Our Team

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

Dr. Litch is 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 in frontline positions that ranged from medical officer in remote district hospitals, to NGO program director, to senior advisor for the Ministry of Health. He has held scientific and technical positions with GAPPS, PATH, CDC, University of Washington, and Johns Hopkins University/Jhpiego. At GAPPS, Dr. Litch led the Perinatal Interventions Program and served as principle investigator for a number of implementation science activities in Africa and Asia. At PATH, Dr. Litch was the Senior Newborn, Child and Maternal Health Specialist, where he directed a broad portfolio of innovative implementation research, maternal/newborn/child health and technology projects, and was PATH's lead on the USAID BASICS child survival program. At JHPIEGO, he was senior advisor to the flagship USAID Maternal Newborn Health Program and the USAID Training in Reproductive Health 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. Dr. Litch leads the PTB/LBW Global Technical Working Group, and serves on several international task forces, committees, advisory councils, and journal editorial boards. He is principle investigator and co-investigator to many applied research projects in Asia and Africa related to maternal, newborn health and stillbirth, and teaches in the areas of implementation science, evaluation, metrics and perinatal health.


Courtney Baruch-Gravett, MPH - Research Program Manager

Courtney is a program manager for research initiatives at GAPPS. She 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. Courtney 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. Courtney also manages GAPPS Bioservices, which provides access to a biobank of standardized, high-quality specimens linked to data from diverse populations of pregnant women and their babies to support a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including research on normal and abnormal pregnancies, how pregnancy affects maternal and child health after delivery, and fetal origins of diseases. Courtney has been with GAPPS for eight years, and previously contributed to numerous clinical and implementation research projects focused on maternal and newborn health. Prior to joining GAPPS, Courtney worked as a research scientist at Oregon Health Science University, studying the link between fetal exposure to nicotine and adverse health outcomes later in life. She later worked at Seattle Children’s hospital to characterize viruses associated with childhood cancers. Courtney received an MPH from the University of Washington with a concentration in public health genetics. She holds certificates in public health leadership and project management.


Donald Chaffin - Operations Manager

Donald manages the GAPPS Repository laboratory as well as GAPPS facilities and infrastructure. With more than 37 years of experience in the fields of biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology and 8 years managing Repository operations for GAPPS, he brings a wealth of knowledge to the GAPPS team. He is dedicated to maintaining the quality of all biological specimens, from the point of collection to distribution. The rigorous quality control program designed by Donald assures the highest level of biological integrity for samples in the collection. Donald holds a bachelor’s in chemistry from Seattle Pacific University.


Maria Stepanchak, MPH - Program Officer

Maria is a Program Officer 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.


Samantha Ferrell - Biospecimen Coordinator

Samantha is a Biospecimen Coordinator at GAPPS. She is passionate about biobanking for women’s and children’s health. She has a strong skillset in bench research, histology, cryopreservation, high throughput clinical sample processing, kit production, and logistics. She is an expert in design and implementation of collection kit data and production systems and trains research staff in tissue sampling methodologies. Samantha has a Bachelor’s degree in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Washington.

Steve Brooke, MBA - Senior Advisor for Commercialization

Steve Brooke is a Senior Advisor for Commercialization at GAPPS providing strategic and tactical guidance on public/private product development collaborations, product commercialization strategies, and intellectual property management. He plays an active role in the Born Healthy project and is exploring areas for potential expansion of GAPPS involvement in product development partnerships. Prior to GAPPS, Steve worked at PATH for over 25 years across a broad variety of roles of increasing responsibility from conceptualizing, developing, negotiating, and implementing complex industry partnerships to serving as Deputy Director on a flagship USAID cooperative agreement. Prior to receiving a Master of Business Administration degree in marketing and finance from Northwestern University, he served as marketing manager for a medical products company. He received his undergraduate degree in international business from the University of Washington and has private sector experience in the international distribution of prosthetic and orthotic components.