Skip to Content

College of Information and Communications

Community Health Workers & Medical Librarians Promoting Health in LGBTQ+ Communities

Our Team

Vanessa Kitzie

Vanessa Kitzie, Principal Investigator

Vanessa Kitzie, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Information Science. Her research and teaching interests include human information behavior (with a focus on information marginalization), gender and sexuality studies, and social justice and diversity in librarianship. She is a recipient of IMLS Early Career Development (2018) and ALA Diversity (2019) grants.

Kitzie’s 2020 iConference paper, which reports on findings from her Early Career Development grant and was written with doctoral students Vera and Wagner, was nominated for the Lee Dirks Best Paper Award. She chairs the School of Information Science’s Research and Doctoral committee and is on the Advocacy and Resources committee of the American Library Association’s Rainbow Roundtable.

Dom Francis

Dom Francis, Co-Investigator

Dom Francis, MPH, is the Training Coordinator for the Center for Community Health Alignment within the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. He brings to the table over four years of nuanced public health experience in areas including fitness, qualitative evaluation, and workforce development.

As the Training Coordinator, Dom’s primary role is to develop curricula and facilitate training for the Center’s anchor initiative, the CHW Institute. Dom also serves as an active member of the South Carolina CHW Association and is a part of its Annual Conference Subcommittee.

Julie Smithwick

Julie Smithwick, Key Personnel

Julie Smithwick, LMSW, CHW, has over twenty-five years of experience working alongside communities and families to find solutions to address health and social inequities. Trained as a Community Health Worker in Ecuador, she is the founder and director of the Arnold School of Public Health Center for Community Health Alignment.

Prior to developing the Center, Smithwick founded and led PASOs, a community-based organization that engages with Latino communities throughout South Carolina utilizing the CHW model. She also helped found the South Carolina CHW Association and is on the Boards of Directors of various organizations including the National Association of Community Health Workers.

Shannon Jones

Shannon Jones

Shannon Jones (she/her/hers) is the Director of Libraries for the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Prior to her arrival at MUSC, Shannon worked as the Associate Director for Research and Education for Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Shannon focuses her research on staff recruitment and retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion in libraries, and leadership in academic health sciences libraries. Shannon is the co-editor of Diversity and Inclusion in Libraries: A Call to Action and Strategies for Success. She holds an MLS from North Carolina Central University and an M.Ed. in Adult Learning from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership at Charleston Southern University.

Andrea Heyward

Andrea Heyward, Key Personnel

Andrea Heyward has over a decade of experience working in the public health and health care sectors providing expertise in areas of community health, adolescent health, maternal and child health, women’s health, rural health and the integration of evidence-based models to include the Community Health Worker (CHW) model.

Andrea completed a Master of Health Science degree in Health Education and Health Communication from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2010. She received additional certification in Health Communication with a focus in social and behavior change communication. Andrea also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Experimental Psychology and minor in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior from the University of South Carolina. She is also a Master Certified Health Education Specialist.

Nick Vera

Nick Vera, Research Assistant

Nick Vera, MLIS, is a Ph.D. student in the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina. His research interests include understanding health and information behaviors of populations living in underserved communities.

Prior to starting his Ph.D., he worked in the low country region of South Carolina with a local nonprofit SC Thrive to provide innovative and collaborative tools to help underserved communities efficiently access quality of life resources. Vera works as a graduate assistant for Kitzie, supporting her grant work.

Travis Wagner

Travis Wagner, Research Assistant

Travis Wagner, MLIS, is a Ph.D. student in the School of Information Science at the University of South Carolina, as well as an instructor in the Women’s and Gender Studies department. Their primary research interests include critical information studies, queer archives, and social advocacy in librarianship.

Their recent publications include articles in Reference Services Review and Open Information Science. Wagner is also the co-creator of the Queer Cola Oral History and Digital Archives Project. They currently work as a Research Assistant on Kitzie’s current Early Career Development grant.


Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke

Dr. Nicole Cooke is the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the USC School of Information Science.  A practicing librarian for 13 years before completing her Ph.D.,  Cooke has experience in public, medical and academic libraries. Cooke’s research and teaching interests include human information behavior, critical cultural information studies, fake news/misinformation/disinformation, and diversity and social justice in librarianship (with an emphasis on infusing them into LIS education and pedagogy).

Greg Green

M. Greg Green

A native of South Carolina, Greg graduated from The Citadel in 2006 with a degree in Psychology. After working 5 years as a Police Officer and Firefighter, he began working in the trade business at FedEx. Greg has been a member of Tau Kappa Phi Inc, a non-profit LGBT Greek lettered organization since 2004. During this time, he helped to maintain a space within Tau Kappa Phi for transgender men, Alpha Omega Kappa Fraternity, Inc. serving as the first president of the organization.

Greg served as a moderator for a transgender support group at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ.  He has been on the board of South Carolina Equality as the chairman of the Trans Action Task Force, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Harriet Hancock Center. 

Greg has spoken in Washington DC with the U.S. Department of Justice ; Federal Bureau of Prisons, Dorn VA Hospital, Federal Correctional Institution; Edgefield, SC, Federation of Families Summer Summit, The International Conference on Stigma, and various other engagements. Greg has recently published his first book, Audacity: Memoirs of Transitioning.

