Our Team

The people of PRIMER.

Our Team

The people of PRIMER.

UCSD Core Team

Dan Werb, PhD

Dan Werb is an epidemiologist and policy analyst with expertise working in the fields of HIV, addictions, and drug policy. Dr. Werb holds a PhD from the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Dr. Werb is an inaugural recipient of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Avenir Award, which funds highly innovative and high impact research projects at the nexus of HIV and drug use. Dr. Werb’s Avenir Award funds the PRIMER project, a multi-site, international study seeking to test the potential impact of existing structural interventions on reducing the risk that people who inject drugs initiate others into injecting.

Claudia Rafful MSc, PhD

Claudia Rafful is a Postdoctoral fellow investigating access to health care among people who inject drugs in North America. Dr. Rafful’s main interest is on developing evidence-based public policy recommendations to improve the access to healthcare among vulnerable populations, including people with substance use disorders and other mental disorders. She holds a PhD in Public Health from the University of California. Her research and training has been funded by the Secretariat of Health in Mexico, CONACyT, UC-Mexus, Fogarty International, and CIHR.

Maria Luisa Mittal, MD

Maria Luisa Mittal is an Assistant Project Scientist at UC San Diego and led the qualitative data collection for PRIMER in Tijuana as part of her NIDA-funded postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Mittal is an emerging expert in the development and implementation of culturally appropriate HIV prevention programs for border populations, as well as across sectors including law enforcement and government. Since 2010, Dr. Mittal has focused on identifying sociodemographic, environmental, and behavioral risk factors for HIV infection among persons who inject drugs (PWID) and is currently investigating individual pathways and social contexts that facilitate injection initiation events along the US-Mexico border region.

Britt Skaathun, MPH, PhD

Britt Skaathun is an Epidemiologist whose research examines the intersection of venues (both physical and virtual), social environment factors, and networks, and how they can be considered simultaneously to maximize the uptake of biomedical interventions by populations experiencing high rates of HIV and STIs. She earned her doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Chicago and her MPH in epidemiology from the University of Illinois-Chicago.  She utilizes a combination of methodologies, including social network analysis, epidemic modeling, and cost-effectiveness methods to produce evidence-based results that inform intervention and policy in diverse contexts. She leads the social networks and injection initiation sub-study of PRIMER.

Judit Tirado Muñoz, PhD

Judet Tirado Muñoz a psychologist with expertise working in the field of addictions. Her research interests include psychiatric comorbidity, medical comorbidity (HIV/HCV) and intimate partner violence among drug users. She holds a PhD from the Department of Psychiatry and Forensic Medicine at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona and she worked at Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona for several years where she developed her professional activity in the addictions field, research and teaching. Dr. Muñoz was selected in April 2018 for a US National Institute on Drug Abuse’s INVEST fellowship to be involved in the PRIMER project.

Stephanie Meyers, M.A.

Stephanie Meyers is a doctoral candidate in the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use and works as a graduate research assistant for PRIMER. Her current research focuses on the gendered contexts for, and power dynamics within, injection initiation processes. Her previous research focused on the relationship between psychological correlates, drug use, and risky sexual behavior among vulnerable populations in Long Beach, California.

Charles Marks, MPH

Charles Marks is a doctoral student in the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use and works as a graduate research assistant for PRIMER. Their current research focuses on developing dynamic models of injection initiation which can be utilized to understand various factors related to injection initiation as well as to inform initiation prevention measures. Generally, they are interested in utilizing critical social theory to inform public health policy research addressing health inequities.

Rosalinda Rodriguez

Rosalinda Rodriguez is a Research Project Coordinator for PRIMER, in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego.  She supports the PRIMER investigators working on finding the potential impact of existing structural interventions on reducing the risk that people who inject drugs initiate others into injecting.  Mrs. Rodriguez has extensive experience working in study participant recruitment, retention and research management. Mrs. Rodriguez received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside.  She is bicultural and bilingual English and Spanish.

Cassandra Cyr

Cassandra Cyr is a Research Project Coordinator in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.  She supports multiple Principle Investigators working on a variety of research topics, including HIV and hepatitis prevention, HIV transmission networks, intimate partner violence and injection drug use prevention (PRIMER).  She received her B.S. in Physiology and Neurobiology from the University of Connecticut.  Ms. Cyr is interested in pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in the near future. Her research interests include epidemiology of vector-borne diseases and reproductive health.

Ayden Scheim, PhD

Assistant Professor

Ayden Scheim is a social epidemiologist with 15 years of experience in the areas of injection drug use and sexual/gender minority health. As Assistant Professor at Drexel University and Associate Scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, he leads the prospective cohort evaluating the first three supervised drug consumption sites in Toronto as part of the Ontario Integrated Supervised Injection Services Research Program (OiSIS). Each site is integrated within a health agency providing a continuum of addictions care, including medication-assisted treatment, and his cohort is examining the impact of this care continuum on outcomes including the provision of injection initiation assistance.

Sonia Jain, PhD

Sonia Jain is a Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. She joined UCSD at the end of 2002 after completing a Ph.D. degree in Statistics at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. Her areas of expertise include general Biostatistics and clinical trials, statistical genomics, nonparametric Bayesian statistical methods and computational techniques in Biostatistics and Bioinformatics. Dr. Jain is Director of the Biostatistics Research Center, her statistical research lab. She is also co-Director of the Biostatistics and Modeling Core for the San Diego Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Dr. Jain collaborates in HIV/AIDS, substance use, PTSD, and suicide research.

Xiaoying (Shelly) Sun, MS

Xiaoying (Shelly) Sun is a Principal Statistician in the Biostatistics Research Center in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. In the past fifteen years, she has collaborated on the statistical design and analyses of many studies in HIV/AIDS (via collaborations with the California Collaborative Treatment Group (CCTG) and the San Diego CFAR), substance use, PTSD, and suicide research. She has been a member of the PRIMER research team since 2016.

