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About Us

We’re the Baby’s First Years team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and we’re looking forward to meeting you!


Brian Rivera


Nebraska Study Coordinator

  • 4-year-old Brian loved coloring books, and being with dogs, cats, horses, and all other farm animals he grew up with. 

  • Grown up Brian loves movies, reading and spending time outdoors (whenever possible). 

Caitlin O'Connor

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old Caitlin loved pretend play and dress up. From chef to princess, she could be whatever her heart desired for the day!

  • Grown up Caitlin loves gardening and exploring nature. You will find her outside tending to her many gardens or hiking with her family. 

Izzy Iussig

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old  Izzy loved animals, food, and drawing pictures of bunnies. 

  • Grown up Izzy loves her dog Huckleberry, doodling, and learning about the brain. 

Karla Ponce-Mérida

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old Karla loved barbies, sour skittles, Dora the Explorer, and learning.

  • Grown-up Karla loves research, psychology, chocolate, music, and traveling

Darlene Garcia

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old Darlene loved marshmallows, swimming at the beach, and playing pranks.

  • Grown-up Darlene loves playing video games, running on trails with her two dogs, and trying new recipes. 

Andrew Veys

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old Andrew loved feeding his grandpa's horses and going to the rodeo! 

  • Grown up Andrew loves taking care of his house plants, camping, and exploring Omaha’s food scene.

Vanessa Neri Lara

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Research Assistant

  • 4-year-old Vanessa loved gummy worms, dressing up, and playing school.

  • Grown up Vanessa loves puzzles, coffee, and hanging out with friends/family.

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