Ryan Sterling, MSW/MPH ’11, Serves as Director of Strategic Planning at the St. Louis Regional Health Commission

Alumni; Public Health; Social Work

Ryan Sterling’s post-college experiences in Latin America led her to pursue a master’s degree that would give her the skills to help others lead stable, productive, and healthy lives. She participated in an environmental health study in Peru, then volunteered with a non-profit organization in Chile, working with girls and young women recovering from situations of physical and sexual violence.

“These experiences opened my eyes to the interplay between social determinants and health outcomes, but I had few professional skills to help. I came back to the United States, and to the Brown School, with the drive to develop this expertise,” she said. “The marriage of social work and public health makes a lot of sense. You can’t really address social concerns in a sustainable way without also tackling health issues.”

During her time at the Brown School, Ryan worked as a cancer communication research assistant at the Health Communications Research Laboratory. Her skills in research, data analysis, and information visualization have guided her professional development.

“My passion is combining technical expertise, scientific method, and collaborative problem-solving to improving the health of vulnerable populations and the sustainability of the delivery systems that care for them,” she said.

Ryan was recognized at the Brown School’s Distinguished Alumni Awards in 2014 for her work as the Director of Strategic Planning at the St. Louis Regional Health Commission. Her work in this arena also received significant media attention, which spearheaded efforts to engage and educate St. Louis residents about their health at a grassroots level.

Ryan is now pursuing a PhD in Health Services Research at the University of Washington.