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Our group includes researchers, project staff members, students and other colleagues who hail from varied training backgrounds in medicine, psychology, sociology, and other fields.

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Dr. Alan Teo, Physician Investigator

Alan is a psychiatrist and health services researcher, having completed his education and training at Stanford University, University of California San Francisco, and University of Michigan. Since 2013, he has been a Core Investigator in the VA HSR&D Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care at the VA Portland Health Care System, and is an Associate Professor at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the Department of Psychiatry.

His work intersects the fields of health services, behavioral science, and social and cultural psychiatry. The overarching theme of his research is how our social connections shape and influence mental health outcomes.  In this work, he attempts to understand ways to mitigate social isolation and loneliness, and also harness the benefits of social support. He has a particular focus on depression and suicide prevention and a strong interest in developing, testing, and evaluating interventions in real-world settings.

Project Staff Members

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Aaron Call, EdM

Research Team Manager

Originally from Whittier, CA, Aaron received a BA in Psychology from Reed College and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University.

Prior to joining the Teo Team in January 2020, Aaron was an Electronics Technician in the US Navy, a research assistant working in substance abuse research, and a teacher.


His role on the Teo Team includes overall team management, ensuring regulatory compliance, contributing to grant submissions, and assisting with project management across studies. He also contributes to projects through qualitative coding and data analysis, building surveys for online data collection, database creation and management, and research dissemination activities.


Outside of work he enjoys reading sci-fi/fantasy and historical fiction; spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, or out on the water; and playing card games and yard games.

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Mary Benton, PhD

Project Coordinator

Mary received her doctorate in Community Psychology from Wichita State University in Wichita Kansas.

Prior to joining the Teo Team in November of 2021 she worked at St Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute and University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City doing cardiovascular and cancer research. 

She is a project manager for the Hikikomori Systematic Review and a Recruitment Lead for the Buddy Check Postcard Project.  

Mary is a native of Portland and enjoys reading and watching mysteries, cooking and hiking with family and friends, and taking her hound on long walks.

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Kimberly Hubbard, BA

Project Coordinator

Kim grew up on Bainbridge Island, Washington and received her BA from the University of Portland, studying Psychology with a minor in Sociology.

Prior to joining the Teo Team in July 2022, Kim was Assistant Office Manager at NW Anxiety Institute and a Research Assistant for the Scientific Resource Center at the Portland VA. She has prior experience working with Veterans with PTSD under Dr. Belle Zaccari at CIVIC and in the University of Central Florida’s RESTORES clinical research center and treatment clinic.
She is a Project Manager for the Lethal Means Safety and Suicide Prevention Communication Campaign Evaluation projects and the Buddy Check Postcard Project.
Kim loves the hiking, food, and thrift shopping the Portland area offers, but also loves quiet days spent at home with her cat. She also enjoys spending her free time at the beach and watching Seahawks games.

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Kaitlin Leonard, BA

Project Coordinator

Originally from Las Vegas, Kaitlin earned her Associate of Arts degree in Psychology from the College of Southern Nevada and her her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Florida.  

Prior to joining the Teo team in November 2023, she worked with veterans as an Intake Coordinator at a Psychological Institute near Fort Bragg and as a Research Assistant involved with mental health research at the Tampa VA . Kaitlin also has a direct connection with veterans as an active-duty military spouse.

On the Teo Team, Kaitlin is a project manager for the VA SAVE project. She also assists with recruitment for the Buddy Check Postcard Project and with administrative tasks such as VA travel planning.

Outside of working, Kaitlin enjoys spending time with her family outdoors. She also enjoys shopping at local markets, baking, and watching football.

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Tulia Fargis, BA

Research Assistant

Tulia grew up in Beijing, China and moved to Portland to study at Reed College where she received her BA in psychology.

Prior to joining the Teo Team in February of 2024, Tulia worked on her senior thesis at Reed studying dehumanization towards immigrants. She also works as a Research Assistant at the Oregon Health And Science University investigating fall prevention in older adults.


On the Teo Team, Tulia is a Research Assistant working on the recruitment for the Buddy Check Postcard Project and helps to manage the website for Dr. Teo.


