Research Team


Carol R. Horowitz, MD, MPH

Dr. Horowitz is Associate Professor of Health Policy and Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and a practicing general internist. With a focus on using Community-Based Participatory Research to address health disparities, she is the Principal Investigator of several NIH funded community-based interventions. She co-founded the Center for Health Equity and Community-Engaged Research, and directs of the East Harlem Partnership for Diabetes Prevention, and the Community Engagement and Research Core for Mount Sinai’s Institutes for Clinical and Translational Sciences. She has implemented numerous community-based health improvement interventions, and mentors students, residents and faculty interested in addressing disparities and partnering with communities on research to improve local health and influence policy. She has an MD from Cornell University, and received an MPH from University of Washington as a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar. Dr. Horowitz is the lead investigator for Project HEED.


Victoria Mayer, MD, MS

Dr. Mayer is an assistant professor in the department of population health science and policy, and in the department of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. Dr. Mayer has an MD degree from New York University, and received a Masters of Science in Health Policy Research from the University of Pennsylvania as a General Medicine Fellow. She completed her residency in internal medicine in the Einstein/Montefiore program in primary care and social internal medicine. She has extensive experience collaborating with community-based organizations in both New York City and Philadelphia. She has experience with qualitative and quantitative research methods, and with conducting evaluations of community-based health interventions.  She will employ her experiences and expertise to provide leadership and oversight to evaluation activities in order to integrate successful evaluation strategies to advance the program’s aims and to assist in dissemination efforts. She is a co-investigator on Project HEED.


Ellen Simon, DSW

Ellen P. Simon is the former executive director of Union Settlement Association, a 118 year old human service agency serving the East Harlem community with effective programs in child care, adult education, after school, meals on wheels, senior services, mental health counseling, and youth development. Prior to joining union in 2000, Dr. Simon was the Director of Patient and Family Services at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian campus. Dr. Simon holds degrees from Simmons college, the University of Chicago and Hunter College School of Social Work. Dr. Simon has served as an investigator on Project HEED to prevent diabetes for the past ten  years.


Guedy Arniella, LCSW

Guedy Arniella is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist with extensive experience working in East and Central Harlem and the South Bronx. She is the Director of Community Health and Outreach at the Institute for Family Health, and is a faculty member of the Harlem Residency in Family Medicine overseeing the residency’s community based organization placements. Ms. Arniella’s focus has always been to help improve the quality of life of those that are at higher risk for or impacted by health problems in multicultural communities. She has been a co-principal investigator on numerous NIH and CDC grants aimed at addressing health disparities and is fluent in Spanish. Guedy is a co-investigator for Project HEED.


Emily Hanlen, MPH, M. Ed

Emily Hanlen is the Program Manager for Project HEED.  She has a Masters in Public Health from New York University and a Masters in Education from Lehman College.  Prior to working on Project HEED, she worked at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center where she supervised the Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Grant.  Prior to her work in public health, she was a middle school teacher in East Harlem.  She lived in South Africa where she studied the efficacy of peer-education HIV prevention education.  She is interested in the impact of social determinants on access to services and  health disparities.


Community Action Board


The East Harlem Partnership for Diabetes Prevention (EHPDP) created the Community Advisory Board (CAB) in 2005 to guide the partnership’s effort to address health disparities in East Harlem. The Community Advisory Board is made up of community leaders who are committed to improving the life of East Harlem residents. They are members of well-known community-based organizations and participate in various projects that aim to end health disparities in East Harlem.

Cesar M. Vasquez, Chair

Cesar M. Vasquez has been a resident of East Harlem, New York for more than 45 years.  He has been employed with the New York City Department of Education for 18 ½ years and is currently a Parent Coordinator.  Mr. Vasquez has been a community volunteer/leader/activist since 1984 when he began as an Auxiliary Police Officer.  He has served on the Community Advisory Board at Metropolitan Hospital Center for 4 years, where he became the Chairperson of the Patient Care Committee.  Mr. Vasquez is currently serving his 16th year as the President of the 23rd Precinct Community Council for the New York City Police Department. Mr. Vasquez has received various awards for his volunteer work, including a Citation from the City Council, various awards from the New York City Police Department and several Congressional Recognitions from the United States House of Representatives.

Carmen Vasquez, Vice-chair

Carmen embraced being a member of Project Heed aware that East Harlem has one of the highest percentage of residents affected with diabetes in the entire country. She believed that at risk participants of the Heed project would educate and encourage individuals to make lifestyle changes that would result in the prevention of diabetes.

Barbara Brenner, DrPH, LMSW

Barbara Brenner, DrPH, LMSW, is the former Director of Community Relations for Mount Sinai Medical Center (1985-2008) and was also an Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is one of the original co-investigators that organized the East Harlem Partnership for Diabetes Prevention and, with the Community Action Board, designed Project HEED.  As Director of Community Relations, she initiated many clinical, educational and research partnerships with community based organizations. She promoted community based participatory research (CBPR) and methods to recruit and retain minority populations in and for studies that seek to lower high rates of chronic disease. She has also served as a PI and co-investigator of several studies in the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center, most recently as Director of the Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) for Growing Up Healthy (“Environmental and Genetic Determinants of Puberty”), a long term cohort study looking at environmental exposures and age of puberty in girls. She is a graduate of Purdue University, has a Masters degree in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College School and a doctorate in Public Health from Columbia University.  She is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Barbdine Dawkins

Barbdine Dawkins has been a member of the East Harlem Partnership for Diabetes Prevention since its inception. She was motivated to join the team after seeing those around her struggle with the personality and lifestyle changes diabetes brought on by diabetes. She is an active member of St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church and the Community Advisory Board at Mount Sinai hospital. Barbdine spends most of her free time with her two granchildren and great-grandchildren. Her passion is traveling and she’s always planning her next adventure.

