Principal Investigator

Payan_Denise_170828-1 new-page-001Denise Diaz Payán, PhD, MPP, is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at UC Merced. She is founder and principal investigator of the Community Health & Innovative Policy (CHIP) Lab. Dr. Payán obtained a PhD in Public Policy and Management from USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and an MPP from Harvard Kennedy School. She received a BA in History and Science, Certificate in Health Policy, and Citation in Spanish from Harvard College.​ She was a Health Services Research postdoctoral scholar in the Dept. of Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the RAND Corporation.

Research Affiliate

FrehnJ_profileJennifer Frehn, PhD, MPH, is a Research Affiliate of the CHIP Lab who was previously a postdoctoral scholar. She holds an MPH in Community Health Sciences from UCLA and a PhD in Health Policy from UC Berkeley. Her research interests include examining how linkages between health care, public health, and community-based services and supports can work to address social determinants of health and reduce health disparities for vulnerable populations.

Graduate Student Researchers

100198331Kimberly Sánchez, MPH, is a Public Health PhD student at UC Merced. She received a triple B.A. in Spanish, Public Health, and Psychology at UC Merced and completed a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) at CSU Long Beach. Her research interests include immigrant health, specifically how policies affect the health of undocumented Latinos and obesity prevention. She is a 2020 CARE-UC Fellow and was awarded funding to conduct research on food insecurity among immigrants in California.


Kesia Garibay is a Public Health PhD student at UC Merced. She received a B.A. in Public Health from UC Merced. Her research interests include the impact of health policy on underserved communities and understanding how policy addresses health disparities. She is currently working to develop a state obesity policy database with the CHIP Lab. Kesia is the 2020 recipient of the Future History Makers Award from Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE).

Undergraduate Student Research Assistants

luis-image-1-1Luis Garay is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Health at UC Merced and is also completing his pre-requisites for medical school. He is currently involved with the Health Promotion department on campus as a Peer Health Educator. His interests include learning about community health and how social factors such as health determinants, health disparities and many other factors contribute to the lack of quality healthcare for Latinx communities, specifically in the Central Valley.

corbinCorbin Farias is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Health and Psychology at UC Merced. His interests include health policy and law, and health equity. He is currently assisting with the development of a state obesity policy database in the CHIP lab. He is captain of the UCM Cross Country team and a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. In 2021, he received the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar award in recognition for his excellence in both academic and athletic pursuits. Corbin plans to pursue law school to represent communities in the Central Valley.