New Faculty 2019

Health Services, Policy & Practice


Barbara Bardenheier, Ph.D.

Barbara Bardenheier, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice

Dr. Bardenheier’s education includes training in biostatistics (MPH) and epidemiology (Ph.D.) from Emory University, theology (MA) from Franciscan University and accounting (BS) from Florida State University. She worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two decades in research and public health programs including health services research related to immunization, vaccine safety, vaccine preventable diseases, racial disparities in various health outcomes, refugee and immigrant health, HIV and TB, and diabetes. Her diverse research program currently investigates the unintended protective effects of adult vaccines and the effect of dementia on hospital referrals and entrance into nursing homes.


Melissa Clark, Ph.D.

Melissa Clark, Ph.D.

Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice

Dr. Clark received her Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University. She is a survey methodologist whose substantive areas of interest are in the fields of health services utilization and vulnerable populations. The overarching theme of her research is to better understand the individual, social, and environmental barriers and facilitators to health and well-being among individuals who have traditionally experienced disparities in overall health status and access to high quality health care. As the Director of the School of Public Health Survey Research Center, she has extensive experience in questionnaire development, psychometric analyses and data collection methodologies. She has been responsible for leading data collection and analysis activities for several large-scale, multidisciplinary projects. Finally, she is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Public Health where she oversees all academic degree programs offered through the School of Public Health.

Jill Harrison, Ph.D.

Jill Harrison, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Health Services, Policy & Practice

Dr. Harrison is the Executive Director of the NIA IMPACT Collaboratory focused on the conduct of embedded pragmatic trials for Alzheimer's disease. Prior to joining the NIA IMPACT Collaboratory, Dr. Harrison was the Director of Research for an international non-profit advocacy organization, founded by a patient, focused on implementing person-centered care initiatives in healthcare organizations in 27 countries. In addition to her role at IMPACT Collaboratory, Dr. Harrison is a member of the Advisory Panel for Patient Engagement at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) through 2021. She was recently the principal investigator of a PCORI Engagement Award about how patient-family advisory councils engage in the research life cycle. Dr. Harrison is MPI on a NIA funded pilot to adapt a pain intervention for use in rural geriatric cancer patient populations. Her research interests include: pragmatic trials in real-world settings, engaging residents of long-term care communities as evaluators of care quality, developing culturally congruent person-centered care approaches in healthcare systems, and organizational cultural change. She completed her post-doctorate at Brown University in health services research.

Julie Lima, Ph.D., MPH

Julie Lima, Ph.D., MPH

Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice

Dr. Lima holds an MPH from Boston University with concentrations in social and behavior sciences and epidemiology/biostatistics and a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in population studies from Brown University. She has been with the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at Brown University since 2002 serving in various roles, most recently as a faculty member. She is the Center’s expert on data compliance and human subjects research regulatory matters. Substantively, she has collaborated with national leaders on grants in the areas of unmet need for care for people living with functional limitations in the community; quality of care at the end of life; culture change practices in U.S. nursing homes, and post-acute care among Medicare beneficiaries.

Behavioral & Social Sciences


Tanya Benitez, Ph.D.

Tanya Benitez, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences (Research)

Dr. Benitez received her Ph.D. in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and holds a Master’s in Social Work degree from Stony Brook University in New York. She completed postdoctoral fellowships in Health Disparities Science at Arizona State University and Integrated Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego. As a bilingual Latina, her research focuses on promotion of physical activity among Latinos, with particular emphasis on women at risk for lifestyle-related health conditions. Dr. Benitez's areas of research include the development and testing of culturally appropriate physical activity interventions in underserved populations; examination of social, cultural, and behavioral mechanisms influencing health disparities; and application of behavior change theory and technology to physical activity promotion in Latinos.


Michael Bernstein, Ph.D.

Michael Bernstein, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Bernstein is an experimental psychologist. His prior work centered on college-student preventive interventions for alcohol use, including a text-message intervention for 21st birthday drinking. He primarily focuses on understanding and harnessing the placebo effect to improve treatment outcomes. Dr. Bernstein's NIDA K-01 award will examine whether the long-established analgesic (pain relieving) properties of placebos can be used to minimize opioid use among acute pain patients. Put differently, he investigates placebos not as an experimental control but as a potentially effective yet highly unusual form of treatment in itself. His research draws on the surprising finding that placebos are effective even when not given deceptively. Dr. Bernstein is also involved with research in the areas of: Artificial Intelligence in medicine, opioid use, and alcohol misuse.


Kimberly Chavanne, Ph.D.

Kimberly Chavanne, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences (Research)

Dr. Chavanne’s education includes training in psychology from San Diego State University, neuroscience from George Mason University and psychopharmacology as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Her research agenda has touched on different cognitive, behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms involved with addiction, with a strong emphasis on psychopharmacology and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). She has led research projects on the alcohol-smoking comorbidity, as well as opioid misuse. Her diverse research program currently investigates novel pharmacological treatments for cue-induced alcohol and cigarette craving, stress-related psychosocial factors on cognitive and executive function in individuals with opioid use disorder and public perceptions of opioid stigma.


Shira Dunsiger, Ph.D.

Shira Dunsiger, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences (Research)

Dr. Dunsiger is currently a Research Scientist at The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School and an Assistant Professor (Research) in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University. She received her Ph.D. in Biostatistics from Brown University and completed a T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cardiovascular behavioral medicine before transitioning to a faculty position. Her research focus is on developing sophisticated statistical methodology for analyzing data from behavioral medicine, including smoking cessation, physical activity, mood, depression and adherence outcomes. Her broad research interests include pattern detection, “big data,” and statistical mediation.


Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Ph.D.

Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Grigsby-Toussaint, a social epidemiologist, seeks to capture complex processes in the food, social and built environments to facilitate a better understanding of their influence on what have been coined the three pillars of health: diet, physical activity and sleep. She is particularly interested in vulnerable (e.g., low income) and racial/ethnic populations across various stages of human development. Her work is grounded primarily in theoretical approaches from epidemiology (documenting determinants and distribution of risk in populations), nutrition (processes by which individuals obtain and utilize food) and geography (the role of place in shaping health risk). In addition to exploring non-communicable disease risk among vulnerable populations in the US, she is also exploring the impact of the nutrition transition on health status in Ecuador and Uganda. Dr. Grigsby-Toussaint's research has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation, and her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, the Dallas Morning News, and the Chicago Tribune. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for BMC Public Health.


Rachel Gunn, Ph.D.

Rachel Gunn, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Gunn received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (2017) from Indiana University-Bloomington where she studied the role of impulsive personality and executive functioning (working memory) in the etiology of young adult drinking. She completed her clinical internship at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS) in the School of Public Health. In her time at CAAS, she studied the etiology and behavioral pharmacology of marijuana use and gained experience with laboratory alcohol and marijuana administration methods. Dr. Gunn was recently awarded a K08 career development award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to examine the impact of simultaneous alcohol and marijuana use on alcohol consumption and consequences in the natural environment using ambulatory assessment and alcohol biosensors.


Jaclyn Hughto, Ph.D., MPH

Jaclyn Hughto, Ph.D., MPH

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Hughto is a social epidemiologist with expertise in qualitative and quantitative research methods and analysis. Her research aims to [1] document the structural-, interpersonal-, and individual-level factors that contribute to health inequities for sexual and gender minorities and other marginalized populations; and [2] develop and test community-based interventions to improve the health of at-risk communities. Dr. Hughto has co-authored more than 50 publications and her research has been cited in testimony before state and federal courts to advance the health of gender minorities.


Cara Murphy, Ph.D.

Cara Murphy, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Murphy received her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and is an Early Stage Investigator whose main research interest lays in the intersection and treatment of maladaptive patterns of substance use and eating. In particular, her recent work has focused on improving health outcomes and reducing morbidity and mortality among individuals with tobacco use disorder and co-morbid obesity. She had led examinations on the substitutability of food and cigarettes in obese smokers, on prospective smoking initiation as a function of BMI in adolescents, and on the bi-directional relationship between smoking and weight loss among overweight and obese adults pursuing weight loss. She was the PI of a study investigating of the effects of smoking very low nicotine content cigarettes on appetite and weight (NIDA Extramural Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Researchers), of a pilot study testing feasibility of a multiple health behavior change intervention for overweight or obese smokers (Research Excellence Award from Brown University), and the Project Coordinator of several NIDA-funded clinical trials.


Jeff Proulx, Ph.D.

Jeff Proulx, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences (Research)

Dr. Proulx received his Ph.D. from Oregon State University. His work focuses on the development of mindfulness programs in underserved communities and the study of how these programs may be protective for health. He is particularly interested in bridging Native American and African-American traditional healing practices with mainstream mindfulness practices in order to create culturally-relevant stress reduction programs with interest in how mindfulness affects resilience and well-being across a person's developmental trajectory. Also, how stress in minority communities is influenced by the shadow of historical and cultural traumas. Therefore, his work is designed to address the loss of culture and traditions by relying on the tribes to assimilate community strengths and traditions that are already “mindful” into the mindfulness intervention. The long-term goal is that these interventions reflect the distinct cultures of the communities and are ultimately delivered and maintained by the community themselves.


Tyler Wray, Ph.D.

Tyler Wray, Ph.D.

Edens Family Assistant Professor of Behavioral & Social Sciences

Dr. Wray is the Edens Family Chair in Healthcare Communications & Technology at the Brown University School of Public Health and leads the School's academic programs in digital health and behavior. His research explores various ways technology can be used to help people make healthier decisions and lead healthier lifestyles. His interests generally fall into three main areas: (1) just-in-time and adaptive interventions, (2) motivating behavior change using technology, and (3) designing user experiences that create the best environment for behavior change. Although much of Dr. Wray's work so far has mostly addressed these issues in the context of HIV and substance abuse prevention/care, his interests span a broad range of health behaviors and behavior changes.

Epidemiology


Nina Joyce, Ph.D.

Nina Joyce, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Joyce received her doctorate in Epidemiology from Brown in 2015 and completed a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy. Though her training is in epidemiology she frequently collaborates with researchers across departments, including health services research and economics. As a result, she has developed an interdisciplinary research agenda that aims to place traditional clinical epidemiological research within the context of current health policy. Dr. Joyce’s research focuses on the association between patterns of health care utilization and clinical outcomes, with particular interests in longitudinal patterns of pharmacotherapy in children and end-of-life care for the elderly. In addition, she is currently building an initiative to study the association between medication use and motor vehicle crashes in older drivers.


Nan Li, Ph.D.

Nan Li, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology (Research)

Dr. Li received her master’s degree in Epidemiology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and her doctoral degree in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She completed postdoctoral training in environmental health at the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Li’s primary research interests include environmental chemical exposures, early-life influences, nutrition, obesity, neurodevelopment, and cancer. She has worked in the field of epidemiology for over 9 years, and published 22 peer-review articles in scientific journals. Her recent research activities include examining the impact of early-life obesity, gestational and childhood endocrine disrupting chemical exposures on children’s cognitive abilities and neurobehavior. Dr. Li’s previous research focused on examining the impact of dietary intake on cancer risk and survival, cancer surveillance, and cancer prevention.