Meet Our Research Team
Our expert community research team is dedicated to improving population health through increased understanding of the role and effect of early environmental exposures on child health and development.
Our team has a vast background and uses applied research – including both observational and interventional studies – to gain insight into child health and development, particularly in historically high-risk or medically underserved populations.
Amy Elliott, PhD
Amy Elliott is the Chief Clinical Research Officer at Avera Research Institute Center for Pediatric and Community Research and professor at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine. She leads research teams in Sioux Falls, Pine Ridge and Rapid City, S.D. Her primary focus is improving child health and development through community-based research. Elliott is the principal investigator on several National Institutes of Health (NIH) research projects including the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) study, examining environmental influences on child health outcomes. She previously worked on the Safe Passage study, an initiative to reduce infant mortality in American Indian communities.
Jyoti Angal, MPH
Jyoti Angal is the Director of Clinical Research for the Avera Research Institute Center for Pediatric and Community Research and instructor at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine. She provides compliance and regulatory expertise on all of the center’s studies, including several National Institutes of Health (NIH) research projects. Angal enjoys managing large research projects and incorporating research ethics in order to improve research design. She’s also passionate about using research to improve maternal and child health in communities with health disparities.
Christine Wey Hockett, PhD
Christine Wey Hockett is the Director of Community Research at Avera Research Institute in Rapid City, S.D., and Assistant Professor at The University of South Dakota School of Medicine.
Her research uses observational and community-based intervention methodology to understand how prenatal exposures and behaviors influence infant and childhood health outcomes, specifically in the areas of obesity, diabetes, and child development. Her ultimate goal is to reduce health disparities among rural and American Indian populations.
Arielle Deutsch, PhD, Research Scientist
Arielle Deutsch is a Research Scientist at the Avera Research Institute Center for Pediatric and Community Research and an Assistant Professor at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine.
She loves developing new and creative ways to increase our understanding of complex problems in health by using a variety of different research methods and disciplines, from behavior genetics to community-based system dynamics. Her main areas of interest broadly involve the environments and internal mechanisms of substance use, reproductive and prenatal health, and intimate partner and family violence, focusing on health disparities and inequity for rural, Native, and marginalized communities. She is passionate about collaborating with researchers and non-researchers alike to find practical, effective, and empowering solutions to improve health equity and overall health for those in need.
Karen Thierry, PhD, Research Scientist
Karen Thierry has 20 years of experience conducting policy-relevant research and evaluation of health and education programs affecting vulnerable populations, including children, English language learners, and low-income individuals in diverse communities. Her primary area of expertise is in the prevention of adverse childhood experiences using socio-ecological models of intervention.
Ping Ye, PhD, Research Scientist
Ping Ye integrates and analyzes “big data” from biomedical systems and specializes in various computational approaches, including data mining, machine learning, NextGen sequencing data analyses, agent-based models, metabolic network models, ordinary differential equations, and probabilistic graphical models.
Her research efforts currently focus on identifying the relationship between prenatal environmental exposures, genetic variations, epigenetic alternations, and outcomes in pregnancy and child development.