Meet the Team

Care and Justice

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Meet the CARE & JUSTICE Study Team


Opeyemi Olabisi, MD, PhD

(Principal Investigator)

Nadine Barrett, PhD


Myles Wolf, MD, MMSc

Chakraborty Hrishikesh, DrPh

Stephanie E. Croall MPH

(Project Manager)

Kenisha Bethea, MPH

Research Program Leader

Somenath Datta, PhD

Senior Research Associate

Theresa Currington

(Clinical Research Coordinator)
Senior Lab Research Analyst

Karen Soldano

(Senior Lab Research Analyst)
Maurice Smith, MA
Maurice Smith, MA
Science Education Senior Clinical Research Coordinator

Azita Sadeghpour, PhD

MS Certified Genetic Counselor

Meet our Community Partners

African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Health Equity Advocates & Liaisons (HEAL) Partnership

Modeled after a partnership between Yale University Medical Center and AME Zion churches in Connecticut, in June 2016 several AME Zion clergy members entered into a partnership with Duke Health as Health Advocates & Liaisons (HEAL).The AME Zion HEAL partnership aims to foster health equity and improve health in the African American community through a partnership designed to build trust and collaboration in order to address disparities, and increase engagement in clinical research. The vision of the partnership among AME Zion churches in North Carolina and Duke Health is to reduce health disparities and improve health in traditionally under-served communities; cultivate trust via dispelling myths and negative perceptions of clinical trials among people of color; increase knowledge in health research; and bridge the gap between medical development and community needs

The AME Zion churches serve as partners, co-learners, and advisors to Duke Health’s research programs to ensure that clinical trials participation accurately reflects the communities of North Carolina. Through combined resources and expertise, the program aims to reduce health disparities and improve health in traditionally underserved communities; cultivate trust via dispelling myths and negative perceptions of clinical trials among people of color; increase knowledge in health research; and bridge the gap between medical development and community needs.
AME Zion churches in North Carolina and Duke Health partnership provides intensive training to AME Zion church clergy on topics such as the importance of clinical research, informed consent, protection of research participants, advances on ethical standards, and research design and methods. Clergy, in turn, use their extensive expertise in cultural knowledge to educate research teams, and provide feedback, and guidance to effectively and respectfully improve population health through research.
This partnership is designed to increase awareness and understanding of clinical research within underrepresented congregations and communities. Having become more aware of the pervasive perceptions, preferences, and attitudes related to clinical research has deepened our understanding of the critical need for our communities to no longer be ‘underrepresented’ in research and underserved in healthcare delivery. This partnership is critical to improving the health of our communities, through awareness, education, trust, and collaboration.
Through this partnership HEAL partners have helped shape clinical research in significant and meaningful ways. HEAL partners are committed to improving population health by diversifying research participation, eliminating health disparities, and advancing health equity.


The AME Zion HEAL Partnership is comprised of 18 clergy representing 16 AME churches across North Carolina.
Leaders of the HEAL Partnership include Reverends Dr. Paul Atlas, Dr. Daran Mitchell, Linda Wharton, Michele Rambert, Sonya Campbell, Dr. Wil Funderburk, Dr. Lisa Caldwell, Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Julian Pridgen, Dr. Paul Murphy, Sylvia Branch, Wilbert Davis, Raymond Mitchell, Dr. Amy Ciceron, Tyrone Rigsby, Ray P. Owens; and Presiding Elders Dr. Orlando Dowdy and Avery Brown.

“We see this partnership as critical to improving the health of our communities, through awareness, education, trust, and collaboration. We, along with our congregants, their families and friends, can partner with Duke, as we build understanding, knowledge of health disparities, kidney disease and the importance and opportunity to participate in clinical research and trials to improve the health of people of African ancestry, today and in generations to come.”

The River Church

Pastor Ronald Godbee

Ronald L. Godbee, author of Why Leaders Fail, serves as the lead pastor of the River church in Durham, North Carolina. Pastor Godbee continues to develop the vision established by his predecessors (Bishop Joby Brady and Pastor Sheryl Brady) of building lives, building loyalty, and building legacy. Since accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, Pastor Godbee has pursued the mandate of God to seek and save souls through the preaching of the gospel. Pastor Godbee’s greatest decision was to first choose Christ and secondly choose Karla Godbee as his wife. They are the proud parents of three lovely children Kindale, Ronald Jr, and Kharrington.

