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Health, Engagement, and Research Team
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The Research Team

Ashley Brash

Ashley Profile

Ashley Brash is a senior at West Virginia University. She is a sociology major with minors in women and gender studies, international relations and comparative politics, and political science. Her past research has focused on the language surrounding abortion legislation in West Virginia’s flagship newspaper over the past twenty years. Currently, she is continuing research on the relationship between abortion availability, health, and mortality at the county level. 

Hannah DePoy


Hannah, a first-year medical student at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, grew up in Rockingham County, VA with deep-roots in neighboring Pendleton County, WV. In pursuit of her passions related to health and wellness in rural Appalachia, Hannah attended West Virginia University where she earned a BA degree in biology and minored in sociology.  It was at WVU, specifically in one of Dr. Cossman’s courses, where she became acutely aware of the intimate connection between social wellbeing and physical health. This spurred her involvement in a succession of related sociology courses and projects, and during her gap year, Hannah spent time with the Research Team exploring social determinants of health.  Hannah hopes to use her experiences, and the continued work of the Research Team, in service to her community and future patients. 

Bernard DiGregorio 

Bernie Profile

Bernard is a first year PhD student who is originally from the Pittsburgh area. He received his BA in sociology, with a minor in computer science, from Duquesne University in 2018. His broad interests include, but are not limited to, urban sociology, immigration, racial/ethnic inequality, and crime.

Julie Dudley

Julie Profile

As a Research Coordinator and Clinical Instructor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology within the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Julie develops partnerships across campus and across the state to further research efforts related to health and community development. Her work focuses on increasing funding for applied social science research efforts that respond to the needs of state and local partners and empower communities.

Julie’s experience includes grant writing, program management, coalition development, policy analysis, group facilitation, evaluation, and performance improvement. She served for two years with AmeriCorps then worked for the Florida Department of Health for thirteen years. Her work at the state health office in Florida included administering environmental health and chronic disease prevention programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. She also directed the Florida Department of Health’s statewide wellness initiative that engaged multiple state agencies, foundations, universities, hospitals, community based organizations, city and county governments, and local health departments in efforts to make the healthy choice the easy choice. 

Misty Harris

Mist Profile

Misty grew up in Kansas and received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Kansas, with a focus in Medical Anthropology. Following her undergraduate degree, she was an AmeriCorps HealthCorps volunteer at a free health clinic in Kansas. She went on to obtain her MPH in Population Health from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. During this time, she worked at the county hospital in Cleveland as a research assistant across a range of programs. Through her studies and related experiences, she became increasingly interested in the relationship between inequality and health, which today defines her research agenda. Misty is in her third year of the doctoral program in sociology at WVU and her dissertation focuses on the effects of health and medicine on educational and employment opportunity and attainment among rural Appalachian adolescents.

Erin Hudnall

Erin Profile

Erin is a third year PhD student in sociology. She received a BA in sociology and a BA in psychology from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Erin's interests include prosocial behavior, altruism, and disaster volunteerism. She is also interested in public and community-engaged scholarship. Her current research focuses on the impacts of spontaneous volunteers' motivations and experiences on future volunteerism.

Riley Neff

Riley Profile

Riley grew up in West Virginia and is a second year undergraduate student working to obtain their BA in Sociology, with minors in LGBTQ+ studies and French. Their interests include the sociology of culture, sex and gender, and institutional inequalities in education and health. Riley hopes to use their education and future research to increase understanding in-between different social groups, and to identify inequalities and educate the public about them. They enjoy hiking, diner food, and long talks on the subject of the US foster care system.

AviElle Raymore

AviElle Raymore
AviElle Raymore is an AmeriCorps VISTA in the WVU Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She recently graduated with her PhD in Social Gerontology from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She received her MA in Gerontology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her BA in Anthropology from Brown University. Her research interests include kinship caregiving, aging and health, and rural aging. In her free time, AviElle enjoys reading and dancing.

R. Kyle Saunders


R. Kyle Saunders earned his BA and MA in sociology from West Virginia University in 2014 and 2016, respectively. He is currently pursuing a PhD in sociology at Florida State University. He studies the social and political dimensions of the relationship between sexuality and health, specifically how physical and mental health issues differentially emerge within LGBT subgroups while considering the dynamics of aging and religion. 

Janet Weeks

Janet Profile

Janet A. Weeks is a Health Sociologist and Demographer who received her PhD from Florida State University. Her work broadly focuses on the social determinants of health and mortality, particularly on the impact of stress and health behaviors on health outcomes. She is funded through the CDC for her evaluation work with the West Virginia Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and has published in academic journals including Journal of Aging and Health and Social Science of Medicine. As an AmeriCorps VISTA alumni she is also a strong advocate for community engaged sociology and is currently working on a West Virginia health coalitions database, as well as meeting with state and local stakeholders in West Virginia to build partnerships and work through solutions to improve health outcomes with a particular focus on decreasing mortality from opioids and cancer.

Julia Wolf

Julia Profile

Julia Kay Wolf earned her BA in sociology with a double major in psychology and minors in business management and marketing from Case Western Reserve University in 2015. She earned her MA in sociology from WVU in 2017 and is currently a PhD student in the“community” specialization. Julia has been serving as a managing editor for Population Research and Policy Review since 2016, is the Vice President of SOCA’s Graduate Sociology Association, and is a University Provost Three-Year Graduate Fellow. Her interests are in the spatial distribution of health characteristics and mortality across the United States and the cultural and environmental factors that affect these place-based disparities. Julia is also enhancing her knowledge and skills in quantitative analysis by pursuing a graduate certificate in applied statistics in the WVU Department of Statistics.