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Meet The Team

Dr. Virmarie Correa-Fernández

Director

Dr. Virmarie Correa-Fernández is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences. She is a Clinical Psychologist, a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, and has been working in the tobacco cessation field for more than 19 years. Her primary research focus involves examining:

  1. The psychosocial determinants (e.g., self-efficacy, social support) of different smoking cessation milestones (e.g., initial abstinence, long-term cessation, recovery from lapse),

  2. The efficacy of evidence-based treatments (EBT), particularly Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), for the co-morbidity of tobacco dependence with other behavioral health problems

  3. The cultural and linguistic adaptations of ACT for Latinx smokers with these comorbidities. Through her American Cancer Society’s Mentored Research Scholar Grant (MRSG-15-018-01-CPPB), Dr. Correa-Fernández is adapted an ACT based intervention to be feasible and acceptable for the treatment of tobacco dependence and comorbid depression and anxiety among Latinx.

 

Secondary, but complementary, areas of research interest include translational research (e.g., implementing EBT for tobacco dependence in mental health care settings, capacity building for health care professionals), and understanding Latino participation in behavioral health research and psychosocial interventions. Dr. Correa-Fernández is a coffee lover, and in her leisure time she like to jog, read self-help books, spend time with friends and relatives, and travel, including to her hometown, Puerto Rico.

Niloofar Tavakoli, M.Ed.

Doctoral Advisee

Niloofar is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program under the advisement of Dr. Correa-Fernandez. She joined LABHRT in Summer 2017 during her Master's program at UH. Her research interests include anxiety, smoking, and other health-related behaviors. She has been involved with several manuscripts and currently working on a first-authored publication regarding anxiety, alcohol use and motives, and mindfulness among firefighters. She is also working on her dissertation examining trauma and other psychosocial factors in a sample of federal law enforcement officers. For practicum, she is training at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addictions at UT Health and working with individuals who have perplexed behavioral health challenges. Her hobbies include exercising, spending time with her puppy, and creating fun new smoothie recipes. 

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Marshall is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. With a focus on Latinx populations, his personal research interests entail risk and protective factors related to depression and resilience. More specifically, he aspires to utilize research on resilience to creatively address mental health behaviors and risk factors within the Latinx community. As an advisee of Dr. Correa-Fernández in LABHRT, Marshall has served as a study therapist and collaborated to implement a culturally adapted Acceptance and Commitment Therapy intervention for Latinx smokers with comorbid depression and/or anxiety. In his spare time, Marshall enjoys exercising and relaxing outdoors, traveling, as well as spending time with friends and family. 

Marshall Motsenbocker,  M.S.

Doctoral Advisee

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Danielle is a fourth year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program, Health Psychology track under the advisement of Dr. Correa-Fernandez. She joined LABHRT in Summer 2020 as she began her fellowship in the UHAND program (a partnership between the University of Houston & MD Anderson Cancer Center) on cancer health disparities research. She is interested in investigating the biological and psychological mechanisms that maintain chronic diseases in adult, minority populations. Specifically, she is interested in using a biopsychosocial framework to examine lifestyle behaviors and working on expanding social supports for the older adult and LGBTQ+ populations. In LABHRT, Danielle will be working with Dr. Correa-Fernandez and team on various projects. In her free time, Danielle enjoys reading, spending time with family and traveling. 

Danielle Llaneza, M.A.

Doctoral Advisee

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Luane is a fourth-year student in the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program under Dr. Correa-Fernandez’s advisement in the University of Houston.  Originally from Brazil, she received both Bachelor and Master´s degrees in Psychology at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF). She also worked as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT) in a private practice for 3 years in Brazil on the treatment of the most various psychological disorders. Her professional goals include providing counseling for Latinx (especially the Brazilian population), teaching undergraduate students and continue researching the smoking field (especially treatment and development of interventions for vulnerable populations such as the Latinx community).  More recently, she has been working with factors associated with the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) among Hispanic Youth and with the development of smoking cessation interventions among Latinx. Her hobbies include spending time with her dog Olive, exercising, watching TV shows, and reading.  

Luane Araújo Rabello, M.S.

Doctoral Advisee

Gerardo Fajardo is an post-baccalaureate student at the University of Houston. He graduated in December 2021. He is majored in Health with a focus on Health Promotion and a minor in Psychology. Gerardo has an interest in mental health and how people are developing different types of mental disorders and what are different ways that can help them cope with their mental health disorders. His hobbies include spending time with his family like playing Mario kart or Mario party.

