Brown School Welcomes 2020 PhD Cohort | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
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Brown School Welcomes 2020 PhD Cohort

Students; Social Work; Public Health; PhD

The Brown School is proud to introduce our newest cohort of 15 doctoral students who are passionate about pursuing equity across a spectrum of vulnerable populations. Many are interested in working with children, families and elders to improve mental health, financial stability, and health outcomes for street-involved mothers through doula use. Several are interested in policy, statistics, health communication, international gender-based violence, and advancing health equity for the LGBTQ+ community.

New Students in Social Work

Kyria Brown received her MSW and MPH at the University of Denver - Graduate School of Social Work and the University of Colorado-Anschutz Colorado School of Public Health, respectively. She worked as a doula for a decade, working primarily with low-income women in rural areas. She also has worked extensively with street-involved women in Colorado through non-profit and research involvement. Her research interests lie in reducing birth-related trauma and health disparities for street-involved women through doula use. Kyria is a fan of natural history museums, which she love to visit with her daughters.

Cao Fang was born and raised in Chongqing, a southwest city of China. She earned two MSWs, from Peking University and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Upon graduating, she returned to Beijing and worked as a behavioral therapist for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Her research focuses include family affected by children’s mental health condition, especially ASD and ADHD, mental health service for children and family with special needs, service delivery and evaluation. Cao is learning Thai boxing.

Gregory Gross was born and raised in Iowa. He worked for a few years in human services and the financial services industry before earning his MSW from the University of Iowa. Greg’s master’s thesis investigated the impact of norms, attitudes and control factors related to HIV risk reduction behaviors among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Iowa. Greg’s research interests focus on health equity, social determinants of health, HIV prevention interventions, and community-engaged research. He has over a decade of experience working with this population in the field. A fan of choral music, Greg sang with the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus for 10 years.

Dylan Jones grew up in Sacramento, CA, and moved to New York for undergraduate studies. He then worked as a caseworker for a community-based program in NYC, supporting high school youth struggling with school attendance throughout the five boroughs. Dylan earned his MSW from Columbia with a focus on social policy analysis. He then worked at a foster care agency, applying his interests in data analytics to improve the outcomes of children and families in the child welfare system. Dylan’s research interests include child welfare, kinship foster care, and administrative data analysis. A gummy bear connoisseur, he prefers Black Forrest gummy bears over Haribo.

Selina Miller Forsyth has lived in seven U.S. states, as well as Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru. She earned her MSW from Brigham Young University. Experiences providing services for refugees, survivors of domestic violence, and patients in psychiatric hospitals led her to focus on a common need among vulnerable populations: financial stability. Most recently, Selina ran the Financial Learning Center at Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo, Utah, where she provided financial coaching for low-income individuals and developed an emergency savings intervention. Her research interests are financial stability and asset building among vulnerable populations. A budding author, Selina will soon have her first poem published as part of a collection.

Jennifer Nattabi was born and raised in Uganda. Before earning her MSW at the Brown School, Jennifer worked as a high school teacher and as a Projects Coordinator with ICHAD (International Center for Child Health and Development). After graduation, Jennifer returned to her home country in Uganda and started Girls on the Adolescent Ladder (GAL Project) at her former high school; the initiative provided feminine products and motivational talks to teenage girls. Her research interests include asset-building policy, international child welfare, child poverty, and social mobility among adolescent girls. Jennifer is a social person who loves music and parties. 

JaNiene Peoples was raised in LaVergne, Tennessee and earned her MS in Health Education from Texas A&M University. As a certified health education specialist and wellbeing coach, JaNiene spent four years at Vanderbilt University supporting the personal development and academic success of students using an integrative, holistic, culturally relevant framework grounded in Motivational Interviewing. Her research examines the complex interplay between health disparities, poor health outcomes, social support, and psychological stress to develop targeted interventions for traditionally underserved groups, including African Americans.  JaNiene loves spending quality time with family and friends, is always up for outdoor adventures, loves HGTV, is an Enneagram 7wing6, and wholeheartedly advocates for engagement in mindfulness practices. 

