Meet Our LEND Trainees | UC Davis MIND Institute

Leadership Education

Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities

Meet Our Trainees

Long Term Trainees

Aurora Azevedo

Aurora Azevedo, M.S. is a speech-language pathology clinical fellow who recently graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center. She has a specific interest in patient advocacy and interdisciplinary practice. Her recent involvement was conducting assessment and intervention at an Applied Behavior Analysis clinic for young children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities populations. Her future aspirations include working as a patient advocate for adult and geriatric populations with neurodevelopmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.

Ayanna Fabio

I am a mother of 5 with a daughter with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. I have over 20 years of experience supporting other parents navigate systems of care. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from California State University Sacramento and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education with concentration in Trauma Studies from Pacific Oaks College. I have a strong passion for the Early Learning population and supporting parents with Early Intervention Services. I am excited to be participating in the UC Davis LEND program and look forward to learning more about girls with Autism and learning ways to bring awareness to the intersectionality of culture, race and gender when accessing and navigating needed services.

Gospel Kim

Gospel is an ARTP/LEND Postdoctoral Fellow at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She is interested in building collaborative partnerships with families of young children with autism or with a high likelihood of developing autism in order to support their social communication development. For the past 13 years, she has worked as an early childhood special educator in the classroom and as a behavior therapist in clinical and community-based settings. She is excited to learn more about community-based research and disseminating evidence-based practices to improve the lives of "all" children and their families.

Jasmine Bugarin Esparza

My name is Jasmine Bugarin Esparza. I am a second-year MSW Student specializing in Health & Aging, locally at the California State University of Sacramento. I have provided services for children and families in various settings and have found it to be very rewarding. At the MIND Institute my goal is to learn more about neurodevelopmental disabilities and to ensure the quality of service. I have a special interest in working with Spanish-speaking families to conduct research on patient satisfaction and parent empowerment.

Jennifer Kyu

I graduated from the University of Florida as a Microbiology and Music double major. I'm currently applying to medical school with interests in pediatrics and psychiatry. I am an older sister to my brother who was Partial Trisomy 13. I joined LEND with the goals of learning effective ways to support individuals with disabilities and improving health literacy about disabilities in communities.

Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a postdoctoral fellow at the UC Davis MIND Institute and LEND Program. She recently graduated with her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and completed her predoctoral internship at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Her clinical interests include providing mental health services (e.g., treatment, assessment, consultation) with an interdisciplinary team for neurodivergent youth with internalizing behaviors, particularly in AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander) families. She is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in her clinical work and professional environment as she strives to self-educate, advocate, and empower youth from historically underrepresented populations. She is excited to participate in the LEND Program and learn from faculty and colleagues from various disciplines to help her strive towards this goal. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing the piano, and cooking.

Julie Law

Julie Law is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellow at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She studied architecture at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, then eventually transitioned into health care. She graduated from OHSU School of Medicine in Portland OR in 2010 and UC Davis Pediatrics Residency in 2013. From 2013 to 2023, she was a general pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Rancho Cordova where she loved working with children, families, colleagues and community partners. She is especially interested in areas of early childhood development, maternal-infant attachment, resilience, social determinants of health and prevention of child maltreatment. She enjoys camping and traveling with husband Albert, Grace (7) and Brian (5), reading and being together with family and friends.

Kristiana Lehn

Kristiana Lehn is currently a second year Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow at the University of California Davis. She studied psychology at the University of San Diego and medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her Adult Psychiatry residency at the University of California San Francisco before returning to Sacramento to complete her training to work with children and adolescents. Her areas of interest include maternal child health, collaborative care, education and advocacy.

Lisa Kain

Lisa Kain is a self-advocate and parent of two children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She volunteers with Autism Speaks to advocate for policy initiatives at the federal level. Lisa is especially interested in the genetics of neurodevelopmental disabilities including the risk factors from prenatal complications or preterm birth and gender or racial disparities in the diagnosis of individuals with complex cases.

Maria Solis

Maria Solis has been serving individuals with developmental disabilities and/or emotional/behavioral conditions and their families since 2003. Her research interests include client-centered Applied Behavior Analysis treatment, ethics, and equitable access to quality services. Maria is the founder and lead executive of the Sasaki Behavioral Group (formerly known as the Reilly Behavioral Group), where she is committed to maintaining a work-life balance and high quality of life for her team and the clients they serve.

