Speaker Bios

Shiri Azenkot, Ph.D.

Shiri Azenkot is an Assistant Professor of Information Science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, Cornell University. Her research interests are in accessibility and interaction on new platforms. Shiri frequently publishes at top HCI and accessibility conferences, including CHI, ASSETS, UIST, and UbiComp. Currently, her research is funded by the NSF, AOL, Verizon, and Facebook. Before arriving at Cornell Tech, she completed her PhD in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where she was advised by Prof. Richard Ladner and Prof. Jacob Wobbrock.

Chris Chin, MBA

Chris Chin is Vice President and General Manager of Vive Studios, the content development and publishing division of HTC Vive. He oversees content strategy, business development, and VR content production, with a focus on enabling new VR experiences that ultimately transform the way we learn, heal, and live. Prior to Vive, Chris served as General Manager & VP of Business Operations at Zoodles, an EdTech company focused on mobile learning content.  In addition, he has served in a number of executive roles in interactive entertainment at Tencent and Electronic Arts.  Prior to his 15+ years in the content industry, Chris held general management, product management, and strategy consulting roles at a number of technology and data-driven companies.  He holds a BSE from Princeton University, MS from U.C. Berkeley, and MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

JoAnn Difede, Ph.D.

JoAnn Difede, Ph.D., is  the founding director of the Virtual Reality Lab and the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies (PATSS), and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.

Dr. Difede is known for her pioneering work using virtual reality technology in the treatment of PTSD consequent to the WTC attack of September 11, 2001, and more recently in treatment of combat-related PTSD and pain. 

Her treatment research involving virtual reality simulations spans survivors of burn injuries, terrorism, and occupations at-risk for PTSD, including U.S. soldiers deployed to OIF/OEF, firefighters, police officers, and disaster rescue and recovery workers . Dr. Difede has worked with collaborators to develop virtual reality simulations of several diverse traumas (WTC, combat-related PTSD, Hurricane Katrina, house fires, pain distraction) beginning in the years prior to commercially available consumer grade VR hardware. She is also currently lead investigator of a project using VR simulations as a distractor during painful medical procedures.

Dr. Difede has served as the principal investigator of several NIH-funded treatment studies concerning the development of innovative treatments for PTSD. Dr. Difede recently completed a multi-site Department of Defense funded clinical trial, “Enhancing Exposure Therapy for PTSD: Virtual Reality and Imaginal Exposure with a Cognitive Enhancer,” where she served as a Principal Investigator. The results of this study may provide a step toward precision medicine in psychiatry providing groundwork for targeting specific PTSD treatments to the individual patient’s neurobiological and genetic profile.

In addition to her scholarly endeavors, Dr. Difede’s work has been featured in many popular media venues including the New Yorker, the NY Times, Newsweek and Scientific American as well as on many television programs including the Charlie Rose Show Brain Series, CNN, NBC NPR and ABC’s World News Tonight.   

Mariel Emrich, B.S.

Mariel Emrich graduated from Cornell University in 2018 with a B.S. in Human Development. She currently works as a Research Assistant at the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies. She is the coordinator for a pilot study using virtual reality as a pain management tool at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

James Gallagher, M.D.

James Gallagher, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery and Director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. A board certified surgeon, Dr. Gallagher has extensive experience in the treatment of burns, surgical critical care, and international surgery. His areas of special interest include surgical education, international surgical outreach, the burned hand, burn resuscitation, and surgical care of the burn wound.

Dr. Gallagher is known for his international experience in burn care. He is committed to teaching and sharing his expertise in this field with the ultimate goal of improving burn care, preventing burn injuries, and burn first aid. It is with this passion and dedication to burn care that led Dr. Gallagher to Tanzania where he helped to develop burn care.

Walter Greenleaf, Ph.D.

Walter Greenleaf, PhD is a research neuroscientist and medical product developer working at Stanford University. Walter is known internationally as an early pioneer in digital medicine and virtual environment technology. With over three decades of research and product development experience in the field of medical virtual reality technology, Walter is considered a leading authority in the field. As a scientist and medical product developer, Walter’s focus has been on computer supported clinical products, with a specific focus on virtual reality and digital health technology to treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke, Addictions, Autism, and other difficult problems in behavioral and physical medicine. He has founded and managed several medical product companies, including Pear Therapeutics, Virtually Better, InWorld Solutions, Cognitive Leap, and Greenleaf Medical. Walter recently served as the Director for the Mind Division , Stanford Center on Longevity, where his focus was on advancing research on age-related changes in cognition He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s MediaX Program, a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab , Director of Technology Strategy  at the University of Colorado National Mental Health Innovation Center , and Member of the Board of Directors for Brainstorm: The Stanford Laboratory for Brain Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition to his research at Stanford University, Walter is Senior Vice President of Strategic & Corporate Affairs to MindMaze  and Chief Science Advisor to Pear Therapeutics. He is a VR technology and neuroscience advisor to several early-stage medical product companies, and is a co-founder of Cognitive Leap.

