Our Team


Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong, MD 
Sarah Armstrong, MD, is the co-director of DCCOR, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health and professor of population and health sciences. Her research seeks to understand mechanisms of the development of severe obesity in youth and identify innovative treatment options such as digital health and community partnerships in order to identify new, effective treatments for children and adolescents with obesity. The first 13 years of her career in pediatric medicine was clinical, focusing on the treatment of children and adolescents with obesity both in primary and tertiary care settings. She developed and subsequently directed Duke’s comprehensive pediatric weight management clinic, Healthy Lifestyles, from 2006 through 2016. Mid-career, recognizing the many unanswered questions in the field, she pursued a three-year clinical research training fellowship (APA) to develop the skills necessary to conduct clinical and translational research. She completed her research training in 2016, and has independently completed two clinical trials and is a co-investigator on an NIH-funded trial (NIDDK) and a principal investigator on a three-year multisite clinical trial (Duke Endowment). She has served on several committees related to pediatric obesity research, including the obesity section of the AAP and is involved with the Pediatric Obesity Weight Evaluation Registry as the co-director for research. In 2017, she and a team of three other researchers were awarded funding through the American Heart Association’s Strategically Focused Research Network for a large four-year, multi-study project. Most recently, she and DCCOR co-director Asheley Skinner were awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the clinic-community partnership model for childhood obesity treatment in two additional locations in North Carolina  (more information can be found on the Current Research page).

Asheley C. Skinner

Asheley C. Skinner, PhD 
Asheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, is a health services researcher focused on addressing a variety of population health issues, particularly those affecting children. She is the co-director of DCCOR, a professor in Population Health Sciences and an associate professor in the Duke Department of Medicine and a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. She is also the director of Graduate Studies for Population Health Sciences. She received her PhD in 2007 in Health Policy and Administration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a nationally-known expert in childhood obesity, focusing on the measurement of obesity, the health consequences of obesity, and preventing stigma in obesity interventions and policy. She also has significant experience in the areas of child maltreatment, substance use and abuse among adolescents, and prescription drug misuse. In addition to her many roles in research, she is also a dedicated teacher, mentoring doctoral students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty.

Emily D'Agostino

Emily D’Agostino, DrPH, MS, MEd, MA
Emily D’Agostino is an assistant professor in orthopaedic surgery and population health sciences, and research faculty at DCCOR. She is a pediatric cardiovascular epidemiologist specializing in community-based interventions. Her research expertise lies in partnering with community organizations to examine structural and social factors that promote youth physical activity and fitness. She also provides research oversight for the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, the third largest county park system in the nation. She received her doctorate in Epidemiology from the City University of New York's Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. She also holds master's degrees in Science Education, Educational Leadership, and Museum Education.

Naomi Duke

Naomi Duke, MD, PhD, MPH
Naomi N. Duke, MD, PhD, MPH, is an associate professor, board certified in internal medicine, pediatrics, and adolescent medicine. During her two decades of experience in clinical practice in academic and community settings, she has witnessed the persistence of health inequities across generations via intersectionality of race and ethnic identity, gender, class, and nativity. Her research interests place her at the intersection of medicine, sociology, and population health toward understanding biosocial aspects of the intergenerational transmission of health.

Charles Wood

Charles T. Wood, MD, MPH
Charles T. Wood, MD, MPH, is a research faculty member at DCCOR and an assistant professor in the Duke Department of Pediatrics.  He trained in pediatrics at Duke University, where he was also a chief resident and gained research expertise through the NRSA Primary Care Research Fellowship at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Wood’s main research interest is identifying risk factors and clinical preventive interventions for obesity in the first years of life, with particular interest in eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in obesity. His work in feeding behaviors and characteristics among formula fed infants has resulted in multiple publications and national press, and he is a recipient of the Academic Pediatric Association Young Investigator Award for Nutrition in Underserved Populations.

Michelle White

Michelle J. White, MD, MPH
Michelle J. White, MD, MPH is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University with appointments in the Division of Hospital Medicine and the Duke Center for Childhood Obesity Research. She is a graduate of Yale University, Duke University School of Medicine and the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The focus of Dr. White’s research is place and child health equity, with particular emphasis on child obesity. Her work integrates geography with qualitative methodologies to describe the effect of built, social and perceived environmental factors on health behaviors and outcomes with the goal of translating this work into place-based interventions. Dr. White received a 2018 Young Investigator Award from the Academic Pediatric Association to assess the effects of changes in the Durham recreational environment on child BMI over time.

