New IREACH Faculty Hires

Published 12/22/2022

by Daniel Barker

Dear IREACH team and community,

As the Founding Director of IREACH, I am delighted to share news of several recent full time faculty hires. Please join me in welcoming new IREACH Co-Directors Amanda Boyd and Denise Dillard, as well as Assistant Professors Jessica Saniguq Ullrich and Melissa Vera. Each of these outstanding faculty will be significant contributors to our central mission, bring valuable collaborative partnerships, and present us with new potential for research and growth. Since joining Washington State University in 2015, IREACH has expanded from 60 faculty and staff to now more than 85. The addition of these four individuals to the IREACH team further grounds our standing as a premier entity working to advance community health and brightens my already hopeful outlook for our Institute’s future. Please find more information on each of these stellar new faculty members below and make them feel welcome as they come on board along with their current contact information (all will be fully on board in January). Feel free to pass along this information to other interested individuals.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and good cheer.

With gratitude,


Amanda Boyd is a member of the Métis Nation of northern Alberta. She is a Co-Director of IREACH and Associate Professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Department of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences at WSU. Her research draws from an interdisciplinary background, which includes communication, rural sociology, management sciences, and Indigenous studies. Amanda began her career as a public relations specialist in industry, where she developed community initiative programs and created marketing campaigns. Amanda has more than 15 years of health and science communication research experience with rural and Indigenous populations in the United States and Canada. In her free time, Amanda can be found on her family farm and ranch in the far north of Canada with her son Sage.

Denise Dillard is Inupiaq Eskimo and was born in Fairbanks and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She is joining Washington State University as an IREACH Co-Director in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Department of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences. Denise is a licensed psychologist and has conducted postdoctoral quantitative and qualitative research since 1998. She previously served as the Director of Research for Southcentral Foundation, a large tribal health organization in Anchorage, Alaska. Her research portfolio is diverse, addressing the wide-ranging health needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities. At a national level, Denise has served on the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee since its inception. Denise has a son, Reid, who attends college in Texas, has two cats, and enjoys spending time kayaking, camping, fishing, quilting, going to hot yoga, and watching her son’s baseball games.

Jessica Saniguq Ullrich is a mother of two teenage daughters, an Inupiaq scholar, a Tribal citizen of the Nome Eskimo Community and a descendant of Kiŋiġin – the Native Village of Wales. As an Assistant Professor in the Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine Department of Medical Education and Clinical Sciences, Jessica focuses on the promotion of connectedness, wellbeing, and relational healing. She is currently engaged in efforts that involve digital storytelling with Alaska Native youth, culturally-based curriculum development, Tribal child welfare prevention efforts, and connectedness for systems change. Storytelling through research, education, and authorship is central to her work.

Melissa Vera is an Assistant Professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing. She is a citizen of the Ts’msyen and Yaqui First Nations. Her research is grounded in Indigenous methodologies and focuses on Indigenous health and climate change. Before becoming an Assistant Professor, Dr. Vera practiced as a registered nurse for four years, while also working as a medical writer and editor. Her first bachelor’s degree is in Creative Writing from Seattle University, and she earned her BSN from Boise State University (her hometown). She has worked for the last three summers with IREACH faculty on a variety of topics. In her free time, she enjoys kung fu, photography, baking, and hiking among the moss and cedars.

Team photo