Rachel Yorlets

Rachel Yorlets
PhD in Epidemiology ’24


Undergraduate Institution: Thiel College, BA in Biology
Graduate Institution: Boston University School of Public Health

Why did you choose the Brown University School of Public Health?
Brown was the best fit for my priorities for an Epidemiology PhD program: rigorous methods training, a small size with focused mentorship, a research match with faculty members, and an emphasis on teaching. On a personal note, I was encouraged to choose a fully-funded program, and I was also hoping to stay in this region.

What makes Brown's program different from other programs you considered?
All of the programs that I considered offered high-quality training in epidemiology. Brown stood out because its curriculum focuses on methods, as evaluated by a qualifying exam, and requires students to create and submit an NIH grant; I knew this rigor was the preparation I wanted for a career as a researcher. It’s also unique in focusing on teaching students how to teach – another long-term goal of mine – and among the programs ranked similarly to it, offers a great faculty-to-student ratio.

What do you enjoy most about your program?
I enjoy being challenged by the methods professors (including those in Health Systems), and the support from my mentor/advisor, who makes a point to support me as a whole person, not just a student.

What is your academic area of interest and why?
My dissertation research focuses on social determinants of care utilization among persons with stigmatized infectious diseases – specifically the effect of migration on care engagement among persons with HIV in South Africa. I’ve long been interested in who gets care and who doesn’t and why. I think health disparities research traditionally focuses on if care is available, but there is an opportunity to connect this to the complex factors that determine whether or not someone uses that care.

What are your postgraduate goals/plans?
I plan to pursue a post-doctoral position with the goal of becoming a faculty member engaged in teaching and research.

Why Providence?
Geographic location was important to me, and Providence allowed me to stay in the Northeast, in close proximity to family/friends in Boston, where I lived previously. I also love the safe small college town feel with enough resources for everything I need, but without the expense or distraction of a major city.

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
Reach out! It’s just as important for you to evaluate programs as it is for them to evaluate you. Make your list of priorities for your training experience, and know that while no program is perfect, you want to align your search with programs that would be the right fit for you personally.