Engaged Faculty Spotlight: (Alumni) Health, Medicine and Environmental Studies

September 16, 2020

This month we spotlight two community-engaged faculty who are alumnae of Brown University.

Caroline Harada ‘96
“After Brown, I spent a year in Bolivia teaching in a program for street children. I then returned to the US for medical school at Yale, where I became heavily engaged in service work at their student-run free clinic. I then moved to University of Chicago for an internal medicine residency and geriatrics fellowship. I joined the faculty there for a few years and re-discovered my love of teaching. My husband and I moved to Alabama in 2008 and I became a faculty member at UAB School of Medicine (and also had two children, Adam and Charlotte!). I have found UAB to be an incredible institution, where people are kind, and where diversity, interprofessional collaboration, and creativity in teaching are highly valued. I focused initially on interprofessional education and geriatrics, but in 2015 I pitched the idea of starting an engaged learning program for medical students. With support from our schools' administration, we have built engaged learning experiences into all four years of the medical school curriculum, started a chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, and started a Health Equity Scholars program. 

"My experience at the Swearer Center was the most formative of my years in higher education, and it truly shaped the way I view the world. I will never be as brilliant as Kris Hermanns or Peter Hocking or the student leaders I met at the Swearer Center, but I was definitely improved by learning from them! I have spent the last five years of my career as a medical educator trying to recreate my Swearer experience so that medical students can benefit in the same way that I did twenty five years ago.”


Katrina Korfmacher ‘89
Dr. Korfmacher holds a MS in Water Quality Management and PhD in Environmental Studies from Duke University. She has worked with community partnerships related to childhood lead poisoning preventionhealthy homes, air quality, hydrofracking, land use, and other environmental justice issues in Rochester for 20 years.

“When I decided to take a year off after my first year at Brown, I was lucky to get a lot of personal encouragement and support from Susan Stroud. The Swearer Center had a five inch thick 3-ring binder full of opportunities for students to explore. I spent hours looking through those and imagining what I could do! I ended up having five or six different jobs/internships during that year, including Student Conservation Association, ski instructor, state legislative intern, paralegal, and environmental educator.

“Most of my work is as ‘clinical’ faculty, but my ‘clinical’ work is engagement. I direct the NIEHS-funded Community Engagement Core of the Environmental Health Sciences Center. I have focused on lead poisoning prevention because the EHSC has done research on lead for decades. I really didn’t want to work on lead when I came to Rochester in 2001, because I remembered that my Brown classmates had ‘dealt with’ lead back in the 1980s - it couldn’t possibly still be a problem. But Rochester’s lead rates were over 20 times the national average – so it was a big problem.  What I realized was that while many communities had successfully reduced lead risk, each city needs a solution that is appropriate to its unique situation.  What works in Providence or Boston won’t necessarily work in Rochester. 

"Teaching is just a small part of my job but I try to leverage my current community work, partnerships, and experience into each class to help students learn about being better partners and engaging in local problem solving. I was introduced to community engaged learning my first semester at Brown by my advisor Harold Ward. It was central to many of my classes and my work at the Urban Environmental Lab. I decided I needed to find ways to share that experience with students. In my course: 'PHLT 238: Environmental Health and Justice in the Rochester Community,' I’ve really struggled to find a community engaged project that will fit the times – by promoting environmental justice locally, while physically distanced, and without ‘engaging’ the time/energies of overtaxed community partners. I have been working with the City of Rochester’s Office of Sustainability for about five years on a series of climate plans. Each student in my course will pick one recommendation from the most recent Climate Change Resilience Plan and do research, benchmarking, and analysis to guide the city’s implementation to maximize environmental justice.

"When my son Stefan ('21) came home due to Covid last spring, I had the privilege of watching him navigate two community-engaged classes remotely – a Brown class on Housing Justice and a RISD architecture seminar involving a community client in Japan. That inspired me to persevere with engaging community partners in teaching this fall despite all the challenges."