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Center Staff

Robert Cohen, M.D. FCCP | Executive Director MinER Center Heading link

Robert Cohen, M. D., FCCP Executive Director MinER Center

Dr. Robert Cohen is Clinical Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University Of Illinois School Of Public Health. He is also Professor of Medicine and Director of the Occupational Lung Disease Program at Northwestern University.

His major research interests are occupational lung disease, particularly mineral dust exposed workers. He has served as a consultant to several agencies of the United States government in areas of mining related health issues including the Respiratory Health Division of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Mining Safety Health Administration, the Division of Coal Mine Workers Compensation of the US DOL. He is the Principal Investigator on the Black Lung Center of Excellence as well as the Black Lung Clinics Program funded by the US Department of Health and Human Service Office of Rural Health Policy of the Health Resources and Services Administration. He also serves as the medical director for the National Coalition of Black Lung and Respiratory Disease, the organization of federally funded black lung clinics.

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Leonard Go, M.D. | Assistant Director MinER Center Heading link

Leonard Go, M.D. Assistant Director MinER Center

Dr. Go is the Assistant Director of the MinER Center and Research Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. He is also a faculty member in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine and a board-certified physician in Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Illinois, performed his residency at the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center, and his fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Northwestern University.

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Kirsten Almberg, PhD MS | Assistant Director of Research Evaluation Heading link

Kirsten Almberg, PhD, MS Assistant Director of Research Evaluation

Kirsten is Research Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Division.

As Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation, she is responsible for managing and executing epidemiologic studies of occupational lung diseases both nationally and internationally. Her work includes analyses of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, progressive massive fibrosis, and other coal mine dust lung diseases among coal miners regionally, nationally, and internationally. Specifically, her focus has been on linking state and national databases that contain health information on U.S. coal miners to more fully understand the development and progression of disease, including factors most associated with developing disease.

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Kathleen J. Kennedy, PhD | Research Program Manager Heading link

Kathleen J. Kennedy, PhD Assistant Director of Research Operations

Kathleen has over 20 years of project management experience at UIC, previously working on studies related to industrial occupational exposures, and joined the MinER Center in 2017. She received her Public Health doctorate with a specialization in Industrial Hygiene from UIC’s School of Public Health, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and her research focused on occupational exposure reconstruction for a tungsten carbide industry retrospective mortality study. As Research Program Manager, Kathleen contributes to the development and execution of the Center’s studies on mineral dust exposed populations.

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Yuan Shao, PhD CIH | Industrial Hygiene Scientist Heading link

Yuan Shao

Dr. Shao joined as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Industrial Hygiene in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences department, UIC School of Public Health in 2020. His research has included the development of occupational exposure assessment strategies for airborne contaminants. He has conducted research in various areas relating to human exposure assessment in occupational, residential, and outdoor settings. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

Before joining UIC, Dr. Shao was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He received a Ph.D. (2018) in Industrial Hygiene (major) and Epidemiology (minor), and an M.S. in Industrial Hygiene (2015), from the University of Minnesota. During his PhD, he participated in the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study (TWHS), a thorough epidemiologic investigation into the cause(s) of the excess cases of mesothelioma among taconite mining workers. His PhD dissertation entitled “Respiratory Diseases And Exposures To Taconite Dust Components” summarizes the historical exposure reconstructions and epidemiological analysis work he conducted for the TWHS study.

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Lee S Friedman, PhD | Occupational Epidemiologist Heading link

Lee S Friedman

Lee is an associate professor at the University of Illinois Chicago in the division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. His primary research interests cover injury prevention at work, violence across the lifespan, and the role of conflicts of interest in public health research. Lee specializes in analyses of large population based datasets, longitudinal cohorts, surveillance systems, data linkage, and multi-center projects.

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Dolores Weems, MA | Programs Coordinator Heading link

Dolores Weems, MA Programs Coordinator

Dolores Weems joined the School of Public Health Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in 2014 as Program Manager for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Health Resource Service Administration’s Black Lung Clinics Program and the UIC Black Lung Center of Excellence in 2015. Dolores has Master of Arts in Human Services and brings more than 20 years of experience planning, coordinating, and implementing community programs with diverse populations.

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Cayla Iwaniuk, MPH | Research Project Coordinator Heading link

Cayla Iwaniuk, MPH Research Project Coordinator

Cayla Iwaniuk joined the MinER Center in August 2019 as a Research Project Coordinator. She coordinated the project efforts of the mineral dust lung disease study. Cayla has a strong interest in environmental impacts on health and looks forward to putting her Epidemiology background to use to improve the health of miners. Ms. Iwaniuk is an avid traveler and loves spending her free time with her dog.

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Rocío Priéto, MPH | Business Manager / Finance Manager Heading link

Rocío Priéto

Rocío Priéto has spent most of her career in higher education administration and joined the MinER Center in 2019 as their Business Manager. Rocío began her academic career as a music major and has performed as first chair violist at the Chicago Symphony Center. However, her undergraduate studies culminated with majors in biology and psychology. She attained her Masters of Public Health as well as completed coursework toward the PhD degree in the Public Administration at UIC.  While a doctoral student, she was awarded the Illinois Consortium for Educational Opportunity Program Fellowship (ICEOP) and was inducted into the University Chapter of Pi Alpha Alpha (National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration).  In addition to her life at UIC, Rocío is dedicated to her family and enjoys spending time with them, exploring various activities in the Chicago area such as live theater productions, musical performances as well as dining out and, when time permits, she loves to travel and enjoys reading a good book.

Linda Muszynski, RN BSN | Clinic Charge Nurse Heading link

Linda Muszynski, RN, BSN Clinic Charge Nurse

Linda Muszynski, RN, BSN, is a pulmonary nurse clinician with over 20 years of nursing experience.  Linda is the point of contact at Northwestern, where she coordinates the Advanced Diagnostic initial intake, visits and post visit activities with miners and other occupational medicine patients. She became an integral part of the Black Lung Clinics Program in 2014, taking on new challenges with a veracity, sense of humor and devotion to excellence.  Linda combined her years of pulmonary nursing experience, with her organizational and people skills to increase the Advanced Diagnostic interface with the internal and external partners and collaborators.


Theresa Strzelczyk, APRN CNS | Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Heading link

Theresa Strzelczyk

Theresa Strzelczyk is a licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse/Clinical Nurse Specialist with clinical privileges at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  Ms. Strzelczyk performs intakes for Black Lung Screening and Outreach Clinic as well as Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing with arterial line insertion for Black Lung Evaluations.  She became an integral part of the Black Lung Clinics Program in 2015 and participated in development of the Department of Labor Black Lung Video Training.  Ms. Strzelczyk has combined her years of cardiopulmonary experience to further expand care for coal miners.

Betra Valdez | Administrative Assistant Heading link

Betra Valdez

Betra Valdez joined the Black Lung Program in May 2020 as an Administrative Assistant. She is responsible for providing general secretarial and administrative support to the Director of the Black Lung Program and department staff. She has 12 years of experience working in a multi-specialty clinic at Northwestern Medicine. One of the clinics was Pulmonary. Betra has excellent communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and is a great TEAM PLAYER.