Meet our Femtors

WomenNC understands the power of language.  We are committed to doing our part to de-gender our language.  Thus, while we used to have “fellows,” a gendered term, undergraduate scholars in our leadership training program, we now have “scholars.”

Similarly, while we used to refer professionals who aided our scholars as “mentors,” we now have the social scientists from RTI’s Global Center who work with them as “femtors.” 

We are grateful to RTI’s Global Gender Center for their support of these dedicated professionals, and special thanks to our femtors, who give of their time and expertise to empower the next generation to advance gender equality in North Carolina.
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2021

Wendee Wechsberg, PhD

Director
RTI Global Gender Center; Director of Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program

Wendee Wechsberg, PhD, is the Director of the RTI Global Gender Center and the Director of Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research. She has been an applied community-based and gender NIH researcher since 1994, and has more than 20 years of clinical experience. She has also directed outpatient drug-free, methadone, and residential substance abuse treatment programs. Dr. Wechsberg has devoted her career to applied research, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, to develop and test the efficacy of HIV prevention interventions among different populations of substance abusers, particularly heroin and other opioid users. She has served a s principal investigator/project director on studies with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Wechsberg also serves as a consultant and advisor for various national studies and international studies. She has been conducting international research in South Africa with at-risk substance abusing women since 2001. She has published in the areas of gender and ethnicity, outreach, HIV risk, and women substance abusers. In addition to her role as research director, she also leads the RTI Global Gender Center, which brings together experts across numerous disciplines to improve knowledge, policies, and programs worldwide to reduce gender inequities and disparities

Femtor for the class of:
2018, 2019, 2021
2021

Manisha Dass, MS, BA

Research Public Health Analyst
Quality Measurement and Healthy Policy Program
RTI International

Manisha Dass is a research public health analyst at RTI International. She has a master’s degree in Occupational Science from UNC-Chapel Hill and is pursuing a second master’s degree in Public Administration at UNC-Chapel Hill. With over 5 years of experience as an occupational therapist in a variety of settings (including acute care, skilled nursing facilities, and private practice), she brings a unique clinician’s perspective to her current work at RTI International. She has a strong background in writing, as a journalist and is fluent in four foreign languages. She recently completed a professional work experience with the RTI Global Gender Center where she assisted with communications, managing social media, and planning and executing monthly events. She is passionate about wanting to change the world, one conversation at a time, and is honored to join the RTI Global Gender Center in their dedication to ending gender disparities and inequalities.

Femtor for the class of:
2019, 2021
2021

Erin Dobbins, MA, BS, BFA

Research Public Health Analyst
Quality Measurement and Healthy Policy Program
RTI International

Erin Dobbins is a research public health analyst at RTI International. She received an MA in experimental social psychology where her research focused on health and medical decision making (topics included: posthumous organ donation, body image, as well as primary decision-making research). Erin’s current interests center on the intended and unintended consequences health care policy has on decision making. She is particularly interested in policies pertaining to quality and value and the intersection of physical and behavioral health care. Because these complex questions are best answered using mixed-method approaches, Erin has cultivated skills in both qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition to her primary areas of interest, Erin has graduate and undergraduate level experience with functional neuro anatomy which informs how she conceptualizes the impact of social and structural systems on human behavior. Erin favors creatively disruptive approaches to problem solving, often seeing patterns that others miss. She strives for continuous improvement in the research process by challenging the status quo.

Femtor for the class of:
2019, 2021
2021

Julia Brinton, MA

Research Public Health Analyst
Youth, Violence Prevention and Community Justice Program
RTI International

Julia Brinton is a research public health analyst in RTI International’s Applied Justice Research Division. Ms. Brinton has 7 years of experience in research design, literature reviews, contract and grant writing, manuscript and report preparation, survey implementation, large-scale and school-based data collection, project management and project budgeting, statistical analysis, and dissemination of findings. Her research interests include intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, criminal justice involvement, officer health and wellness, school climate and school safety, and training and technical assistance (TTA). Before joining RTI, she was involved in data collection projects at Wake Forest University and North Carolina State University.

Femtor for the class of:
2018, 2019, 2021
2021

Brittni N. Howard, BA

Public Health Analyst
Substance Use, Gender, & Applied Research (SUGAR)
RTI International

Brittni Howard, is a public health analyst in the Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program at RTI International and Coordinator of the RTI Global Gender Center, a cross-institute virtual center comprised of nearly 300 global staff members and external affiliates. She coordinates research and project management activities across several National Institute of Health (NIH) woman-focused HIV prevention projects aimed at empowering women by reducing the syndemics of substance use, sexual risk behaviors, and gender-based violence. Her research interests include reaching adolescent girls and young women and women via new and advancing technologies to improve their access to personal health information and promote positive health behavior change. Further, Ms. Howard has been trained in qualitative data analysis and has most recently published in BMC Public Health, AIDS Care, and Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Femtor for the class of:
2018, 2019, 2021
2021

Felicia A. Browne, ScD, MPH

Research Public Health Analyst
Substance Use, Gender, & Applied Research (SUGAR)
RTI International

Felicia A. Browne is a research public health analyst in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program. Trained as a social epidemiologist, Dr. Browne has more than a decade of experience working on HIV behavioral intervention studies for key populations at risk for HIV in the United States and South Africa. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Browne currently serves as a Multiple Principal Investigator of a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded R01 study in health department clinics in North Carolina that is adapting and testing delivery methods of an HIV behavioral intervention for young African American women who use substances. Additionally, she serves as Principal Investigator of a UNC CFAR-funded implementation science project in collaboration with Mecklenburg County Public Health to reduce HIV disparities in the Carolinas. Dr. Browne is also the Co-Project Director of a NIDA-funded R01 trial in South Africa for female adolescents who are out of school, and a Co-Investigator on two National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded R01 trial in South Africa—including one for women living with HIV. Her research interests include developing and evaluating multi-level HIV behavioral interventions for adolescents and young adults, particularly with the use of mobile technology, and understanding and addressing socioeconomic status as it relates to HIV/STI risk. Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, Dr. Browne’s publications have focused on the systematic adaptation and refinement of HIV behavioral risk reduction interventions, the evaluation of HIV prevention interventions for key populations, health disparities, gender, and alcohol and other drug use.

Femtor for the class of:
2018, 2019, 2021
2021

Kathryn Rourke Batts, PhD, MPE

Research Psychologist
Center for Behavioral Health Epidemiology, Economics, and Treatment Research (BeHEEst)
RTI International

Kathy Batts is a research psychologist in RTI’s Center for Behavioral Health Epidemiology, Economics, and Treatment Research (BeHEEst)with more than 30 years of experience in conducting behavioral health research. Dr. Batts has earned a doctorate in community psychology at North Carolina State University and a master’s in psychiatric epidemiology from the Washington University School of Medicine. She is currently serving as Project Director for a study for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on prenatal and childhood mechanisms of health disparities, and a study director for a clinical validation study of substance use disorders for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Her project experience includes several large national surveys on health care, substance abuse, and mental health, including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Mental Health Surveillance study, the National Study of Americans’ Reactions to September 11th, and the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. She is a co-author of several psychiatric assessment interviews, including the Diagnostic Interview Schedule—Version IV (DIS-IV), and the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DICA) interviews for adolescents (aged 13 to 17) and parents of young children (aged 3 to 7). Dr. Batts has co-authored several articles for peer-reviewed publications, including the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Batts’ research interests include looking at correlates and outcomes of trauma, substance use, substance use, and substance use disorders across gender and racial/ethnic groups.

Femtor for the class of:
2019, 2021
2021

Jackie W. Ndirangu, MSc-GH

Research Public Health Analyst

Substance Use, Gender, & Applied Research (SUGAR)

RTI International

Jackie W. Ndirangu is a research public health analyst in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program. She has a master’s degree in Global Health from Duke University and bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park. Ms. Ndirangu is trained as a public health researcher and her interests are addressing factors that influence disease prevention and health promotion among women in developing countries. She started her field work research in Haiti where she coordinated cervical cancer screening and prevention programs for over 10,000 female patients at four public health clinics. She also helped expand the cervical cancer prevention program into HIV clinics specifically targeting women who engaged in sex work in Haiti and collaborated with the local community and government partners in supporting reproductive health issues. Ms. Ndirangu has also managed and coordinated three National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded R01 studies in South Africa: Combination Prevention for Vulnerable Women in South Africa. The study compared the effects of standard HIV test, treat and retain (TTR) practices with TTR plus an evidence-based, woman-focused enhanced strategy—the Women’s Health CoOp (WHC) intervention targeting hard-to-reach and vulnerable women who use alcohol and other drugs; Implementation Science Research for Vulnerable Women in South Africa. This project sought to implement the WHC in public health clinics and substance abuse treatment centers in Cape Town, South Africa; and currently The PrEPARE Pretoria Project: Prevention, Empowering, and Protecting Young Women in South Africa. This project aims to increase uptake of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and readiness and uptake of PrEP among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged 16 to 24 who engage in high-risk sexual behaviors; and reduce their barriers to accessing SRH services by addressing and reducing stigma and discrimination (S&D) in clinics. Ms. Ndirangu has also helped publish several manuscripts on impact of evidence-based HIV behavioral risk reduction interventions for populations who use substances, who are at risk for or living with HIV in South Africa.

Femtor for the class of:
2019, 2021
2021

Courtney Bonner, PhD

Courtney Peasant Bonner, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program. Her research interests are in primary and secondary HIV prevention. Her professional experiences include conducting community-based participatory research to examine health disparities among vulnerable populations. Currently, her research seeks to understand the impact of the intersection of gender-based violence, substance use, and mental health on sexual risk behavior to reduce health disparities among vulnerable women and children. She also specializes in developing cross-sector collaborations to develop structural and sustainable sexual health interventions.

Femtor for the class of:
2021

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