Pastor Godbee brings a wealth of true worship experience connected to an unapologetic love of the Lord from the heart of a servant leader to his newly appointed position as the Lead Pastor of The River church in Durham, North Carolina where he continues to serve God’s people with a humble and submitted heart. Pastor Godbee’s transformative message, passion of worship and love for people has given him the touch of God for these times.

“Dr. Barrett, over the past eight years, our work together has evolved into a true partnership dedicated to understanding and addressing the health needs of our community, which includes and reaches beyond the members of The River Church and into the broader community. The proposed community engagement and outreach model to raise awareness about kidney disease and increase diversity in clinical research participation builds nicely on our ongoing successes, and I am glad to be a partner.”

Community Health Coalition (CHC)

Since 1989, North Carolina’s Community Health Coalition (CHC) has connected passionate leaders and doers in the fields of medicine, education, mental health, faith organizations, law, finance, the military, and social advocacy to achieve one united goal; health equity for EVERYONE, beyond today’s racial and socioeconomic barriers.

Serving Durham County and the surrounding areas, CHC strives to create a society in which all people live healthy, active, and purposedriven lives.

CHC’s main areas of focus include; increasing awareness of diseases and issues like diabetes; hypertension, cancer, insurance issues, and organ and tissue donation; decreasing obesity among minorities within our community; educating the community on the dangers of tobacco and general substance abuse; and highlighting and improving mental health services.

Dr. Ruth Gilliam Phillips, DPM, MS
CHC Executive Director

Dr. Phillips, affectionately called Dr. Ruth, relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2008 from Baltimore, Maryland. Ruth received her Bachelors and Masters degrees at Morgan State University and her Doctorate in Podiatry at the Temple School of Podiatric Medicine.

As Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling Service at North Carolina Central University, Dr. Phillips developed programs, partnered with national organizations, collaborated with fellow campus departments and student groups in an effort to generate change not only for students, but faculty and staff as well.

In 2020, Dr. Ruth was named Executive Director of Community Health Coalition to continue founder Dr. Elaine HartBrothers’ legacy of compassionate and visionary leadership.

In addition to her role at the Community Health Coalition, Dr. Ruth serves on the National Our Health Matters Task Force for Jack and Jill of America Incorporated, the JustusWarren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Governor’s Task Force, the American Heart Association Triangle Board, the American Cancer Society Central and Eastern Northern Carolina Board, the Diabetes Research Foundation Board and the American Cancer Society Advisory Board.

Patient Advisor

Dr. B Angeloe Burch Sr.
Executive Director – African American Dance Ensemble
Executive Secretary / Vice President – Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
(CARE and JUSTICE Patient Advisor)

Dr. Burch currently serves as Executive Director for the African American Dance Ensemble. He is a Member of the NC Museum of Arts Board of Trustees, on the Homeless Services Advisory Committee. A life of service and commitment to the community and to mankind is the most fulfilling thing any person could wish. Dr. Burch is the Board Chair for FCR (Families and Communities Rising, Member of the Access to Care Committee, a member of the National Kidney Foundation, Member of Red Mt. Lodge #468 of the Prince Hall Masons, Holy Royal Arch Masons, Knights Templar, Durham Consistory #218, ZAFA Temple Shriners #176 and many other civic organizations.

As a Patient Advisor and leader within the local community, Dr. Burch aims to create and expand opportunities for outreach and study participation within the community through the Interdenominational Alliance Ministry network of churches across the regions, the Shriners and Masons, Head Start families, and other black serving organizations. Dr. Burch will also provide insights from the patient perspective to support effective engagement with the community.

“This study has great promise to make a difference in addressing an important need in our community and I am thrilled to serve as a community engagement and patient advocate.”

African American Dance Ensemble

The African American Dance Ensemble uses dance and music to bring awareness to the inequities in our community and through ART, create a positive change. The African American Dance Ensemble’s mission is to preserve and share the finest traditions of African and African American dance and music through research, education and entertainment. With the motto, “Peace, love, respect for everybody,” the Ensemble celebrates traditional African culture, aesthetics and values as resources to encourage interracial cooperation and crosscultural understanding.

Towards this end, the Ensemble develops partnerships and collaborations with community programs and resources, conducts residencies and workshops in diverse settings, and offers apprenticeships with emerging performers to enhance their artistic skills and capacities.