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Distinguished professor, two assistant professors join faculty

The UNC School of Social Work is thrilled to welcome Wallace H. Kuralt Distinguished Professor Ding-Geng (Din) Chen and new Assistant Professors Rainier Masa and Latoya Small.

Professor Din Chen, Ph.D., received his doctoral degree in Statistics from University of Guelph (Canada) in 1995. Chen comes to us after serving as a professor of biostatistics at the School of Nursing and professor of biostatistics in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester. Before this, he was the Karl E. Peace Endowed Eminent Scholar Chair in Biostatistics from the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University. His research is mainly focused on developing biostatistical methods and their applications to clinical trials, public health and nursing research. Chen has more than 100 referred professional publications and co-authored five books. He has completed several NIH projects in biostatistical methods development, and has a 5-year NIH R01 project funded until 2018 to develop a cusp catastrophe model for social and behavioral research.

Assistant Professor Rainier Masa, MSW, Ph.D., graduated from our School’s doctoral program this year, with a research focus on economic and social determinants of health, including on food insecurity, sexual-risk taking, and HIV care continuum in resource-limited settings. He has broad and in-depth research and evaluation experience with a focus on developing and testing economic strengthening interventions to foster positive health outcomes. His dissertation, funded by the UNC School of Social Work’s Armfield-Reeves Innovation Fund, examined the relationship between food insecurity and antiretroviral therapy adherence among people living with HIV in rural Zambia. His work is informed by a strong practice and research background in program management and global social development. Prior to starting his doctoral education, he worked for seven years in for-profit business and non-profit research settings. Post-MSW, he worked for two years as the international project manager at the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at the School of Social Work, teaching poverty policy.

Assistant Professor Latoya Small, MSW, Ph.D., received her doctoral degree this year from New York University Silver School of Social Work, and her MSW from the University of Southern California. She is a clinical social worker and community-­based researcher, both locally and globally. Her research focuses on health disparities related to HIV/AIDS, mental health, and behavioral health, within the context of poverty. She examines the specific needs and resources available to seropositive low-income women and children of color in the United States and South Africa. The objective is to inform the rapid translation of research outcomes that integrate health and mental health service delivery, thereby improving the lives of poverty-impacted women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Small began her social work practice working with children and families in community-­based organizations located primarily in Los Angeles, California. Furthermore, she worked with adults in a psychiatric forensic unit providing integrated health services.