The Project Team

Our members collaborate in a manner that promotes shared leadership, collective empowerment,
and capacity-building in the areas of research excellence and meaningful community engagement


Josephine P. Wong (NPA)

Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Toronto Metropolitan University

Josephine Pui-Hing Wong has extensive experience in critical public health and urban health, including the development of public health access and equity policy and practice frameworks, and large-scale health communication campaigns. She collaborates with marginalized communities to develop, implement and evaluate capacity-building health promotion and collective empowerment programs.   Read More…

Yin Yuan Chen (Co-PA)

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Y.Y. Brandon Chen (SJD, MSW, JD, University of Toronto; BSc, Emory University) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, Common Law Section. A lawyer and social worker by training, Professor Chen’s research program examines laws and policies at the intersection between health and international migration, particularly the mechanics of health inequities facing noncitizens and racialized minorities.  Read More…

Añiela M. dela Cruz (Co-PA)

Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary

Añiela dela Cruz holds a PhD in Nursing and an MSc in Health Promotion Studies (University of Alberta). She has 20 years of professional experience in community and public health, health policy development, and health and program evaluation research. In her career, Añiela has worked with Alberta communities, provincial and federal government stakeholders, and non-government organizations focusing on areas of public health such as HIV/AIDS, Read More

Carla Hilario (Co-PA)

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Dr. Carla Hilario is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan campus), which is located on Syilx Okanagan Nation Territory. Her research is in the area of health equity and youth mental health, including access to and experiences of care, using youth-engaged research methods.  Read More…

Kenneth P. Fung (Co-PA)

Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Kenneth Fung is Staff Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the Asian Initiative in Mental Health Program at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. He is Professor and Director of Global Mental Health with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto. His research, teaching, and clinical interest include both cultural psychiatry and psychotherapy,  Read More…

Alan Tai-Wai Li (Co-PA)

Research Chair, Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment, Toronto

Racialized and newcomer communities exhibit incredible ability to cope with adversities and lead healthy and successful lives despite facing disproportionate HIV burden and complex service barriers. Alan Li works with community members to support and enhance this resiliency.  Alan Li’s research work with marginalized communities has led to the creation of crucially needed programs, Read More…

Isaac Luginaah (Co-PA)

Professor, Department of Geography and Environment, Western University

Isaac Luginaah’s broad area of research interest includes environment and health, population health and GIS applications in health. Isaac Luginaah’s work involves an integrative understanding of the broad determinants of the population health and the evidence of environment and health linkages. Isaac Luginaah is specifically interested in the human health impacts of environmental exposure Read More…

Miya Narushima (Co-PA)

Associate Professor, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Brock University

Miya Narushima obtained her BA in English Literature from Waseda University, Tokyo, and her MA and PhD in Adult Education and Community Development from the OISE/ University of Toronto. Her research interests include aging and well-being, community-based education for health promotion, lifelong learning and development, voluntarism and community capacity building, the social determinants of health and equity, Read More…

Mandana Vahabi (Co-PA)

Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Toronto Metropolitan University

Mandana Vahabi is a professor at Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing and co-director of the Centre for Global Health and Health Equity. Mandana Vahabi’s research and scholarship focuses on health equity and social determinants of health, particularly in the areas of cancer screening, food security, mental and sexual health. Drawing on Mandana Vahabi’s extensive experience in social epidemiology and community health,  Read More…

Josephine Etowa (Co-A)

Professor, School of Nursing, University of Ottawa

Josephine B. Etowa, PhD, RN, RM, FWACN, FAAN, FCAN is a Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, OHTN Chair in Black Women’s HIV Prevention and Care, past Loyer-DaSilva Research Chair in Public Health Nursing, past Co-Chair, Community Health Nurses national standards, and past president of Health Association of African Canadians. Known for her leadership in anti-racist and health equity work.  Read More…

Salima Meherali (Co-A)

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta

Dr. Meherali’s research interests are in the area of migration and global child & adolescent health. Her research program comprises three areas of inquiry –immigrant adolescent/youth in Canada, sexual and reproductive health and rights and mental health of immigrant youth in Canada and in the developing world, and theorizing gender intersections within vulnerable populations. Read More…