Melissa Mello

Mel is a postdoctoral fellow with LEND and the UC Davis MIND Institute. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and completed a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology. She has been working with young children and families affected by autism for the past 16 years. She is passionate about providing high quality, evidence based and equitable treatment to all families. Her areas of interest include early intervention and making this treatment more available and accessible to families regardless of location or social economic status.

Rico A. Harris

Rico A. Harris has a decade and a half of experience in the human service field. He has been impactful and inspiring in roles, as a K-12 teacher in the Boston public schools, a dedicated care provider for emotionally challenged children, neurodiverse and physically challenged adults, as well as an art instructor at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Rico's dedication to both design and education continues to shine.

In addition, Rico is an accomplished Product Designer (physical/digital). Recently receiving a USPTO Patent and other awards for digital design excellence. He holds a master's degree in textile design from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where he was recognized as a president's scholar. He has also earned a diploma in fine arts from the School of The Museum of Fine Arts and a bachelor's degree in fine arts in education, with a focus on k-8 art education, from Tufts University. He also loves being outdoors, admiring and experiencing nature.

Roman Tawakol

I am Roman Tawakol. I am originally from Afghanistan and worked as a former medical doctor there. Currently, I am trying to pursue a US medical license. My interest in LEND comes from my experience working with neurodiverse kids and families. I am passionate about learning more and improving my clinical skills. My main goal is to share positive collaboration and support the neurodiverse community.

Tonya Piergies

Tonya Piergies (she/her) is a third-year Developmental Psychology Ph.D. student in the Miller Lab at UC Davis. Her research interests are focused on social communication and self-regulation development from infancy through the preschool period among children at increased likelihood for autism and ADHD. As a LEND trainee, she hopes to broaden her perspectives of clinical practice, community partnership, and advocacy/policy initiatives as they relate to individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Medium Term Trainees

Aminath Fazna

Aminath Fazna is a Maldivian, Developmental Pediatric Fellow who have joined UC Davis MIND Institute for her final year of Developmental Pediatric Training. She studied from University of Kebangsan Malaysia and during her first two years of training in Malaysia, she was managing children with Autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disability and other developmental delays brought on by prematurity, Cerebral Palsy and numerous genetic abnormalities including Down Syndrome. She is curious to learn more about the early identification of developmental disorders through assessment and diagnostics. Her main aim is to provide early intervention to children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Autumn Miller

Autumn Miller is a doctoral student at Alliant International University, an APA accredited Clinical Psychology Program. She completed previous practicum experiences with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UC Davis Medical Center and with the UC Davis Early Psychosis Clinic (SacEDAPT). Autumn has also worked as a research assistant in the Attention, Impulsivity, and Regulation lab at the MIND Institute and as a Mental Health Worker in the UC Davis Emergency Department. She is interested in neurocognitive and neurodevelopmental conditions across the lifespan.

Christie Hydar

I am currently a second-year at CSU Sacramento's Doctor of Physical Therapy program. I earned my B.S. in Kinesiology Pre-Physical Therapy from San Diego State University. During this time, I worked at a neurodevelopmental clinic where I witnessed a diverse patient population and treatment methods. I want to continue to learn about this population, pediatric care, and developmental disabilities. I hope to gain insight from other healthcare providers.

Ellyn Landreth

Ellyn Landreth is a Neurodivergent Special Education Teacher and School Social Worker who works with students with significant mental health needs. Ellyn has many past accomplishments including graduating from Cal Poly Humbolt with a M.S. Kinesiology/ Adapted P.E. and MSW/PPSC in Social Work. She developed a secondary school program for the Davis Joint Unified School District that includes a Horticultural Therapy program and Compassion Garden for students with internalizing emotional disabilities. Ellyn additionally taught in Trinity and Los Angeles Counties, worked at a trained Historical Archeologist in Cultural Institutions, Museums, and Community Groups, and owned an event planning/design business in Los Angeles that helped train youth in event planning.

She is currently working on an Administration credential and will be completing a M.A. in Special Education next year at Cal Poly Humboldt. Through these programs Ellyn is researching how physical movement and healing modalities (Art, Nature, Yoga, Meditation, and Ancient Healing Techniques) can support youth experiencing mental illness. She is also working on her certification to become a White-Water Guide and Nature Based Therapist. It is her plan in the future to start a Nature Based Educational Therapy practice for Neurodivergent Individuals and their families. Ellyn is a lover of all things aquatic and avid gardener, and she embraces any opportunity to combine her love of culture, history, art, travel, and working with youth.

Emily Pompan

Emily Pompan is a clinical psychology intern at the UC Davis MIND Institute. She is a doctoral candidate in School Psychology and completed her master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Oregon. Emily is passionate about fostering equity and inclusion for neurodivergent individuals in school and community settings. She is interested in evidence-based practices for evaluation and intervention which aim to support children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families achieve their goals.

