Brown School Welcomes New PhD Students

PhD; Public Health; Social Work; Students

The Brown School is proud to introduce our newest cohort of doctoral students. These 19 outstanding scholars have far-ranging interests that include global aging, child abuse and neglect, reproductive health, gender issues, youth mental health, sustainable development, and dissemination and implementation science. Among these distinguished individuals, nine are pursuing a PhD in public health sciences and 10 are pursuing a PhD in social work.

New Students in Social Work

Rashida Namirembe (she/her) recently worked with the Brown School’s International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) as a study coordinator. Prior to joining ICHAD, Namirembe worked as a social worker with Uganda Youth Development, (UYDEL) an NGO that conducts health awareness campaigns, advocation and providing psychosocial support to sexually exploited adolescents and children involved in drug abuse and child labor.

Jihye Lee (she/hers) earned her MSW and BA in social work at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea. Her research focuses on child welfare policies in challenging socioeconomic contexts characterized by poverty, inequality, and underemployment, with a specific emphasis on immigrant populations. Jihye’s primary goal is to investigate the root causes of poverty and inequality related to child maltreatment and develop effective interventions to break this harmful cycle.

Shuya Yin (she/her) earned her MSW from the Brown School in 2021 and worked at an NGO as a senior training specialist. She has been involved in a range of settings in various cultural contexts and professional settings in which mental health services are delivered to children and families affected by trauma. She hopes to support mental health and preventive interventions for vulnerable children, youth and families.

Cheng Aaron Li (he/him), from Hainan, China, earned his MSW from the University of Michigan and MA in Communications from Korea University, and worked as a Licensed Medical Social Worker in Singapore. Aaron is dedicated to addressing aging and health inequalities in disadvantaged communities. His research interests lie at the intersections of aging, communications, health, and social policy.

Minjoo Lee (she/her) earned her Bachelor of Economics and MA in Social Welfare from Ewha Womans University, South Korea. Most recently, she served as an investigator and case manager at a Child Protective Services agency in Seoul. She is invested in contributing positively to the lives of CPS-involved children and families through her research on the dynamics of child maltreatment and child protection systems.

Hilary Thibodeau (she/her) received her MSW from the University of Maine. Hilary has been working in policy research and program evaluation related to homelessness and poverty prevention in Denver, Colorado. Hilary’s background in direct services with families informs her interest in the intersection of substance use, mental health, and human service systems for marginalized groups.

Melody Rachel Konadu Frempong (she/her) earned an MSW from the Brown School after completing a Joint MA degree in Public Policy at the Central European University and Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals. She has worked with humanitarian and social service organizations in West Africa, Europe, and the United States. Melody has been published in reputable peer-reviewed journals such as Global Social Welfare. Her research interests encompass Adolescent/Youth Mental health, Substance Use, and Gender-related issues.

Kayla Zebrowski (she/hers) earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2019. She completed postgraduate and advanced postgraduate fellowships with the Center for OCD and Anxiety-Related Disorder at Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute (SLBMI), an affiliate of Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, where she earned her LCSW. Most recently, Kayla was a therapist and member of the SLBMI Research Taskforce researching dissemination & implementation of Exposure & Response Prevention and telehealth satisfaction.

Peter Siriprakorn (he/they) most recently worked at various startups and EdTech, and as a jack-of-all-trades in NYC’s film and broadcast media industry. He is primarily interested in mobilizing collaboration between researchers and communities to find ways to mitigate the downstream effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, with a particular focus on scaling trauma resolution as a pathway to addressing substance use/addiction. He has an MPH from George Washington University, an MA in Philosophy and Culture from The University of Chicago, and is a predoctoral Fellow in the Transdisciplinary Training in Addictions Research (TransSTAR) T32 Program.

