Scientific Advisory Committee

Gramercy Research Group is supported by a Scientific Advisory Committee that includes senior-level researchers. Members of the committee provide insight and expertise regarding our scientific direction; assist with grant preparation; and participate in projects with us as consultants and through subcontracts as needed. Scientific Advisory Committee members serve for three-year terms. Our current Scientific Advisory Committee members include:

Alice S. Ammerman, Dr. P.H.

Dr. Ammerman is a professor in the Department of Nutrition and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Ammerman’s research interests include design and testing of innovative clinical and community-based nutrition and physical activity intervention approaches for chronic disease risk reduction in primarily low income and minority populations. Dr. Ammerman has strong research and practice collaborations across the state of North Carolina addressing childhood obesity and was appointed by the lieutenant governor to serve on the Childhood Obesity Study Committee, charged with recommending legislative action around childhood obesity. She is also principal investigator of the Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation, charged with identification, translation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions for obesity and cardiovascular disease control and prevention. More recent research interests focus on school nutrition policy associated with childhood obesity, sustainable agriculture as it relates to improved nutrition, and social entrepreneurship as a sustainable approach to addressing public health concerns.

Njeri Karanja, Ph.D.

Dr. Karanja is a senior investigator at the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Karanja’s primary area of research is nutrition and chronic disease prevention, with a special focus on minority populations. While at the CHR, she has been an investigator in a number of clinical trials designed to test the efficacy of various dietary strategies on blood pressure reduction. The most notable of these is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension study (DASH), funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. DASH compared a diet that was high in fruits and vegetables, and low in fat to a typical American diet with a diet only high in fruits and vegetables. The DASH diet lowered blood pressure to the same extent as medication. Dr Karanja is the principal investigator of the Portland WINS clinical center. WINS is a clinical trial to determine the efficacy of dietary fat reduction in addition to systemic adjuvant therapy in the management of patients with invasive breast cancer. Dr. Karanja is also exploring the possibility of delivering cancer preventive strategies in an HMO setting. This study uses a computerized, touch-screen system to assess dietary intake, which is then used by health care professionals to deliver short-targeted messages to the patient in primary care settings. Dr. Karanja’s other research interests include exploring ways to improve minority access to preventive services and the feasibility challenges of placing such services in minority communities. Dr. Karanja received an M.S. in human nutrition and food service management in 1980 and a Ph.D. in 1984 in human nutrition from the University of Nebraska. She is a research associate professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology/metabolism and clinical nutrition at Oregon Health Sciences University. While an assistant professor at OHSU, she worked with animal models of hypertension to develop and test the effect of various nutrients on blood pressure reduction.

Joanne Banks, RN, Ph.D.

Dr. Banks is an associate professor in the Division of Nursing at Winston-Salem State University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Her research interests include development of contextually consistent, culture-based interventions to promote health behavior change among women and community based interventions to decrease cardiovascular risks among African American women.  Dr. Banks’ current work is focused on development and testing of storytelling as a central component of a group level intervention to promote walking for exercise among hypertensive, sedentary African American women. Dr. Banks also instructs and advises students in the area of community-based nursing at Winston-Salem State University.

Bettina M. Beech, Dr. P.H., M.P.H.

Dr. Beech is a professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy in the Division of Public Sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Dr. Beech is also co-director of the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, also at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Dr. Beech has a unique interdisciplinary background that integrates public health, cancer prevention and control, health disparities, nutrition, obesity prevention and treatment, epidemiology, and children’s health issues. Her current studies involve the development and evaluation of interventions to prevent or treat childhood obesity in primary care and community-based settings, particularly among African Americans.


Community Advisory Board

Gramercy Research Group benefits from the expertise of community members who serve on our Community Advisory Board and as paid consultants or staff on funded research projects. Community Advisory Board members are carefully selected based on their areas of expertise (e.g., ministry, community health worker, Health Ministry Institute participant, public school staff, afterschool care staff, service providers, service recipients). The size of the Community Advisory Board ranges from 5 to 10 members and meets on an as-needed basis.