Lindsey Kilgo

Lindsey Kilgo

Lindsey Kilgo is the Director for Access Kershaw. In this role she leads the program in Kershaw County that works to connect individuals with needed resources to enhance overall wellbeing for all residents in the community; with an emphasis on those that are uninsured and underinsured in Kershaw County. Access Kershaw encourages and has created a community-based network of care in an effort to address the uninsured population and be able to provide a centralized resources for those individuals in Kershaw County.

Prior to Access Kershaw, Lindsey worked for the South Carolina Office of Rural Health and led several initiatives to support rural communities to advance health equity. In other roles, Lindsey has the led the Healthy Outcomes Program for Providence Hospitals as the Program Coordinator. In that role, she implemented a program that connects uninsured patients with primary care and addressed many other critical barriers to care. Her professional goal is to provide integrated services through the development of relationships with both, individuals and the community as a whole. Lindsey’s passion for teaching blossomed as a field instructor for the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina. Her guidance has helped numerous social work students. Lindsey also teaches part time, as needed, with the College of Social Work at USC.

Her academic work includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor’s of Science degree, majoring in Social Work, from Western Carolina University.  Her community involvement and love for helping others continues to be her motivation.  She feels an undeniable calling in life to promote the social well-being and social justice for all people through advocacy, education and empowerment. Lindsey lives in Columbia with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

Kamla Devi Sanasi-Bhola

Kamla Sanasi

Kamla Sanasi-Bhola, MD, is a board-certified infectious diseases physician with Prisma Health and an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia, where she serves as associate program director for the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program. She received her medical degree from the University of Guyana in Georgetown, Guyana, South America, and completed her internal medicine residency at Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Following her residency, she completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia.

Dr. Sanasi-Bhola's research interests include HIV prevention with a rural health focus, LGBTQIA+ health care disparities with a focus in transgender health care and advocacy, women’s health, and bone and joint infections. She is actively involved in the education of medical students, nurse practitioner students, residents and fellows.

An attending physician at the Prisma Health Immunology Center, Sanasi-Bhola's patient population includes women with HIV (specifically peri-partum HIV-positive women), transgender, HIV/hepatitis-C co-infected patients, and patients on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). As the director of the South Carolina AIDS Education and Training Center Progam's PrEP telehealth program, she coordinates and executes PrEP technical support and LGBTQIA+ care competency programs for health care providers.

Katrina Seastrunk

Katrina Seastrunk

Katrina Seastrunk is the Senior Manager of Data and Reporting for SC Thrive. Previously, she worked as the Senior Regional Manager supporting SC Thrive’s low county partnerships. Her education includes a BA in Economics from Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

Prior to joining SC Thrive, Katrina worked managing HOAs and worked with the Greater Greensboro Habitat for Humanity as a construction leader, volunteer manager, neighborhood revitalization coordinator and completed two years of AmeriCorps service.

Recently, Katrina sustained her membership with the Junior Service League of Summerville after serving 2.5 years in a leadership capacity. In her free time, Katrina enjoys quilting and knitting, baking, and spending time with her husband, Will, and their two cats.

John Siegel

John Siegel

John Siegel is the Coordinator of Information Literacy at the University of South Carolina Upstate. He serves as liaison and affiliate faculty for the USC Upstate Center for Women's and Gender Studies.

John’s interests include reference services, instruction, outreach, and collection development for LGBTQ+ and diverse populations. He has presented at numerous conferences and co-authored articles on LGBTQ+ information needs at health sciences and academic libraries. 

John earned his Master of Library Science (MLS) at the University of Maryland and received a Master of Education (MEd) in adult and professional learning from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He previously worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Health Sciences Library System at the University of Pittsburgh.

Sharita Sims

Sharita Sims

Sharita Sims, MSW, CHW, is the Community Health Social Worker at Richland Library where she hopes to inspire everyone to question things and think of impossibilities every day.  A University of South Carolina graduate, where she obtained her Master’s degree, has worked in the public health sector for over five years.   

Sharita joined Richland Library in 2016 where she coordinates events and services that provide health related information to library customers.  She helps customers access community services, complete health applications, and understand information from health organizations in relation to Medicare, Medicaid, Benefit Bank, Affordable Care Act  benefits, and Social Security benefits. In addition, Sharita provides staff training and consultation on health related issues for library customers, e.g. coordinating flu  shots clinics, nurse visits, etc. 

Her favorite pastime is reading and she loves The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory and enjoys spending time with family and friends when not working.

Kathia Valverde

Kathia Valverde

Kathia Valverde is originally from Costa Rica and has lived in the United States for over 30 years. She has a BA degree in Accounting and Business Administration, a diploma in English as a Second Language; and two Associate Degrees in Early Childhood and Liberal Arts. S

he has served as an interpreter and translator for South Carolina Department of Social Services, family court, several attorneys, and several medical entities in the state. She is the former Coordinator of the HABLA Project at USC which served the Latinx community of the State with Interpretation and Translations through DSS. Kathia is the State Reproductive Health Coordinator at PASOs for the Latinx community, which is part of a State-wide Initiative that wants to ensure that every person regardless of their ability to pay; have access to receive the contraceptives of their choice.

Her passion and solidarity, advocacy and activism for issues affecting minorities, immigrants, diversity, women rights, LGBTQ+ community; is what inspires her to serve in several counsels, committees, boards such as WGST-Women and Gender Studies, WREN-Women Empowerment Network, Choose Well Initiative and local Schools.

Kathia loves to travel de world, spend time with her family, she is an active yogi, a lover of animals, nature, and her garden.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.