The number of OPHI staff expands and contracts depending on the size and need of current projects. The current OPHI staff are listed below:


Dr. Dalen Duitsman

Dr. Dalen Duitsman, Director

Dr. Duitsman received his doctorate in Health Education/Public Health and his M.S. from Indiana University located in Bloomington, Indiana. He received his dual undergraduate degrees in Health Education and Physical Education from William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.

Prior to his arrival at Missouri State University in the fall of 1996, he was a Health Studies faculty at Iowa State University. During his tenure there he helped revise the Community Health Education curriculum and was instrumental in the growth of the program. At Missouri State, he implemented and administered the M.S. in Health Promotion and Wellness Management graduate program and also developed, implemented and administered the Master of Public Health program.

In February of 2001 Dr. Duitsman was appointed by the Board of Governors to serve as Director of the OPHI. In this position he has served as the principal investigator of numerous contracts and grants that have focused on solving community public health issues in Missouri. He has been successful in uniting university resources and community stakeholder resources to develop and implement targeted interventions to address community health related needs. Dr. Duitsman’s expertise also extends to creation of partnerships and coalitions. He is known in the state for his leadership on state-wide, regional, and local boards, committees and coalitions. He is the Immediate Past President of the Missouri Institute of Community Health, serves on the board of the Missouri Public Health Association, and is on the executive committee for the Transforming the Future of Public Health in Missouri initiative.

Project Staff

Dr. Joseph Hulgus

Dr. Joseph Hulgus, Data Analysis, Project Evaluation and HRA Development

Dr. Hulgus is responsible for the design, implementation, evaluation, and reporting for the process and outcome evaluations of the SOARHigh project. He is also the lead in developing and evaluating a new Health Risk Assessment tool for use specifically with rural youth. This will include not only the initial development but validation of the instrument as the project proceeds. Lastly, Dr. Hulgus will be designing, developing, and deploying the mental health wellness modules and components for this project.

Dr. Joseph Hulgus is a licensed psychologist and received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Texas Woman’s University, Master of Public Health degree from Missouri State University (MSU) and Bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University – Evansville. He has worked with the MSU Ozarks Public Health Institute (OPHI) as research and program evaluator for the last 14 years. Dr. Hulgus is also a Professor of Counseling at Missouri State University with 30 plus years of experience working in a wide variety of contexts as a counseling psychologist, research psychologist and public health researcher.


Jaci McReynolds

Jaci McReynolds, MHA, Communications 

McReynolds’ passion is to help Missouri’s local public health agencies maximize their impact and clearly communicate the value of public health in assuring longer, healthier lives, and richer communities for all of us.

McReynolds contributes communication and graphic design expertise to the tobacco program evaluation work at Ozarks Public Health Institute. She also coordinates communication efforts for the statewide grassroots initiative, #HealthierMO, engaging stakeholders in systems change in order to achieve a stronger, more resilient and responsive public health system.

For more than two decades, she has worked within Missouri’s public health system, focusing on improving communication, collaboration, and efficiency. Her company, Impact Advantage, LLC, offers communications and marketing assistance, emergency planning, website development and administration, grant management, social media management, health literacy training, and other consulting services to support public health agencies in Missouri.

McReynolds is an adjunct instructor for Drury University’s College of Continuing Professional Studies, in the Emergency Management Bachelor of Science program. She also welcomes periodic opportunities to guest lecture at Missouri State University in the Masters of Public Health program.

McReynolds has a background in film and television news, with experience in continuity, development, television news production, and photojournalism. She spent several years building crisis communication skills among 35 local public health agencies in southwest and south central Missouri. She also served four years as a local public health administrator in rural Missouri. She actively participates in regional and state-level collaboratives and advisory groups.

