Key Staff

The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research, education and advocacy organization that promotes the health and safety of adults and children. The key staff of the National Center for Health Research also manage the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.

Diana Zuckerman, PhD, President

Diana Zuckerman received her PhD in psychology from Ohio State University and was a post-doctoral fellow in epidemiology and public health at Yale Medical School. She started her career on the faculty of Vassar College and then directed a research project on children as a faculty member at Yale University.

After a post-doctoral training at Yale Medical School, she took a position at Harvard directing a groundbreaking research study of college students. Dr. Zuckerman left her academic career in 1983 to come to Washington, D.C. as a Congressional Science Fellow in a program run by the American Association of the Advancement of Science. After spending the year as a staff member in the House of Representatives, she spent the next ten years working as a Congressional staffer in the House and Senate and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, working to improve federal health programs and policies for adults and children. She initiated highly influential Congressional hearings on a wide range of health issues, including cancer prevention and treatment and the safety of medical products.

In 1995, Dr. Zuckerman served as a senior policy advisor in the White House, working for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Since 1996, she has served in leadership positions at numerous nonprofit organizations and has been in her current position at NCHR since 1999.

While in her current position, Dr. Zuckerman was a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics for several years. She is currently on the Board of Directors of two nonprofit organizations – the Congressionally mandated Reagan Udall Foundation and the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. She was previously the chair of the Women’s Health Promotion Council, appointed by the Governor of Maryland.

Dr. Zuckerman is the author of five books, several book chapters, dozens of articles in medical and academic journals, and in newspapers across the country. Her policy work has resulted in news coverage on all the major TV networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, public television, “60 Minutes,” “20/20,” “Voice of America,” National Public Radio, and in major U.S. print media such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, New York Daily News, Newsweek, Time, U.S. News and World Report, Family Circle, New Yorker, Glamour, Self, as well as many other newspapers, magazines, and radio programs.

She is the proud mother of two adult children.

Jack Mitchell, Director of Health Policy Jack Mitchell, Director of Health Policy

Jack Mitchell is responsible for health policy issues of importance to the Center, particularly regarding the quality of medical care. He provides research-based information regarding health policy issues to nonprofit organizations representing patients, consumers, and providers, as well as to legislators and their staff. He represents the Center at meetings with officials and staff from agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also works with the media and coordinates the health policy activities of the Patient and Consumer Coalition.

Prior to joining NCHR in 2016, Jack has had a broad range of experience working on behalf of public health and science policy, Congressional oversight, and journalism. At FDA, he directed the Commissioner’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which had a key role in the agency’s landmark efforts to regulate the tobacco industry. At HHS, Jack held a senior legislative position in the Office of the Secretary whose responsibilities included managing all Departmental oversight responses to Congress. At the National Science Foundation (NSF), he was as the Director’s Senior Advisor and chief inter-agency liaison whose duties included serving as Executive Secretary of the White House Committee on Science. For more than a decade, Mitchell was chief investigator for two Senate Committees, the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. His Congressional oversight work on health and medical issues laid the foundation for the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act” transparency regulation, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior to his government work, he was an on-air CNN Washington correspondent and has authored two books on presidential and electoral history.

Jack is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. He can be reached at

StStephanie Fox-Rawlings, Ph.D., Senior Fellowephanie Fox-Rawlings, PhD, Senior Fellow

Stephanie Fox-Rawlings is a senior fellow, focusing on health and policy issues related to brain development and function across the lifespan. Prior to joining the NCHR, she conducted basic and early translational research on developmental neuroscience.

Dr. Fox-Rawlings received her PhD from Case Western Reserve University in Neurosciences, where her work focused on the genes regulating the maturation of serotonergic neurons. During her postdoctoral work at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, she studied how the brain repairs itself following injury in a model of very preterm birth. She earned her BS degree at Kansas State University in Biology and Psychology.

She can be reached at

Megan Polanin, PhD, Senior FellowMegan Polanin, Ph.D., Senior Fellow

As a Senior Fellow, Dr. Polanin works on NCHR’s Patient Advocate Training Project and manages the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Project. Her work focuses on empowering and training patients so that they have the information they need to improve the quality of their health care and mental health care. Prior to joining NCHR in 2016, Dr. Polanin worked with children and families as a therapist, assessor, behavioral health consultant, and preventionist within the mental health field. She specializes in evidence-based mental health interventions, school- and community-based prevention programming, and multicultural education.

