Community Engagement – Our Team

The Community Engagement Team strives to foster long-term meaningful relationships with community partner organizations in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Our team collaborates with various types of organizations such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, health and human services agencies, and other education, social services, community, and media organizations.

Community Engagement Team

Tracy Finlayson, PhD

Co-Leader, Community Engagement Team

Dr. Tracy Finlayson is a Professor in Health Management and Policy in the SDSU’s School of Public Health and a Co-Investigator at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health. She is an interdisciplinary health services researcher with training in sociology and social psychology, and mixed methods expertise. Her main research areas are oral health disparities, social determinants of health, access to care for vulnerable populations, health policy, and community-based participatory research (CBPR). Current research projects include collaborations with Innercare, formerly Clínicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc., and the County of San Diego. She also is the Co-Leader of the Community Engagement Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Finlayson’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala, PhD, MPH

Co-Director, SDSU HealthLINK Center
Co-Leader, Community Engagement Team
Co-Leader, Intervention Methods Group

Dr. Guadalupe X. “Suchi” Ayala is a Professor in the School of Public Health at SDSU, Director of the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, Director of the SDSU HealthLINK endowment, and Co-Director of the SDSU HealthLINK Center. Her combination of masters’ degrees in experimental psychology and health promotion and doctoral degree in clinical health psychology reflect her interest in identifying effective solutions for reducing health disparities. Dr. Ayala’s research focuses on the development and adaptation of family and system-based interventions to prevent and control obesity, diabetes and asthma among Latinos and other underserved populations. She co-leads the Administrative and Community Engagement Teams and coordinates transdisciplinary intervention efforts under the Research Infrastructure Team of the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Dr. Ayala’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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Sara Gombatto, PT, PhD

Co-Leader, Research Project: GOALS/Metas
Co-Investigator, Community Engagement Team

Dr. Sara Gombatto is an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at SDSU. Her research is focused on investigating the mechanisms underlying musculoskeletal pain with the goal of developing more targeted interventions for treatment and prevention. As a licensed physical therapist, she has 20 years of experience treating patients with musculoskeletal pain. At the SDSU HealthLINK Center, she co-leads the Research Project: Goal Oriented Activity for Latinos with Spine Pain (GOALS/Metas) to study the efficacy of a culturally adapted tele-rehabilitation program for Latinos with chronic low back and neck pain. She also is a Co-Investigator with the Community Engagement Team.

See Dr. Gombatto’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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Karla Armenta, MPH

Coordinator, Community Engagement Team

Ms. Karla Armenta is the Coordinator of the Community Engagement Team at the SDSU HealthLINK Center. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She facilitates new project development for academic-community partnerships, manages community-engaged research and practice activities, and assists in the development, translation, and adaptation of evidence-based health interventions.

See Ms. Armenta’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) Team

Photo of Dr. Christian B. Ramers

Christian Ramers, MD, MPH, AAHIVS

Medical Director, Laura Rodriguez Research Institute, FHCSD
Adjunct Assistant Professor, SDSU School of Public Health

Dr. Christian Ramers is the Chief of Population Health and Director of Graduate Medical Education at FHCSD, a large Federally Qualified Health Center system serving nearly 200,000 medically underserved individuals throughout San Diego County. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and Addiction Medicine, and is particularly interested in HIV, Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV), and service of medically underserved, immigrant, and refugee populations. He co-chairs the California Chapter of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and has advocated for HIV/HCV care at the state legislative level. He has served as a consultant for Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-sponsored HIV/HBV/HCV educational projects in Asia and Africa. Since 2018, he has served as the Senior Clinical Advisor for the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s Global Hepatitis Program, working to eliminate HBV and HCV in seven partner countries in Asia and Africa.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Ramers has taken on a leadership role in policy, laboratory, public health, research, and clinical response. He is a core member of FHCSD’s COVID-19 Response team, delivering biweekly updates to >200 clinicians and staff. At the regional level, he serves on the county laboratory testing and equity task forces and is a site Principal Investigator for the COVID-19 Prevention Network vaccine research group. He is a member of the national IDSA-CDC clinical call escalation volunteer group. Internationally, he facilitates a Spanish-language COVID-19 virtual community of practice for Latin America, and has presented at an international World Health Organization (WHO) AFRO region webinar on SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

See Dr. Ramer’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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Innercare Team

Sara Sanders

Chief Development Officer, Innercare
Administration for Innercare

Ms. Sara Sanders joined Innercare in January 2016 and is currently the Chief Development Officer for the organization.  Prior to that, Ms. Sanders served as the Executive Director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Imperial Valley for nine years.  She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1999 with a degree in history and has 16 years of experience working in public administration/non-profit management and 12 years of experience working in fund development.  Ms. Sanders provides administrative support on the activities occurring between Innercare and the SDSU HealthLINK Center.

See Ms. Sanders’ profile for details on publications and projects.

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County of San Diego, Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) Team

Jo-Ann Julien, BA, MEd

Workforce Director, Public Health Services, County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency
Community Engagement Core, SDSU HealthLINK Center

Jo-Ann Julien has a bachelor’s degree in communications, a master’s degree in education, and 27 years of experience in public service at the County and Federal levels. She has served as the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) departmental lead for the collaboration with the San Diego State University (SDSU) HealthLINK Center since its inception. Since 2015, Jo-Ann has been leading workforce development efforts within Public Health Services (PHS) to develop the department’s Workforce Development Plan under the leadership of Dr. Wilma Wooten. As Workforce Director, Ms. Julien and her team work collaboratively with PHS leadership, the HHSA Knowledge Center, Human Resources, other local health departments, state, and national partners, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advance workforce development, recruitment, retention, training, foundational capabilities, and public health infrastructure for San Diego’s PHS department. In this capacity, Jo-Ann oversees workforce and public health infrastructure-related grants. Jo-Ann collaborates and coordinates with local schools of public health including SDSU through the Live Well Center for Innovation and Leadership. She also collaborates within PHS by chairing the departmental Training Champions Working Group and coordinating staff training efforts within the department.

See Ms. Julien’s profile for details on publications and projects.

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