Campus Alert: Find the latest UMMS campus news and resources at

Search Close Search
Page Menu

Kidsteps II Team

 Carole Upshur, Ed.D

Carole Upshur, Ed.D., Principal Investigator

Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Community Health and Quantitative Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School     

Dr. Carole Upshur was a faculty member at UMass Boston for 26 years prior to joining the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMMS in 2001. At UMB, Dr. Upshur taught health policy, policy research methods, evaluation research, and community-based management to undergraduates and doctoral students.  She conducted a number of community-based studies on issues of educational and health disparities and neighborhood and community agency development. At UMass Medical School, she was Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Program Director for the Clinical and Population Health Research Doctoral Program from 2004-2013. Dr. Upshur has conducted studies on improving the quality of primary care, particularly the integration of behavioral health into primary care, and management of chronic diseases (such as diabetes) and chronic pain. She has evaluated several HSRA- DFMCH grants to provide research training to faculty and to support family medicine residency training. She has also been the Principal or Co-Investigator for several NIMH and NIAAA studies of behavioral health-primary care interventions with homeless women, a community based primary prevention grant to address early childhood behavior problems, and a PTSD intervention for pregnant women funded by the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at HSRA.  She is currently the Principal Investigator for Kidsteps II.  This is a large scale effectiveness grant to evaluate a social development and emotional regulation curriculum in local childcare agencies and Head Start classrooms serving at risk children,and the effects on school readiness.  


 Melodie Wenz-Gross, Ph.D

Melodie Wenz-Gross, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator

Research Assistant Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Community Health and Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Dr. Melodie Wenz-Gross is a Research Psychologist with 25 years of experience in applied research, program development, training, and evaluation focused on child development and adjustment. She is currently the Co-PI on the KidSteps II project, a 4-year Department of Education funded study, implementing and testing a preschool curriculum designed to improve school readiness among children in Head Start and community preschool classrooms. She was also Co-PI on the first KidSteps pilot project testing an earlier version of the curriculum and worked on the Together For Kids project implementing and testing an early childhood mental health consultation intervention in preschools to decrease behavior problems and expulsions. Dr. Wenz-Gross has also directed the evaluation of two SAMHSA funded System of Care grants for children with serious mental health challenges, and two child trauma projects, one dealing exclusively with children involved with the state Department of Children and Families.  She has also been the Project Director for a Maternal and Child Health (HRSA) funded project implementing and testing an intervention for low income pregnant women with symptoms of PTSD.  Prior to coming to UMass in 2004, Dr. Wenz-Gross worked for 13 years as a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Social Development and Education at UMass Boston conducting a line of research on stress, social support, and adjustment in early adolescents with and without learning problems. This work culminated in the development and publication of a primary prevention curriculum to help ease the transition into middle school for all students. 



Anthoula Poulakos, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate  

Dr. Poulakos earned her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests include promoting healthy early childhood social-emotional outcomes, and studying the effects of biological and environmental risk on language and cognitive abilities in infancy/early childhood.  She is invested in evidence-based policy implementation and intervention and is skilled in program evaluation, research design, predictive modeling, and applied research and data analysis/statistics.  She has also taught coursework in psychology and research methods at the undergraduate and graduate level. 


 Yeon Soo Yoo, Ph.D.

Yeonsoo Yoo, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Yoo earned her doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2014. She also received a graduate certificate in Quantitative Research Methods in the Department of Psychology. She holds a Master’s degree in Child Clinical Psychology and has worked in several clinical settings as a psychotherapist. Her research has focused on children’s socio-emotional development and family mental health. She is interested in applying quantitative methods and advanced statistical modeling methodologies to understand developmental functioning in young children and their families.


Miriam Heyman

Miriam Heyman, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Associate

Dr. Heyman earned her doctorate in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from the Boston College Lynch School of Education.  Her research focuses on factors that promote positive development of executive function and social skills, both for typically developing children and for children with developmental disabilities.  She is skilled in research design and statistical modeling, including longitudinal data analysis.  Dr. Heyman has also taught multiple courses at the undergraduate level. 


 Gail Sawosik

Gail Sawosik, MBA, Project Coordinator

Gail Sawosik is currently project coordinator for the Kidsteps II project.  She has worked as a project coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for eleven years.  Her work has focused on depression in primary care, chronic pain management, and health literacy.  During her twelve year tenure with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, she was special assistant to the director of Substance Abuse Services and the first director of the State Office of Rural Health. She has also worked for the Maine State Health Department and the University of Southern Maine Muskie School to develop and implement a CDC-funded statewide childhood lead poisoning prevention initiative. She has extensive experience in program development, implementation and evaluation.  Gail has undergraduate degrees in both Public Health Education and Psychology and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts.


