Speaker Bios


Ira KatzIra Katz, MD, PhD

Ira Katz is Senior Consultant for Program Evaluation in the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. He worked to develop VA’s predictive model using clinical and administrative data to identify which Veterans were at the greatest risk for suicide and related outcomes, and to translate prediction into preventive interventions. He also serves as lead investigator for a large scale VA cooperative study evaluating the effectiveness and safety of lithium for suicide prevention. Before he assumed his current positive, he served as VA’s Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health, and, before that, as Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Penn and the Philadelphia VA, and as principal investigator of both VA- and NIMH- supported research centers.


Amelia ArriaAmelia Arria, PhD

Amelia M. Arria is the director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, and director of the Office of Planning and Evaluation. She received a BS in human development from Cornell University, a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh and completed postdoctoral training at the Johns Hopkins University in psychiatric epidemiology. Her current research focuses on the risk and resiliency factors associated with mental health and substance abuse among adolescents and young adults, and the consequences of untreated mental health conditions and substance use on human capital, especially how these issues can interfere with academic achievement. She is the principal investigator of the NIH-funded prospective College Life Study, which annually assessed the behavioral health of 1253 college students through their young adult years. She has authored more than 150 scientific peer-reviewed publications, numerous white papers and book chapters, and is the recipient of several major grant awards from foundations, and state and federal agencies.

Mustafa KarakusMustafa Karakus, PhD

Mustafa Karakus is a health economist and vice president of Behavioral Health Services and Policy Research at IBM Watson Health. He has extensive experience in mental health policy, evidence-based behavioral health services, healthcare financing, and behavioral health outcomes research. He serves as an internal subject matter expert providing technical assistance and analytic support on projects involving analysis of financing reform and innovations, opioid use disorders, medication-assisted treatment, and people with serious mental illness. He received his PhD in health economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Tari RangelTari Rangel

Tari Rangel is a senior decision science analyst with the U.S. Army Medical Command Program Analysis & Evaluation department specializing in behavioral health analytics. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and has worked in healthcare administration and analytics for over 10 years. While on Active Duty, she served two tours in Afghanistan as the Officer in Charge of a Forward Aid Station and Commanding a Medical Company. She has served in various administrative roles ranging from Chief of Managed Care to lead analyst within Army hospitals. Since joining the U.S. Army Medical Command Program Analysis & Evaluation department, she has played an instrumental role in programming and developing the Army’s Behavioral Health Outcomes metrics focusing on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder outcomes. In addition, she has developed several metrics measuring key performance drivers such as therapeutic alliance, treatment dosage and use of evidence-based treatments. She has also created several clinical tools to improve performance and quality of care. She is an experienced SAS programmer and a subject matter expert in Army Behavioral Health data sets.

Margrét Vilborg BjarnadóttirMargrét Vilborg Bjarnadóttir, PhD

Margrét Vilborg Bjarnadóttir is an assistant professor of management science and statistics at the University of Maryland‘s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Her research focuses on developing advanced models to drive decision-making through optimization and predictive analytics. In addition to the main focus of her work, which is health care, she has applied these models to contexts in people analytics, finance and sports. Examples of the topics of her papers include health care cost prediction, drug surveillance design, drug pattern analysis, the gender pay gap, and financial networks. She holds a PhD in operations research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bhanukiran VinzamuriBhanukiran Vinzamuri, PhD

Bhanu Vinzamuri is a postdoctoral scientist at IBM Research AI, Yorktown Heights, NY. His primary research interests are machine learning, biostatistics and healthcare analytics. He has exhaustive experience in developing semi-supervised, transfer learning and causal inference-based algorithms for real-world problems in the healthcare domain. He has worked for reputed healthcare organizations in the U.S. such as Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Nationwide Children's Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio. He received his PhD in computer science from Wayne State University and his MS in computer science from IIIT Hyderabad.

Amy WindhamAmy Windham, PhD, MPH

Amy Windham is a director of Behavioral Health Research and Policy at Truven Health Analytics, an IBM Company. She has 20 years of experience applying expertise in experimental and quasi-experimental evaluation methodology, epidemiology, prevention, public health, and education to projects and programs by providing managerial, methodological and statistical support. She has extensive technical expertise in measure development, large-scale data collection, and advanced statistical techniques. In her current role, she is a principal on the SAMHSA Center for Financing Reform and Innovations project, leading small and large tasks related to refining methods of estimating spending on behavioral health services, evaluating the impact of insurance expansion on use of behavioral health services, understanding the impact of SUD treatment on health care costs and outcomes, developing a performance monitoring system for opioid treatment programs, and advising on quality measures for the certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs). She is the project director for the National Suicide Prevention Evaluation subcontract to develop and pilot test the methodology for the outcomes evaluation of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Program and for an ASPE-funded project to evaluate access to treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) among private insurance enrollees. She provides technical assistance to states on topics related to improving access to SUD treatment, specifically for OUD, for the CMS Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP). In her previous position, she developed patient reported outcome measures and led several program and policy evaluation projects. She received a PhD in drug dependency epidemiology and an MPH in mental hygiene from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

Yang YuYang Yu

Yang Yu is a senior health planner with Behavioral Health and Crisis Services within Montgomery County Dept. of Health and Human Services. Her expertise is in analytics of behavioral health clinical data and outcomes. She graduated from Penn State University with a dual-title master degree in demography and sociology and has worked in behavioral health data system administration and analytics since 1998. She was the clinical data manager for Maryland Psychiatric Research Center for over eight years and supported clinical trials involving secondary generation antipsychotics. Later, she finished her second mater degree program at UMBC in information systems management. She joined consulting firms like Harris Corporation and IMPAQ International to lead analytical projects for National Center for Health Statistics and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Before joining Montgomery County DHHS, she was senior Medicare Fraud consultant with SAIC, primarily working to combat fraud, abuse and waste in Medicare Part D. During her tenure working at Montgomery County DHHS, she has led numerous analytic projects and system development initiatives in support of 20+ county-run behavioral health programs/clinics to promote integrated behavioral health services for county residents with behavioral health needs. She is a certified advanced SAS professional. With versatile skill set in various BI tools and database systems, she provides much needed analytical expertise to social services programs and transformed business processes at DHHS.