Brown School Welcomes 2022 PhD Cohort

PhD; Public Health; Social Work; Students

The Brown School is proud to introduce our newest cohort of 10 doctoral students. Five are pursuing a PhD in Social Work and five are pursuing a PhD in Public Health Sciences. These outstanding scholars have far-ranging research interests that include social justice and health disparities, obesity, poverty,  gerontology, social determinants of health, end-of-life care, HIV/AIDS, and dissemination and implementation science. The Brown School is delighted to welcome them to our community.

New Students in Social Work

Jihye Baek (she/hers) grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and completed her BA in Social Welfare with a minor in Public Administration at Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul. She came to the US in 2017 and earned her MSW from the Brown School in 2019, focusing on gerontology. She has worked as a social worker at multiple social service organizations in St. Louis and Seoul. Her research interests lie in integrating social and health services and providing seamless community or housing-based services to older adults to support aging-in-place. She is passionate about advocating for marginalized older adults and supporting the continuum of care.

Christi Lero (she/hers) earned her MSW in social work from the University of Missouri and worked as a Hospice & Palliative Care Social Worker where she completed clinical supervision and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She serves as a psychotherapist specializing in support for caregivers of those with terminal and life-limiting illness, grief, loss and traumatic bereavement. Her research interests include hospice and palliative care, communication and cultural engagement with death and dying, and grief and loss. Christi is published in academic and medical journals on topics of death and dying, dementia care and caregiving. Most recently, Christi co-authored the chapter on Palliative Social Work in Rural Communities in The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Social Work, second edition. 

Flavia Namuwonge (she/hers) focuses on working with children, adolescents/youth and families impacted by poverty, HIV/AIDS, and poor mental health functioning. Before joining the PhD program, she worked as the Head of Operations and Research Coordinator at the Brown School’s International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) Field Offices in Uganda for eight years. Flavia is published in well-respected peer review journals, including The Lancet, Journal of adolescent health, and PLos One. 

Tysen Tyson (they/them) is a Predoctoral Fellow in the Transdisciplinary Training in Addictions Research (TransSTAR) T32 Program at the Brown School. Tysen moved from Philadelphia, PA, where they served as Founder/Clinical Director of Philadelphia Empowerment Clinic PLLC, specializing in empowering and healing individuals, families, and communities. Tysen is interested in continuing their momentous work with marginalized and stigmatized populations, particularly the LGBT community, at the intersections of clinical practice, public health, and the arts. Tysen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work and Reiki practitioner.

Sinko Xinli Wang (she/hers) is a Licensed Social Worker from China. She earned her MSW from the Brown School in 2019. Upon graduation, she worked as a case manager and program evaluator in a non-profit organization in Shanghai, China. During three years of working on assessing social services and managing child adoption cases, she was eager to improve child welfare services to prevent children in the foster care system and other vulnerable children from neglect and abuse.

New Students in Public Health Sciences

Raúl D. Gierbolini‐Rivera (he/his) is from Carolina, Puerto Rico. He completed his BS in Athletic Training from the University of Southern Maine, a Master’s in Public Health, and a Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety from the Muskie School of Public Service. Working as a Certified Athletic Trainer helped him fall in love with the field of Public Health, as a way to help improve the health of populations. His current research interests are to improve physical activity and reduce health disparities among Latin American populations through translational research and dissemination/implementation science.

Anthony Nixon (he/him) focuses on data decision-making, reproductive justice, family planning, and reducing infant mortality by centering Black mothers, fathers, and families utilizing social theory, mixed methods, and community-based participatory research. He has worked in multiple public health roles at the local, state, and federal level. During the pandemic, Anthony managed contact tracing and outbreak investigations for the City of Cincinnati Health Department. He provided leadership and guidance throughout the local public health response efforts and vaccine distribution activities.

Alicia Persaud (she/hers) grew up in New York and moved to Rhode Island where she earned a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Rhode Island and an MPH in Health Behavior from Brown University. Alicia’s primary research interest is in examining sociocultural and environmental factors on childhood obesity. She volunteered in Portugal during the summer of 2022, where she recovered food from local restaurants, cafes, and supermarkets and redistributed it to populations in need as part of a community movement to decrease food waste and combat hunger.

Karen Skinner (she/hers) joined the Brown School’s Health Communication Research Laboratory in 2021, where she led public health programs focused on COVID-19 mitigation efforts in St. Louis. Karen began her career in private industry consulting where she studied chronic disease epidemiology. She later transitioned to health economics and outcomes research where she utilized EMR data to study real-world oncology treatment patterns and survival outcomes. Her interests include health communication and implementation science.

Jessica Thein (she/hers) worked at Hospital Nacional de Niños in Costa Rica after earning her bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Spanish from Saint Louis University in 2009. While in Costa Rica she saw the detrimental impact poverty had on health. Upon returning to St. Louis, she received her MSW and MPH from the Brown School in 2014, focusing on Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities. Jessica has a broad range of healthcare experience that allows her to see healthcare as a large system rather than individual parts. She sees tremendous value in transdisciplinary approaches and enjoys thinking of ways concepts from other disciplines can be used to address health inequity.