Study Site Principal Investigators


Steffanie A. Strathdee, PhD

Steffanie Strathdee is the Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins and Simon Fraser Universities. Dr. Strathdee is an infectious disease epidemiologist who has spent the last two decades focusing on HIV prevention in underserved, marginalized populations in developed and developing countries, including injection drug users, men having sex with men, and sex workers. In the last decade, she has published over 600 peer-reviewed publications on HIV prevention and the natural history of HIV and related infections and the evaluation of interventions to reduce harms among substance using populations. Currently, she is engaged in a number of HIV/STI prevention projects in international settings in Mexico. She also leads several NIH-funded studies of HIV risk behaviors among drug users and sex workers on the Mexico-US border, one of which is funded through 2020 by a MERIT award granted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

San Diego

Richard S. Garfein, PhD, MPH

Richard Garfein is a Professor in the Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine at UCSD. He trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist, first earning an M.P.H. from the San Diego State University, School of Public Health in 1989 and then a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1997. Between his graduate training and joining the UCSD faculty in 2005, Dr. Garfein served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in the Division of Viral Hepatitis and a Senior Staff Epidemiologist in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His research interests involve identifying risk factors for and developing interventions to prevent infectious diseases associated with substance abuse. Dr. Garfein has recently expanded the scope of his research to include describing tuberculosis among vulnerable populations, evaluating molecular assays for rapid detection of drug resistant TB, and developing mobile phone based interventions for improving patient adherence to anti-TB treatment.


Kanna Hayashi, PhD

Kanna Hayashi is a Research Scientist with the BC Centre on Substance Use, the St. Paul’s Hospital Chair in Substance Use Research, and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University. Her primary research interests and expertise include social and clinical epidemiology of substance use, community-based research, public health and human rights, substance use, and health services for drug-using populations.

Dr. Hayashi currently leads the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study, a US National Institutes of Health-funded ongoing prospective cohort study of more than 1,000 people who inject drugs in Vancouver to investigate the natural history of injection drug use. Since 2008, she has also had extensive international research experience leading the Mitsampan Community Research Project, a serial cross-sectional mixed-methods study to investigate drug-using behaviour, healthcare access, the impact of law enforcement and policing, and other drug-related harms among people who inject drugs in Bangkok, Thailand.

Kora DeBeck, PhD

Kora DeBeck is a Research Scientist with the BC Centre on Substance Use and Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on informing and evaluating health and policy interventions to reduce health and social harms among people who use drugs, with a particular focus on the prevention of high-risk drug use, infectious diseases, and other health-related harms among street-involved youth.

Dr. DeBeck is currently the Principal Investigator of the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), a US National Institutes of Health-funded ongoing prospective cohort study of more than 900 high-risk, drug-using street youth. Established in 2005, ARYS aims to explore the individual, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the health and well-being of street youth in Vancouver.

MJ Milloy, PhD

MJ Milloy is a Research Scientist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC). On January 1, 2019, he began his appointment as UBC’s inaugural Canopy Growth Professor of Cannabis Science, a position created by arms’ length gifts to the university from Canopy Growth, one of the world’s largest producers of legal cannabis, and the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

At the BCCSU, Dr. Milloy leads observational and experimental research into the public health impact of cannabis regulation and the therapeutic applications of cannabis and cannabinoids, especially for people living with HIV or substance use disorders or at risk of overdose. Dr. Milloy is the principal investigator of the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS) study, a prospective cohort of people living with HIV who use illicit drugs. The ACCESS study is comprised of more than 1,100 individuals living with HIV/AIDS who use illicit drugs.


Perrie Roux, PhD

Perrie Roux is a pharmacist and public health researcher with expertise working in the fields of HIV, Hepatitis C, addictions, and drug policy. After a 2-year post-doc at the Substance Use Research Center of Columbia University, she got a permanent position as researcher at SESSTIM – INSERM Unit 1252 in Marseille, France. She is the PI of several projects related to harm reduction: Cosinus cohort of injecting drug users to assess structural and individual factors associated with access to care and prevention and with HIV and HCV risk practices, the setting up of bupIV trial to evaluate the effectiveness of intravenous buprenorphine for opioid dependence and the OUTSIDER and EUROSIDER projects, evaluating a community-based educational intervention for safer injection.

Marie Jauffret-Roustide, PhD

Marie Jauffret-Roustide is a Sociologist at the Université de Paris Descartes, Paris, France. She leads sociological and public health studies on drug use practices and social processes of at-risk practices among people who inject drugs and crack users. She is now the leader of an international comparative research on drug policies including the analysis of the biomedicalization process of addiction, the history of harm reduction and cannabis regulations, the stakes linked to peer education and community based approaches and the impact of repression on at-risk practices among drug users.

Marc Auriacombe, PhD

Marc Auriacombe is a principal senior investigator at the University of Bordeaux France. He is currently leading a research project of an integrated addiction research program on commonalities of addictive behaviors whether related to substances or behaviors. The objective is to better characterize and differentiate the phenomenology of addiction and its determinants from comorbidities and consequences. Dr. Auriacombe’s research team has contributed to the documentation of craving and individualized cues as potential universal predictors of relapse across addictions.

Laurence Lalanne-Tongio

Laurence Lalanne-Tongio currently works at the INSERM, CHRU of Strasbourg. She is head of the department of addictions.

Past Members

Jason Melo

Amen Ben Hamida

Devesh Vashishtha

Brittnie Bloom

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A global, evidence-based approach on drug use.


© 2019 PRIMER