Research Team

Project Leadership

Gregory G. Homish, PhD

Gregory G. Homish, PhD, is the principal investigator for the Operation: SAFETY (Soldiers And Families Excelling Through the Years) research study. He is an associate professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. Homish also holds appointments in the departments of Family Medicine and Pediatrics in UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

He is trained as a psychiatric epidemiologist and has focused his research on the mental and physical health of couples over time. Homish has been the principal investigator or co-investigator on a variety of studies including intervention trials, large sample survey designs, evaluation and implementation studies, technology transfer studies and epidemiologic studies. He has worked with community samples as well as specialized samples such as firefighters, police officers and military service members. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration and foundations.

Homish serves as the alternate sector leader for the Emergency Mental Health component of Erie County’s (NY) Specialized Medical Assistance Response Team.  He is also a member of a number of professional organizations including the American Public Health Association and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation

Research Team

Mehreen Arif, MPH

Mehreen Arif is a graduate research assistant on Operation: SAFETY and is currently pursuing a PhD in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Mehreen has conducted mental health research on vulnerable populations such as Italian migrants, asylum seekers and Tibetan refugees. She also has experience working as a mental health policy analyst at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). Mehreen's doctoral research interests include examining trauma and substance use disorders amongst military service members in Western New York. Before beginning her PhD, Mehreen obtained a master's degree in public health (MPH) from New York University and a bachelor of science (BS) in biological sciences and English literature from The George Washington University. 

Paul T. Bartone, PhD

Retired Col. Paul T. Bartone, PhD, is a consultant for Operation: SAFETY. He serves currently as senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. Bartone has taught strategic leadership at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, and at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, where he also served as director of the West Point Leader Development Research Center. As a U.S. Army research psychologist, Bartone also served as the consultant to the surgeon general for research psychology, and as the assistant corps chief for Medical Allied Sciences. He is
a past-president of the American Psychological Association’s Division 19, Society for Military Psychology, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, and a charter member of the Association for Psychological Science.

Bartone’s research has focused on understanding and measuring resilient or “hardy” responding to stress, identifying underlying biomarkers for resilience,
and applying this knowledge to improve selection, training and leader development programs. He holds a Top Secret security clearance.

Jennifer Fillo, PhD

Jennifer Fillo, PhD, is a research assistant professor at UB. She holds appointments in the Department of Psychology and Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, and is affiliated with UB’s Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions (CRIA). Fillo is trained as a social psychologist, with expertise in couple-focused methods and the analysis of dyadic and longitudinal data. She completed her postdoctoral training in alcohol etiology and treatment through CRIA’s T32 postdoctoral training program. Fillo is interested in the intersection of individual and interpersonal processes related to stress coping, emotion regulation and health behavior. She is particularly interested in how stressors and trauma experienced during military service influence the health and well-being of service members and their families. Currently, she is principal investigator on a project funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism examining the role romantic partners can play in helping to reduce heavy drinking.

D. Lynn Homish, MS

Project Director

D. Lynn Homish is the project director on Operation: SAFETY. She has served as a project director since the start of the study in June 2013. Homish has directed a number of R01 studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. She has overseen the recruitment, enrollment and longitudinal follow-up of various special populations (e.g., substance using women seeking both inpatient and outpatient care and men with prostate cancer care making a treatment decision) throughout the last 15 years. These studies have included data collections at multiple facilities in the communities as well as a national, multi-site study. Homish has extensive knowledge about training and supervising staff in data collection and research protocol aspects. 

Rachel Hoopsick, PhD, MS, MPH, MCHES

Rachel A. Hoopsick, PhD, MS, MPH, MCHES (she/her) is a co-investigator on Operation: SAFETY. Hoopsick is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research utilizes epidemiologic methods and a socio-ecological lens to understanding risk and resilience for problems with substance use and mental health among populations with high-stress occupations and life circumstances. Her research has primarily focused on military populations, with a particular focus on never-deployed service members and veterans–a population at increased risk for problems with substance use, mental health, and barriers to health care services, yet remains understudied. Hoopsick also has substantial applied epidemiology and evaluation experience in community settings.

Jessica Kulak, PhD

Jessica Kulak, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo. She received her doctoral and MPH degrees from UB in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Previously, Kulak received her master’s degree in school and community mental health counseling from the University of Rochester.

Kulak has published peer-reviewed journal articles on tobacco policies in nursing homes, cessation patterns among African Americans, nicotine content of tobacco products and research guidelines for monitoring the global tobacco use epidemic. Her current research focuses on addictions, including tobacco control efforts for emerging and non-traditional tobacco product use, with an emphasis on relevant policy implications. She is particularly interested in tobacco use among the military and reservists.

Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD

Kenneth E. Leonard, PhD, is a co-investigator on Operation: SAFETY. He is the director of UB’s Research Institute on Addictions and a research professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at UB. Leonard is a licensed clinical psychologist. He has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on clinical, epidemiological and laboratory studies funded by National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. Leonard’s research career has focused on the bidirectional relationships between substance use and social/interpersonal relationships.

Malaiikha McCormick-Cisse, MPH

Mala McCormick-Cisse is a graduate research assistant on Operation: Safety. She received her BS in public health with a minor in biology and MPH from the University at Buffalo. McCormick-Cisse is currently pursuing her doctorate in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Ultimately, her goals are to conduct research on the topics of race and gender stigma as well as incarcerated populations. 

Bonnie M. Vest, PhD

Bonnie M. Vest, PhD is Co-Investigator on Operation: SAFETY. Dr. Vest is a Research Associate Professor in Family Medicine and is trained as a medical anthropologist with experience in ethnographic, qualitative, and health services research. Vest’s past research has focused on the experiences of National Guard soldiers, particularly during times of transition from military to civilian status, and their identity conceptions as citizen-soldiers in the post-9/11 era. Currently, she is examining how social environmental factors impact student veterans' ability to be successful in college. She has also assessed civilian primary care provider's knowledge and attitudes, and confidence in caring for service members, veterans and military family members among their patients. In addition to her research interests in veterans and military service members, Vest has experience with mixed-methods program evaluation of translational research in clinical and community practice settings. 

John M. Violanti, PhD

John M. Violanti, PhD, is a consultant on Operation: SAFETY. He is a research professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. He is a Vietnam-era veteran and has conducted previous research and given presentations to military personnel on issues of deployment, PTSD and suicide.

Violanti has provided leadership and successful completion as principal investigator (PI) on four previous stress-related research projects. He is the PI on a longitudinal follow-up examination of the impact of stress on health and is also working on a project assessing the long-term effects of stress and trauma on police officers who were involved with Hurricane Katrina. 


Operation: SAFETY would like to thank previous staff for their contributions:

  • Mary K. Bennet, MD, FACEP
  • Katelyn Benson, MPH
  • Melissa Cirina, MPH
  • Kristina Cummings, MA
  • Rachel Daws, MSW, MPH
  • Julia Devonish, MD, PhD
  • Meredith Eggert, MPH
  • Aylin Erdogan
  • Mazie Feenstra-Swensen, MPH
  • Jennifer Garcia-Cano
  • Kennedy George
  • Erin Anderson Goodell, PhD, MsC
  • Sarah Cercone Heavey, PhD, MPH
  • Emma Jones, BS, BA
  • Alexandra Kouptsova
  • Carly Nichols, MSW, MPH
  • Eric Read, MPH
  • Celina Rodrigues
  • Deborah Saltino, BS
  • Emily Schaffstall
  • Erika van der Kloet, MPH
  • Natalie Voos