Dr. Polanin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington, D.C. She received her PhD in Counseling Psychology and MA in Community Counseling from Loyola University Chicago and BA in Psychology and Spanish from Butler University. She completed her postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

She may be reached at


Alex Pew, BS, Special Assistant to the President

Alex Pew is the Special Assistant to the President at NCHR. She is responsible for gathering research; writing articles for our websites and newsletters; and managing NCHR’s social media presence, digital outreach, and general program support. Prior to joining NCHR, Alex received her Bachelors of Science in Biology of Global Health with a minor in Government from Georgetown University. While at Georgetown, she worked as a legislative and health policy intern at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), served as a Teaching Assistant for global health courses, and was the president of the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Georgetown University.

Farzana Akkas, BSC, MSC, Research and Public Health FellowFarzana Akkas, BSC, MSC, Research and Public Health Fellow

Farzana Akkas is a research and public health fellow, focusing mainly on the NCHR Affordable Care Act (ACA) project, assisting with the health hotline, and also working on our survey of Essure patients. Prior to joining NCHR, she was an intern at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, supporting the international grants team. She has an MSc in Health Promotion and Public Health and a BSc. in Biomedical Science from universities in London, where she also interned and worked for the largest voluntary sector provider of HIV and sexual health services in the UK, the Terrence Higgins Trust.


Summer 2018 Interns

  • Elina Mir (George Washington University ’18, Master of Public Health concentrating in Health Policy)
  • Alice Langford (University of California, Berkeley ’19, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Human Rights)
  • John-Anthony Fraga (Yale University ’19, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology)
  • Lauren Cronin (Tulane University ’19, Masters of Public Health concentrating in Epidemiology)

Spring 2018 Interns

  • Nicole Duran (Johns Hopkins University ’18, Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Rebecca Cooper (George Washington University ’19, Master of Public Health concentrating in Public Health Policy and Management)
  • Caroline Halsted (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ’19, Community Health)
  • Michela Leboffe Tabaku (University of Maryland ’17, Family Science and Law & Society Minor)

Fall 2017 Interns

  • Lauren Manier (University of Wisconsin, Madison ’18, Political Science and Community & Nonprofit Leadership)
  • Arista Jhanjee (Georgetown University ’18, Science, Technology, and International Affairs)
  • Saira Purewal (University of California, Los Angeles ’18, History)

Summer 2017 Interns

  • Daniel Mansfield, BSPH, MPH (University of Texas Health Science Center Houston, PhD candidate)
  • Jenna Carroll (College of William & Mary ’18, Government and Finance)
  • Lauren Cronin (Tulane University ’18, Public Health and Cell & Molecular Biology)

Spring 2017 Interns

  • Siena Brown (George Washington University ’17, Public Health, minor in Psychology)
  • Sage Wylie (George Washington University ’19, Public Health, double minor in Nutrition and Journalism)

Natalie Rosseau, our Ruth Nadel Intern, Fall 2016

Ruth Nadel was a staunch advocate for women’s health issues – many of the same issues that Natalie is working on at NCHR. One of Natalie’s major projects is ensuring women’s access to medically necessary procedures, as well as collecting data and analyzing health insurance plans as a part of the NCHR Affordable Care Act project.

Natalie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University in January 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in History, with minors in Law & Society and Inequality Studies. Natalie is passionate about providing patient-centered and culturally competent clinical care, as well as the intersection between health and policy, and health disparities. She will be starting medical school in August 2017. Natalie hopes to combine her enthusiasm for history and languages with her passion for medicine into a career that will include clinical practice, global health, and health policy.

Summer 2016 Interns

  • Simon Essig Aberg (Amherst College ’19 – Economics or Mathematics)
  • Kristine Chin (Smith College ’17 – Biology and Government)
  • Natalie Rousseau (Cornell University ’15 – History, Law & Society and Inequality Studies)
  • Elsie Yau, (Yale University ’17 – Economics and History of Science, Medicine and Public Health)

Spring 2016 Interns

  • Miriam Mosbacher (University of Maryland ’16 – College Park, Community Health)
  • Nisa Hussain (University of Maryland ’16 – College Park, Community Health)
  • Hannah Kalvin (George Washington University ‘16, Public Health)


Gwendolyn Lewis, a former sociology professor with important positions in the National Research Council, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, was a professional photographer who volunteered her time as our photographer since our founding in 1999 until she died from cancer in 2012.

As our photographer and friend, Gwen is responsible for the many memorable color photographs of the exceptional women who received our Foremother awards, as well as capturing many other important people and moments through the years. As an artist, however, she specialized in black-and-white photography, with an emphasis on architectural subjects. Her work was exhibited in more than 100 shows in the Washington area and won many awards.