U.S. Policy Communication Training Program 2016-2017 Class Biographies

Amaya Perez-Brumer, Columbia University

Amaya Perez-Brumer is pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociomedical Sciences with a concentration in Sociology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and is a recipient of the NIH predoctoral training grant in Gender, Sexuality, and Health. Perez-Brumer received her B.A. from Colorado College in 2007 and her M.Sc. from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2013. Perez-Brumer’s research focuses on the social determinants of health among gender and sexuality diverse populations.

Anne DeLessio-Parson, Pennsylvania State University

Anne DeLessio-Parson is a doctoral candidate in sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.  She researches plant-based eating practices as embedded in social networks, the connections with population health, and gender. Her dissertation focuses on these topics in India and Argentina. DeLessio-Parson also has interests in dietary change and migration, survey methodology, and mixed methods. With a background in political science and rural sociology, she works to ensure a social justice framework undergirds her teaching and research.

Colleen Wynn, University at Albany, SUNY

Colleen Wynn is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY. She has research interests in urban and family demography. In particular, her research centers on questions about who lives where, why, and how it impacts their well-being. Her dissertation examines residential segregation by family structure at the aggregate and household levels.

Deirdre Quinn, University of Maryland

Deirdre Quinn is a third year Family Science doctoral candidate at University of Maryland School of Public Health. A native Washingtonian, she graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in English and minors in French and Government.  She earned an M.Litt. in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and an M.Sc. in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where her thesis focused on the conflict in the United States between religiously sponsored health systems and the diverse communities they serve.  Her current research centers around predictors of effective contraceptive use for African American teen mothers, but her dissertation will examine the relationship between family and individual religiosity and college students’ sexual health decisionmaking.

Ellen Dinsmore, University of Wisconsin

Ellen Dinsmore is interested in the ways in which criminal justice systems both reflect and exacerbate inequalities within populations. Dinsmore is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology and the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation examines the contextual factors that have contributed to the rise of police militarization, as well as the effects of militarization on law enforcement and the communities they serve. Other projects examine the relationship between policing practices and immigrant arrests and the role of parental incarceration in the transmission of disadvantage across generations. Dinsmore holds an M.S. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.P.A. from Princeton University.

Emily Hendrick, University of Texas

Emily Hendrick is a Ph.D. candidate in the Health Behavior and Health Education program in the department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. She is also a graduate student trainee at UT Austin’s Population Research Center. Broadly, her research interests include understanding and reducing maternal, child, and adolescent health disparities by investigating the determinants of women’s health behaviors and health across the reproductive years. Within this subject area, she focuses on the intergenerational transmission of health and well-being from mothers to children  and the developmental period of adolescence as a time of vulnerability and opportunity in shaping women’s health behaviors and health across the life course.

Kathryn Barker, Harvard University

Kathryn M. Barker, M.P.H., is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A social epidemiologist dedicated to translational research, Barker intends to generate evidence that will influence policy and practice to address social inequalities in adolescent sexual and reproductive health both domestically and in developing countries. Her current research combines multilevel modeling and network community detection techniques to examine the relative importance of peer, school, and neighborhood influences on teen pregnancy and age of sexual debut. Her qualitative work explores how dominant U.S. narratives surrounding teen pregnancy influence adolescent social norms. Originally from Minnesota, Barker earned her undergraduate degree in international studies from Hamline University and her M.P.H. in public health leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, Pennsylvania State University

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins is a fourth-year student enrolled in the Sociology and Demography dual-degree Ph.D. program. He is a social demographer with a primary scholarly focus on the social determinants of physical, mental, and cognitive health over the life span. His research stems from his desire to better understand how the social environment and social institutions shape individuals’ health and aging trajectories from birth until death. In addition to research, Sherman-Wilkins has an interest in U.S. aging and health policy and is excited for the opportunity to learn how to engage with policymakers as well as disseminate his research to a broader audience.

Maia Call, University of North Carolina

Maia Call is a population-environment geographer broadly interested in the synthetic interactions between the environment and well-being. Her research examines the relationship between environmental factors, social determinants, and rural livelihood decisionmaking in the developing world. Specifically, her dissertation work addresses the relationship between soil quality and livelihood decisionmaking in Uganda. Her research projects have explored the spatio-temporal influences on child poverty, the impact of climate change on migration in Bangladesh, communal grazing and social capital in Uganda, and the socioenvironmental drivers of forest change in rural Uganda. For her research, she employs statistical approaches, spatial analysis, and demographic methods.

