Student Stories

The students in the Brown University School of Public Health are here because they committed to learn public health by doing public health.  Take a moment to read about why they chose public health at Brown.

Nina Joyce
PhD candidate in Epidemiology

Nina joined the PhD program after four years as a clinical research coordinator for an emergency department.  Having learned the structure of health claims from a clinical perspective, her research has focused on using large health claims databases to study patterns of health utilization and disease.  Most recently she was awarded a highly competitive predoctoral dissertation grant from the American Heart Association to study patterns of pharmacological treatment in children for the disease Familial Hypercholesterolemia – a genetic condition resulting in dangerously high levels of high-density lipoprotein. 

“The small size of other faculty, relative to other schools, has the obvious added benefit of more personal attention.  However, one of the less obvious advantages of Brown is that the recent growth of our department has resulted in a faculty that has been trained in, and whose work was often integral, in the development of the newest epidemiologic methods.  Unlike other programs with a more entrenched curriculum, there is the flexibility here, such that from the beginning, courses are able to incorporate the latest methods, as opposed to reserving them for higher level electives later in our training. " 


Lawrence Were
PhD candidate in Health Services Research

Lawrence Were is a third year PhD student in Health Services Research (HSR) – Health Economics Track. He has a BA in International Relations (IR) with a minor in Information Systems and Technology (IST) from United States International University –Africa (USIU-A) in Nairobi, and an MA in International Development and Social Change (IDSC) from Clark University - Worcester, Massachusetts. At Brown he is an IMSD scholar, S4 fellow, and currently enrolled in the Brown Executive Scholars Training (BEST) program.

Lawrence’s research interests are on the application of health economic theory and econometric methodology in causal estimation of the impact of health systems and policy reforms, and health insurance on health and economic outcomes within marginalized and high risk populations.  For his dissertation research he is focusing on the impact of social health insurance on the health and economic outcomes of HIV+ pregnant women in Western Kenya. Working with Dr. Omar Galarraga, Assistant Professor of Health Services Policy and Practice (HSPP), Lawrence is using data from the Academic Model for the Provision and Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) – a consortium of Kenyan and US universities, including Brown University that provides care to more than 150,000 HIV+ individuals in western Kenya. This dissertation work is funded by two grants: The Hewlett Foundation/IIE Dissertation Fellowship 2013 – 2015 and Lifespan/Tufts/Brown CFAR Developmental Grant. Not only is this research timely and relevant, but it has the potential to shape the social health insurance and HIV care policy in Kenya and similar developing economies in light of dwindling donor funding and government tax revenues, increasing healthcare costs, and burdensome out-of-pocket payments especially for the poor.

 “The Health Services Research (HSR) PhD program appealed to me due to its focus on the application of theory and practice in health policy, and opportunities to work on interdisciplinary research with leading faculty in their fields and forge collaborations and synergy with fellow students.”


Sylvia Shangani
Masters student in Behavioral and Social Science

The first girl from her Kenyan village to attend a national secondary school, Sylvia went on to Moi University, where she studied Public Health, and gained field experience as a researcher. She plans to use the training she’s received at Brown to contribute to the international discourse on how to improve the utility of behavioral interventions in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“The massive HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya has touched me in strong personal ways through the grief of losing close relatives to HIV-related illnesses. What stands out to me is the complex socio-cultural and behavioral enigma HIV represents. It is more than a clinical condition, and to conquer it requires successful behavioral and social interventions.”

Michael J. Lopez
PhD candidate in Biostatistics

Currently a fourth-year student in the Department of Biostatistics, Michael has been an IMSD trainee at Brown, and received the June Rockwell Levy Foundation Fellowship (awarded by the Division of Biology and Medicine).  Michael also earned a pair of prestigious student paper awards from the Health Policy Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association, to present in Montreal (2013) and forthcoming in Boston (2014). Do vitamins reduce the risk of heart disease, or do people who take vitamins have fewer heart problems because they are healthier to begin with? By creating tools to identify causes and effects from epidemiologic data, Michael Lopez's research helps investigators answer such questions.

Recently, he was awarded an NIH Fellowship for his proposal "Treatment Choice for Aging Population: Causal Inference with Multiple Treatments." The $42,000 fellowship will fund Michael's research to extend current statistical methodology to allow investigators to simultaneously identify the causes and effects of multiple treatments or therapies. Prior to Brown, Michael received his BS in mathematics from Bates College and his MS in statistics from the University of Massachusetts.

"I've been blessed with countless opportunities over the last few years to learn and grow as a student, whether it was within the department or across the School of Public Health.  Each collaboration has been a valuable part of my experience, and it has been exciting to watch as Brown transforms itself into a major player in health research."