Carlos Diaz

Charles Cheeseboro

Hello, my name is Charles Cheeseboro and I’m a retired Letter Carrier. Diabetes has a hold on my family, which includes me. For the last 26 years I have been living with diabetes. Since becoming a CAB member, I’ve learned how to better handle my diabetes. For example, eating healthier, taking walks, and riding my bike instead of driving or taking the train or bus. My goal is to help educate those at risk before they end up like me.

Crispin Goytia

Crispin is the Program Manager for Mount Sinai’s Centers for Community and Academic Research Partnerships under the CTSA program working on community engaged research.  She is well versed in diabetes with her father, aunt and husband who suffered with the disease and its complications.  Crispin joined Project HEED since its inception in 2005 as a staff member and in September of 2008 was asked by the CAB to become a board member.   With the fulltime job of parenting and working, Crispin enjoys photography her in spare time.

Johnny Rivera, Harlem RBI

Johnny C. Rivera, Director of Community and Government Affairs, is a proud product of East Harlem who has spent his professional life serving the community. In his role, Johnny engages key constituents to build and strengthen relationships between Harlem RBI and the East Harlem community. Prior to Harlem RBI, Johnny was the Senior Director of Programs at Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Department of Community and Government Affairs and Congressman Charles B. Rangel’s representative in East Harlem, where he was the Director of Operations for four years. Johnny also partnered with philanthropist Eugene Lang to create the “I Have a Dream” Program, which provided graduates of PS 121 with college tuition and enrichment programming.

Jose Martin Orduña, East Harlem HIV Network

Martin has been a member of Project HEED since its creation. An avid bike rider and long-time resident imported from Mexico, Martin has always been involved in the well-being of EL Barrio, its residents and the community as a whole. He has been involved in HIV/AIDS prevention, service delivery and advocacy. He has also been involved with Community Board 11, where for a long time he has been a part of the solution to many issues related to health, housing and economic development in the community.

Mali Trilla, Settlement Health

Maria Alejandro, Union Settlement Association Senior Services

Maria Alejandro is the Director of Senior Services at Union Settlement, which provides nutrition, education, recreation, transportation, and benefits and entitlements to the elderly Community of East Harlem. She joined Project HEED CAB in 2003 after seeing many of her loved ones fall ill to diabetes. Her main interest in diabetes prevention is bringing healthier foods to East Harlem. In her spare time, Maria likes to take long walks with her two dogs, Blacky and Browny.

Maritza Owens, Harvest Home Farmer’s Market

Maritza is the Chief Executive Officer of Harvest Home Farmer’s Market, a local non-profit organization that provides low-income communities with access to farm fresh local produce and the education to achieve healthier lifestyles. For more than 15 years she has been involved in some aspect of community-based planning, advocacy, environmental justice, and economic development related to public health issues. She has held managerial positions with the National Kidney Foundation, North General Hospital, and Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council. She has been a member of the partnership since the beginning and is also a member of the board for the Hot Bread Kitchen. She has been featured in several print, online and broadcast publications.

Mimsie Robinson, Bethel Gospel Assembly

Mimsie Robinson serves as the foreign missions and local outreach minister of Bethel Gospel Assembly in East Harlem.  As a founding member of Project HEED, he has a long-standing interest in diabetes prevention which began with concerns for the well-being of his family and the members of his church.  Mimsie is also a member of the community advisory boards of the Mount Sinai Hospital and the Center for Community and Academic Research Partnerships (CCARP).  He and his wife, Beverly, have two young adult children, Michelle and David.

Sandra Talevera,LMSW, Senior Health Partners

Sandra Talavera has over 30 years of managerial, program and staff development experience in the fields of managed long term care and aging. Her commitment to quality services and community empowerment has been driven by her personal and professional social work ethics and volunteerism.   As a resident of East Harlem, Sandra is strongly committed to addressing health disparities as a member of various Boards, the East Harlem Partnership for Diabetes Prevention CAB and as caregiver of her diabetic mother.

Susanne LaChapelle, Little Sisters of the Assumption

My interest in preventing diabetes was firmly triggered when I saw more and more adult amputees in wheel chairs, on the streets in East Harlem. At about the same time this came to my awareness, data was published showing that East Harlem had the highest rate of amputations in the City for diabetics. Then I heard about Project HEED, and decided I wanted to give energy to helping people get control of their diabetes BEFORE this happens. I am a community health nurse with the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service. We offer assistance to people on a preventative level, to control excessive weight gain, as well as nursing intervention to those who are learning to manage their diabetes. In my free time I enjoy music and reading.

Thomas Vance, Boriken Neighborhood Health Center