What was it like working on the lead mapping initiative in Rhode Island when you were doing your MPH?
To this day, Dr. Patrick Vivier has been one of the most important mentors in my career. Throughout my MPH degree, I was fortunate enough to have a graduate research assistantship under the wonderful mentorship of Dr. Patrick Vivier. Just prior to the start of my graduate work, the State of Rhode Island, then Attorney General Patrick Lynch sued the lead paint companies for creating a public nuisance. Although the trial resulted in a hung jury, DuPont donated 12.5 million dollars to the State of Rhode Island to both research, remediate and educate the public about lead-based paint hazards and lead poisoning. A portion of this funding, went to Brown University, specifically led by Dr. Patrick Vivier, to provide the research support to determine where this investment would be most effective. As part of my MPH thesis work and graduate assistantship, I served with Dr. Patrick Vivier on the Attorney General’s Lead Paint Commission, which was set up to design a statewide targeted primary lead poisoning prevention program. This was an invaluable learning experience for myself, a recent college graduate, and I think exemplifies the wonderful and unparalleled opportunities that Brown University Public Health students are able to have in Rhode Island through the partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health and through the wonderful mentors at the School of Public Health.
Per Dr. Patrick Vivier’s guidance, I took as many courses as I could find at Brown to master geospatial analysis techniques so that I could provide this expertise to the Commission and so that we could use data and spatial analysis techniques to inform the targeted primary lead poisoning prevention program so that these funds would have the biggest impact in preventing childhood lead poisoning throughout Rhode Island. Through research, we were able to develop an algorithm that relied on Census Data (Housing, Poverty, and Children Under the Age of 6) and RI Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program lead surveillance data to develop a systematic approach in identifying census block groups (i.e. neighborhoods) that were at the highest risk of childhood lead poisoning and would thus benefit the most from this investment.
What did you take from your MPH degree at Brown that you use in your career?
Although I always knew I wanted to be a physician and specifically a pediatrician, despite my applied math and pre-med background at Brown, I was very much unaware of the field of epidemiology and public health and the power of this field to help individuals and especially children before they ever get sick and need to come to the hospital and see a doctor.
My experience under the mentorship of Dr. Patrick Vivier through my graduate research assistantship instilled in me the importance of public health and especially spatial analysis techniques as an effective way of presenting complex data to varied audiences that is easy to understand. Dr. Vivier instilled in me that with each project, just as important as an academic product, there should be a deliberate emphasis on the application of the research, so that it directly benefits those who are being researched or affected by the exposure at hand. This is a value that I found embedded throughout my experience at the Brown School of Public Health.