The initial Transforming Chaplaincy Fellowship Program supports sixteen Chaplain Research Fellows across two staggered cohorts to complete two-year, research-focused Master of Science or Master of Public Health degrees in epidemiology, biostatistics, or public health at accredited schools. The Fellowships cover all tuition and associated fees as well as a yearly stipend, research funds, and support to attend program conferences. The Cohort 1 Kickoff Conference July 2016 in Chicago included the first group of 8 Fellows, the Transforming Chaplaincy Leadership and Advisory Committees, and our John Templeton Foundation Program Officer. It oriented Fellows to the program, chaplaincy research, and graduate-level studies. A similar Kickoff Conference took place in Chicago in July 2017. The Fellows continually demonstrate their deep commitment to research-informed chaplaincy, evidenced not least by the growing bibliography of their published research.

Cohort 1

The Rev. Marilyn JD Barnes, MA, BCC

Rev. Barnes graduated with an MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health in May 2018. She is a Senior Staff Chaplain at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. Her final project was titled “Does Religion and Spirituality Buffer the Harmful Association Between Discrimination and Stress Among Midlife Women?”


Barnes M, Massey K (2017). “Spiritual care encounter – journeying with a grief stricken family.” Society for Simulation in Healthcare 12(5): 339-47.

The Rev. John Michael Betz, MDiv, BCC, CT

Rev. Betz graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine with an MPH in Biostatistics in 2018. His thesis, “Spiritual Struggle, Death, Depression, and Public Health,” offers original research on hospice workers and their coping. This research is paired with a meta-analysis of Pargament’s RCOPE/Brief-RCOPE (positive and negative subscales) and depression scales. Rev. Betz is also an Airborne Chaplain in the US Army Reserves.

Allison Delaney, MA, BCC, PT

Allison graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine with an MPH in Epidemiology in 2018. Allison was also invited to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. Her capstone, which she will present at the joint APC/NACC annual meeting this summer, is “Development and Evaluation of the Affirmation, Intervention, Restoration “AIR” Cart for Double Duty Caregiver Support”. Double Duty Caregivers (DDC) are a vulnerable population who are at risk for poor physical, mental, and financial health because of the compounded stress of being a healthcare provider at work and caring for loved ones at home. This project, at Riverside Health System, used a team-based approach to develop and assess a workplace intervention to alleviate DDC stress and provide support.  The Affirmation, Information, Restoration (AIR) Cart, inspired by similar carts at Mt. Sinai Hospital (New York) and Ascension Health (Texas), was piloted for 10 weeks at a Walter Reed Hospital, a rural 150 bed hospital.  The AIR Cart survey results showed that it is an acceptable, efficient, and low-cost intervention that provides support to DDCs in the midst a hectic workplace.


Damen A, DeLaney A, Fitchett G (2017). “Research priorities for healthcare chaplaincy: Views of US chaplains.” Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy.

Tim Ford, MA, MS

MPH, Epidemiology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Faculty Researcher and Instructor, VCU Health System, Richmond, Virginia

Rev. Patricia K. Palmer, MDiv, BCC

Rev. Palmer graduated from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in 2018 with an MPH in Epidemiology. She is now Manager of Research Projects at Spiritual Health at Emory Healthcare. Her thesis, “Stressor Prevalence, Grouping, Distribution, and Association with Anxiety among Hospitalized Patients: A Precursor Study for Developing Targeted Chaplain Interventions,” laid the groundwork for the development of targeted chaplain interventions by exploring hospital inpatients’ stressors, how they are distributed (singly and in groups), and how these exposures, along with other factors, are associated with the outcome of anxiety.

Rev. Geila Rajaee, MDiv, BCC

MPH, Health Behavior and Education, University of Michigan
Manager of Spiritual Care, Mount Carmel Health, Columbus, Ohio

Beba Tata, MDiv, MS, BCC

Beba graduated from the University of Minnesota with an MPH in Community Health Promotion in 2018. Her thesis, “The use of typical and atypical spiritual resources in the community: results of legacy interviews with cancer patient,” explored the ways a sample of people described their lived experiences with cancer and to identify themes in narrative related spiritual resource use.


She is a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Rev. Kelsey Blankenship White, MDiv, BCC

Rev. White received her MSc in Clinical Investigational Sciences from the University of Louisville School of Information Science and Public Health, which also inducted her into Delta Omega. She is a chaplain for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky.

Cohort 2

The Rev. Marta Dabis, MS, MBA, PBCC

MPH, University of Michigan School of Public Health
Chaplain, St. Joseph Mercy Health

Cate Desjardins, MDiv

MPH, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Chaplain Research Fellow, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

Paul Galchutt

MPH, Community Health Promotion, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Inpatient Palliative and Staff Chaplain, University of Minnesota Health

Kristin Godlin, MDiv, STM, BCC

MPH, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne
Chaplain, Carle Foundation Hospital and Presence Covenant Medical Center

Rev. Dirk Labuschagne, MDiv

MPH, Epidemiology, University of Illinois at Chicago
Registry Chaplain, Rush Oak Park Hospital

Saneta Maiko, PhD

Dr. Maiko graduated with an MS in Clinical Research from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2018. His thesis, “Religious/Spiritual Distress and Strengths of Adults with Advanced Cancer in Outpatient Clinical Setting,” concluded that “those who care for the religious and spiritual wellbeing of AACs may assist with quality spiritual care when they understand the strengths such as supportive relationships with family, friends, God and faith community while also addressing their distress such as through making meaning, asking clarifying questions about identity, supporting acceptance and reducing suffering.”

Rev. Shelley Varner-Perez, MDiv, BCC

MPH, Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University
Clinical Staff Chaplain, VA Portland Health Care System

Rev. Petra Sprik, MDiv

MPH, Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina
PRN, Carolinas Health System

Tim Usset, MDiv, MA, BCC, LMFT

MPH, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Research Chaplain, Center for Veterans Research and Education
Brigade Chaplain, US Army Reserve