Xuan (Nina) Ning (Co-A)

Assistant Professor, Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College

Xuan (Nina) Ning is an Assistant Professor at Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College. Trained in sociology and humanities, Dr. Ning’s research program focuses on gay men and lesbians’ social well-being and cross-cultural contextualization of mental health promotion interventions, with a special focus on enhancing the well-being of socially and economically marginalized groups. Dr. Ning has established research networks in Canada and Asia. Her expertise and research experiences enable her to play a vital role in probing into Chinese university students’ mental health issues from a sociological perspective and lead qualitative research on this topic.  Read More…

Maureen Owino (Co-A)

Vanier Fellow, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Maureen Owino, environmental studies Maureen Owino Owino’s research, titled “When HIV and COVID-19 Pandemics Collide in Black Communities in Canada,” confronts issues relating to pandemic responses that impact already vulnerable communities. Through institutional ethnography, the research will examine the cumulative impacts of existing and emerging social and public health policies on Black people’s health and Read More…

Maurice K-L. Poon (Co-A)

Associate Professor, School of Social Work, York University

Maurice Kwong-Lai Poon is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at York University and Co-chair of the Advisory Research Committee at Asian Community AIDS Services. His current research focuses on gay Asian diasporic identities and politics, the social construction of violence in gay intimate relationships, and HIV/AIDS issues related to Asian men who have sex with men. Read More…

Bukola Salami (Co-A)

Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Alberta

Bukola Salami is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta. Bukola Salami joined the Faculty in January 2014 as an Assistant Professor. Bukola Salami received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Windsor, Master of Nursing from the University of Toronto, and PhD from the University of Toronto. Bukola Salami’s doctoral research was on the migration of Philippine-educated nurses Read More…

Christa Sato (Co-A-Trainee)

Doctoral Fellow, Factor Inwentash School Of Social Work University of Toronto

Christa Sato is a doctoral student at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Her primary areas of interests involve working with individuals and families, particularly from racialized communities in the areas of child welfare, intimate partner violence, and mental health. Her PhD research focuses on exploring decolonial approaches to intergenerational trauma, collective resistance and healing among Pilipina/o/x diasporic families in Canada.   Read More…

Rade Zinaic  (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University

Dr. Rade Zinaic is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is currently leading a collaborative CIHR Planning and Dissemination Grant on vaccine access and hesitancy amongst racialized communities in Toronto. He is highly respected by his mentees and colleagues for his generous contributions in research capacity building and strong commitment to health equity. Dr. Zinaic is a member of an Eastern European diaspora community and has extensive experience working with diverse cohorts of university students in disciplines ranging from sociology to legal studies. He holds a PhD in Social and Political Thought and has published peer reviewed articles and book reviews on Eastern European issues.

Sulemana Ansumah Saaka (Academic Intern)

PhD Student, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Western Ontario

Sulemana Ansumah Saaka is a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), department of Geography and Environment, where he immerses himself in the dynamic field of Health Geography. His PhD research focuses on evaluating culturally appropriate, cost-effective, and sustainable models of stigma reduction programs for racialized and newcomer communities living with and affected by HIV in London, Ontario. His academic journey is further enriched by his role as a research trainee on the ACE project, where he collaborates with fellow scholars to explore novel solutions and interventions aimed at enhancing community health and resilience. Inspired by the equity-focused approach to healthcare, Saaka seeks to contribute valuable insights to the evolving landscape of Health Geography and make a lasting impact on the well-being of marginalized individuals and communities.


Keith Wong

Project Manager

Keith Wong has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to advancing the AIDS movement with an unwavering and inspiring spirit for nearly three decades. As an organizational leader, coalition builder, capacity builder, mentor, and artist, Keith has integrated and utilized his diverse experiences from his involvement in different social justice issues to contribute to an innovative, holistic and PHA centered response to the HIV epidemic. While holding multiple leadership roles at different equity seeking and HIV/AIDS services, Keith consistently devotes his time and efforts to building organizational capacity and advancing collaborative partnerships to challenge social inequities, homophobia, racism, and HIV stigma. Currently, he is a consultant in organizational development and facilitation training for the non-profit and community health sector, and a practicing coach with a focus on life transition and career development.