Tulia loves traveling to new places and exploring local foods and stores. She also really loves cats, going to the gym and spending time with friends and family.

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Rachel Culp, MPH

Research Assistant

Originally from the Seattle metro area, Rachel received their MPH in Public Health from Oregon State University, specializing in Health Promotion and Health Behavior.

Prior to joining the Teo Team in April 2024, they worked with the Coast to Forest project at the OSU Center for Health Innovation which emphasizes mental health promotion and substance use prevention. Rachel also works as a Research Assistant for another Core Investigator at the VA HSR&D Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care studying shared decision making for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

On the Teo Team, Rachel is a Research Assistant for the VA SAVE project. They also help with presentation preparation and data visualization.


In their spare time Rachel enjoys reading, spending time with their cat, and playing video games.

Current Mentees and Trainees


Kate LaForge, MPH

Kate graduated from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University with her Master's in Public Health. 

She is working toward her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California San Francisco, expecting to graduate in the spring of 2025. Dr. Teo is a Mentor and Dissertation Committee Member on her dissertation project "Unraveling Crisis Text Services: Exploring Perceptions and Experiences among Low-SES Young Adults." Her work brings a sociological lens to health services research, and she is interested in mental health services, technology, and privacy and autonomy within healthcare. Kate enjoys spending time with her family, rock climbing, and reading fiction in her spare time.


Cindy Chang, PsyD

Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Research Fellow, VA San Diego Healthcare System

Dr. Cindy Chang (she/they) is a researcher, clinician, and educator that specializes in suicide prevention in LGBTQ+ communities. Dr. Chang completed their doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University, internship at the VA Puget Sound, Seattle, and is currently completing postdoctoral fellowship at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.


Dr. Teo is part of Dr. Chang's mentorship team for her proposed VA Career Development Award, which aims to refine and examine Qnnections, a novel suicide prevention intervention for LGBTQ+ Veterans at risk of suicide. Dr. Chang's research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and she has received over a dozen awards or grants recognizing her work from organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the Veterans Affairs. She enjoys crossfit, spending time with animals, and savoring delicious food.

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Emi Ichimura, M.S.

Clinical Psychology PhD Student at Seattle Pacific University 

Emi is a fourth-year clinical psychology PhD student and research assistant at Seattle Pacific University. She has experience in both quantitative and qualitative research, encompassing topics such as help-seeking barriers, interpersonal shame, ethnic-racial socialization, and culturally adapted mental health first aid.


Emi joined Dr. Teo’s research lab to study severe social isolation, or "hikikomori," an area she aspires to develop expertise in. Emi also offers tailored clinical services to QTBIPOC individuals at Interconnections Healing Center and will begin her pre-internship in primary care at Swedish First Hill. In addition, she serves on the executive board of the Division on Students at the Asian American Psychological Association. Aside from psychology, she is passionate about Kendo, a martial art passed down through her family.

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Alyssa Kanalakis, B.A. 

Masters of Social Work Student at University of Washington, Seattle

Alyssa (they/them) is a second year Masters of Social Work student at the University of Washington, specializing in community-centered integrative practice. They are passionate about working to help others on multiple levels, including direct service, research and evaluation, as well as policy and legislation.  Alyssa joined Dr. Teo’s lab to work on recruitment for the Buddy Check Postcard Project, a non-pharmacological intervention providing peer support for older, disengaged, Veterans. They now continue to work on Dr. Teo’s hikikomori team, researching the phenomenon of severe social withdrawal and isolation. Outside of work, Alyssa loves to read, listen to music, and oil paint. 

Former Mentees and Trainees


Jeanette Doorenbos, BA

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Adrian "AJ" Stutzman, AA


Tiona Wu, BA


Sarah Yang, MD, MCR


     Chau Nguyen, B.Sc.

Selected Collaborators

VA Portland Health Care System

Truth Initiative

Portland State University

University of Michigan

Oregon Health & Sciences University

University of Iowa

University of Rochester

University of Rochester

PsychArmor Institute

UCSD School of Medicine

VA Puget Sound Health Care System

University of Washington School of Medicine

VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System

University of Michigan

Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System

University of Arkansas

VA Portland Health Care System

VA Portland Health Care System

VA Portland Health Care System

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