Current COHRA Staff
Dr. Daniel McNeil is the Principal Investigator for the COHRA study at West Virginia University. Dr. McNeil's research focus is in behavioral dentistry and behavioral medicine, with a special focus is on the conceptual understanding of anxiety, fear, and pain. Dental fear and phobia are particular areas of interest to him. His investigations in dentistry have primarily converged on assessment, working to understand dental fear and phobia, their components, functions, and sequelae. In addition to research, Dr. McNeil has an interest in teaching dental students and working with dental faculty. As a result of his work on pain and anxiety/fear in dental settings, Dr. McNeil has become involved in other areas of behavioral dentistry, including orthodontics and pediatric dentistry. He is also interested in the oral (dental) health problems of people in West Virginia and elsewhere in Appalachia.
Dr. Linda Alexander is the Co-Investigator for the COHRA study at West Virginia University. Dr. Alexander is a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and currently serves as the senior associate dean for academic, student, and faculty affairs for the WVU School of Public Health. Her formal education includes graduate degrees from James Madison University and the University of Virginia. She served as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Elizabeth Kao is the Project Dentist for the COHRA Study at West Virginia University. Dr. Elizabeth Kao is a professor at West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Department of Restorative Dentistry. She received her BA and MA degrees in Biology from Boston University and a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania School Of Dental Medicine. Because of her interest in combining dental practice, teaching, scholarly advancement and research; she has chosen an academic career at the Ohio State University and West Virginia University.
Dr. Richard Crout is the Consultant for the COHRA Study. Dr. Crout is Professor Emeritus with the WVU School of Dentistry (SOD). A former Associate Dean for Research at the SOD, Dr. Crout has been involved with the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA) since its inception. As a former principal investigator for the grants that support COHRA, Dr. Crout continues to serve on the COHRA Executive Committee. A periodontist, he provides consultation in that realm, and in dental issues generally, for the ongoing COHRA project.
Linda Brown is a Registered Dental Hygienist and an Oral Data Collector for the COHRA Study in our Summersville location. Linda grew up in Kanawha County and graduated from WVIT in 1996 with her degree in Dental Hygiene. She worked in private practices for 8 years before becoming part of West Virginia University School of Dentistry's research team in December of 2004. She loves working with participants on this study. She states, "This work is so important for the future of our state to help fight dental disease in children. It has been an honor to work with so many great families over the years, we consider them our family."
Tayla Tallman is a Registered Dental Hygienist and an Oral Data Collector for the COHRA Study in our Morgantown location. Tayla is a 2014 graduate from West Virginia University, with a Bachelors of Science degree in Dental Hygiene. She worked in private practice for five years in the surrounding areas prior to joining the Northern COHRA team. Tayla has always had a strong passion for public health. She has found that her research position is very rewarding and exciting. She hopes her role in the COHRA research will largely impact her home state of West Virginia. Tayla resides in Morgantown with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.
Karolyn Ruggles is a Certified Dental Assistant for the COHRA Study in our Morgantown location. Karolyn joined our team in September 2016. Karolyn is a resident of Preston County and no stranger to the dental field! Karolyn has 31 year of dental experience stemming from private practice. In the past, she organized a dental assisting program for the Monongalia County Board of Education and taught within the program for 8 years. Karolyn understands the importance of research thanks to her teaching experience, and knows the impact research can have on future education. Karolyn says she wants to "help make a difference in the oral health of children".
Carly Scala is a Registered Dental Hygienist and Oral Data Collector for the COHRA Study in our Charleston location. Originally from Parkersburg, WV, she moved to Charleston in November 2019 to join the COHRA staff after 5 years in corporate dentistry. Carly is a 2014 graduate from West Virginia University, with a Bachelors of Science degree in Dental Hygiene. Carly is also a Clinical Representative for the state of West Virginia for the company Young Dental. In addition to her sales experience, Carly also publishes e-articles and written articles for dental hygiene publications across the country. When not working, Carly spends time with her boyfriend and his daughter, enjoys hiking and cycling, as well as reading and cooking.
Aliyah Pugh is the Community Liaison and Recruiter for the COHRA Study statewide. Aliyah is stationed in the Charleston location and is originally from the Charleston area. Aliyah is currently enrolled at West Virginia University as a Psychology major, while working full-time and taking care of her family! Aliyah enjoys her position and the opportunity to give back to her community. She looks forward to increasing our participant numbers, gaining knowledge needed to assist with research, and making sure our participants feel welcome and comfortable as vital members of our COHRA family.
Brette Scala is the Dental Assistant for the COHRA Study in our Charleston location. She is one of the newest member of our COHRA team, joining mid-pandemic in March of 2020. Brette is a resident of Huntington, WV and received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Marshall University. Although she is new to dentistry and research, she will use her 10 years experience in advertising and marketing to help grow the COHRA mission. Brette is excited to become more involved in the healthcare field and to work with participants and families.
Kalo Sokoto is a Graduate Research Assistant for the COHRA Project beginning in May of 2020. Kalo is a second year PhD student in Counseling Psychology at West Virginia University. She is an international graduate student from Kenya with a Bachelors of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Masters of Arts in Counseling. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Kalo practiced as a trauma therapist amongst the refugee population across East and Central Africa. Kalo is interested in interdisciplinary and diversity research within psychology. Kalo has been involved with COHRA since October 2019.