Our Team

Courtney Baruch-Gravett, Project Manager II
Donald Chaffin, GAPPS Repository Laboratory Manager
James Litch, Acting Executive Director and Chief Research Officer
Rohit Nariya, Research Associate
Maria Stepanchak, Research Associate
Gillian Levine, Research Associate Consultant


Board Members

Jack Faris, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Secretary

Craig Rubens, President of the Board of Directors

Tom Hansen

Michelle Williams

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Courtney Baruch-Gravett, MPH
Project Manager II

Courtney Baruch-Gravett has a strong background in basic science research, epidemiology and project management, working in the field of maternal and child health for the past decade. Following initial work as a research scientist studying fetal origins of adult disease, Courtney completed her masters of public health at the University of Washington and has since focused on clinical and implementation research as well as project management in maternal health. In her current role at GAPPS, she leads a complex, multi-country research initiative aimed at establishing international research cohorts in pregnant women to elucidate the causes of preterm birth and develop appropriate, novel strategies for prevention. 


Donald Chaffin
GAPPS Repository Laboratory Manager

Donald Chaffin manages the GAPPS Repository laboratory and is responsible for quality control of all biological specimens, from the point of collection to distribution. He helped design and implement a rigorous quality control program to assure the biological integrity of the collection. Donald holds a bachelor’s in chemistry from Seattle Pacific University. He has more than 34 years of experience in the fields of biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology.


James A. Litch, MD, DTMH
Acting Executive Director and Chief Research Officer

Dr. Litch is acting executive director and chief research officer of GAPPS. Dr. Litch’s work in global health began more than 25 years ago and he has lived and worked in a number of settings in Africa and Asia, including serving as Senior Advisor for the Family Health Division of the Nepal Ministry of Health. He has held positions with PATH, CDC, University of Washington, and Johns Hopkins University/Jhpiego and the University of Washington. Immediately prior to GAPPS, Dr. Litch was the Senior Newborn, Child and Maternal Health Specialist at PATH, where he directed a broad portfolio of innovative implementation research and technology projects, and was PATH's lead on the USAID BASICS child survival program. He has been a consultant and a reviewer for the WHO, the USAID Maternal Child Survival Program, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other global health organizations. He has been principle investigator and co-investigator to many applied research projects in Asia and Africa related to maternal, newborn health and stillbirth.


Rohit Nariya
Research Associate

Rohit Nariya works with the GAPPS Repository on collection kit production and laboratory processing. He has a strong skill set in bench research and is also experienced with high throughput clinical sample processing. Rohit has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Washington.

Maria Stepanchak, MPH
Research Associate

Maria is a Research Associate at GAPPS supporting several maternal and newborn health projects, including Born Healthy, a collaboration between Jhpiego, CIFF, GAPPS and WHO to address maternal infections in pregnancy through an antenatal care platform to improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes in India. Previously, Maria coordinated a multisector effort to review maternal immunization safety monitoring systems in low- and middle- income countries and contributed to the development of a framework to guide introduction of new vaccines for use in pregnancy in LMICs. Prior to joining GAPPS, Maria coordinated a national quality improvement collaborative focused on increasing breastfeeding rates and managed a data coordinating center for cardiology clinical trials. She has a strong background in research methods, quality improvement, and program management. Maria received an MPH from the University of Washington School of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health and a BA in Environmental Science from Boston University.

Gillian Levine, MPH, PhD Candidate
Research Associate Consultant

Gillian is a research technical assistant at GAPPS specializing in perinatal and pediatric epidemiology in low-resource settings. Gillian has worked extensively on the design, implementation and analyses of clinical epidemiology studies and applied research projects in newborn and pediatric health in Kenya, Bangladesh, Burma/Thailand and south India. She has conducted numerous applied research projects to inform strategy, policy and research priorities in pediatric and perinatal health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization. Gillian is a PhD Candidate in Epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle, has a Masters of Public Health in Population and Family Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a BA from the University of Washington.


Jack Faris, PhD
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Secretary

Jack Faris earned a B.A. from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago.Following military service, he was associate professor at Towson University in Baltimore, with tenure. He worked eleven years at Cole & Weber advertising, leading the agency's largest account, Boeing, and serving as Executive Vice President and General Manager. He then joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as Director of Community Strategies. From 2000 to 2004, he was the University of Washington's Vice President for University Relations. He served as President of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association from 2005-2009. He was CEO of the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute from 2011 to 2012 and has also undertaken a variety of consulting roles and pro bono projects. Currently, Jack is a Senior Counselor with APCO Worldwide.