Charlene Wong

Charlene Wong, MD, MSPH
Charlene Wong, MD, MSPH, is an adolescent medicine pediatrician and health services researcher. She is a research faculty member at DCCOR and an assistant professor in the Duke Department of Pediatrics.  She also has faculty appointments in the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the Duke Clinical Research Institute . She trained in pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital/University of Washington. Her fellowships were in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health services research in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania and adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her research focuses on improving adolescent and young adult health and well-being. Her work explores innovative interventions that leverage behavioral economics, technology and youth-empowered methodologies to motivate youth to adopt healthier behaviors, such as increased physical activity. She is also interested in improving the consumer experience with accessing health and health care as well as studying the impact of health policy on young people. Clinically, she serves as a primary care pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist to youth 12-26 years old. 

Melissa Kay

Melissa Kay, PhD, MS, MPH, RD
Melissa Kay is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, and a research faculty member at DCCOR. She is interested in the connection between maternal and infant diet and the realities of healthy eating during the postpartum period. Her research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of innovative digital health interventions to improve diet quality within the first 1,000 days. Melissa is originally from Massachusetts where she completed her BA at the College of the Holy Cross and MS in food policy and applied nutrition and MPH at Tufts University. She is also a registered dietitian. Melissa came to North Carolina seven years ago as a fellow from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and stayed to complete her PhD in nutrition at UNC Chapel Hill. She was also a postdoctoral associate at DCCOR and the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center. She has presented her work at national conferences such as the Experimental Biology annual meeting.

Cody Neshteruk, PhD

Cody Neshteruk, PhD
Cody Neshteruk, PhD is a medical instructor in the Department of Population Health Sciences, scholar in the Dissemination and Implementation Science in Cardiovascular Outcomes K12 program, and a research faculty member at DCCOR. His research focuses on designing, delivering, and disseminating evidence-based interventions to improve the health and well-being of children and families. In particular, he is interested in promoting cardiovascular health and reducing obesity through helping families adopt healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Cody received his PhD in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and completed an American Heart Association funded postdoctoral fellowship at Duke.


Laura Rolke, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Bio coming soon.

Brooke Wagner, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Bio coming soon.

Research Coordinators

Janna Howard

Janna B. Howard, MPH (Research Program Leader)
Janna B. Howard, MPH, coordinates the ongoing research activities and projects at DCCOR and assists with the strategic planning of the center. She also trains incoming clinical research coordinators, liaises with pediatric clinics about DCCOR’s new and ongoing research projects, and supports faculty with study planning, start-up, and operations. She received her MPH in health behavior in 2016 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. Prior to beginning her role with DCCOR in 2017, she served as the study coordinator for a project at UNC Chapel Hill investigating children’s movies and obesogenic messages and stigma. She also has prior research experience in eating behaviors, eating disorders, and weight loss and weight management in adults.

Lily Suarez

Lily Suarez, BS
Lily Suarez, BS, is currently a fourth year medical student at Duke University and is earning an MPH at UNC Gillings School of Public Health, and will be a medicine-pediatrics resident at Duke University beginning this summer. She has spent her research year as a coordinator for Dr. Sarah Armstrong’s AHA-funded childhood obesity RCT, Hearts and Parks, which provides structured education and exercise for at-risk Durham County children, and continues to work with the DCCOR time on the Healthy Lifestyles Food Market project studying food insecurity. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a BS in Biomedical Science and a minor in Public Health. She is passionate about child and adolescent health, and volunteers teaching health class for high school students in Durham City Schools. She is interested in the prevention of childhood obesity and in developing interventions for youth with obesity in minority populations.

Belen de la Barrera, MS

Belen de la Barrera, MS
Belen de la Barrera, MS, is the lead bilingual clinical research coordinator of the Greenlight Plus project. Greenlight Plus is an early-childhood obesity study that is comparing whether added technology can provide support outside the clinic to promote behavior change and obesity prevention. Previously, she managed environmental research projects in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Belen has extensive experience working in basic science, coordinating research projects needs and timetables, and building relationships that create a positive team environment. Belen received her BS in Chemistry from Universidad Complutense de Madrid and received her MS in Environmental and Earth Resources Management from Kingston University London. 

Javier Rodriguez, Clnical Research Coordinator
Bio coming soon.

Valery Arevalo, Clinical Research Coordinator
Bio coming soon.

Veronica Carrion, Clinical Research Coordinator
Bio coming soon.

Stephanie Bryant, Clinical Research Coordinator
Bio coming soon.

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