Jennifer Hazelton

Jennifer Hazelton, BA, Field Coordinator

Jenny obtained her Bachelors degree from Syracuse University. She began her career as a research coordinator and field interviewer at UMass Medical School in 2001. She has worked on numerous medical school research studies in addition to studies conducted at Community Health Connections of Fitchburg.  She has also worked for 2 large independent research organizations, Westat and NORC at the University of Chicago.  Studies Jenny has been involved with include Reminders for your Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Building Knowledge in the Exit Process for Homeless Families in Worcester, MA; UMMS/Commonwealth Medicine and DANDY-2 Investigating Youth and Tobacco, National Institute on Drug Abuse.


 Elizabeth Delarocha Lawson

Elizabeth Delarosa Lawson, BS, Research Coordinator

Liz obtained her BA in Psychology and Social Services at Clark University in 2011.  She has over 12 years working in the human services field with multicultural populations. She began her career in 2003 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as a Research Assistant for a homeless study and as a Program Assistant for a chronic pain study. Those positions served as the foundation for building her career in research, opening doors to work on numerous studies and with diverse positions at UMMS such as: Research Coordinator for  the Healthy Moms-Strong Moms Project; Program Coordinator for the Center for Health Equity Intervention Research (CHEIR); Evaluation Interviewer for the Central Mass Communities of Care Project; Research Assistant for Kidsteps I & II; and Recruiter & Intervention Delivery Associate for a hypertension project. She also had an opportunity to work at the Worcester Community Action Council as a Safe Schools Parent Advocate and Food Stamps Out-Reach Worker.      


 Lorna Chiasson

Lorna Chiasson, Project Assistant 

Lorna Chiasson is a project assistant with 15 years of experience working at the  Medical School.  She provides administrative and budget support  for the Kidsteps II study.  She also has extensive experience working on many Department of Family Medicine grants including Healthy Moms-Strong Moms Project (HRSA); Center for Health Equity Intervention Research (CHEIR), Building Knowledge in the Exit Process for Homeless Families in Worcester, MA; UMMS/Commonwealth Medicine and DANDY-2 Investigating Youth and Tobacco.  


Persis Thorndike


Persis Thorndike, BS, Child Assessor and Research Assistant-data entry   

Persis has been a child assessor on Kidsteps II since the first year of the study.  She has close to a decade of experience as a field interviewer and data collector. She has worked on several federally-funded studies with Westat as well as NORC at the University of Chicago. Persis recieved her BA in anthropology and art history from Bowdoin College.     

 Laurie Bonnett

Laurie Bonnett, BS, Child Assessor, Classroom Observer, Research Assistant-data entry

Laurie began working as an Assessment Administrator for Kidsteps II as it was rolled out in the fall of 2013. In addition to her work with UMASS Medical School, she has worked for Westat, a large research agency, as an Assessment Administrator for NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and as a field researcher/interviewer for the PATH study (Population Assessment for Tobacco and Health).  

 Richard M. Hewitt

Richard M. Hewitt, MA, Child Assessor

Richard came to Kidsteps II in the fall of 2013 following a career as a guidance counselor and school psychologist. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Antioch Graduate School of Education in Keene, New Hampshire.  

 Amber LeDuc

Amber Bissonette-LeDuc, Child Assessor,Classroom Observer, Research Assistant-data entry

Amber joined the Kidsteps II team in the fall of 2014. She is a 2016 graduate of Clark University, majoring in psychology. Amber left the project in spring of 2016 and is currently pursuing her MSW at University of Texas-Austin.

 Maggie Azar

Maggie Azar, Child Assessor,Classroom Observer, Intern, Research Assistant-data entry

Maggie became part of the Kidsteps II team in the fall of 2015. She received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Assumption College in 2015. Maggie concluded her work with the project at that time and is pursing her PsyD. at Loyola University Maryland.

 Nicole Hebert

Nicole Hebert, Child Assessor     

Nicole came to the Kidsteps II team in the fall of 2015. She is a 2015 graduate of Assumption College, majoring in speech and language disorders. She is now pursuing her Master of Science degree in Speech Pathology at the MGH Institute of Health Professions

 Josefina Zuniga

Josefina Zuniga, Child Assessor     

Josefina joined the Kidsteps II team in the fall of 2015. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clark University in the spring of 2016. 

 Marielle Joseph

 Marielle Joseph, Child Assessor

Marielle came to the Kidsteps II team in the fall of 2016. She expects to recieve her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Clark University in the spring of 2017

.Steven Martinez

Steven Martinez, Child Assessor, Intern

Steven joined our team in the fall of 2016. He expects to be awarded his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology in the spring of 2017 from Fitchburg State University

Linda Granville

Linda Granville, BA, Classroom observer

Linda received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Quinsigamond Community College and a Bachelors Degree in Human Development from Anna Maria College. She has 37 years of experience in Early Education as a provider, center director and as Director of Children's services at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. 

Martha McGown, MBA, Classroom Observer

Martha holds an MBA from Babson Graduate School of Business. She has over 25 years of experience in program planning, training and management including 10 years as coordinator of child outcomes and systems management for ABCD Head Start and Children's Sevices, Boston, MA.