Todd Daniel

Dr. Todd Daniel, Statistician

Dr. Todd Daniel is a statistician and academic researcher with a specialization in statistical methodology and research design. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology and most recently served as the lead evaluator of the #HealthierMO Transforming the Future of Public Health initiative. He has worked with the Ozarks Public Health Institute on projects since 2015. He has done analyses for academic, medical, and business research, served on numerous doctoral dissertation committees, and directed a research institute before starting his own statistical consulting business. He has extensive experience designing academic research projects, collecting data, analyzing data, and interpreting the results. He has published multiple academic articles in peer-reviewed journals and hosts a popular YouTube channel Research By Design about statistics.


Melissa Ringer 

Melissa Ringer, BS, MAADC-II

Melissa graduated from Missouri State University in 2007 with a degree in Psychology. After several years as an early childhood educator, Ms. Ringer switched to higher education administration working with special education programs statewide for students on the Autism Spectrum. Ms. Ringer has also worked as an educator for individuals with substance use disorders, specifically focusing on the pregnant and post-partum women in Southwest Missouri and their families to help prevent separation in the family court system. 

Ms. Ringer is currently the Tobacco and Vape Prevention Specialist at Missouri State University, working in conjunction with the Greene County Tobacco and Vape Prevention Coalition and the Springfield Area Vape Education groups; as well as serving as a member of the Missouri Eliminate Tobacco Use initiative steering committee.  Melissa prefers working with and educating youth and families to prevent future substance misuse and abuse.

Melissa enjoys outdoor recreation, traveling, yoga, studying political and criminal justice reform, and she plays catcher for a local co-ed softball team.


Karen McKinnis

Karen McKinnis, Program Director, Missouri Health Disparities Initiative


Travis Fisher

Travis Fisher, MPH, Deputy Director, Missouri Health Disparities Initiative


Jeffery Brannon

Jeffery Brannon, IT Director, Missouri Health Disparities Initiative

Jeffery Brannon, IT Director for the Ozarks Public Health Institute, received his undergraduate degrees in Computer Science, Math, and Aerospace Studies from Western Kentucky University. He completed his Master of Science in Computer Science in 2004. Jeffery enjoys coordinating with non-profit organizations and small businesses to build partnerships and solve common information technology problems.
Jeffery partnered with the OPHI team in order to build web solutions and to build automation around manual processes. He is excited to be part of the team, and he looks forward to continued partnership in the future. 

Cass Henne

Cassandra Henne, Project Coordinator

Cassandra Henne, project coordinator for the Ozarks Public Health Institute and the SWMO Area Health Education Center, received her bachelor's in Community and Regional Planning from Missouri State University and has a combined eight years of experience with AHEC and OPHI at MSU. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in Public Health and a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems at MSU. Cassandra enjoys developing collaborative partnerships within the Southwest region and has worked on various projects such as: medical moulage in disaster preparedness training, scheduling clinical training of osteopathic student doctors, and coordinating pre-health profession training through the AHEC Scholars Program.

She also assists in fiscal management of various public health contracts including, but not limited to: Missouri Health Disparities Initiative, Healthier MO -Transforming the Future of Public Health, SOAR Program - mental health trauma intervention, zika mosquito surveillance, and accreditation process for local public health departments through Missouri Institute of Community Health (MICH). Cassandra enjoys houseplants, orchids, baking cakes, sustainable design, and topics in alternative energy.

Research Fellows

Maxwell Barffour

Dr. Maxwell A Barffour

Dr. Barffour received his PhD in International Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He has MPH with a Epidemiology concentration from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. His BS in Biochemistry and Nutrition was received from the University of Ghana.

After obtaining his PhD in International Health, and before arriving at Missouri State University, Dr. Barffour was at the University of California Davis in Davis, California for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. He has received many awards and honors including the 2015 Young Scientist Participant from Nobel Laureates Meeting, the DSM Doctoral Research Fellowship from Johns Hopkins University in 2014, the Federik Bang Immunology Research Award from Johns Hopkins University in 2012, and others.

