Cynthia Chafin, M.Ed., MCHES® Cynthia Chafin

Ms. Chafin has served as CHHS Director and Interim Director since October 2015. She has been with the center as a project director since 2002.  Ms. Chafin is curently a doctoral student in the MTSU Department of Health and Human Performance and anticipates completing the Ph.D. in Human Performance program in 2023 with a specialization in health .  She has a Master of Education in health promotion and education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Middle Tennessee State University.   She was part of the first national cohort to receive advanced-level certification as a master certified health educator from the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).  Ms. Chafin has a lengthy history in public health having worked for and with the state health department along with multiple local, state, and national non-profit and community-based organizations as a volunteer, project director, and consultant. She has been awarded the Health Educator of the Year award from the Tennessee Public Health Association in 2006 and received the inaugural Eloise Q. Hatmaker Distinguished Service Award from the Rural Health Association in 2009 for her public health work in rural Tennessee communities. She recently was recognized in the Spring 2023 MTSU Research Magazine as one of seven members of the $5.0 Million Club for receiving externally funded awards totaling over $5.0 million over her career at MTSU as CHHS Director.

Ms. Chafin’s interest and experience in public health is broad, though specific areas of interest and experience include substance use and misuse, mental health, healthy lifestyles and chronic disease prevention, cancer control and prevention as well as cancer survivorship.  She is interested in health and wellness coaching as a strategy for addressing individual and population health and is currently enrolled in the Vanderbilt Health Coaching Program completing practicum requirements.   She is currently involved in research and projects focusing on substance use and misuse (including opioid use disorder),  mental health, and sleep medicine, all important to overall health and wellness, along with other current CHHS projects.  She managed the Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control project from 2004-2016 and was instrumental in the development of 3 state cancer plans and implementing 12 state cancer Summits as part of that project.  She has also managed the Death Scene Investigation/Sudden Unexplained Infant Death project for multiple years, the Yes I Can! Diabetes Self-Management project, Smart Mothers are Resisting Tobacco- a prenatal tobacco cessation and prevention program implemented in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties - the Career Mapping and Folic Acid projects, and multiple other grants awarded to the center.  She has co-founded internship programs for three organizations and has served as a mentor and supervisor to more than 70 students as of spring 2023 and is a frequent guest lecturer on the MTSU campus.  She along with colleagues, including a sleep medicine physician, founded the MTSU Center for Health and Human Services Sleep Research Consortium in 2018. She is active in multiple public health and community services activities and in 2007, she founded Community Health Collaboratives, LLC to provide consulting services.   Her projects have received numerous national and state awards and recognition. 

Sarah GwinnSarah Gwinn
Grant and Program Coordinator

 Ms. Gwinn has served as the Grant and Program Coordinator since March of 2018.  She came to MTSU with a background in grant writing, grant management, and fundraising from the local nonprofit community.  Ms. Gwinn has earned a Revenue Development Certificate from the Center for Nonprofit Management, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from East Tennessee State University. 

Ms. Gwinn’s interest in public health is rooted in her background addressing the unique needs and barriers to food security and health care access that individuals living in poverty face daily.   The activities of the Center for Health and Human Services are a natural extension of her interests, allowing for state-wide impact, education, and systems change in Tennessee’s public health outreach.

Christina ByrdChristina Byrd, CHES®
Special Projects Coordinator

Ms. Byrd has served as the Special Projects Coordinator since August 2017. Ms. Byrd is a proud alumna, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Middle Tennessee State University in May 2017 and recently completed her graduate degree in the Master of Public Health program. She received certification by the National Commission on Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) as a Health Education Specialist in June 2018. In the short amount of time that Ms. Byrd has been in the with the Center for Health and Human Services, she has served as project coordinator and project assistant for multiple grants including Environmental Health and Water Quality,  Blue Raiders Drink Up: Healthy Choices for Healthy Students, Death Scene Investigation/Sudden Unexplained Infant Death, SPARK, Smile SMART and, SPARK 2 Read. Her last semester as a college student, she completed a 360-hour internship with CHHS. During the internship, she gained experience in promoting, marketing and implementing multiple health education programs for a non-profit organization. Ms. Byrd has always had interest in health and wellness since she was young. Being born and raised in Tennessee, Ms. Byrd is honored to serve and impact her hometown community so closely


Michael AyalonMichael Ayalon 
Wilson County Rural Communities Opioid Response Coordinator 

Mr. Ayalon serves as Wilson County Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Coordinator. Through grant funding, Mr. Ayalon will be helping to address the three core priorities for Wilson County: Wilson County's first ever Diversion Center for first time drug offenders, a jail based re-entry transition specialist position, and trauma informed drug prevention activities and education for Wilson County schools and businesses. Mr. Ayalon is also the Founder and CEO of Greek University, an educational platform that has inspired countless institutions across North America in identifying, understanding and resolving current social issues.

As a professional speaker, entrepreneur, and author, Mike has headlined over 400 presentations across 200 college campuses in 35 states to bring light on pressing problems, such as Alcohol/Drug Abuse Prevention, Sexual Assault Prevention, Hazing Prevention, and Motivation in Student Organizations. Mike's strong technological background and varied professional experience in helping to build companies from startup to over $25 Million in annual sales gives him a profound understanding of the ways these issues penetrate all levels of corporate and educational structures today. His unique insight and hands-on approach enable him to create dynamic, positive and results-driven keynotes and workshops that transform people's lives.

As a TIPS-certified trainer and the former Executive Director of Sigma Pi Fraternity with 120 chapters and over 100,000 members nationwide, Mike has a deep understanding of the current situation on campuses and corporations as well as a structured plan on how to empower our own youth to stop being a part of the problem and become an active part of its resolution. He is a member of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, a programming partner for the North-American Interfraternity Council, and is actively involved in giving back to the community as the 2018 - 2020 Membership Chairman for District 6780 of Rotary International. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors at DrugFree WilCo, a coalition to reduce drug abuse and addiction in Middle Tennessee. Mike is a graduate of the School of Management at the University at Buffalo and has a Master's Degree from Cumberland University in Public Service Management.


Jill Thomas 
USDA Project Coordinator - STEMsational Ag:  The Virtual Farm

Jill recently rejoined the CHHS team in January 2021 but is no stranger to the Center as she served as a project coordinator on numerous projects from 2007 –  2013. During her time away from the Center, she was an elementary school educator as well as a full-time professor in the MTSU’s College of Education. Jill received her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from MTSU and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish with a minor in Biology from the University of Minnesota. Her experience in the Tennessee public schools as well as her work as a professor in the School of Education will be a valuable addition to the Center.  

Other Staff and Support

The center employs experienced and qualified personnel for programs, projects, and research facilitated through the center, including staff located remotely who allow the center to serve all areas of Tennessee through its work. A student internship program allows the center to provide learning opportunities and practical experience for students while supporting the work of the center.  The center also collaborates with faculty from multiple departments and disciplines to assist with research, evaluation, and other needs vital to successful completion of grant-funded activities of the center.

The center reports to and has the full support of the Vice Provost for Research & Dean of the College of Graduate Studies as well as the support and involvement of the many faculty and staff on campus involved with its grants and projects.



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