Who We Are
The EMPOWERR Program is located at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center (NCVC), a division of MUSC's Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. EMPOWERR is funded with a five year grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI). Our goal is to reduce the onset of substance use and prevent the transmission of HIV in minority teens in Charleston County.
Please see the complete list of faculty and staff below.
EMPOWERR Faculty and Staff
Carla Kmett Danielson, PhD
Dr. Danielson is an Assistant Professor and licensed Clinical Psychologist at the NCVC whose clinical and research activities have primarily focused on reducing risk for substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and mental health problems among adolescents. She has been awarded a NIDA K23 grant, a Young Investigator NARSAD Award, and Early Career Investigator Awards from College of Problems of Drug Dependence and NIDA. She oversees all activities of the EMPOWERR Program.
Ben Saunders, PhD
Dr. Saunders is a Professor and the Associate Director of the NCVC. He is a widely published researcher who serves on editorial boards for several journals. In addition, Dr. Saunders was co-coordinator of TF-CBT Web, and served as co-chair of the NCTSN Training Technology Workgroup. He regularly is invited to present at regional, national, and international meetings related to mental health needs of at-risk youth. In addition to assisting Dr. Danielson in overseeing all EMPOWERR activities, Dr. Saunders also supplies expertise in the development of EMPOWERR's web-based services.
Alyssa Rheingold, PhD
Case Manager Co-Director
Dr. Rheingold is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor at the NCVC. Her expertise includes treatment of health-risk and mental health issues as well as the prevention of health risk behavior and interpersonal violence. She is also the Principle Investigator (PI) on a CDC funded grant examining the effectiveness of an abuse-prevention program with child-care professionals. In addition, she is the PI on a VOCA-funded grant examining ways to improve resources for survivors of homicide. She is responsible for overseeing case management services for the EMPOWERR Program as well as assisting in recruiting participating agencies.
Jenna McCauley, PhDDr. McCauley is a licensed clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. McCauley's primary research is focused on substance use disorders, trauma comorbidity, and the development and evaluation of e-health prevention tools. Dr. McCauley was recently awarded an early-career development grant (K12) by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse to conduct research in the area of dissemination and implementation of substance abuse prevention and treatment. In addition, she has been an active Co-Investigator (Co-I) on several federally funded, e-health intervention projects, including a web-based intervention targeting prescription opioid misuse in dental and pain clinics; self-help platforms targeting urban youth with victimization histories; adult and adolescent victims of natural disasters; and prevention of HIV among underrepresented minorities.
Michael de Arellano, PhD
Case Manager Co-Director/ Director of Cultural Competence
Dr. de Arellano is Associate Professor and a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the NCVC. His clinical work and research focus on developing and evaluating treatment services for children from traditionally underserved population groups (e.g., AA, Latino, rural, economically disadvantaged). He is the director and founder of the Community Outreach-Program Esperanza (COPE) Clinic, which provides community-based clinical services, advocacy, and intensive case management to underserved children and families. His current projects include adapting evidence-based interventions for the use with youth from ethnic minority backgrounds. Dr. de Arellano oversees case management and transportation services for the EMPOWERR Program. He is also responsible for ensuring that all staff members remain culturally competent in their interactions with the youth and families being served.
Ken Ruggiero, PhD
Director of Web-Services/ Evaluator
Dr. Ruggiero is an Associate Professor at the NCVC, with a joint faculty appointment at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston. He is well published in the areas of epidemiology of adolescent substance use and health-risk behavior. Currently he is also PI on two NIMH grants and Co-Investigator on three other grants to develop and evaluate Internet-based resources for at-risk populations. Dr. Ruggiero is hands on in the development of EMPOWERR's web-based delivery of programs. He also oversees the evaluation EMPOWERR"S services and data collection.
Tatiana M. Davidson, PhD.
Director of New Media Messaging
Tatiana M. Davidson, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Mental Health Disparities and Diversity Program at the Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Davidson received her BS from the University of Washington and her MA and PhD from Clark University. She completed her internship and NIMH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Dr. Davidson’s research has focused on addressing mental health care disparities by maximizing reach and receipt of evidence-based treatments among traumatic stress and other vulnerable populations through the development, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, technology-based resources. Over the last few years, Dr. Davidson has been involved in a number of federally and internally funded projects focusing on reducing mental health care disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations through the development and evaluation of e/m-health resources as dissemination strategies for evidence-based treatments) and the development of technology-based tools to enhance quality of care in health and mental health care among minority and under-served populations.
April L. Borkman, M. A.
Ms. Borkman is the Program Coordinator for the EMPOWERR Program at NCVC. April has worked for the past six years as a health educator and program coordinator on multiple teen pregnancy prevention programs focusing on minority youth in both Charleston County and Beaufort County. In Beaufort County, she served as co-chair of the Together for Beaufort's Reducing Births to Teens Alliance. She currently serves as a co-chair of the Charleston County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Council. Ms.Borkman is also a trained facilitator of evidence-based interventions. She is responsible for the day to day functions of the EMPOWERR Program.
Nicole Fortune, B.S.
Nicole Fortune is the Health Educator and Social Media Specialist for the EMPOWERR program. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the College of Charleston in 2013. She has experience in writing prevention programs for teen girls and is currently implementing EMPOWERR’s evidence based HIV prevention curricula at both Stall High School and the Department of Juvenile Justice. She has extensive knowledge utilizing multiple new media platforms and is in charge of developing EMPOWERR’s social media presence and creating risk reduction and HIV prevention messaging. Her plans are to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology.
Nicola Thornley, MPH
Emory University Public Health Intern
Nicola is currently obtaining her Master’s in Public Health at Emory University with a focus on Prevention Science. She is works in the planning, execution, and evaluation of social media campaigns to increase awareness of HIV/STD prevention strategies among at-risk minority youth. She assists with the development of message content, creation of visual media, and selection of appropriate social medium. Ultimately, she has the primary responsibility of measuring and reporting outcomes of social media campaigns through the application of analytics tools for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube.
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