At Missouri State, Dr. Barffour has taught courses such as Epidemiology, Clinical and Experimental Study Designs, Biostatistics in Health Science, Health Behavior, and Public Health Field Experience. His expertise as a global health epidemiologist is in maternal and child health research and programming. His research primarily involves community based clinical trials and programs designed to address the adverse effects of micronutrient deficiencies or overdose on infections, inflammation, anemia, and physical or neurocognitive growth and sleep outcomes. His research is implemented across several countries including Laos, Zambia, Ghana, India and the United States. Many of Dr. Barffour's studies and clinical trials have been published.

Graduate Assistants

Mounika Baki
Mounika Baki, Programmer Analyst 

Mounika Baki, graduate assistant at Ozarks Public Health Institute, is currently working towards her master's in computer science at Missouri State University. As a programmer analyst, she primarily focuses on designing websites and testing. Mounika received her bachelor's degree in computer science and Engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (2015-2019) in India. Before her master’s degree, she worked for Amazon as a Subject Matter Expert (2019-2021) in India. Her decision to pursue her master's degree in computer science at Missouri State was influenced by the various career opportunities it opens. Her research interests are programming languages, web technologies, data science, and advanced database topics. Besides spending time with family and friends, she enjoys reading, painting, traveling, and watching thrillers.


Finess Copeland

Finess Copeland, Project Facilitator

Finess Copeland, project facilitator at the Ozark Public Health Institute, received her bachelor’s in Nursing from the University of West Indies School of Nursing. She is currently pursing a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration at Missouri State University. Finess enjoys collaborating with underrepresented and minority groups, she strives to make a difference within these groups and does this through advocacy and volunteerism.

She also collaborate with various Local Public Health Agencies and community-based organizations under the health disparities project to provide technical support, facilitate collaborative meetings with stakeholders and support LPHAs with health disparities project. Finess enjoys career and personal development conversations, giving motivational speeches, farming, cooking caribbean dishes and lying on the beach.


Emilia Elmer Intriago

Emilia Elmer Intriago, Project Facilitator

Graduate Student | Speech – Language Pathology Graduate Program

Missouri State University 24’

Emilia Elmer Intriago is a graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program at Missouri State University and is currently a Project Facilitator at the Ozarks Public Health Institute. She has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She has worked as an Explore teacher, a CSS paraprofessional for Springfield Public Schools, and is a volunteer victim advocate for The Victim Center in Springfield. Her academics interests include voice disorders, swallowing disorders, articulation disorders, and cognitive communication disorders.  In her spare time, Emilia enjoys reading, traveling, baking, movies, and a good cheese fondue night.


Aleah Hamdah

Aleah Hamdah, Project Facilitator

Missouri State University | Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Program

National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association | Graduate School Liaison

Aleah Hamdah, project facilitator for the Ozarks Public Health Institute, has received her bachelor’s in Communication and Sciences Disorders with an emphasis of Speech-Language Pathology. She is currently undergoing her first year in the Speech-Language Pathology master’s program at MSU to become a clinician for speech therapy. She is involved in NSSLHA as the Graduate Liaison for a CSD program. In undergraduate, she was the Social Liaison and coordinated monthly events and meetings. Aleah spent most of her undergraduate involved in other leadership roles. Her favorite was leadership in her college ministry serving Youth and College students. 

Aleah enjoys making connections to help others become their best version of themselves. This is what has driven her to pursue speech therapy and a full-time graduate assistantship with OPHI. This position has allowed her to engage with counties, collaborate interesting ideas for the contract, and put a face to OPHI. Help bridging the gap among health disparities due to COVID-19 is her top priority in this role. When Aleah is not at school or working, she enjoys playing sports, cooking, and reading non-fiction books. 


Abbey Jinkerson

Abbey Jinkerson, Accounting Analyst

Missouri State University 2023

Master's in Accountancy

Abbey Jinkerson is a graduate student in the Master of Accounting program and is also receiving a Graduate Certificate in Accounting Analytics at Missouri State University. She is currently Accounting Analyst for the Health Disparities Office at the Ozark Public Health Institute. She has previously volunteered as the Vice President of Finance for the Delta Gamma chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi, Philanthropy Chair for Woods House Hall Council, and Vice President of Alumni Relations for Delta Sigma Pi at Missouri State University. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting with a minor in business analytics. Her academic interests include technology in accounting, data visualization, and international and auditing standards of accounting. In her spare time, Abbey enjoys spending time with her friends and family, traveling, baking, and movies.