Isha Hammad

My name is Isha Hammad. I am completing my doctoral degree in the School Psychology program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I am currently a clinical psychology intern on the Child Maltreatment and Neurodevelopment track (CMN) at the UC Davis MIND Institute and CAARE Center. I am passionate about providing early evaluations and evidence based treatments for neurodiverse children within a trauma informed context. My responsibilities include providing PC-CARE (Parent-Child Therapy) and Infant Mental Health therapy for caregivers and their children with behavioral challenges and/or trauma histories. Additionally, I conduct developmental evaluations for infants and toddlers and evaluate young children that have neurodevelopmental concerns.

Jenna Mitchell

I'm Jenna, a graduate student at Sacramento State University, currently pursuing a degree in physical therapy. I have a deep passion for improving the lives of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families, which has led me to join the LEND program at UC Davis. As a mother to a vibrant 4-year-old girl, I understand the importance of compassionate integrated care for children and their families. My background is in teaching yoga and mindfulness to children, including those with special needs. I look forward to the opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning from everyone involved.

Jenna Sandler

Jenna Sandler earned her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Linguistics from Brandeis University. Currently, she is a Junior Specialist at the UC Davis MIND Institute, where she works with Meghan Miller. Her research interests include the early detection of autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disabilities, the impact of socio-cultural factors such as gender in the expression and diagnosis of these conditions, and social communication development. She is passionate about supporting neurodivergent individuals and their families and helping to achieve equitable access to services across the lifespan.

Katerina Rose Vo

Katerina Rose Vo is an AuDHD Psy.D. student and registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente. She graduated with A.A., B.S., M.B.A., MHL, and BSN degrees and will attend her alma mater for the DNP-FNP program. Katerina intends to specialize in providing accessible diagnoses to adolescents and young adults with neurodevelopmental and other disorders by representing lived experience in clinical practice.

Liz Rodgers

Liz Rodgers is employed as the Autism Specialist and Person Centered Thinking Mentor Trainer at Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center. She has devoted her work to training, outreach, and supporting individuals with autism and their families. Liz is passionate about learning and sharing current information, resources, and interventions within marginalized communities. She continues to do extensive work in the area of equity among diverse cultures. Her philosophy is that all people deserve a life of purpose and meaning, and to have a voice in all spaces.

Melissa Kovar

Melissa Kovar is currently a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at CSU Sacramento. She received her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in physiology from CSU San Marcos. Melissa is looking forward to learning more about children with autism, as her experience thus far has been primarily geriatrics and student athletes. She also looks forward to working within an interdisciplinary team and truly learning the strengths of each profession.

Noren Robinson

Noren Robinson is a second-year student in the Master’s Entry of Nursing program at UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. She previously attended UC Davis where she earned a Single Subject Teaching Credential in Mathematics, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and minor in Music. She is a proud mom to a neurodivergent daughter (age 6). In addition to being a parent advocate, she hopes to identify barriers to nursing care of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities in order to provide nursing support that maximizes their health outcomes. She is beyond grateful for the opportunity to learn from those at the world-renowned UC Davis MIND Institute.

Susana Mateos

Susana Mateos is currently a second-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at CSU Sacramento. She earned her B.S. in Exercise Biology from UC Davis in 2017, and she has since had the opportunity to work with children with autism and other developmental disabilities through academic tutoring and through volunteering at an outpatient pediatric clinic specializing in occupational, physical, and speech and language therapies. She hopes to gain knowledge of interdisciplinary care for this population and how to best support these patients and their families throughout her career.

Teryn Heckers

Teryn Heckers is currently in graduate school pursuing a master's degree in social work. They intend to pursue a career as a school social worker with a special emphasis on making schools safe for students who identify as neurodivergent and/or queer. Teryn previously worked at the UC Davis MIND Institute doing recruitment for multiple studies about autism and also co-founded NeuroTeens, a social support group for female and non-binary teens who identify as neurodivergent.

Tracy de los Santos

Tracy de los Santos is a third-year medical student at the University of California, Davis – School of Medicine. She has a younger brother with autism and intellectual disability who inspired her interest in neurodevelopmental disorders. Before attending medical school, she worked as a Psychometrist at the UCLA CAN Clinic and CART Center for five where she conducted developmental, cognitive, and gold standard autism assessments. Her experience there solidified her interest in medicine with the goal of helping individuals with special needs and their families.