Pragya Mishra

Research Coordinator

With a passion for public health and community-based research, Pragya has worked with multiply disadvantaged populations, both at the local and international level. The interplay of stress and resilience drives her work, where some of her past experience has involved understanding the mental health impact of migration on immigrant and refugee youth, implementation of palliative care for refugees of humanitarian crises, and the HIV/STI risk of South Asian sexual minority women in the Greater Toronto Area. Pragya holds a Master of Public Health from McMaster University and a graduate diploma from the United Nations University Institute of Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) and continues to merge her interests in public health and global health through community partnership and stakeholder engagement. She strongly believes in community empowerment as an essential tool in alleviating health burdens and hopes to continue her journey of centering community knowledge and voices in her work with an aim to decrease suffering and invite joy where possible. 

Folasade Olaniyan

Community Engagement & Mobilization Research Coordinator and Edmonton Local-site Coordinator

Folasade is actively involved in Community based research with focus on HIV projects. She has worked with several vulnerable sectors and has been a valuable contributor to the growth of their mentorship program. She was one of the three Community Research Associate’s selected in Edmonton, for the Alberta stigma index project.  She is a seasoned speaker to community members, social service providers and healthcare professionals. She is a CRA with Canadian HIV pregnancy planning, HEADS UP! 2 research project, healthy Canadians and Community fund project, Approach study: HIV, HCV Pharmacy point of care testing) CAC member, who counts project as pioneer book reviewer, National ECHO Women’s college research institute as a presenter. She enjoys travelling when not working and continuously learning new things.

Shaylee Zhang

E-Modules & Digital Tech Facilitator

Shaylee Zhang has been in the web development field for over 15 years. In the past two and half years, Shaylee worked on Project PROTECH website and PACER Training website in charge of websites’ maintenance, data collection, website traffic monitoring and other technical supports. As technology keeps evolving, Shaylee always stays on top of the latest tech trends. She has a great appetite for learning new things and always being inspired by how advanced technology can change people’s lives.

Sipiwe Mapfumo

Calgary Local-site Coordinator

Sipiwe brings 12 years’ experience of working with African, Caribbean and Black communities providing HIV education and supporting those living with HIV and their families.  Sipiwe’s strength is in her capability in engaging communities through their community leadership and gaining support in HIV initiatives.  Her work HIV education with ACB communities incorporates tackling stigma, anti-black racism and social determinants of health. This population requires a grounded knowledge of these factors and how they impact HIV in their communities. Immigrant serving and newcomer organization in Calgary were incorporated in the HIV education. Front line staff to the clients that use the services of these agencies were provided with education as a way of reducing stigma by some service providers to clients. For over 12 years Sipiwe engaged with these marginalized population and addressed HIV and how anti-black racism impacts communities. This has helped many in ACB to understand the dynamics between the two. Sipiwe’s was co-chair of CHABAC (Canadian HIV African, Black and Caribbean) a network of organizations and individuals interested in research and work in HIV in ACB populations.  Sipiwe recently retired from formal employment but continues to work in community-based HIV related research.

Mercy Nleya

London Local-site Coordinator

Mercy Nleya is a seasoned professional who has dedicated over two decades to making a lasting impact on the society. Her passion for positive social change, health advocacy, and community empowerment has driven her dynamic career, characterized by roles in Community based research, project management, and community engagement. Mercy’s academic journey enriched her proficiency in clinical and developmental psychology, immigration, family studies, and social work. With 14 years experience in HIV/AIDS sector, she has demonstrated her commitment by advocating, educating on HIV/AIDS, the impact of social determinants of health and stigma, prevention needs for a diverse ACB population in London Ontario. And active engagement with the African Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario (ACCHO) and Migrant workers across 6 counties. She amplifies her influence, advocating for impactful solutions and fostering partnerships to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic with other agencies serving Marginalised populations such as Access Franco-Sante London. At Western University, Mercy took on significant roles such as being Co-Principal Investigator for multiple research studies, notably the Black, African, and Caribbean Canadian Health Study ( BLACCH study) and as a Research Assistant for WeSpeak. Her dedication ensured these projects were conducted with excellence, complying with regulations, and maximized knowledge transfer.  Her collaborations on research studies have provided valuable insights into HIV risk perception and risk distribution among marginalized communities in Canada and beyond.  Her unwavering dedication, innovative thinking, and collaborative approach continue to inspire, leaving an indelible mark on health advocacy, research, and community engagement.

