News and Announcements - HBS/ PBHL Spring 2020 Spotlights
Letter from the Chair
I am delighted to be the (relatively) new Chair of the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences at CU Denver. Notably, it was 25 years ago that HBS enrolled its first cohort of doctoral students. In the last quarter century, the department has flourished, cultivating our unique interdisciplinary doctoral program and developing the undergraduate program in Public Health, which has grown to be one of the largest majors within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Below, you can learn more about the exciting things our current students, recent graduates, and faculty are doing. But, we would also love to hear from you. Please take a moment to let us know what you have been up to by providing a short alumni update.
We face many health challenges today both locally and globally. Through the research of our faculty and students and through training the next generation of health researchers and public health practitioners, the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences is working to redress these challenges. Thank you for being part of our community.
Department Chair and Associate Professor
Undergraduate Alum Spotlight
Nadeen Ibrahim, MPP
Nadeen Ibrahim, a Palestinian American originally born in Jerusalem, lived most of her life in a small rural town in Colorado. Her family was the only Muslim-American family in her town. Growing up during a politically tumultuous time post 9/11 Nadeen found herself asking, “what does it mean to protect the Muslim community?” Public health helped her pursue her passion for civil rights activism and community service. Nadeen graduated from the Public Health program in May 2017 with minors in Leadership Studies and Chemistry. Nadeen says, “Public Health provides a more holistic perspective on health in communities than the classic pre-med approach. In the medical approach, you tend to just see the doctor saving the patient, but public health provides perspective on things like, ‘does the patient have access to the doctor's office, healthy food, and transportation?’”
Reflecting on the Public Health program Nadeen says, “Every course really provides a different lens on the holistic collective approach to health. Epidemiology gives a numerical sense of how things impact people that can drive policy change. Global Health provides trends across the board and how chronic and acute conditions impact different countries differently. I appreciated Social Determinants of Health the most because it is most pertinent to what I do every day.”
Nadeen has recently completed a Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford, England, and has returned to Denver to work on the 2020 Census. She’s working with faith, immigrant, and refugee communities to provide education on the safety and benefits of completing the census. Nadeen notes that funding and political representation depend on an accurate and complete census count. She suspects her thirst for education has not been quenched and is considering pursuing a degree in law with an interest in civil protections and human rights.
Emily Mrig defended her dissertation in the summer of 2019 and stepped into her current position as a postdoctoral fellow in Health Policy Management at the Yale School of Medicine. Emily says, “It’s the best job you’ll ever have! A postdoc allowed me to further develop as a scholar because during the dissertation you’re in the weeds a lot and you don’t have time to step back and contextualize your work and how it articulates with what other scholars are doing.”
She is working on several research projects including getting her dissertation ready for publication. Emily’s dissertation research examines the unintended outcomes of health insurance expansion through the examination of access to genetic testing among women diagnosed with breast cancer. In her current role, she is working with a new qualitative methodology to develop online videos that capture patient narratives and experiences to better inform current medical practices.
After finishing a Master's of Anthropology at the CU Denver, Emily wanted to pursue an interdisciplinary degree and had her heart set on the PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences. Emily had already worked with some of the faculty and knew that the program had the theoretical and methodological tools to help her advance the ideas from her master's thesis research.
For anyone considering a doctoral program or a postdoc, Emily advises prospective students to meet with current students. She says it’s important to get an insider’s perspective and students will give you a good sense of the program and the environment.
After her postdoc, Emily hopes to move into an academic position but could also see herself doing policy consulting and conducting high impact research to inform policy.
Current Undergraduate Spotlight
Alicia Privett is an undergraduate in Public Health and in her third year of the new five-year BA/BS to MPH program. Alicia started her undergraduate degree as a pre-nursing major but changed her major after attending a public health talk on the first day of her freshman year. Alicia shares that “our culture is so much about tertiary care and medication. It was really cool to hear about prevention first!”
