Research Team

Iris Cardenas, PhD., LSWIris Cardenas, PhD., LSW
Assistant Professor
University of Maryland School of Social Work
Affiliate, InCommunity Lab at Arizona State University

Dr. Iris Cardenas is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, conducting research on intimate partner violence (IPV) within the Latinx community. She obtained her Doctoral and Master's degrees in Social Work from Rutgers University and gained valuable experience as a fellow with the National Institute of Justice Research Assistantship Program.

Her research is characterized by a strong emphasis on Latinx culturally concordant translational research, employing person-centered approaches and intersectionality methods. Dr. Cardenas is particularly dedicated to the development and evaluation of trauma-informed, culturally responsive interventions aimed at both preventing and mitigating the consequences of IPV, with a keen eye toward reducing the social and health disparities prevalent in the Latinx population. Her work delves into survivors' help-seeking behaviors and cross-cultural scale adaptation and the validation of psychometric properties, ensuring the validity and reliability of measurement tools in Latinx cultural contexts. Dr. Cardenas has presented her research both national and international conferences.

Research interest: Intimate partner violence in the Latinx communities; victimization and help-seeking behaviors; health and wellbeing; culturally responsive interventions; cross-cultural scale adaptation & psychometric properties validation.


Cardenas, I. (2023). Advancing intersectionality approaches in intimate partner violence research: A social justice approach. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 32(1),1-11.

Cardenas, I. (2022). Development and validation of the Scale of Attitudes about Seeking Formal Help in the context of intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Alvarez-Hernandez, L.R., Cardenas, I., & Bloom, A. (2021). COVID-19 pandemic and intimate partner violence: An analysis of help-seeking messages in the Spanish-speaking media. Journal of Family Violence. 1-12.

Laurie M. Graham, PhD, MSWLaurie M. Graham, PhD, MSW
Assistant Professor
University of Maryland School of Social Work

Dr. Laurie M. Graham, PhD, MSW, has committed her social work career to violence intervention and prevention. Currently, Dr. Graham is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. She came to this position with more than a decade of experience addressing intimate partner and sexual violence in community settings. Dr. Graham’s experience offering supportive services for people who have experienced violence and implementing intimate partner and sexual violence prevention programs guides her research and teaching. Using an intersectional, healing-engaged lens, Dr. Graham supports the development, implementation, and evaluation of culturally responsive, youth-centered violence and fatality prevention strategies, while also educating social work graduate students. Dr. Graham received her MSW and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social work where she was a Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellow and Injury and Violence Prevention Fellow.



  1. Graham, L. M., Lloyd, A. M., McCort, A. D., Macy, R. J., Moracco, K. E., Reyes, H. L. M., & Martin, S. L. (2023). Researcher-practitioner partnerships to implement and evaluate sexual and relationship violence prevention programs for boys and men. Violence Against Women.
  2. Kafka, J. M., Moracco, K. E., Graham, L. M., AbiNader, M. A., Fliss, M. D., & Rowhani-Rahbar, A. (2023). Intimate partner violence circumstances for fatal violence in the US. JAMA Network Open, 6(5):e2312768.
  1. AbiNader, M., Graham, L. M., & Kafka, J. M. (2023). Examining intimate partner violence-related fatalities: Past lessons and future directions using U.S. national data. Journal of Family Violence.
  2. Graham, L. M., Kafka, J. M., AbiNader, M. A., Lawler, S. M., Gover-Chamlou, A. N., Messing, J. T., & Moracco, K. E. (2021). Intimate partner violence-related fatalities among US youth aged 0–24 years, 2014–2018. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Advance online publication.
  3. Graham, L. M., Ranapurwala, S. I., Zimmer, C., Macy, R. J., Rizo, C. F., Lanier, P. L., & Martin, S. L. (2021). Disparities in potential years of life lost due to intimate partner violence: Data from 16 states for 2006–2015. PLOS ONE, 16(2): e0246477.

Seferina Kim, PharmDSeferina Kim, PharmD
Advanced Practice Pharmacist
University of Maryland School of Pharmacy

Seferina Kim, PharmD is a clinical pharmacist board certified in pharmacotherapy and serves as Chair of the Intimate Partner Violence Collaborative at UMB.  She currently is researching knowledge gaps for identifying, triaging, and referring victims of IPV by people that provide direct patient care.  Dr Kim is coordinator for the Ambulatory Care Pharmacy Residency Program at UMB and clinical staff for the School of Pharmacy with a primary site at the outpatient Medication Therapy Management Clinic at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Marcela Sarmiento Mellinger, MSW, Ph.D.Marcela Sarmiento Mellinger, MSW, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Maryland, Baltimore County School of Social Work

Marcela Sarmiento Mellinger, MSW, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, and teaching primarily at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As a practitioner, she worked as a systems advocate and an administrator. She has extensive experience working with individuals impacted by intimate partner violence and in training practitioners and para-professionals who encounter survivors and victims in their work. She has experience working with government administrators, the courts, legislators, and the community in determining social needs and developing strategies to raise awareness and bring about change. She teaches courses that address gender-based violence and policy. Her main areas of research include advocacy, intimate partner violence, and social work education.  


Mellinger, M. S. Intimate partner violence. In L. Rapp-McCall, K. Cocoran, & A. R. Roberts, (2022). Social Workers’ Desk Reference 4th Ed. Oxford Press.