Ronald Hoover, Ph.D.

Dr. Ronald Hoover is recently retired from his position as Research Portfolio Manager for Clinical and Psychological Health within the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, Fort Detrick, Maryland. While in this position his efforts were primarily devoted to developing a research portfolio that targeted the etiology, prevention and treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Dr. Hoover received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biology from Wittenberg University, and his Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Cincinnati.  Dr. Hoover has worked in a variety of public health settings providing clinical services to children, adolescents, and adults.  Additionally, he has worked extensively with military veterans at both the Cincinnati and Chillicothe, Ohio Veterans Hospitals. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a primary focus of his clinical work.  Dr. Hoover is also a retired CAPTAIN from the United States Navy Reserve Intelligence Program. 

Abraham Po-Han Houng, M.D.

Abraham P. Houng, MD is an Assistant Professor of Surgery in the division of Burns, Critical Care and Trauma at Weill Cornell Medical College and Assistant Attending Surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. A board-certified surgeon, Dr. Houng specializes in the treatment of burns, burn surgery, and surgical critical care.

Prior to his arrival, Dr. Houng was an attending surgeon at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Department of Surgery in Livingston, New Jersey. He obtained his BS from Columbia University in Bioengineering and received his MSE from University of Pennsylvania. He attended New Jersey Medical School, affiliated with Rutgers University, for his MD. He completed his surgical residency at Saint Barnabas Medical Center and continued his training in Surgical Critical Care Fellowship with special emphasis in burn surgery and treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Houng has been involved in quite a few medical mission endeavors to Haiti as a surgeon. He has led multiple teams of fellow surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and physical therapists on short-term basis to serve the population in need and to further train the physicians in Haiti.

Dr. Houng is an active member of many prestigious medical and surgical societies, including the American Burn Association, American College of Surgeon, and Society of Critical Care Medicine. He has also published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts.

Angel Hwang, M.A.

Angel Hsing-Chi Hwang is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. She conducts research at the Virtual Embodiment Lab (VEL) under the guidance of Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won. She studies social interaction in VR and its potential effect on health, creativity, and interpersonal collaboration. Prior to joining Cornell, she studied applications of human-computer interaction in health communication under the advisement of Dr. Jeeyun Oh at the University of Texas, Austin.

Negar Khojasteh, B.S.

Negar is a Ph.D. student in Information Science at Cornell University. She works with Sue Fussell, Andrea Stevenson Won, and Malte Jung. Her research is focused on computer-mediated communication and virtual reality. Negar also works with Engaged Cornell as a data analyst and researcher. Prior to Cornell, she received her undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering with a minor in Computer Science.

Bryan Leppert, M.D.

Bryan Leppert is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, where he joined in 2016.  He is also on faculty at the Clinical Skills Center, serving as the Associate Course Director for the Transition-to-Residency Boot Camp, a two week, simulation-based course at the end of medical school.  He also works on interprofessional education and student remediation, and is interested in the application of mixed reality simulations to early medical education.  Dr. Leppert is a member of the inaugural class of the WCM-NYP Fellowship in Simulation Education.

Francis Lee, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Lee is the chairman of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, as well as the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D. Professor of Molecular Biology in Psychiatry and a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and neuroscience. Dr. Lee’s expertise is in molecular biology and psychiatry. He graduated from Princeton University with his B.A. in 1987, and went on to the University of Michigan Medical School, where he completed his M.D. and Ph.D in 1996. His current research interests include neural plasticity factors including neurotriphins and cannabinoids, as well as mouse models of anxiety and fear related behavior.

Seungmin Lee

Seungmin Lee is a sophomore at Cornell University, studying Information Science, Systems, and Technology. She works as an undergraduate research assistant in Virtual Embodiment Lab, under Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won. She is currently working with Swati Pandita to study clinical applications of virtual reality, specifically on mental health.

Gerald Loughlin, M.D.

Dr. Loughlin is currently serving as the Nancy C. Paduano Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, and is also the Pediatrician-in-Chief of the Phyllis and David Komansky Children’s Hospital at NYP. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with his B.S. in 1969, and went on to complete his M.D. at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1973. Dr. Loughlin’s research interests lie in studies of disorders of breathing during sleep in children with special emphasis on obstructive sleep apnea and in respiratory aspects of dysfunctional swallowing in infants and children. Currently the focus of his work is in developing a child health network for patient care, research and education that will integrate the pediatric services at the NYP – New York Hospital Queens, NYP Brooklyn Methodist and NYP Lower Manhattan under the leadership of the Department of Pediatrics at the Komansky Children’s Hospital.