Craig E. Rubens, MD, PhD
President of the Board of Directors

Craig Rubens, MD, PhD, is co-founder and executive director of GAPPS at Seattle Children’s. An internationally recognized infectious disease expert, Craig leads GAPPS' work in program development and strategic partnerships that leverage cross-disciplinary science to accelerate a discovery-to-delivery pipeline for improving maternal and newborn care and ultimately preventing prematurity and stillbirth. Craig is a professor of pediatrics and global health at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is a member of many prestigious medical and scientific societies, including the American Pediatric Society and American Society of Clinical Investigators. He is on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has been a consultant and reviewer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FDA, CDC, NIH, and other international funding organizations, along with many high-profile scientific journals. He is on the editorial board for the journal PLOS ONE. 

Tom Hansen, MD

Thomas N. Hansen, M.D. received his MD and completed his pediatric residency and neonatology training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He furthered his education by completing a fellowship in pediatric pulmonary diseases at the Cardiovascular Research Institute of the University of California at San Francisco and returned to Baylor where he advanced to Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Section of Neonatology. He also held the Texas Children’s Hospital Foundation Endowed Chair in Neonatology and served as Vice-Chairman of the Department for Research and Program Director for the Child Health Research Center. In 1995, Dr. Hansen was named Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Medical Director of Columbus Children’s Hospital. In 1997, he was named Chief Executive Officer of Columbus Children’s Hospital. During his ten-years as CEO, Columbus Children’s (now Nationwide Children’s) became one of the nation’s five largest, free-standing children’s hospitals and one of the ten largest free-standing pediatric research centers. In 2005, Dr. Hansen became CEO of Seattle Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, where he worked to help the hospital achieve it vision delivering the highest quality healthcare to all children regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Under Dr. Hansen’s leadership, the size of the medical staff at Seattle Children’s doubled, the average number of patients cared for increased by 50% and patient care space to 1.5 million square feet. They were consistently rated as one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and achieved “Magnet Status” by the American Nurses Association. Dr. Hansen retired as CEO of Seattle Children’s in 2015, and returned to the laboratory to focus on developing interventions to reduce the mortality of premature infants born in resource limited settings.

Michelle Williams, ScD

Dean Williams’ research interests lie principally, but not exclusively, in the field of reproductive and perinatal epidemiology. She has spent the last two decades focused on integrating epidemiological, biological and molecular approaches into rigorously designed clinical epidemiology research projects that have led to greater understandings of the etiology and pathophysiology of placental abruption, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Her research programs were developed through (1) identifying gaps in the literature; (2) constructing methodologically rigorous, versatile and robust epidemiological data capture systems and networks (epidemiology platforms) in North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and South America; and (3) proactively and strategically integrating biochemical and molecular biomarkers onto that epidemiology platform. She has fully exploited the arsenal of epidemiology study designs (case-control, self-matched case-crossover, and prospective cohort studies) to answer important questions concerning the etiology and pathophysiology of a relatively broad spectrum of adverse reproductive and perinatal outcomes. Dean Williams’ overarching goal has been, and continues to be, to use biological and molecular biomarkers as objective measures of exposure (e.g., dietary intake, nutritional status) and/or as validated pre-clinical proximal determinants (e.g., oxidative stress, systemic inflammation, endothelial dysfunction) of discrete outcomes of clinical, public and global health importance. To date, much of her work has been focused on advancing knowledge of the etiology of selected highly relevant, but fairly understudied perinatal outcomes. She has also sought to expand the literature by searching for and then confirming novel/non-traditional risk factors of those outcomes. Her research programs have been largely funded by a number of research awards from the National Institutes of Health. To date, she has authored or co-authored 240 original research reports. Dean Williams is Principal Investigator of three large National Institutes of Health-funded projects: (1) A Prospective Cohort Study of Migraine, Platelet Activation, and Preeclampsia, an observational study designed to identify pregnant women at high risk of preeclampsia and to assess mechanistic hypotheses to explain the co-occurrence of migraines and preeclampsia in some women; (2) A Cohort Study of Preterm Delivery in Relation to Partner Abuse, Mood and Anxiety Disorders, an observational study of 6,000 Peruvian women to determine whether the risk of preterm delivery is influenced by maternal mental health status and/or exposure to violence before and during pregnancy; and (3) Triggers of Placental Abruption: A Case Crossover Study of an Ischemic Placental Disease, another observational study designed to identify acute and chronic risk factors for placental abruption; and to search for genetic variants in both maternal and fetal genomes (900 maternal-infant pairs) that contribute to an increased risk of placental abruption.


Discover how our widely accessible biobank is helping scientists close the knowledge and solution gaps.

GAPPS Projects

Learn how GAPPS research and advocacy efforts are working to prevent preterm birth and stillbirth.

Ways to Help

Power research efforts to improve birth outcomes around the world. Join our donor community today.

View Learn Donate