Carissa Jordan

Carissa Jordan, Project Facilitator

Carissa Jordan, project facilitator for the Ozark Public Health Institute, received her bachelor’s in Social Work from Missouri Southern State University in 2022. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Social Work at Missouri State University. Carissa helps facilitate different contracts within the Health Disparities project. These tasks may include calling counties, sending emails, and talking with other facilitators about successes and challenges within the fund recipients. Carissa stays busy outside of work and school with a farm in Carthage where she raises cows and chickens. She also enjoys the company of her two Australian Shepherd’s Millie and Eve and her two farm cats frosty and Mr. Bigglesworth.


Nagesh Rao Pasyadala

Nagesh Rao Pasyadala, Programmer Analyst

Nagesh Rao Pasyadala joined the Computer Science Department at Missouri State University in the Fall of 2021 as a master’s student. His academic background is in Computer Science. He received a degree from Sri Indu College of Engineering and Technology, India, in 2018.

After his bachelor’s, he started his professional career at Cognizant technology solutions, India. He has three years of work experience; he worked for an insurance client, was involved in all phases of the software development life cycle and has keen knowledge in the domain of data engineering and Amazon Web Service (AWS). Currently, he is working as a Graduate Assistant at Ozark Public Health Institute on the Missouri Health Disparities project. His work as a Business Systems Analyst involves understanding the business flow in the creation of accounts and assigning appropriate roles by Following SDLC for project documentation and following agile methodology.


Paris Shaghaghinia

Parastoo (Paris) Shaghaghinia, Project Facilitator

Parastoo (Paris) Shaghaghinia, Project Facilitator for the Ozark Public Health Institute, is an MBA holder and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Project Management at Missouri State University. She has an eight years’ experience of working as an executive manager and market leader of chemical products in the field of oil and gas in her home country. Paris enjoys being part of big projects, specifically the ones that providing service for the society. She has been involved as a project assistant in such projects since she has migrated to the United States such as: Double Up Food Bucks at Community Partnership of the Ozarks and Health Disparity Program at The Missouri State University, Ozarks Public Health Institute, Health Disparity Program Office. Paris is an environmentalist and self-awareness is her interest area of practice.  She enjoys cooking international cuisines, houseplants, and providing volunteer services to the society.


Quinlyn Whitaker

Quinlyn Whitaker, Project Facilitator

Quinlyn is a graduate student in the Speech-Langue Pathology program at Missouri State University. She currently works as a Project Facilitator at the Ozark Public Health Institute. She received her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University in Communication Sciences and Disorders May of 2022. Her academic interests include cognitive-communication disorders, voice disorders, and special populations. In her spare time, she enjoys running, playing piano, spending time with her husband, and game nights with friends.


Samantha Kollmeyer

Samantha Kollmeyer, Project Facilitator

Samantha Kollmeyer is a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Program at Missouri State University and has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Mizzou. Samantha is currently a graduate assistant at the Ozarks Public Health Institute working as a project facilitator for the MO COVID-19 Health Disparities Grant. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, reading, and spending time with friends and family.


Darrah Phipps 

Darrah Phipps, Tobacco Prevention Program

Darrah Phipps received her bachelor's in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Missouri State University. She is currently undergoing her second year in the Speech-Language Pathology master's program at MSU to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. Darrah is currently a graduate assistant at the Ozarks Public Health Institute, working on the tobacco evaluation contract. She is interested in working with individuals with complex communication needs. Darrah has been involved in many organizations at Missouri State University, with one of her favorites being Bear POWER, a program for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, being outdoors, reading, and learning all about health professions and how they affect local public health.