelphia and started working at UPenn in February 2021. Previously she was studying at the George Washington University where she found her love for public health, specifically women’s health on a global scale. She performed research at the Shanmugam Laboratory in Washington, DC, which focused on Lupus, Scleroderma, and HS. Sarah is also fluent in Spanish and was hired to perform a systematic review at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) that focused on breastfeeding practices in mothers living with HIV in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Her passion for women’s health continues at the University of Pennsylvania where she is the lead coordinator for the Empower Mom postpartum weight loss study and is starting to pursue her Master’s in Public Health. In her free time, she enjoys ceramics and caring for her 2 guinea pigs, Bunny and Peekaboo.

Madeline Smith

Madeline Smith

Clinical Research Coordinator

Madeline received her BA in Biology and Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Penn in May 2021, and is sub-matriculating into the MPH program, where she will concentrate in Global Health. During her undergraduate career, Madeline was a research assistant at the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness, staffed and managed the campus peer-support helpline, and volunteered at HIAS PA, one of the city’s refugee resettlement agencies. With interests in improving refugee and migrant access to healthcare, particularly reproductive and family planning services, Madeline hopes to attend medical school to pursue a career as an OB-GYN. Outside of work, Madeline enjoys learning new languages, playing with her adorable cat, and performing with her Latin dance troupe.


Fatoumata Barry

Clinical Research Coordinator A

Fatoumata (Fatou) is a graduate of Spelman College, where she obtained a B.S in biology. She has plans of attending medical school and pursuing a career as an OBGYN. Fatou dreams of opening a multi-facilitated clinic that will provide women with socio-economic and socio-emotional supports in her home country Guinea, West Africa. She is passionate about women’s health globally and believes that women should have full autonomy over their bodies. Her current research interest focuses on addressing the health disparities associated with Maternal and Child Health and bridging the gap in Maternal health. Currently she recruits for all studies with a specific focus on the MPM study. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, yoga, traveling and shopping.


Beth Norton, MPH, MBE

Senior Project Manager

I graduated from Penn State University in 2016 with a B.S. in Human Development/Family Studies and recently completed master’s degrees in Public Health and Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. I have been working with the MCHRP team since 2016, starting as a Clinical Research Coordinator for a variety of multi-center randomized clinical trials. Currently, I am the Project Manager for Dr. Durnwald’s studies focused on metabolic disease in pregnancy, including GLAM, SPAN, and SPOON.


Melanie Bowser

Project Manager

I graduated from Howard University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minor in Chemistry. I currently serve as Project Manager for the POWER, MOMENTUM, MOMs Studies. I am an aspiring physician with an interest in pediatric allergy and immunology. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, reading, physical fitness activities, and cooking.


Alexandra Thompson

Clinical Research Coordinator

In 2019, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Chicago. With the goal of becoming physician, I spent two years completing a pre-health post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania while working part-time with this research group. Now, as a full-time clinical research coordinator, I recruit patients for more than six studies-joining a group that practices both empathy and rigor as we engage with patients. I am passionate about women’s health and want to dedicate my career as a future physician to the health and well-being of Black women as an OB/GYN. Ask me about my efforts to increase accessibility to sailing on the Southside of Chicago!


Liqhwa Ncube

Clinical Research Coordinator

Liqhwa received her BA in Biology from University of Pennsylvania. Originally from Zimbabwe, Liqhwa’s interest in healthcare stemmed from the poor healthcare she received when she was growing up. Her passion was fueled by the number of undeserved deaths she witnessed in her community. Liqhwa is passionate about improving healthcare access especially to vulnerable populations. In the future she plans to build a state-of-the-art hospital in her hometown. Currently she is a study champion for MPM which focuses on understanding the lived experience of Black women and the role that the vaginal microbiome plays in preterm birth. She also recruits for all studies in the Maternal Child Health Research Program. In her spare time Liqhwa loves cooking, hiking and track and field.


Elias Mccomb

Project Manager of Immunology in Pregnancy Studies at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

After completing a Bachelors in Biology from American University I spent five years leveraging genomics to understand the etiology of STI acquisition and the roll the vaginal microbiota exerts on that interaction. I am working towards an MD/PhD with the ultimate goal of practicing translational microbiota medicine. I am project manager of Penn’s Immunology in Pregnancy Studies (PRIME, IMPROVE, PREDICTIVE, and SPIRIT). Ask me about honeybees and my brief stint as a cheese monger.


Sarthak Bakliwal

Clinical Research Coordinator

As a 23-year-old, I have spent 10 years living in different cities across India and 13 years living in different cities across USA. In 2020, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. I am currently the Clinical Research Coordinator for Dr. Elovitz’s studies. I am the Study Champion for the SPIRIT Study which is investigating whether antibodies from the COVID-19 Vaccine transfer from pregnant mothers to their babies in utero. I intend on becoming a physician and hope to improve health equity for all members of the community. My passions in medicine lie in OB/GYN and Neurology. In my spare time, I work with Prevention Point to spread awareness about harm reduction in teenagers and young adults.