Portia Nartey (she/her) holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Ghana, a Master’s in Social Work, and a Master’s in Social Policy from the Brown School. Currently, she’s a Study Coordinator with the International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD) at the Brown School, where she coordinates two NIH-funded studies in Uganda and Ghana. Her research interests include economic empowerment, adolescent girls and women’s well-being, and gender norms.

New Students in Public Health Sciences

Drew Crenshaw (he/him) grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Master of Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Most recently, he worked as the Program Manager for the UAB Center for the Study of Community Health, where he implemented research activities for their core project, Community Health through Engagement and Environmental Renewal, as well as other projects that focused on community health in urban settings. His research interests include climate change, sustainable development, and the built environment on individual and community health.

Helen Etya’ale (she/her) is a public health professional from Cameroon and Switzerland. She holds a BS in Biochemistry from Calvin College and an MPH from Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health. Most recently, she worked with a global civil society organization advocating for access to treatment and health services. Her research interests include exploring how health service delivery can be made more people-centered and engage recipients of care and communities as active players in their own health, with a focus on resource-limited settings.

Jemima Adepehin (she/hers) holds a background in Food Science and Technology from the Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria. She has valuable experience as a program officer with two non-governmental organizations, where she coordinated nutritional, emotional, academic, health, and economic support for orphans and vulnerable children. She is particularly driven to address public issues related to maternal-child health and infant malnutrition through interdisciplinary research and health policy.

Judith Mwobobia (she/hers) is a passionate health journalist from Nairobi Kenya specializing in health communication. With a background in Microbiology and a Master’s degree in Global Health from Duke University, she is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of marginalized populations. Judith’s work focuses on developing strategies that bridge the gap between communities and vital health information, promoting inclusivity and equity in healthcare.

Sarah Stolker (she/hers) is originally from St. Louis and received her MS in Physical Therapy from Duke University in 1998. Working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Sarah discovered a passion for cancer rehabilitation. After relocating back to St. Louis, Sarah has continued to work in cancer rehabilitation, both clinically at a Cancer Center and teaching certification courses to fellow clinicians. She has conducted research, contributed to book chapters, and presented at national meetings on lymphedema.

Izzy Howerton (she/her) focuses on investigating systems-level facilitators and barriers to LGBTQ+ health — particularly as it relates to intimate partner violence and gender norms. Izzy earned an MPH from the Brown School in 2020. Most recently, Izzy has worked as an epidemiologist, improving the health and well-being of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. As a PhD student and Olin-Chancellor’s Fellow, Izzy hopes to leverage theories from dissemination and implementation science and quantitative/qualitative methodologies to better understand the multilevel factors influencing physical and mental health for women and the LGBTQ+ communities.

Milena Franco Silva (she/hers) is an architect and urbanist from Curitiba, Brazil. She completed her Master’s in Urban Management at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR). Throughout her academic career, she realized that urban design and public health are essentially connected, which means that poor urban planning decisions can cause unequal spatial configurations and increase social and health disparities.

Tewodros (Ted) W. Liyew (he/him) is a medical doctor and public health specialist with demonstrated experience in humanitarian response and health systems strengthening. Most recently he worked in Jhpiego Ethiopia, a Johns Hopkins University affiliate, as a humanitarian assistance team lead and surgical care quality advisor and served as a program director for emergency and relief in a local NGO in Ethiopia. His research interest lies at the intersection of conflict-induced humanitarian crises, the triple nexus, health systems strengthening, and health policy. He loves traveling, hiking, writing stories, and reading books.

Ri’enna Boyd (she/her), from Minneapolis, Minnesota, completed her BS degree in Biology at Loyola University in Chicago before pursuing an MPH in Maternal and Child Health at Saint Louis University. Ri’enna’s research interests converge at the intersection of racial health, reproductive justice, alternative forms of care, and intervention research, all approached through a community-led and -centered lens to improve the health of Black women, children, and families. Ri’enna recently became a Culturally-Congruent Community Doula in her commitment to combating Black maternal and infant mortality.