Study Team

Primary Investigator (UCLA School of Nursing) – Alexa Benson, PhD(c), WHCNP

Ms. Benson began to study music at an early age. Piano, violin, flute, and accordion; finally settling on voice as her primary instrument. Through the process of learning language through music, she also developed a love of culture and has traveled to over 40 countries. After receiving her Bachelors in Music from Chapman University, she changed career paths and began working on her Nursing degree. While working as a nurse in a Level I Trauma ER, she received her certificate as a women’s healthcare Nurse Practitioner from the Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner Program and began working as a sexual assault forensic nurse. A year later, Harbor UCLA began utilizing Nurse Practitioners and she started the Medical Screening Exam NP group and also completed her MSN at California State University, Long Beach. The Thesis research that was conducted led to the publishing of the journal article “Reliability of Female genital injury detection after sexual assault” []. Immediately after graduation, she entered the University of California at Los Angeles and is now working on the current mission of creating more consistency within the forensic community when describing and measuring AGI after SA. Alexa continues to work at Harbor UCLA under the Department of Emergency Medicine, as well with Forensic Nurse Specialists, Inc.

Dissertation Chair (UCLA School of Nursing) – Barbara Bates-Jensen, PhD, RN, WOCN, FAAN

At UCLA, Dr. Barbara Bates-Jensen is engaged in clinical research and education that highlights wound care best practices. Her research on pressure ulcers (bedsores) and chronic wound care (screening, detection methods, assessment, and management) focuses on vulnerable populations such as nursing home residents, elders, veterans with spinal cord injury, and critically ill patients. Chronic wounds, such as ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, and leg ulcers have become a silent global epidemic, in part because of poor outcomes associated with inadequate care. But also because of limited public awareness on the financial costs of patient care. Working with UCLA professors in computer science and bioengineering, Dr. Bates-Jensen helped invent a wound care medical device that measures skin and tissue damage before it becomes visible on the skin surface. The research her team is doing has the potential to improve sustainable patient wound care throughout the global medical community.

Committee Member (UCLA School of Nursing)- Carol Pavlish, PhD, RN, FAAN

UCLA Associate Professor Carol Pavlish, in collaboration with Katherine Brown-Saltzman, co-director of the UCLA Health System Ethics Center, has studied factors leading to ethical stress among oncology and ICU clinical staff, primarily in end-of-life treatment decisions. With nurse ethicists from Mayo Clinic and Massachusetts General, Dr. Pavlish and Brown-Saltzman received a grant from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to test an Ethics Early Action Protocol, their collaborative model that aims to guide patients, family, nurses, doctors, and administrators in feeling safe and supported as they work through personal moral challenges that may rise from treatment decisions. Also interested in health and human rights, Dr. Pavlish researches gender-based violence in post-conflict settings, refugee and immigrant women’s health, transcultural nursing care, and social justice and social advocacy.

Committee Member (UCLA School of Nursing) – Adeline Nayamathi PhD, ANP, AACN

Dr. Adey Nyamathi is a highly respected researcher, academician, and a distinguished professor. She also serves as UCLA’s associate dean for both research and international faculty and student exchange and collaboration. Dr. Nyamathi has been the principal investigator in nine NIH-funded RO1s and other NIH grants funded by NIDA, NIAAA, NICHD, and NIAID. During her three decades of continuous RO1 NIH funding as a Principal Investigator, Dr. Nyamathi has conducted descriptive and randomized trials among vulnerable populations, including homeless, drug-addicted and incarcerated persons, gay/bisexual youth and men at risk for HIV/AIDS, and rural women living with AIDS in India. In her current NIH-funded study study with offenders, Dr. Nyamathi’s team is successfully working with women recently exiting jails and prisons to ensure they have access to psychological empowerment, health care services and life skills education needed to halt repeat drug use and incarcerations.

Committee Member (UCLA School of Medicine) – James Niemann, MD, FACEP

Dr. Niemann is a distinguished faculty member of both the UCLA School of Medicine and the Harbor UCLA Department of Emergency Medicine. His resume can be reviewed here.

Sexual Assault Forensic Advisor (UCLA School of Medicine) – Carolyn Sachs, MD, ACEM

Dr. Carolyn Sachs graduated from the honors program in medical education at Northwestern University in 1990 and then went on to completed an emergency medicine residency and research fellowship at the UCLA Department of Emergency Medicine where she has stayed on ever since and has achieved the rank of Clinical Professor step III. Her research interests center on violence against women and she has authored many peer reviewed publications and book chapters on sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

She serves as a chair of the UCLA Domestic Violence Committee and as a volunteer medical director to FNS, a forensic professional organization lead by Malinda Wheeler NP, FNS, which provides emergent sexual assault adult and pediatric examinations in Southern California. She is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Medicine and has served that organization as part of the public health committee for approximately 20 years and has lead various initiatives for the group involving violence against women and public safety. Dr. Sachs also a practicing academic emergency physician and teaches medical trainees and students about emergency medicine, sexual assault, domestic violence, and physician wellness.

Sexual Assault Advisor; Phase II and Phase III Participating Site (Forensic Nurse Specialists, Inc) – Malinda Wheeler, MSN, FNP

Malinda has been a Registered Nurse for 35 years holding a variety of positions. She received her bachelor’s degree of Nursing from Niagara University, NY, her master’s degree from UCLA as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Critical Care and her Family Nurse Practitioner certificate from California State University, Long Beach. Malinda was a Professor of Nursing for Long Beach City College 10 years and has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in various settings. She is nationally certified as a sexual assault nurse examiner in the areas of pediatrics, adolescents and adults.

For the past 24 years, Malinda has been the owner and director of Forensic Nurse Specialists, Inc. Forensic Nurse Specialists is a private practice/business which provides forensic evidentiary examinations 24 hours per day to law enforcement for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She holds several contracts with cities, universities, counties and hospital systems. Forensic Nurse Specialists currently provides services to over 55 law enforcement agencies in the Los Angeles and Orange county area.

Malinda is past member on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Forensic Nurses, Forensic Nurse Certification Board and is Founding President of the So. California Chapter of IAFN. She was co-chair of the Los Angeles Sexual Assault Coordinating Council for 4 years and helped established certification requirements for all SART Centers in Los Angeles County. Currently Malinda is a board member with the Children’s Advocacy Center in Covina, as well as a child forensic interviewer with the CAC. Malinda is currently a trainer and consultant for the California Clinical Forensic Medical Training Center. She has helped develop curriculum for the state law enforcement educational requirements on sexual assault and domestic violence. Malinda has consulted and lectured extensively on Sexual Assault, Child Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence, Strangulation and Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault.