April J. Bell, PhD, MPH

Prinicipal Investigator

Dr. Bell is a community health researcher, social epidemiologist, and health equity advocate dedicated to improving the sexual and reproductive health outcomes of historically marginalized adolescents. Dr. Bell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Family and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Her research focuses on reducing health disparities in sexual and reproductive health among Black adolescent women and girls through the development
and implementation of novel methods and strategies created in partnership with the community. Dr. Bell is committed to conducting research that is antiracist and does not perpetuate the harms of anti-blackness and white supremacy. She is working towards a
future where Black girls are free.


Jo Williams, MPH

Project Manager

Jo Williams is an advocate, researcher, and artist who is deeply dedicated to the autonomy and wellness of all people with marginalized identities. She received her B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University in 2016 and earned her Master's in Public Health from UC Berkeley in 2022. Her lived experience in the foster care system informs much of her politic, study and advocacy in the Child Welfare space and beyond. Her previous research and professional endeavors have ranged from improving sexual health education for local foster youth at the community and state level to increasing primary care use among monoligual Spanish speakers to bolstering lactation access supports for Black mamas and birthing people in the SF Bay Area. Now as the Program Manager for Girlx Lab, Jo is so excited to be joining a group of colleagues that deeply understand the importance of choice, respect and trust in our advancement of sexual and reproductive health and health care!




Sativa Banks, MPH, CHES

Doctoral Research Assistant

Sativa Banks is a Doctoral Student in Health Education at the University of Toledo specializing in sexual and reproductive health and social policy. Sativa earned a B.A. in Public Health Education from Otterbein University in 2018 and an MPH from the University of Toledo in 2020. Sativa’s research interests center around questions of sexual and reproductive health access and contraceptive behaviors. She holds professional membership with the Society of Family Planning, and the American Public Health Association where she is also a Councilor for the Sexual and Reproductive Health section. Through her advocacy work and scholarship, Sativa aims to advance reproductive justice, reduce sexual and reproductive health disparities among vulnerable groups, expand access to contraception, and reduce unintended pregnancies.



Destinee Lewis

Research Assistant

Destinee Lewis is currently a fourth year student at San Francisco State University, pursuing her Bachelor’s in Biology with a concentration in Physiology as well as minoring in Counseling. Destinee is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada. She aims to integrate her love for study and science by pursuing a profession as an obstetrician/gynecologist in medicine. Her desire to work in medicine stems from her concern for women's health and her desire to help them stop furthering health disparities specifically among women of color. With this drive Destinee hopes to reform the medical industry specifically in the obstetrician/gynecologist roam of medicine to allow women of color more access to healthcare regarding reproductive health, introduce more birth plans to mothers, introduce more non-traditional medicine techniques to patients, etc. As a future physician, she intends to utilize her knowledge and privileges to help bridge the gap between the healthcare system to eliminate health inequalities, discrimination, and socioeconomic factors that affect women of color.


Leslie Schneider, MEd, BS

Research Assistant

Leslie is a second year medical student in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco interested in pediatrics, health equity, and fostering agency in youth through longitudinal relationships. Her research background has focused on multiple facets of socio-emotional development, how babies reason about their physical and social worlds, and how information processing in the brain differs among children and adolescents with anxiety and depression. In addition to research, Leslie earned her Master of Education specializing in English Language Learner education while working as a third grade math teacher in Oakland. Leslie is excited to be joining the Girlx lab to learn more about implementing antiracist research and encouraging sexual autonomy in Black girls and women.


Makenna Leung

Research Assistant

Makenna is an undergraduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her academic interests include sexual and reproductive health, pregnancy, and fetal development.


Affiliated Faculty 

Dr. Swartz is an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Nursing at CSU East Bay. Her research is focused on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and antiracism pedagogy in nursing training programs. She is a founder of the Dismantling Racism in Nursing Education at CSUEB, and has provided numerous professional development trainings nationally for nursing faculty on the application of health equity, antiracism, and ethics in Nursing.