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Vani Simmons, PhD - Director
Senior Member

Vani Simmons

Vani Simmons, PhD is the director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. Dr. Simmons' research interests include the development of smoking cessation and relapse-prevention interventions for special populations (at-risk/vulnerable groups), including cancer patients, college students and ethnic minorities. Smoking among cancer patients can result in numerous adverse health consequences. Dr. Simmons and her team have developed a line of research to create a novel, theory-based smoking-relapse prevention intervention for cancer patients. Her work with cancer patients has recently extended to electronic cigarette use and to understanding barriers and facilitators to low-dose computed tomography as a screening tool for high-risk smokers. Dr. Simmons has also conducted research on the development of culturally appropriate smoking relapse­ prevention and cessation intervention materials for Hispanic smokers and she is currently co-leading (with Dr. Brandon) a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a Spanish­ language self-help smoking cessation intervention for Hispanic smokers. Her research has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, Florida Department of Health James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, and other foundations.

Jennifer I. Vidrine, PhD
Senior Member

Jennifer VidrineJennifer I. Vidrine, PhD is the assistant center director for Research Community Partnerships and a senior member in the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior. Dr. Vidrine's research program focuses on eliminating health disparities through evaluating the impact of tailored health risk communications, examining potential mechanisms underlying changes in risk perceptions over time in the natural environment, and evaluating both healthcare systems-level and community-based tobacco cessation interventions targeted to vulnerable and underserved populations including cancer survivors. A
prominent focus of her recent projects is on the use of mHealth approaches to efficiently and effectively deliver smoking cessation treatments. Dr. Vidrine's research program has been continuously supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas and the Florida Biomedical James and Esther King Research Program

Damon Vidrine, DrPH
Damon VidrineSenior Member

Damon J. Vidrine, DrPH, is chair of the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior. His research program is focused on tobacco use in special and underserved populations, including people living with HIV/AIDS, community-based socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, safety net clinic-based populations and cancer patients. This work, which has been continuously funded since the time of his postdoctoral fellowship, has focused on the identification of the unique risks of tobacco use in these underserved populations, as well as the development and evaluation of novel cessation interventions. A common theme in Dr. Vidrine's research program is the use of mobile devices (i.e., cell phones, tablet computers, and smartphones) for both behavioral assessment and intervention delivery purposes. The goal of these efforts is to develop and disseminate efficacious yet low-burden treatments. This work has helped to establish the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of using mobile health (mHealth) approaches with underserved populations.

Christine VinciChristine Vinci, PhD 
Assistant Member

Dr. Vinci received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Louisiana State University. Her research focuses on developing and testing behavioral interventions that address cancer-risk behaviors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol use) and stress management. To date, most of the interventional research she has conducted is specific to mindfulness-based interventions and strategies, with a primary focus on mHealth and underserved populations.

Thomas Brandon, PhD  
Senior Member

Thomas BrandonThomas Brandon, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Oncologic Sciences at the University of South Florida. Dr. Brandon's research focuses on factors that maintain tobacco dependence, as well as the development of novel tobacco cessation and relapse-prevention interventions. His research has examined the problem of cigarette smoking and smoking relapse via several different modalities, ranging from basic human laboratory research on smoking motivation, through applied research on smoking cessation and relapse prevention across populations. With interventions, he has concentrated on theory-based behavioral treatments and self-help interventions. The Forever Free® self-help programs have been validated in four randomized controlled trials and are disseminated by NCI and health organizations nationwide. Recently, Dr. Brandon expanded his research to study addiction mechanisms and potential clinical utility.

David Drobes, PhD 
Senior Member Emeritus

David Drobes

Dr. Drobes has conducted extensive human laboratory studies of cue reactivity and withdrawal among cigarette smokers, with a long-term goal to translate laboratory findings into novel behavioral and pharmacological smoking cessation treatments. Recent work has focused on effects of low nicotine cigarettes on smoking behavior and cessation. He has served as principal investigator on grants from federal, state, and private agencies. Dr. Drobes received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Purdue University, followed by post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Florida (psychophysiology) and the Medical University of South Carolina (substance abuse).

Research Staff

Cherell Cottrell-Daniels, PhD

Cherell Cottrell-DanielsDr. Cherell Cottrell-Daniels is an Applied Postdoctoral Fellow at the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program in the Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior. She received her PhD in Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion and Behavior from Georgia State University, School of Public Health. Her professional and research experience has centered on health disparities among low-income and underserved populations in urban and rural settings. During her doctoral training, she focused on addressing tobacco health disparities among low-income and African American smokers. She also held roles in NIH-funded clinical trials that utilized mHealth as a modality for intervention delivery. Building upon her previous training, Dr. Cottrell-Daniels is particularly interested in utilizing mixed methods to understand stressors and protective factors related to marijuana and tobacco co-use among priority populations (i.e., low-income, African Americans). Her work aims to promote tobacco cessation; eliminate tobacco-related cancer health disparities among priority populations; and to develop culturally relevant interventions.

Min-Jeong Yang, PhD

Min-Jeong Yang

Dr. Yang received her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2020 from Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey. Dr. Yang’s research interests are primarily in promoting health behaviors in special populations with a focus on mindfulness- and exposure-based interventions for smoking cessation and relapse prevention. Since she joined Moffitt as a T32 behavioral oncology postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Drs. Christine Vinci and Vani Simmons at Tobacco Research and Intervention Program (TRIP), she has been working on multiple projects specific to smoking cessation treatments based on mindfulness and cue exposure, which utilize various research methodologies including ecological momentary assessment, wearable sensors, augmented reality, and low nicotine content cigarettes. She also has been leading multiple projects on the evaluation of the implementation of an e-referral system for smoking cessation at Moffitt and on the quality of life among sexual and gender minority cancer patients. Dr. Yang was recently awarded a K99 grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop an mHealth mindfulness-based smoking cessation intervention for cancer survivors.

Ranjita PoudelRanjita Poudel, PhD

Dr. Poudel is a T32 Behavioral Oncology fellow at the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program (TRIP) under the mentorship of Drs. Christine Vinci and Vani Simmons. She completed her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from Florida International University. Her primary research interest focuses on tailoring mindfulness and mHealth interventions for the treatment and prevention of cancer. She is currently involved in projects examining the efficacy of mindfulness in managing stress among cancer caregivers and the utility of mHealth to aid smoking cessation.

Karen BrandonKaren Obremski Brandon, PhD 
Research Scientist

Karen Obremski Brandon, PhD, is a research scientist at the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. Dr. Brandon received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Indiana University. She focused on familial and individual difference characteristics of alcohol use and abuse in children, adolescents, and adults before joining TRIP. She currently contributes to projects on self-help for smoking cessation, health disparities in smoking cessation treatments, and e-cigarette use for smoking cessation.

Sierra WashingtonSierra Washington, M.P.H.
Research Coordinator II

Sierra is a research coordinator at the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and the University of South Florida with a Master's in Public Health. Her research interest includes behavioral and communication interventions for equitable health outcomes.


Leslie SawyerLeslie Sawyer, BS
Graduate Student

Leslie Sawyer, M.A., is a graduate student in the doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of South Florida. Dr. Thomas Brandon is her major professor. Her research and clinical interests center on substance misuse. At TRIP, Leslie is currently working on studies involving a smartphone app for smoking cessation and investigating factors that dissuade adult smokers from using e-cigarettes for harm reduction (i.e., switching from combustible to e-cigarettes). cigarettes for smoking cessation.

Honor Woodward
Graduate Student, MS

Honor Woodward

Honor Woodward is a graduate student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of South Florida. She is pursuing her PhD under the mentorship of Drs. Vani Simmons and Jennifer Vidrine. Broadly, her research interests involve promoting health in marginalized communities and developing efficacious smoking cessation interventions for vulnerable or at-risk groups. At TRIP, she is working on multiple projects related to smoking cessation among cancer patients. Previously, she received her Master's of Science in Clinical Psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, studying HIV-related health disparities and intersectional minority stress.

Administrative Support Staff

Merida FlytheMerida Flythe
Executive Assistant

Merida Flythe is the executive assistant to Vani Simmons. Ph.D. and Jennifer Vidrine, Ph.D. She is also a board member with Estamos Unidos, a Moffitt team member engagement network. She has extensive experience in administrative support and community service roles. Before joining Moffitt in 2021, she worked at Northwell Health in New York for 15 years and volunteered at her community ambulance squad as an emergency dispatcher.

Terri WhiteTerri White-Jones
Grant Administrator V

Terri White-Jones is a Grant Administrator for the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. She has 13 years of experience in the financial and administrative management of sponsored projects. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College. Prior to Moffitt, she worked at the University of South Florida and Raymond James Financial.

Yanid GrullonYanid Grullon, BA
Grants Management Administrator

Yanid Grullon is a grants administrator for the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. She joined Moffitt Cancer Center in 2017 and is currently providing grant support to the faculty at TRIP. Yanid received her bachelor's degree in business administration from Ana G. Mendez University in Puerto Rico.