Our Team

Boston University Team


Daniel Brooks (DSc) – Principal Investigator

Dr. Brooks is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. He has been involved in research on the causes of chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology (CKDnt) since 2007. Currently, he is a Principal Investigator on a study focused on genetic susceptibility that might potentiate environmental exposures, and co-investigator on studies of occupational exposure and early life exposures. Daniel is also a Principal Investigator on the Scientific Data Coordinating Center and a co-I on a Field Epidemiology Site for the Chronic Kidney Diseases of Uncertain Etiology (CKDnt) in Agricultural Communities (CURE) Research Consortium.


Jessica Leibler (DrPH, ScM) – Principal Investigator

Dr. Leibler is an environmental epidemiologist and an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health. She is the Principal Investigator of the NIH/NIEHS-funded JOVENES Study of kidney injury among youth and adolescents in Nicaragua. Jessica has worked with the BU CKDnt team since 2016, and worked on studies of occupational health, biomarkers of kidney injury, and metabolomics among adults and adolescents. Her other research includes occupational health studies of zoonotic infectious disease among agricultural workers in the United States.


Madeleine Scammell (DSc) – Principal Investigator

Dr. Scammell is an Associate Professor of Environmental Health and a member of the BU CKD Research Team since its inception in 2008. She has been co-leading the team with Dr. Brooks since 2017 and leads MANOS, the occupational health study and more recently the CURE Field Epidemiology Site with colleagues in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Madeleine’s interest is in environmental and occupational exposures (e.g., metals, pesticides and heat) and health effects. In Massachusetts, where she lives, she also studies urban heat islands and community resilience.


Michael McClean (ScD) – Investigator

Dr. McClean is the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Advancement and a Professor of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. He founded the initial CKDnt Research Team activities in collaboration with Dr. Brooks in 2008. His research interests focus on the use of biological markers to assess environmental and occupational exposures with respect to exposure-related disease. Currently, Michael is investigating an epidemic of chronic kidney disease among Central American workers, as well as the long-term neurological consequences of exposure to head impacts.

David Friedman (MD) – Principal Investigator

Dr. Friedman is the Principal Investigator of the Genetics Study. David is a nephrologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His lab studies the genetics and biology of chronic kidney disease. David’s work focuses on groups with exceptionally high rates of kidney disease, including chronic kidney disease hotspots in Central America (Mesoamerican Nephropathy) and African Americans in the U.S. The goal of the lab is to understand how environmental factors trigger kidney disease in genetically susceptible individuals.


Ramón García-Trabanino (MD, MS, FASN) –  El Salvador Principal Investigator

Dr. García-Trabanino is a Principal Investigator on the CURE study, an a co-investigator with MANOS. Ramón is a clinical nephrologist in El Salvador, with over 20 years experience researching chronic kidney disease and assisting CKDnt patients to improve their outcomes. He is also a volunteer nephrologist with the community-based organization, Emergency Social Fund for Health, and recently began volunteering with the Fundación Renal José Jarquín, both based in El Salvador.



Emmanuel Jarquín (MD) – El Salvador Principal Investigator

Dr. Jarquín is the Principal Investigator for El Salvador in the MANOS study, and a co-investigator for CURE. He is the founder and president of the Agency for Development and Agricultural Health (AGDYSA), the company in charge of carrying out the MANOS study in El Salvador. His participation in renal research began in 2005 in agricultural cooperatives of sugar cane, short-cycle crops and cereals.



Juan José Amador Velázquez (MD, MPH) – Nicaragua Principal Investigator

Dr. Amador Velázquez is the Principal Investigator for Nicaragua on the MANOS, Genetics, CURE, JOVENES studies. Juan José is a medical epidemiologist with extensive experience working with the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua, serving as the General Director of Epidemiology at the national level from 1991 to 2008. He has worked to combat epidemics and improve health outcomes internationally through projects with the World Health Organization (WHO) Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), among others. Juan José also is very involved in non-governmental organizations, including founding and serving as President of the Association of Ex-Japanese Scholars in Nicaragua, and 11 years of experience collaborating with Asociación de Chichigalpa por la Vida (ASOCHIVIDA).


Magaly Rosario Amador Sánchez – Database Analyst

Magaly is an Information Systems Engineer, graduated from Universidad Católica Redemptoris Mater, Nicaragua. She developed an Epidemiological Surveillance System for the epidemiology area of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health. She is in charge of the entry and maintenance of the Case and Control study databases on Genetic Susceptibility to Chronic Kidney Disease in Nicaragua.

Damaris López-Pilarte (ER (Nursing), MPH) – Nicaragua Study Manager

Damaris has led the BU CKDnt field team operations in Nicaragua since 2010, serving as an expert on questionnaire development and data collection. She is a co-author of multiple Boston University investigations concerning Mesoamerican Nephropathy (chronic kidney disease of non-traditional causes). Damaris has extensive experience in epidemiological surveillance systems, project coordination, and program management, focusing primarily on communicable diseases. She has worked for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) at the local, regional and national levels and is a co-author on MINSA publications.


Iris Delgado (MPH) – Project Coordinator

Iris is the Project Coordinator for the Genetics study. She completed her global research practicum with the BU CKD team. She has been involved in field work with the occupational cohort study (MANOS), and is now the project coordinator for the genetics case-control study. Her current research project focuses on exploring the ethical, cultural, and social implications of conducting genetics and genomics research with Central American populations.



Selene Vences (BA, MPH Candidate) – Research Manager

Selene serves as the Research Manager on The NINOS Cohort: Children’s Kidney Health in a High-Risk Region for CKDnt. She leads the project’s day-to-day operations, manages communications between collaborators, and establishes acquisition and management protocols. She is also an MPH student pursuing the Health Policy and Law certificate. Selene was born in Toluca, Mexico, but lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico. She is interested in researching how undocumented communities access, finance, and obtain healthcare and investigate the healthcare laws affecting this population.


