Meet The Team

Dr. Marcia Smith

Marcia Smith is the principal investigator of The Loving Leadership Project. Marcia obtained her doctorate degree in business administration with a focus in marketing from Argosy University, an MBA from St. Leo University, and her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Marcia currently teaches bachelor and master’s-level courses at Maryville University.

Marcia is passionate about helping others reach their full potential and guiding communities and organizations to maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Marcia has over 20 years’ experience working with diverse communities that seek radical improvement. She has been instrumental in improving the outcomes of non-profit organizations and programs and has mobilized resources at all levels (local, state, and federal) to meet community needs and obtain funding to meet those needs. Local government leaders and state leaders have heralded not only her efforts, but the outcomes of the initiatives she spearheaded. Her efforts have even been a focus of the TN Department of Human Services PR campaign. Marcia has led major community engagement and mobilization initiatives and enjoys working in diverse communities.

Marcia Smith has served as a grant consultant for 2 federal healthcare agencies: Health Resources Services Administration and Substance Abuse/Mental Health Services Administration. Marcia served as the Exeicutive Director of the Mowat-Wilson Syndrome Foundation, Director of Social Services in the largest federally funded healthcare agency in the southern US and in a high-level management position at Baycare Behavioral Health.

For eight years, Marcia lived off-grid (without electricity and running water) and she promotes sustainability for individuals and organizations. She believes firmly that protecting the environment and helping vulnerable communities is vital for future generations to continue to thrive and prosper. Marcia’s daily motto is “Today I will make a difference” and she is committed to the betterment of individuals, organizations, and society at large.

Marcia’s research interests include leadership and healthcare management.

Dr. Diane Lowe

Diane Lowe obtained her Bachelor of Arts in business and Master of Arts in Management from Doane University. Dr. Lowe completed her Doctorate in Health Administration at the University of Phoenix  in 2021. Her Doctoral dissertation was a qualitative study of Community Health Workers and their experiences working in Nebraska. Her Master’s thesis was a quantitative survey of staff of a local health department regarding their motivation and job satisfaction.  

Dr. Lowe works with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS). In 2020, she was recruited to administer Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and American Rescue Plan (ARPA) grants on behalf of NDHHS.

In her role with the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity, Dr. Lowe was responsible for researching, writing, and formatting the People are People are People: Increasing Your CQ curriculum. She has worked extensively on medical translation and interpretation issues, health and other issues related to integration of new Americans, and implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) standards. 

Dr. Lowe is jointly responsible for the Minority Health Initiative grants, which are distributed to communities across Nebraska every two years. She also oversees the State Partnership Grant to Improve Minority Health from the U.S. DHHS Office of Minority Health, which focuses on diabetes rates among Native American populations. Dr. Lowe has presented on cultural intelligence, social determinants of health, and health disparities for audiences across the state. She is a successful grant writer, co-wrote a chapter in the academic textbook, Cultural Proficiency in Addressing Health Disparities, and wrote and implemented Nebraska’s Rural Pandemic Influenza grant for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to research on community health workers, Dr. Lowe’s research interests include leadership and organizational behavior, social determinants of health and their impact on people and their lives, and health disparities and how to address them.

Dr. David Miller

David Miller recently successfully defended his dissertation and received a doctorate in health-care administration. David also has master’s degrees in healthcare administration and nursing and a BSN. Academics have helped David in his role as a healthcare leader. He has worked in nursing for 30 years, the first six in clinical/bedside positions and the remaining 24 in various leadership roles. When not in school or at work, David enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends,golfing, cooking and dining out.

Dr. Irena Zuanic

Irena Zuanic DHA MSN RN NEA-BC is the Chief Nursing Officer and Site Co-Administrator at a large tertiary hospital in Los Angeles. A top-performing nursing executive with more than 20 years of leadership experience, a transformational leadership style, a commitment to excellent patient care, and a history of promoting education and professionalism in nursing.

Dr. Zuanic completed her Doctorate in Health Administration at the University of Phoenix. Her doctoral dissertation research explored the effects of transformational leadership on absenteeism during the COVID-19 pandemic: a quantitative correlational study. Dr. Zuanic holds a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Dundee in Scotland.

As a leader, Dr Zuanic believes it is essential to use your knowledge, cognitive abilities, and creativity to adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare environment. As a scholar-practitioner-leader, I strive to have a spirit of inquiry, explore and stretch my intellectual boundaries, and challenge my current intellectual limits. The joy of exploration is that, at times, answers we are seeking may not be found, but new questions will arise, and as appreciative researchers, we will value the journey.

Irena has been featured in the Los Angeles Business Journal and participated in the Working Nurse 2020 CNO Roundtable.

Dr. Zuanic enjoys volunteering in her free time and has traveled to Mexico and Sierra Leone, Africa, on voluntary medical missions; she is an avid reader, enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends, hiking, and gardening.

Dr. Carlos L.M. Contreras

Dr. Contreras earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in the field of psychology.  

Dr. Contreras has taught undergraduate and graduate courses from 1993 to 2020 and taught exclusively online from 2000-2020.  At the graduate level, the focus of most of his classes was on statistics and research methods for the social sciences.  He is currently teaching G.E.D prep classes with the Region 2 Education Service Center in Texas, teaching undergraduate courses with Saint Leo University, serving on dissertation committees with Abilene Christian University, and chairing dissertation committees with Abilene Christian University and Grand Canyon University.

Dr. Contreras’ interests are in statistics, research methods, and online education.

Stephen J. Notaro, PhD, MAPA.

Dr. Stephen J. Notaro is a Doctoral Faculty Instructor in the ACCESS program at the University
of Phoenix. He earned a Doctorate in healthcare policy and administration, a Master’s degree in
public administration, and a Bachelor’s degree in health administration. He has over 26 years of
experience as a professor having designed and established a Master of Science in Health
Administration program, teaching courses in medical ethics, strategic planning, health policy,
health finance, and also led a study abroad course on the Italian Health System. In addition, Dr.
Notaro has 11 years of professional experience in health planning and health care consulting and
20 years of management experience in non-for-profit organizations. He has served as a
consultant to not-for-profit organizations and has been a featured speaker at conferences and
seminars on management, fund-raising, ethics, and leadership.

Currently Dr. Notaro is teaching doctoral courses in research design, leadership and leadership
theory, and serves on dissertation committees. He also has taught health care delivery in the U.S.
and public and community health in the undergraduate program. Dr. Notaro’s research agenda
includes identifying area wide needs, assessments of existing services using statistical and
financial analysis, the development of strategic plans, and the development of health care
services and programs to address those needs, as well as recently published studies including a
literature review on race, pediatric cancer and animal assisted therapy in addition to doctor-
patient communication in cancer prognosis. Additional research studies focus on healthcare
policy, the impact of Medicare Part D, functions of local public health agencies, and community
health workers.

Dr. Notaro has won multiple awards for teaching excellence, with a philosophy of employing
any resource and sparing no effort to help all the students succeed in academia and beyond.