Research Staff

D. Lynn Homish, MS

Project Director

D. Lynn Homish is the project director on Operation: SAFETY. She has served as a project director since the start of the study in June 2013. Homish has directed a number of R01 studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. She has overseen the recruitment, enrollment and longitudinal follow-up of various special populations (e.g., substance using women seeking both inpatient and outpatient care and men with prostate cancer care making a treatment decision) throughout the last 10 years. These studies have included data collections at multiple facilities in the communities as well as a national, multi-site study. Homish has extensive knowledge about training and supervising staff in data collection and research protocol aspects. 

Jennifer Fillo, PhD

Jennifer Fillo, PhD is a research associate on Operation: SAFETY and a postdoctoral fellow in the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo (UB). She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008 and her doctoral degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2014.

Prior to coming to UB, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Houston, where she served as project coordinator for a study funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) examining the effects of deployment on the spouses and children of service members. Her research interests lie at the intersection of close relationships, stress and health. She is particularly interested in how individuals and couples respond to stressful life transitions (e.g., military deployment and reintegration, transition to parenthood), including how they regulate the emotions that arise in stressful situations and the implications for these tendencies for physical health and health behavior (e.g., substance use).

Jessica Kulak, PhD

Jessica Kulak, PhD is a research associate on Operation: SAFETY and a T32 NRSA Fellow in the Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo (UB). She received her doctoral and MPH degrees from UB in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. Previously, Kulak received her master’s degree in school and community mental health counseling from the University of Rochester. 

Kulak has published peer-reviewed journal articles on tobacco policies in nursing homes, cessation patterns among African Americans, nicotine content of tobacco products and research guidelines for monitoring the global tobacco use epidemic. Her current research focuses on addictions, including tobacco control efforts for emerging and non-traditional tobacco product use, with an emphasis on relevant policy implications. She is particularly interested in tobacco use among the military and reservists.  

Deborah Saltino, BS

Deborah Saltino is a Research Support Specialist on Operation: SAFETY. She has worked at the University at Buffalo for 18 years on research studies in the departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Community Health and Health Behavior. Saltino also oversees the School of Public Health and Health Professions Center for Health Research which is home to Operation: SAFETY. She has a BS degree in Criminal Justice from Buffalo State College.

Erin Anderson Goodell, SM

Erin is a doctoral student in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research interests include risk and protective factors for substance use and violence in military populations, focusing on reserve component personnel and interactions with their families and social groups. Erin has seven years of experience working in military health studies, including work as a research assistant for Army STARRS through Harvard Medical School and research associate for RTI International’s Substance Abuse Epidemiology and Military Behavioral Health program. Prior to beginning her doctoral degree program, Erin received her master's degree in epidemiology from Harvard University’s School of Public Health and a bachelor's degree in public health from the University of North Carolina’s School of Public Health.

Kathelyn Benson, BS

Research Assistant on Operation: SAFETY. Ms. Benson is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Community Health and Health Behavior at SUNY at Buffalo. She graduated in 2016 from Denison University with a degree in Biology. Her research interests include molecular biology, mental health, substance use disorders, and preventive medicine. 

Rachel Hoopsick, MS, MPH, CHES

Rachel is a research assistant on Operation: SAFETY. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Public Health and Health Professions, with an interest in evidence-based treatment and prevention of substance use disorders. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, Ms. Rizzo completed her master's degree in epidemiology (2012) and Master of Public Health in health services administration (2013) at UB. Ms. Rizzo is a Certified Health Education Specialist with several years of experience in public health research, teaching, and practice in WNY.


Operation: SAFETY would like to thank previous staff for their contributions:

  • Mary K. Bennet, MD, FACEP
  • Melissa Cirina, MPH
  • Kristina Cummings, MA
  • Rachel Daws, MSW/MPH
  • Julia Devonish, MD PhD
  • Meredith Eggert, MPH
  • Aylin Erdogan
  • Mazie Feenstra- Swensen, MPH
  • Jennifer Garcia-Cano
  • Sarah Cercone Heavey, PhD MPH
  • Carly Nichols, MSW/MPH
  • Eric Read, MPH
  • Celina Rodrigues
  • Emily Schaffstall
  • Erika van der Kloet, MPH
  • Natalie Voos