Courtney Choy

PhD in Epidemiology ’21


Undergraduate Institution: Georgetown University, Biology of Global Health
Graduate Institution: Yale University School of Public Health, Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Global Health

Why did you choose the Brown University School of Public Health?
Strong mentorship and the flexibility of Brown’s doctoral program in Epidemiology has allowed me to pursue training in advanced epidemiological and statistical methodologies during the academic year, while also spending a substantial amount of time in Samoa for my PhD dissertation work. Since 2015, I have been a part of the Samoan Obesity, Lifestyle, and Adaptations study group, and continue to work on the Ola Tuputupua'e "Growing Up" cohort study which focuses on providing information about child health and development to inform preventative interventions in Samoa.

What makes Brown's program different from other programs you considered?
Brown's program fosters an exceptional collaborative spirit and supports opportunities for student to engage in communities to do global public health work. During my first year, I submitted many successful applications for research funding in thanks to the amazing support that I received from my mentors, faculty, staff, and peers. As part of the International Health Institute, Populations Studies and Training Center, and the Samoan Obesity, Lifestyle, and Genetic Adaptions Study Group, I feel connected with global health leaders here at Brown, and across the world.

What do you enjoy most about your program?
In addition to the flexibility and innovative research, Brown's program is one-of-a-kind because of the people. I have witnessed how faculty, staff, and peers genuinely strive to support each other in our work and practice of public health. Speaking from my own experience, an outright 'no' is a rare answer that I hear to research/work-related requests but rather 'let's talk and see what we can do'.

What is your academic area of interest and why?
My family and upbringing in Hawai’i first inspired me to work in communities within the Western Pacific region. I witnessed how individual health conditions, like obesity and diabetes, transcend physical boundaries and became passionate about leading the change to promote and sustain good health and well-being in these populations. As such, my work has evolved over time, as an MPH student at Yale, Fulbright Research Scholar in Samoa, and now a PhD student, broadly focused on: child growth and development, cardiometabolic diseases, Asian-Pacific Islander population health, and the application of longitudinal and multilevel data analyses.

What are your postgraduate goals/plans?
Hopefully return to the Western Pacific region as a global noncommunicable disease epidemiologist. I co-established the Ola Tuputupua’e cohort in 2015 and hope to remain involved with this research and follow these children until adulthood. Perhaps this will involve a post-doctoral fellowship and ultimately a position at an institution to work on issues to improve the overall health and well-being in multi-ethnic communities in the Pacific.

Why Providence?
There is a strong collective of public health practitioners and advocates in Providence who are not only academics. There are many exciting opportunities in and outside of the classroom to engage in communities and do what you are most passionate about. Conveniently, Providence is a 45-minute train ride away from Boston and within 2-4 hours of Connecticut and New York to also connect with others.

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
Be your authentic self, seek a mentor who shares similar values, feel free to scope different research interests (you do not have to know everything!), and do not hesitate to ask questions or for help in your pursuit of a degree in public health. 

Read Courtney's student profile in the Graduate School's newsletter

Learn more about Brown's PhD in Epidemiology