Mathew Hauer, University of Georgia

Mathew Hauer is in the fifth year of his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia’s Geography Department. His dissertation is titled “Sea Level Rise, Population Projections, and Migration: Projecting the Future U.S. Population in Lieu of Sea Level Rise.” He has research interests in climate change, migration, GIS, demographic techniques, and population projections. He also holds a B.S. in Sociology and an M.S. in Demography from Florida State University. Matt leads the University of Georgia’s Institute of Government’s Applied Demography Program, which provides state and local leaders with current demographic data and detailed population projections so that they can more effectively address issues and plan for the future. Prior to joining the Institute of Government, Hauer was a statistician in the Population Estimates Branch of the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C.; a survey supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau in Atlanta; and a planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Meghan Gallagher, Johns Hopkins University

Meghan Gallagher is currently a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health where she uses demographic and epidemiological methods to study abortion and contraception in marginalized populations. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked as a senior research, monitoring, and evaluation officer at Columbia University’s RAISE Initiative where she worked to implement family planning and postabortion care services within populations affected by war and natural disasters. She has lived and worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. She holds an M.P.H. from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

Ronna Popkin, Columbia University

Ronna A. Popkin is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociomedical Sciences with a concentration in Sociology at Columbia University. She was a Fellow in the NIH predoctoral training program in Gender, Sexuality, and Health. Her research interests include adolescent and young adult sexual and reproductive health, cancer genetics, and women’s health in the United States.  Prior to attending Columbia, Popkin worked as a community sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and lectured courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on sexuality education, women’s health, and the politics of fertility control.  Popkin earned her M. S. in Health Education and B.S. with Honors in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Smisha Agarwal Kaysin, University of North Carolina

Smisha Agarwal Kaysin is a final year doctoral candidate at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a trainee at the Carolina Population Center. She has nearly a decade of experience working on the implementation and monitoring of maternal and child health programs. Since 2012, she has been working with the Johns Hopkins Global mHealth Initiative (JHU-GmI) to provide technical support for monitoring and evaluation to a number of digital health projects focused on maternal and child health. Her doctoral dissertation assesses the effect of large-scale community health worker programs in India and Bangladesh on the utilization of maternal health care services. Originally from India, Kaysin moved to North Carolina in 2012 and enjoys the beautiful warm weather and hikes that the area offers.

Stephanie Ly, University of California-Los Angeles

Stephanie Ly is a third-year Ph.D. student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Her dissertation focus is on malnutrition interventions among women and children in low- and middle-income countries. She previously served as assistant director of International Programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and traveled to implement research in 11 different countries in partnership with Operation Smile. She aims to bring her advocacy work and academic interests to population-based policy contributions.

Xing (Sherry) Zhang, Cornell University

Xing (Sherry) Zhang is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in policy analysis and management at Cornell University. Her interests lie in family demography and inequality. Her dissertation focuses on the role of parental factors in shaping children’s outcomes from adolescence to adulthood.

Yeris Mayol-Garcia, Pennsylvania State University

Yeris Mayol-Garcia is a social scientist who builds from her experience and training in various fields including Sociology, Demography, Anthropology, Family, and Human Development to conduct research oriented towards furthering our collective understanding of immigrants and their families. A primary focus of her work is studying the role of migration in the developmental and socioeconomic outcomes of Latin American immigrants and their families across several stages in the life course, including childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. She focuses on origin and destination communities to provide a binational perspective on her research. She is currently working on a dual-degree Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography at Pennsylvania State University, which she expects to complete by August 2016. She previously worked as an applied statistician demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau for two years. There, she enhanced her quantitative and teamwork skills, attention to detail, and developed a population perspective. Thus, she combines her interdisciplinary and quantitative training to tackle questions related to migration and family. Her ultimate research goal is to provide quality information to policymakers, intervention program developers, service providers, parents, and scholars to improve the experiences of migrants and their families around the world.