Gerardo Fajardo, B.S.

Research Assistant

Wilmer is a second-year graduate student in the Counseling Psychology program. He graduated from the University of Houston Clear Lake with a master’s in clinical psychology.  Wilmer is interested in researching the interactions between the environment and personality and their effects on individuals’ susceptibility to tobacco and other substance use. In addition, he seeks to identify if different individuals respond to prevention campaigns and interventions differently based on personality and environmental interactions. He is also interested in the health disparities, particularly interactions between medical providers and patients that may lead to negative interactions. Other interests include learning about the influence of personality in the development of resiliency and the decision-making process.  Other hobbies include spending time with family, online gaming, and martial arts.

Wilmer Lugo, M.A. 

Graduate Research Assistant

Corissa is a second-year graduate student in the Counseling Psychology program. She graduated from the University of Houston Clear Lake with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She is interested in exploring how the dynamics of an individual’s relationships impact the outcome of treatment for substance use disorders in Hispanic/Latinx populations and the role of dyadic interventions in decreasing addiction lapses. Secondary interests include exploring the implementation of community practices as an aim towards increasing participation in health-focused research within historically marginalized populations, understanding risks that contribute to cannabis use specifically within second and third generation Hispanics, and examining intergenerational strengths and stressors. When outside the classroom, she enjoys discovering new music, running, and collecting more shoes than she should. 

Corissa Barrow M.A  

Graduate Research Assistant

Alex is a post-baccalaureate  at the University of Houston majoring in Health with a focus in Public Health, and minoring in Biology. Her involvement with LABHRT is due to her interest in research, data analysis, health behaviors and its influence on healthcare disparities. She also has an interest in working with the Latinx community and the risk factors of minorities.  She plans to attend graduate school and apply to medical school soon after. Some of her favorite hobbies are learning new languages such as mandarin, playing the guitar, and traveling abroad, especially to Central America.

Alex Perez

Research Assistant

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Victor Vergara is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston. Under the mentorship of Dr. Correa-Fernandez, his research is centered on employing scientific methods to uncover disparities within the Latino community. Additionally, he is intrigued by the intersection of counseling psychology and neuropsychology, particularly in relation to active military personnel and veterans. He is keen to explore how neuropsychological evaluations and cognitive health assessments can inform and enhance counseling interventions, to support their mental well-being and optimal functioning. His academic journey includes an undergraduate degree from Western Kentucky University and a Master's in Health Psychology from Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. Beyond his academic pursuits, he is passionate about sports, maintaining an active lifestyle, and enjoying the company of family and friends.

Victor Vergara M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

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Leslie is a 4th-year undergraduate student at the University of Houston majoring in Health with a focus in Public Health with a minor in Business Administration. Her involvement with LABHRT is due to her enthusiasm for exploring and addressing health disparities in Latine/Hispanic ethnic groups and her interests in research, biostatistics, and epidemiology. She plans to attend graduate school and work on her degree to study, design and implement studies to analyze health-related issues and assess public health interventions. 

Some of her past time hobbies are weight-lifting, running, cooking. drawing, and traveling to her home country, El Salvador. 

Leslie Zuleith Benavidez

Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Ariel is a 4th-year undergraduate student at the University of Houston majoring in Health with a concentration in Public Health and minoring in Medicine & Society. He joined LABHRT due to his interest in researching casual factors that affect health behaviors in minority communities and health disparities in these communities. Ariel plans to pursue master's degrees in both Health Promotion and Education, as well as in Epidemiology. Eventually, he plans to earn a doctorate degree in Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion and Health Education. 

During his spare time, he likes to read, spend time with friends, and watch reality TV competition shows and documentaries. 

Ariel J, Amaya Quintanilla 

Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Karielys graduated in December 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She applied to the graduate Counseling Psychology program at the University of Houston-Victoria for the fall of 2024. She joined the LABHRT because she wants to gain more experience in research and contribute to understanding and addressing Latinx health disparities. Karielys is interested in exploring how to develop resources to increase minorities' access to mental health services, principally to the Latinx culture and deaf and hard-hearing culture.

 

In her time off, she enjoys going to the gym, listening to audiobooks, and traveling, especially to her home country, Puerto Rico. 

Karielys Vazquez Torres 

Research Assistant

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