Student Profile: Spenser Anderson ’19

Anderson, a Master of Public Health candidate in the class of 2019 at the Brown University School of Public Health, is concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. He was also a 2018 Hassenfeld Child Health Institute Scholar working with the Childhood Asthma Research Innovation Program to examine how various maternal exposures influence the development of asthma.

What does your research focus on here at Brown?
My research examines the various factors that make the lives of children with asthma difficult. These factors include dangerous exposures that may be present in old housing, neighborhood characteristics that prevent children with asthma from being able to engage in physical activity, or even familial beliefs and behaviors that may be detrimental in the long run. Research in this area is important because there are so many children, especially minority children, who may be preoccupied with worrying about their asthma symptoms rather than spending their childhood being carefree.

Why did you choose to pursue your MPH through the AB/MPH program at Brown?
Without a doubt, the faculty and the relationship the School has with institutions like the Rhode Island Department of Health and various local hospitals, is why I chose to do my MPH at Brown. Ever since I was an undergraduate at Brown, I was able to build upon existing relationships with professors who are brilliant and inspire me to do fantastic work.  

“ The faculty and the relationship the School has with institutions like the Rhode Island Department of Health and various local hospitals, is why I chose to do my MPH at Brown. ”

Spenser Anderson ’19

What’s one thing you would like people to understand about your work?
I would like people to know the interdisciplinary nature of this work. Often when people think of ways to improve the lives of children with asthma, they fixate upon inhalers; a few puffs and poof your asthma symptoms disappear, right? Well, the solution is much more complex and requires experts from multiple fields to work together. For instance, we want children with asthma to engage in the recommended levels of physical activity, but they can’t because the sidewalks and streets they play on are deemed unsafe. While we, as public health researchers, can bring attention to this problem, we also need urban planners to create safe and inviting spaces for children to play, whether they’re green spaces or simply completed sidewalks.

Have you had the opportunity to work outside the School of Public Health when conducting research?
Currently, my research can be accessed anywhere I have my laptop because I’m working with National Survey for Children’s Health data, which is publicly available. Given this, I spend a fair amount of time working in the School of Public Health or at various cafes around Providence. During the summer, however, I had an amazing opportunity to work with Dr. Koinis-Mitchell in the Childhood Asthma Research Program Lab at Lifespan Hospital. I spent most of my time there this summer, including outings with the lab’s Asthma Camp. I also made a couple of home visits.

What are you most looking forward to as you finish your time here at Brown? 
I’m looking forward to completing my Master’s thesis and maintaining the relationships I’ve forged with professors, friends, and colleagues! I decided to stay at the School of Public Health to complete my MPH in part because of the faculty, so it only makes sense that they’re one of the aspects I’m going to miss the most when I leave. There are so many professors that have helped me through hard times, challenged me to think about research problems differently, and championed for me—I want them to know how much they mean to me and I hope to stay in touch with them.

What are your plans for future? 
I’m currently looking for jobs in environmental health. I’m looking forward to hopefully working at a small environmental health company, or even a department of health, where I can make a positive impact in the lives of children. After working for a few years, I would like to pursue my PhD, and then later in life, become a professor.