Sara Escárraga

Niagara Local-site Coordinator

With a background in International Affairs, Sara Escárraga is passionate for immigration studies and KTE. Chair of the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group and Program Coordinator at Positive Living Niagara, Sara has worked with Migrant Agricultural Workers across the Region  for the past three years.  As The Niagara Site Coordinator  she gives the ACE project an overview of the lived experience, challenges and success to access services of Agri Workers.

Billa Hissein Habré

Ottawa Local-site Coordinator

Billa Hissein Habré, a Muslim student at the University of Ottawa studying Criminology with a minor in Gender and Feminist studies, was born in Lévis, Québec but grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. She has volunteered and worked with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa for over a decade, such as volunteering as a support worker for the African, Caribbean and Black community Health Zone, a holistic health center that is geared specifically to the black community in Ottawa and Gatineau, conceptualized and organized by the ACO. She is also a member of LeaderPol, an non-profit organization that encourages youth and adults of the African, Caribbean and Black community to involve themselves in the world of politics. Furthermore, Billa is a passionate ally to diverse communities and is devoted to the true emancipation and liberation of Indigenous and African, Caribbean and Black people. She was drawn to the ACE project because of her strong belief in the importance of combating and overcoming HIV/AIDS stigma, and in the power of uniting diverse people from various walks of life to create change. Through her work, she strives to advocate for more representation in all spheres of Canadian society, bring awareness to the realities of marginalized people and foster safe spaces.

Desmond Miller

Community-Based Research Assistant and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Local-site Coordinator

Desmond Miller completed a thesis-based Master of Education using qualitative inquiry. He worked as a university research assistant with qualitative and mixed methods research projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. Desmond was supervised by Doctors of Philosophy who completed their training in departments of Sociology, Exercise Sciences, Sociology and Equity Studies in Education, and a school of Public Health. He supported multi-year research projects led by a sole researcher as well as research projects led by a team of researchers. Desmond assisted research projects that included multiple sites across Canada and that used in-person, online and hybrid approaches. He focuses his professional work on the areas of education, health promotion and adaptability of persons, groups and communities. Desmond traces his ancestors to Europe and the Caribbean. He lives in Toronto, Canada lands protected by the Dish With One Spoon wampum agreement.

Clarence Cheung

Graphic Designer

Clarence is a graphic designer who has been involved with project ACE for the past year providing several visual elements and his skillset on multimedia such as video editing. Through this experience, he seeks to gain inspiration and a deeper understanding of people from various backgrounds, as well as supporting them with his own knowledges and abilities.

Emma Scott

Research Assistant

Emma is passionate about improving access to quality care and advancing knowledge translation. She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Waterloo where some of her past experience has focused on understanding barriers to access and improving accessibility to mental health services for medically ill individuals through clinical evaluation. She also brings experience with qualitative research to project ACE through which she seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and needs of communities in order to support sustainable change within health systems.


Community Collaborators – Alberta

  • Community Council on HIV
  • Safe Link Alberta (Previously known as HIV Community Link – Alberta)
  • HIV Edmonton

Community Collaborators – Ontario

  • AIDS Committee of Durham
  • Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (London, ON)
  • Positive Living Niagara
  • AIDS Committee of Ottawa
  • CAAT- Community Alliance for Accessible Treatment, formerly Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (Provincial)

Academic collaborator

  • Neoma Business School – Paris, France (Ilyess EI Karouni)