Daniela Tuda was born and raised in Miami, Florida but has called NYC her home for the past decade, earning her MSW from Columbia University. She has worked in community mental health utilizing various evidence-based therapeutic practices and interventions and gained experience a research assistant for various projects that aim to address the health disparities of racial and ethnic minorities living with serious mental illness. Daniela plans to pursue research interests related to community mental health and the adaptation of evidenced-based practices for marginalized communities. She enjoys traveling, cycling hiking, and best of all, a lazy Sunday evening watching a good TV show while cuddling with her cat, Olive. 

Haotian (Hao-T’ien) Zheng was born and raised in China and earned his MSW from the University of Michigan. During and after graduate studies, he worked as a research assistant studying children savings accounts (CSAs) at the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion (AEDI) at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. His research interest focuses on the effect of assets across the lifespan, particularly among children and youth and older adults. Haotian enjoys playing soccer and boxing. 

New Students in Public Health Sciences

Amanda Gilbert is originally from Colorado and has lived in Boston, New York and Atlanta. Amanda’s research focuses on chronic disease prevention, physical activity, and nutrition. Specifically, Amanda is interested in understanding health behavior change across the life-course and the ways in which the built environment influences health behaviors. She worked for several years as an oncology social worker at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York before pursuing graduate work. A licensed clinical social worker, Amanda earned her MPH at Washington University in St. Louis, and her MSW from New York University. Amanda loves reading, baking, and traveling.

Joshua Kiyingi was born and raised in Uganda, East Africa and earned an MS in Statistics from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. He coordinated two NIMH-funded multisite studies in Uganda after graduation: the Kyaterekera Study, which is a combination intervention addressing sexual risk-taking behaviors among vulnerable women in Uganda; and SMART Africa – Uganda, aimed at reducing gaps in child and adolescent mental health services and research in SSA through a population approach to child mental health under the International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD). His research interests include global, maternal and child health. Joshua enjoys travelling and listening to music.

F. Hunter McGuire was born and raised in Marion, North Carolina. He earned an MPH in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For two years, he was a research assistant at the Duke Clinical Research Institute where he worked with the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative on projects to related to patient/stakeholder engagement in clinical research and research on the quality and ethical conduct of clinical trials. During his MPH program, he worked on health equity research in a variety of issue areas, including HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, liver disease, and gender-affirming health care. His current research interests center on health equity for LGBTQ people with a focus on mental health, eating disorders, and body image issues. Hunter is a semi-professional singer and has traveled internationally on choir tours of England, Norway, and Sweden. 


Nicole Strombom hails from California and recently earned both a JD and MPH from Saint Louis University (SLU). While pursuing her degrees, she interned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACLU of Missouri, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s Medical Legal Partnership. During her studies, Nicole served as project administrator for a funded project that evaluated if cities and counties are ready to utilize equity tools to influence policy. Her research interests include health care disparities, health equity, women’s health, and maternal health issues. Nicole likes to sew, brew beer, play board games, and travel. She also holds a special place in her heart for corgis. 

Luissa Vahedi is a Canadian who earned her master’s degree in Epidemiology at Queen’s University. Her research interest is sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian settings. Luissa is interested in conducting interdisciplinary research that integrates the methods and frameworks of epidemiology to the study of gender-based violence and sexual/reproductive health in humanitarian settings, characterized by conflict and displacement. She hopes to build a career narrowing the gap between research and policy. For Luissa, coffee is not just a drink but a lifestyle, philosophy and currency. 

Jordyn Wartts spent ten years in upstate New York before returning to her hometown of St. Louis, MO. She earned her MPH at SUNY Albany. Although her interests are vast, Jordyn is most passionate about decreasing minority health disparities in pursuit of equitable health outcomes in populations of color. Her current research interests include health priorities and communications in Black populations. Jordyn has worked with St. Louis Children's Hospital/Washington University's School of Medicine, multiple primary care groups in upstate New York, the Research Foundation of SUNY Albany, and the New York State Department of Health. Jordyn played (and coached) college basketball and now spends her extra energy rollerblading, cooking, boxing, and exploring the intricacies of web design.