Research showcase brings to life the breadth and depth of public health research at Brown

National Public Health Week offered students at Brown’s School of Public Health the opportunity to discuss the impact of their research projects and learn about the work of others.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — While Public Health Research Day at Brown is typically referred to as a poster conference, the boards are basic backdrops to the real stars of the event: the student researchers.

On Tuesday, April 2, enthusiastic conversations among nearly 160 researchers spilled out of the open doors of Alumnae Hall as School of Public Health students gathered to discuss topics ranging from disparities in health care to the treatment of substance use to the impact of pollution on human health.

Public Health Research Day is part of National Public Health Week, which Brown celebrates every spring with opportunities that highlight the impact of the University’s public health researchers. This year, the week includes in-person and online discussions led by faculty researchers, a documentary film screening and the launch of the latest issue of the Brown Undergraduate Journal of Public Health.

The poster conference is not only one of the most highly anticipated event of the week, but also of the entire year, said Ronald Aubert, senior associate dean for education and student services at the School of Public Health.

“Public Health Research Day is one of the highlights of the year for our entire public health community at Brown,” Aubert said. “It recognizes the depth of commitment and excellence of our undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students by demonstrating their integration of the knowledge obtained in the classroom, and its application to research. Our students practice their ability to clearly communicate science, which is an increasingly critical skill set in the 21st century, and an essential cornerstone of the educational experience at our School of Public Health."

While all participants have the opportunity to present their work and discuss ideas with colleagues, awards for outstanding undergraduate, master’s and doctoral research posters will be announced at an event celebrating students, staff, community partners and faculty members on April 25.

Here's what four School of Public Health students shared about their research experience this year:

Corban Jackson

Class of 2024, Master of Public Health

Project: The Association Between the Need for and Access to Mental Health Services and the Income Level of a Child’s Household Among School-age Children in the United States Between Combined Years 2018-2019 and 2020-2021

“During my first year, one of my classmates connected me with a nonprofit organization called Coaching4Change, which matches university student mentors with elementary, middle and high schools. I was sent into an elementary school in Central Falls. In working with those students over a semester, I realized that there were a lot of students who need extra support and extra care — social-emotional, academic, etc. — especially post-COVID. So that started my interest in looking at child mental health.

“I used data from the National Survey of Children's Health, and I specifically looked at children who had a need to access care, but could not do so. I stratified that by household income and also by age. I looked at family structures, health insurance and overall child environment, as well as other factors.

“The data bore out what I observed while working with the elementary school students: Child mental health is something that really needs to be addressed. There are a lot of students that are missing out and not getting what they need. After my experience with this project, I’d like to work with a mental health program — I’ve applied to a fellowship and hope to hear back.”

Maryna Rasputna

Class of 2024, Master of Public Health

Project: The Impact of Psychiatric Comorbidities on Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Completion

“What I originally wanted to do for my thesis was very different from this. But then I had this amazing teacher, Hannah Ziobrowski, an assistant professor of epidemiology, who taught a class about public mental health. I loved the class! That became my focus — as part of my interdisciplinary concentration, I’m studying epidemiology and addiction.

“I was excited about this particular data analysis project because it’s practical, it’s about helping people with alcohol use disorder, and it’s part of a great collaboration with psychiatry researchers, the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies and Ocean State Recovery Center. And due to the MPH program, I already had the skills to do data analysis, to do a literature review, and more, so I was able to use what I’d learned in the program on this research project.

“I’m from Ukraine and I worked for five years to help to transform foster care and improve health care reform there. I fell in love with public health. After coming to Brown to do my master’s, I can say I love public health even more. That’s definitely where I see my future.”

Jasmine Xi

Class of 2026, Biology and Economics

Project: Characterizing loss aversion and delayed reward discounting among adult participants of an exercise incentive program in Rhode Island

“I’m studying biology and economics, so I wanted to do something with health economics research. I looked at the projects by Omar Galarraga, a health economist and the director of the doctoral program in health services, policy and practice, and I really liked this one, so I met with him to talk more about it.

“This is part of a larger trial investigating the effect of monetary incentives on physical activity. We're looking at loss-framed incentives, which is basically framing the incentive in a way that people will lose a certain amount of money if they don’t go to the gym a certain number of times. It’s been really interesting, and we’ll be able to learn even more when we have more data at the end of the trial.

“I liked this project because it allowed me to use what I’m learning in my classes at Brown. In my econ classes, we’ve learned how to use Stata [a statistical software for data visualization and analysis], and I’ve taken econometrics and applied research methods for economists. It was great to be able to apply that knowledge and those skills to this project. It’s also been awesome to get exposure to health economics research.”

Jacob Ravich

Class of 2024, Biology

Project: The Impacts of Hispanic/Latinx Patients’ Ethnic Disparity and the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Onset on Oncological Screening and Diagnosis across a Diverse Rhode Island Care Setting

“I took a class last year about biomedical informatics with Neil Sarkar, associate professor of medical science and health services, policy and practice. We learned about dealing with electronic health care records — how complex it is, and how much disparity there is among different patient populations. I'm pre-med, and this gave me a bigger, data-informed public health perspective. I saw the power of data analysis as a way to inform clinical decision support. That was really inspiring.

“In this project, we looked at a Rhode Island health care dataset, supplied from the Rhode Island Quality Institute, which included information about health care interactions through a variety of different health care providers, including hospitals and testing centers. We focused on Hispanic and Latinx communities in Rhode Island, and the potential for disparity in cancer care.

“Of course, it would be great to publish the findings in a scientific journal, because my goal with this kind of research is to inform health care providers, and to provide results that they can actually use to improve clinical care. To that end, I also hope to present my thesis to a population sciences group and members of the Legorreta Cancer Center.”