Alicia was initially drawn to CU Denver because it was close to home and she could commute. “It was the best choice for me because I feel like I fit in with the students. The population at CU Denver is more diverse, more international compared to other campuses. I think everyone here has a common focus – we’re here to get our degrees. People really appreciate higher education here.”
The combined program allows students to complete both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in public health in five years. For anyone who is interested in pursuing the 5-year bachelor's to master's in public health, Alicia says it's important to build good relationships with your teachers and participate in classes so you can reach out later for letters of recommendation. Students in the program can simultaneously work toward their MPH and their undergraduate degree, thereby saving about a year of time. Students typically apply for the BA/BS to MPH in the second or third year of their bachelor's program.
Right now Alicia is focusing on her studies and her work as a personal trainer, but she looks forward to putting her concentration in health systems and policy management to use when she graduates. She would eventually like to pursue a career in administrative policy.
Before starting the Health and Behavioral Sciences doctoral program, Stephanie Chamberlin, currently in her fourth year, had a career evaluating HIV prevention, care, and treatment both in the U.S. and abroad. In Lesotho, a country in southern Africa, Stephanie worked on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked at the New York City Department of Health researching and evaluating HIV treatment programs.
Stephanie wanted to answer larger questions about health in society that weren’t tied to a single intervention. Always drawn to the social sciences, she decided to pursue her PhD. in Health and Behavioral Sciences because she wanted to hone the skills needed to lead research that could answer those bigger questions.
Because Stephanie had worked in diverse settings and had earned a dual degree in public health and international affairs from Colombia University, she was drawn to an interdisciplinary program. Stephanie says, “for me, it meant being able to cross between policy, sociology, epidemiology—to talk both academically and practically, and to marry different fields of knowledge.”
Stephanie’s research focuses on the intersection of formal education and health in low resource settings. She says that “the interdisciplinary program has helped me consider different dimensions of education deeply. I don’t think I would have been able to do that in other spaces.” She is working closely with three faculty members on various projects. She notes, “I found mentors in this program who have really helped me grow. All of the professors I’ve worked with have different styles and different strengths but they are really thoughtful of building their students' strengths not just building clones of their styles. I have become a stronger writer and learned to incorporate theory in a more strategic way.”
Stephanie plans to pursue a career where she can continue her research and teaching.
Patrick Krueger, PhD
Patrick Krueger, Health and Behavioral Sciences faculty and director of the graduate program, can often be found in one of Denver’s ice cream shops. Having worked in a few states he finds Denver to be a great place to live. He says, “I enjoy having access to the mountains (biking, snowshoeing, hiking) and also the city (museums, restaurants). Denver is becoming a more expensive place to live, but the amenities are phenomenal.”
Patrick’s research focuses on two broad areas—education disparities in mortality and the social determinants of health behaviors.You can view Patrick's TED talk here. His most recent publication with undergraduate alumna Ilham A. Dehry in Milbank Quarterly examines the economic value of the longer, healthier lives associated with additional education. He enjoys working in an interdisciplinary department because it supports his efforts to do science that, in his case, spans sociology, demography, social epidemiology, and health policy.
Patrick mentors a number of students. He says, “working with students is one of my favorite parts of my job. I work with both undergraduates and graduate students on research, and I love challenging them to grow new intellectual muscles. Becoming a researcher takes real intellectual and emotional vulnerability—there's often a lot of failure in the process. It takes a lot of courage for students to keep writing, working on statistics, and thinking. I enjoy helping them through that process to become strong, creative researchers.”
For anyone applying to doctoral programs, he recommends that applicants reach out to faculty in that program before applying. He notes that program fit is important because “a PhD program teaches you sets of frameworks for how to see the world, and the theoretical and methodological skills to work within that framework. Ideally, you'll know that the way you want to think is a match for the program where you’ll study.”
The Health and Behavioral Sciences Scholarship funds scholarships for HBSC and PBHL students. Any amount counts! If you are interested in donating, click here.