Erin Polka (MPH) – Data Coordinator

Erin Polka serves as the data coordinator on the MANOS study. She helps organize and conduct QA/QC on the Salvadoran and Nicaraguan MANOS data, generate final datasets, and assist with compiling report-back materials using Macro for the Compilation of Report-backs (MCR) Erin received her MPH from Boston University School of Public Health and is interested in data-driven and community-based work that centers around combating climate change and supporting climate justice.


Dominick Leone (MS, MPH) – Doctoral Candidate

Dominick is a doctoral candidate working on the genetics and metabolomics studies of CKDnt. As a self-described ‘virus hunter’, Dominick is interested in the role of environmental exposure to infectious diseases in mystery diseases. He uses bioinformatics and genomic epidemiology tools to pursue his research interest in One Health approaches. Dominick is interested understanding how disease ecology plays out between the host genome, microbiome, infectious agent, and environment, and how it translates to disease risk in underserved Latin American and Eastern European populations.


Kate Applebaum (ScD, MSPH) – Collaborator

Dr. Applebaum investigates biological pathways leading from environmental and occupational exposures to chronic disease, with a particular focus on cancers and kidney disease. She is implementing sophisticated analytical methods to advance understanding of how exposures can lead to multiple diseases and how these diseases affect each other. Kate is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University.


Oriana Ramírez Rubio (MD, PhD, MPH) – Collaborator

Dr. Ramírez Rubio wrote her PhD thesis describing the epidemiology of Mesoamerican Nephropathy in Central America, and providing novel results on children’s kidney health and perceptions of physicians and pharmacists working in a CKD hotspot. Oriana is interested in pre-occupational exposures at the community level (including children in affected areas), as well as the use of qualitative and participatory research approaches to foster change and community empowerment. She was the Principle Investigator of the Photovoice Project.



Alexa Gruener – Work Study Student

Alexa is a Health Science major candidate at Boston University Sargent College. Originally from Mexico City, Mexico and having grown up in Thousand Oaks, CA her efforts are focused on providing healthcare to Latino immigrants through community-based healthcare projects. At the Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America Research Group, Alexa is a Research Assistant for the MesoAmerican Nephropathy Occupational Study (MANOS).




Collaborating Institutions

Agency for Development and Agricultural Health (AGDYSA)

The Agency for Development and Agricultural Health, or AGDYSA, is a company specialized in Occupational Medicine, Safety and Occupational Health, which develops scientific research on health issues. Its services enable the improvement and welfare of human resources, increasing productivity, impacting the efficiency and profitability of companies, as well as the welfare of the population in general. Currently, they are the only company in El Salvador that has its own clinical laboratory.


Asociación de Chichigalpa por la Vida (ASOCHIVIDA)

ASOCHIVIDA is an association of ex-sugarcane workers and families of deceased workers who have been diagnosed with CKD in Nicaragua. This association addresses concerns related to the health, environmental and livelihood impacts of sugarcane production. They also focus on finding solutions on the cause of the disease and ways to improve livelihoods and living conditions for the complainants, their families, and communities.



Consortium for the Epidemic of Nephropathy in Central America and Mexico (CENCAM), International



CENCAM was founded in 2012 with the mission of contributing to knowledge generation, and to promote and facilitate activities to reduce the occurrence of CKD of unconventional origin in Central America and Mexico.



Emergency Social Fund for Health of Tierra Blanca

The Emergency Social Fund for Health of Tierra Blanca, or EFSES, is a community funded initiative that started in 1994 as a response to poor access to health services, a solidarity fund to improve the health of local residents and people in the surrounding communities in the Bajo Lempa region. The EFSES attempts to deliver basic health care visits, provide transportation for patients, and education.


Prior Team Members and Current Collaborators

Sinéad Keogh (MPH) – Prior Project Manager

Sinéad is the prior Project Manager for MANOS. She joined the MANOS team in 2017, coordinating its implementation, working closely with Nicaraguan and Salvadoran collaborators in designing study protocols, questionnaires, and data systems. She is excited to participate in community-driven research with the aim of informing policy to improve health outcomes. Her interests include environmental health, global health, and the impacts of our changing climate. As a Fulbright grantee in Mexico and in her role with MANOS, Sinéad greatly enjoys being able to continue to perfect her Spanish and learn more about the culture of Latin America.


Zoe Petropoulos (BS, PhD) – Prior Doctoral Candidate

Dr. Zoe Petropoulos is a PhD graduate from the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health. She studied the role of heat strain in the incidence of kidney injury and disease with the MANOS study. Her research interests lie at the intersection of occupational epidemiology, exposure science, and exercise physiology, particularly in understanding how to protect workers from the impacts of extreme temperatures. 



Jacqueline Segovia – Prior Work Study Student

Jacqueline is an Environmental Analysis and Policy student at Boston University. She is interested in energy conservation and clean energy sources. She was born in El Salvador, and moved to the United States as a teenager. At the Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America Research Group, Jacqueline worked on the development and translation of the CKD website.

James Kaufman – Nephrologist and Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossmann School of Medicine

Joseph Kupferman –  Nephrologist formerly at David Friedman’s Lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Rebecca Laws – Prior Doctoral Student at BU SPH, Epidemiology with the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

Caryn (Sennett) Decker – Prior Project Coordinator for MANOS, Epidemiology Research Associate at the PA Department of Public Health

Daniel Weiner – Nephrologist and Associate Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine

Katherine Yih – Epidemiologist and Biologist, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School