Dumeetha Luthra

Dumeetha Luthra is the founder of Take-Pause.  She is a former BBC war reporter turned entrepreneur who’s company has designed a system to reduce anxiety in teenagers using virtual reality and mindfulness. In a randomized control trial, in the pediatric ER at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, Take-Pause reduced anxiety by 45%.

Andrew McAleavey, Ph.D.

Dr. Andrew McAleavey is an Instructor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.  He joined the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2015.  Dr. McAleavey has 5 years of experience using immersive virtual reality tools to reduce pain, assess symptoms of PTSD, and provide treatment for symptoms of trauma. He provides evidenced-based psychotherapies for the New York Presbyterian Hospital Military Family Wellness Center and works with inpatients at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Dr. McAleavey has published 40 articles and book chapters focusing on the mechanisms of psychotherapy and personalization of care. His clinical work focuses on PTSD, anxiety, depression, and anger management.

Swati Pandita, M.P.S.

Swati Pandita is a third year doctoral student in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. She completed a Master of Professional Studies in Information Science at Cornell in 2016, and a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Rhodes College in 2015She currently conducts research at Cornell’s Virtual Embodiment Lab (VEL) under the guidance of VEL director, Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won. Her research focuses on the clinical applications of virtual reality, centering around effects of technology use, identity, and embodiment on mental health. As a mixed methods scholar, she uses both qualitative and quantitative research methods to approach questions of how technology influences our sense of self and mental well-being.

Michelle Pelcovitz, Ph.D.

Dr. Pelcovitz is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. She graduated with her B.A. from Barnard College in 2009, and went on to St. John’s University, where she completed her M.A. in 2013, and her Ph.D. in 2015. Her current research includes using virtual reality in exposure-based treatment for social anxiety in youth.

Melissa Peskin, Ph.D.

Dr. Melissa Peskin is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. She joined the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2012. Dr. Peskin’s research focuses on developing and improving the effectiveness of treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She has a particular interest in using neurobiological tools to understand treatment mechanisms and predict treatment response. Dr. Peskin is involved in a number of studies that use virtual reality technology for the treatment of PTSD and anxiety disorders. These include a pilot study exploring a novel intervention for veterans with PTSD due to military sexual trauma, a Department of Defense-funded randomized controlled trial comparing virtual reality exposure therapy to imaginal exposure therapy for combat-related PTSD, on which she served as a treating therapist, and a study exploring the feasibility of using virtual reality exposure therapy for youth with social anxiety.

Cary Reid, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Reid is the Irving Sherwood Wright Associate Professor in Geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, and he is also an associate professor of medicine. He graduated with his B.S. from the University of South Carolina in 1976, and went on to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee in the same year. He completed his M.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1989. Dr. Reid’s research is directed towards improving the management of pain among older persons. Current projects include testing non-pharmacologic strategies for pain among older persons in both clinical and non-clinical settings, identifying barriers to the use of self-management strategies for pain, and examining optimal strategies for managing pain across ethnically diverse populations of older persons. Additional areas of interest include the epidemiology and treatment of substance use disorders in older persons.

Harrison Resnick

Harrison Resnick is a high school senior at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights. For the past year and a half, Harrison as been interning under the mentorship of Dr. JoAnn Difede in the Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies as a virtual reality developer. Recently, Harrison worked on a simulation designed for burn patient at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Harrison also specializes in iOS application development and quantum computing research.

Hal Rives

Hal Rives is a Junior at Cornell University in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He currently works as a research assistant in the Virtual Embodiment Lab under Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won.  Hal conducted clinical research using Virtual Reality on pediatric patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital for the Childhood Anxiety Reduction through Innovation and Technology (CHARIOT) program at Stanford University. 

Jaeyong Shin, M.D., Ph.D.

Jaeyong Shin, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor in Preventive Medicine of Ajou University in Korea. Prior to his current position, Jaeyong was a postdoctoral fellow in Cornell’s Policy Analysis and Management and Cornell Institute on Health Economics, Health Behaviors, and Disparities at Cornell. Jaeyong practiced as a dermatologist for five years in Korea and as a specialist for preventive medicine for five years before joining academia. From his experience in both clinical science and health policy, Jaeyong earned his Ph.D. in public health with an emphasis on health policy and management from Yonsei University.

His research focuses on the economics of digital health; in particular, those that relate to non-communicable diseases. His research interests are also in value-based health care using digital health. In recent work, he has evaluated how the wearable belt is associated with lowering waist circumference. He is now studying how virtual reality can increase patients’ understanding of the health care process as well as save health care providers’ labor in multiple hospitals. Recently, Jaeyong’s work has been recognized with several research awards in Korea.  

Christina Spellman, Ph.D.

