2022 Leadership Team

2022 Leadership Team Patricia C Heyn, Ph.D., FGSA, FACRM.
Founding Director, Center for Optimal Aging2022 Leadership Team
Professor, College of Health and Education
Email: Patricia.Heyn@Marymount.edu

Dr. Patricia C. Heyn has over 25 years of experience conducting research, educational activities, services, and advocacy in gerontology and rehabilitation sciences. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, book chapters, and articles.  In addition, she has developed various products for pragmatic and translational consumer utilization. She has unique expertise in conceiving and implementing evidence-based research projects and initiatives to inform best practices and policies.  She is renowned for her exceptional research in evaluating exercise programs for Alzheimer’s disease. Her investigations include (1) health disparities and chronic disease prevention of people who are aging with a disability; (2) preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease with exercise and/or cognitive training; (3) evaluating protective/risk factors associated with cognitive decline and frailty; (4) health promotion, wellness, and person-centered health outcomes; and (5) evaluating emerging technologies for individuals with cognitive impairment, She is a leader in the development of innovative scientific training and mentoring activities aimed at increasing the diversity of the biomedical science workforce. Dr. Heyn is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity and strives to develop and advance a culturally diverse and representative research agenda.  Her studies have been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living, and the Coleman Institute.

Click here to view Dr.Heyn’s Forbes Health profile.

2022 Leadership Team

Rita Wong, PT, Ed.D., FAPTA
Co-Founder and Interim Director, Marymount University Center for Optimal Aging, Associate Vice President for Research, Marymount University
Professor of Physical Therapy
Email: Rita.Wong@marymount.edu

She came to Marymount in 1995 as the founding Director of Marymount’s Physical Therapy program, where she served in a leadership role from 1995 until 2013. In 2013, she transitioned into an academic affairs administration role overseeing graduate education. In 2017, oversight of research activities was added to her responsibilities. She has been a champion for the establishment of Marymount’s Center of Optimal Aging and continues in a leadership role with the Center, linking community groups with the Center.

Dr. Wong has over 40 years of academic and clinical experience in physical rehabilitation and health promotion for older adults. She is a co-editor of a nationally recognized textbook on Geriatric Physical Therapy, now in its 4th edition. Her research has focused on preparing healthcare students to work with older adults, fall prevention, and the health and wellness of older adults. Dr. Wong has served as the principal investigator for two Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Community Living (HHS: ACL) grants to embed evidence-based falls prevention programs into the Northern Virginia Community. Dr. Wong is a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Click here to view Dr.Rita Wong’s profile.

2022 Leadership Team

Uma Kelekar, PhD
Fellow, Marymount University Center for Optimal Aging
Associate Professor of Healthcare Management
Email: Uma.Kelekar@marymount.edu

Dr. Uma Kelekar has been a faculty at Marymount University since 2011 and teaches courses in Health Economics, Epidemiology, and Healthcare data analysis. She has extensive experience conducting health services research in public health dentistry, health economics, and policy. She uses extensive survey data and employs innovative empirical methodologies to investigate emerging trends and patterns in healthcare services utilization across multiple vulnerable and underserved population segments and the use of Emergency Departments (EDs) for non-urgent care across the United States. She has presented her work at various academic and practitioner conferences, including meetings of the American Public Health Association, American Society of Health Economists, National Oral Health Conference, and Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis. She has published book chapters and articles in journals such as Health Policy and Planning, Preventive Medicine, Preventing Chronic Disease, PlosOne, Health Behavior and Policy Review, Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, and the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). Her research has been funded by foundations such as the Dentaquest Foundation and Dental Trade Alliance. She has a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Mason University. Her undergraduate and master’s are in economics from India.

Click here to view Dr. Uma Kelekar’s profile.

2022 Leadership Team

Julie D. Ries, PT, Ph.D.
Fellow, Marymount University Center for Optimal Aging
Professor of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Department,
School of Health Sciences, College of Health & Education
Email: jries@marymount.edu
Phone: 703-284-5983

Julie Ries has been on faculty at Marymount’s Physical Therapy program since its inception. She has extensive PT clinical experience in acute care, home care, and neurological rehabilitation. She is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in rehabilitation for individuals with dementia and is active in research with this population. She has presented numerous continuing education courses and invited lectures on topics related to rehab for older adults with dementia. The Malek School of Health Professions has recognized Dr. Ries for her excellence in teaching with the MSHP Faculty Teaching Award in 2003, 2006, and 2014 and for her outstanding research endeavors with the MSHP Faculty Scholarship Award in 2010 and 2019. She received the 2010 Excellence in Geriatric Research Award, a national award presented by the APTA’s Section on Geriatrics, for her research on clinical outcome measures for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Click here to view Julie Ries’s profile.

2022 Leadership TeamSara T. Pappa, Ph.D., MCHES
Assistant Professor, Project Manager, NV Falls Prevention Alliance Coordinator, Marymount University
Email: saratpappa@gmail.com
Phone: 703-908-7711

Dr. Sara Pappa, a Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), is an Assistant Professor in the Health and Human Performance Department. She holds a BS in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Cincinnati, an MA in Exercise Physiology from Kent State University, and a Ph.D. in Health Education from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to teaching, she manages the regional falls prevention initiative, including the Northern Virginia Falls Prevention Alliance. A federal Administration for Community Living grant supports this work. Current research initiatives include evidence-based falls prevention programs for older adults and the professional preparation of health educators. Dr. Pappa is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Virginia Arthritis and Falls Prevention Coalition and a Board member of the Arlington Neighborhood Village. In previous roles, she worked in local public health departments in Fairfax County and Ohio. She has extensive experience managing local, regional, and state public health projects. Her experience includes implementing and evaluating health promotion programs and policies; conducting community health needs assessments; developing and evaluating community health improvement plans; media outreach and public relations; grant research, writing, and administration; coalition development and leadership; and strategic planning.

Click here to view Sara Pappa’s profile.

2022 Leadership TeamMahederemariam Bayleyegn, Dagne
Research Assistant, Marymount University
Email: m0d51452@marymount.edu
Phone: 5714129262

Ms. Mahederemariam Bayleyegn Dagne is a Research Assistant with a Master’s degree in Information Technology and a background in Mechanical Engineering. She has extensive experience in website design, maintenance, digital marketing, and data analytics. Mahederemariam has successfully designed and enhanced our research center’s website while expanding our digital media resources. Her data science proficiency and ability to analyze website accessibility have been instrumental in optimizing our online presence. With a strong track record in business development, Mahederemariam has introduced new services, nurtured client relationships, and streamlined operational processes. She is currently working on data management for various grants. Her thesis paper was accepted at the 2023 SEDSI Conference. She is working on a grant for definitions of Racial Health Equity, which has been accepted to two prominent conferences.

Academics - Marymount University