CHAMPION Mental Health Lab

The Community Health Advocacy for Minority Populations, Immigrants, and Other Newcomers, and their Mental Health (CHAMPION Mental Health) Lab seeks to actively promote the value and benefits of utilizing Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) as a critical approach to examining and addressing mental health equity issues and health disparities that are relevant to community members who experience stigmatization, marginalization, and discrimination due to their age, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, Aboriginal status, migrant status, national origin, socioeconomic status, disability, and/or HIV status.

The mission of the CHAMPION Mental Health Lab is to conduct collaborative research with like-minded academic colleagues and community stakeholders with lived and work experiences relevant to the lab’s research agenda, particularly through community engagement, equitable partnerships, meaningful involvement, capacity-building, and shared governance and ownership of responsibilities and new knowledge. The lab’s vision is to be a robust research entity that is a positive force for advocacy for the rights and needs of marginalized populations. Using qualitative, quantitative, action, and mixed research methods, the lab’s primary aim is to conduct studies that will generate outcomes and lessons, which will inform and help innovate prevention and intervention programs, organizational policies, and efforts to improve access to services for underserved and underprivileged communities.


Lianne Barnes received her PhD in Social Psychology from UCLA in 2019. Her research goal is to understand how going through painful experiences changes how we empathize with others who have been through similar experiences, how that shared experience impacts the quantity and quality of any support offered to the empathy recipient, and how we can increase support for people experiencing trauma. Dr. Barnes has also looked at empathy toward outgroup members, such as members of the LGBTQ community, and has conducted cultural neuroscience research in Amman, Jordan. Dr. Barnes uses experimental methods and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Email:

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Danica Christy is a graduate student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences PhD Program. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2023. Her research interests focus on mental health and protective factors among sexual and gender minorities. As a Las Vegas native, she aims to utilize her research to advocate for underserved populations in the area. Danica can be contacted at

Andrea (Rea) Navarro is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Their research interests lies in Cyberpsychology with a specific focus in mental health, discrimination, and stereotypes through a digital lens. Rea plans to pursue a career as a research psychologist with the goal of advocating for social justice. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, they are passionate about the full de-stigmatization of gender and sexual minorities. To contact Rea Navarro, please e-mail to

Brandon Ranuschio, MA, joined the CHAMPION Mental Health Lab as a doctoral student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) PhD program at UNLV after receiving his Bachelor’s in Psychology from the school in 2018. His research interests focus on gender and sexual minorities and factors that contribute to mental health, resilience, and positive outcomes. His current research project is looking into neurocognitive conditions in HIV positive men. Brandon can be contacted at

Alexander Ribeiro is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Psychology degree and a minor in Family Studies. His research interests are primarily within the field of clinical psychology, more specifically exploring the gap that exists between service providers and minorities in need of mental health services. Alexander aspires to attend graduate school to eventually become a clinical psychologist. In his free time, Alexander enjoys spending time with friends and family, as well as listening to music. Alexander can be contacted at

Nadia Sheik Yosef is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.A. in Psychology degree with a minor in Criminal Justice. Her passions include relieving the stigma revolving around mental health and helping to increase the comfort level for all individuals who feel that they may need to seek help. More specifically, she would like to shed light on minorities who feel that they don’t have equal opportunity to get the unbiased and open-minded care that they deserve. Nadia hopes to continue her education in graduate school and eventually gain her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. If you would like to contact Nadia, you can email her at

Former Graduate Assistant/Student

Sherry Bell, PhD, was a graduate student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS) PhD Program with a Quantitative, Social, and Community area emphasis from 2020 to 2023. Sherry’s research interests include employing participatory action research, mixed methods, and social network analyses to promote health and well-being for underserved communities. Specifically, she is interested in collaborating with communities to promote health and empowering individuals to make their own decisions that affect their lives and health, while respecting different identities. Sherry is currently a postdoctoral fellow of the Psychology department at the University of Oregon and can be contacted at

Former Undergraduate and Post-Bacc Research Assistants

Jenna Despres received her Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2019. She is currently working to pursue a doctorate in Psychology. Her research interests are focused on the LGBTQ community, their heightened mental illness, and relationship dynamics in diverse types of relationships. She hopes to add to pre-existing research on how gender/sexuality interacts with mental health. Jenna can be contacted at

Elijah Gutman is an undergraduate student pursuing a B.S. in Psychology degree with a minor in communications. His research interests include drug addiction, program development, and social development. Moreover, he is interested in formulating the most efficient interventions for minorities of Las Vegas by minimizing inequities. Elijah aspires to increase funding in the mental health field via policy and community outreach. Aside from school, he loves yoga, music, meditation, and food, of course. Should you have any further questions for Elijah, please contact him at

Trinity Puno received her B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology degree with a minor in Psychology in 2021. Her research interests include identifying the complications minorities face when trying to better their mental and physical health. Moreover, she is interested in formulating the most efficient interventions for minorities of Las Vegas by minimizing inequities. Trinity aspires to attend medical school and eventually practice in Las Vegas. Aside from school, she loves arts and crafts, music, and spending time with family. Should you have any further questions for Trinity, please contact her at

Aruna Sedere received his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2020. His research interests are focused on addressing complications in the healthcare field that hinder a patient’s treatment. Aruna joined the CHAMPION Mental Health Lab in Fall of 2019 with the intent of exploring the treatment minorities receive in the Las Vegas medical system. Whether the patient is of a racial/sexual minority or an individual with mental health complications, Aruna wants to explore the treatment each patient receives. If you want to contact Aruna, you can email him at

Esmeralda Villalobos received her undergraduate B.S. in Biology degree and a minor in Neuroscience at UNLV in 2023. Her research interests center around healthcare disparities affecting local underserved communities. Esmeralda hopes to go to medical school and become a physician. Some of her other interests include painting, reading, going to concerts, and hanging out with friends. If you would like to contact Esmeralda, please send an email to

Janelle Wackens received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2023. She is interested in addressing issues that minorities face and how to accommodate their needs. She hopes to work in mental health in Las Vegas in the future. When she is not in school, she loves spending time with family, listening to music, and writing. Janelle can be contacted at