Christina Spellman is Executive Director of The Mayday Fund, a private foundation in New York City.  Created in 1992, Mayday is a family foundation, active in the United States and Canada dedicated to alleviating the incidence, degree and consequence of human physical pain.  Ms. Spellman is responsible for overseeing the program of charitable giving on behalf of the Trustees of the Fund, as well as for the day-to-day administration of the Fund.

While at Mayday, Ms. Spellman has become familiar with various disciplines in medicine that address pain and its relief and represents the Fund publically.  Among the goals of the Mayday Fund Trustees is to use their grants to close the gap between knowledge and practice. 

The Mayday Fund has pursued projects that use VR to address pain since 2016.

Daniel Stein, M.D., Ph.D.

Daniel Stein is Associate Chief Health Informatics Officer, Innovation in the Division of Health Informatics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Dr. Stein leads a small, agile Informatics Innovation team that studies technology trends in healthcare and beyond, and identifies areas where new tech can improve the cancer care delivered at MSK. The team analyzes existing workflows, find gaps and areas for improvement, and then acquires or develops novel tech for use by our clinicians and our patients. Examples of application areas include modernization of care team collaboration and communication tools, development of standardized knowledge management utilities and clinical and operational dashboards, and the adoption of patient engagement and consumer technologies into clinical practice and research such as smartphone apps, health and fitness related wearables, and virtual and augmented reality devices.

Dr. Stein has over a decade of research and teaching experience in Clinical Informatics, primarily studying electronic health record systems and patient engagement tools and their ability to support safe, effective and collaborative care, especially across care transitions. He mentors and teaches graduate students as Adjunct Assistant Professor and “Clinical Innovator in Residence” at Cornell Tech where he directs a course on Health Tech, Data, and Systems, and as Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Andrea Stevenson Won, Ph.D.

Andrea Stevenson Won directs the Virtual Embodiment Lab. The lab’s research focuses on how mediated experiences change people’s perceptions, especially in immersive media. Research areas include the clinical applications of virtual reality, and how nonverbal behavior as rendered in virtual environments affects collaboration and teamwork. Andrea Stevenson Won completed her PhD in the Virtual Human Interaction Lab in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. She also holds an MS in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lisa Spielman, Ph.D.

Dr. Lisa Spielman is a statistician/methodologist with extensive expertise providing consultation on research design and analysis in Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Geriatric Psychiatry, HIV, and Anxiety Disorders. She has held faculty positions at Weill-Cornell Medical College, and New York Hospital-Westchester, and taught at New York University. She provides consultation for internationally recognized medical centers and private foundations. As consulting statistician at Mount Sinai Brain Injury Research Center and the Department of Rehabilitation, she brings expertise in clinical trials and prospective studies including multiple cycles of TBI-Model Systems, RTC on Community Integration, RRTC on Interventions, and CDC-funded TBI-Injury Control Research Center. At Brain Trauma Foundation, she directed analysis of the groundbreaking DOD-funded study on the novel application of eye-tracking technology to concussion detection, which included 10,000 military, civilian, athlete, and TBI cases. At Weill-Cornell, she serves as the senior statistician on the groundbreaking DOD-funded RCT on PTSD comparing VR and Exposure.

Katarzyna Wyka, Ph.D.

Dr. Katarzyna Wyka is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Wyka’s expertise is in the study design and statistical methods for public health research, with a focus on mental health statistics. Dr. Wyka’s collaborative work in the area of psychiatry includes clinical studies of effective treatments for PTSD and psychosis, as well as epidemiologic investigations of mental and physical health consequences of trauma exposure. 

Jessica Yee

Jessica Yee is a senior studying Information Science, Film, and Game Design at Cornell University. She is currently an undergraduate research assistant at Cornell’s Virtual Embodiment Lab (VEL), directed by Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won. Her research focuses on the clinical applications of virtual reality, specifically on the embodiment on mental health, in studies led by Swati Pandita.

So-Yeon Yoon, Ph.D.

So-Yeon Yoon is an associate professor of Design and Environmental Analysis and the director of Design-User Experience-Technology (DUET) Research Lab at the College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. She is currently the president of the Design Communication Association. She practiced interior design and architecture in Korea and the U.S. With her education and industry experience in design with digital media, she taught the School of Design at the University of Ulsan in Korea and worked with industry partners on large-scale interface/interaction design projects. From her experience in both interior design/architecture and application development, Yoon earned her Ph.D. in Information Technology with emphasis on Human-Computer Interaction from the University of Missouri, in order to address 1) the effect of design using simulations and 2) the user-technology interaction based on empirical research findings for design decision makers and users.

Joshua Zhu

Joshua Zhu is a senior studying Information Science at Cornell University. He is currently an undergraduate research assistant at Cornell’s Virtual Embodiment Lab (VEL) directed by Dr. Andrea Stevenson Won. His research primarily focuses on the clinical applications of virtual reality, specifically as a non pharmacological pain intervention and rehabilitation therapy.