PhD Student Profiles

Anthropology | History | Psychology Sociology

 

Anthropology

Aarushi Shah

Track: Anthropology 

Areas of Interest: Medical and Feminist Anthropology • Maternal and Reproductive Health and Rights • Trauma and Resilience • Sexual and Gender-Based Violence • Subaltern Studies (in South Asia) • Gender and Health Equity

Education: BA, Anthropology, Harvard College (2021) 

Aarushi Shah became passionate about the intersection of anthropology and public health as an undergraduate student at Harvard College, where she trained as a qualitative researcher on a project examining the lived experiences, help-seeking behaviors, and support needs of women survivors of intimate partner violence. As a fellow in the NIH Predoctoral Training Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Health (GSH) at Columbia University, Shah plans to continue exploring questions at the intersection of violence, maternal, and reproductive health, mental health, and health systems through ethnographic and mixed methods research. Shah's current research involves exploring how male perpetrators of intimate partner violence in Goa, India navigate and embody ideals of hegemonic masculinity and paternalism based in the larger political economies, histories, and socio-religious traditions of post-colonial India. Ultimately, Shah aspires to conduct public health research that amplifies the voices of marginalized populations and develop scalable, culturally sensitive interventions in collaboration with affected communities. 

Cohort Year: 2021 

Betselot Wondimu

Track: Anthropology 

Areas of Interest: Structural Violence & Social Suffering • Embodiment • Cultural & Social Constructions of Mental Health • Race, Ethnicity & Immigration • Mixed Methods Research • Prevention Science • Harm Reduction • Health & Social Policy 

Education: BS, Public Health Science, University of Maryland, College Park (2019); BS, Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park (2019) 

Betselot Wondimu is interested in examining the etiology of mental distress and foregone mental health care in black and immigrant populations. Wondimu hopes to explore conceptions of embodiment, resilience, and enculturation which are interrelated with race- and assimilative- based stress, and examine how they intersect with social marginalization. Through mixed methods research, Wondimu aims to improve communication around mental health and coping strategies in cross-cultural contexts; inform the decisions of policymakers and institutional stakeholders; and redistribute educational and clinical resources to populations that have been historically excluded from access. Prior to his doctoral studies, Wondimu worked as a Public Health Analyst at RTI International's Center for Behavioral Health Epidemiology, Implementation, and Evaluation. 

Cohort Year: 2021 

Tasfia Rahman 

Tasfia Rahman, SMS PhD Student Track: Anthropology

Areas of Interest: Medical Anthropology • Mental Health • Gender • Immigration, Race & Ethnicity • Asian American Health • Bangladeshi Diaspora • Social & Health Inequalities • Culturally Competent Care • Ethnographic Methods • Community-Based Participatory Research 

Education: MA in Social Sciences (Anthropology), University of Chicago; BA in Anthropology, Medieval Studies, and Classics (Latin), SUNY Binghamton

Tasfia Rahman’s research focuses on understanding why there are gendered trends toward suicide, suicide ideation, and depression among Bangladeshi immigrant women in New York City. She is particularly interested in how broader social trends such as immigration, migration, colonization, and globalization can elucidate these trends often coded as mental conditions. Through her Master’s thesis research, she learned more about help-seeking thoughts and behaviors among Bangladeshi-American second-generation women regarding mental health and identified barriers in accessing culturally competent care. Before beginning her doctoral studies, Rahman worked for a pan-Asian policy advocacy organization, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF), where she collaborated with NYC-based Asian-led and serving community-based organizations, community members, local government, and researchers to address systemic inequities in health, education, and language access.

As an incoming fellow in the NIH Predoctoral Training Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Health (GSH) at Columbia University, Rahman further seeks to study the challenges Bangladeshi immigrant women face in the American healthcare system and develop more effective culturally competent care models through the use of ethnographic and community-based participatory research methods.

Cohort Year: 2020

Alyssa Basmajian

Track: Anthropology

Areas of Interest: • Medical Anthropology • Gender and Sexuality • Reproductive Health • Embodiment • Ethnographic Methods • Social Movements in the United States • Health Advocacy

Education: MA, Cultural Anthropology, City University of New York Hunter College (2014), BA, Cultural Anthropology, City University of New York Hunter College (2014)

Alyssa Basmajian’s research interests are grounded in the political and social tensions surrounding reproductive health in the United States. For Basmajian’s master’s thesis research, she examined a new form of political expression known as the abortion or full-spectrum doula by drawing on theories of embodiment and social transformation. In her current role, as fellow in the NIH Predoctoral Training Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Health (GSH) at Columbia University, Basmajian plans to further investigate doulas and the care they provide in the Southern United States. Most recently, Basmajian has received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRF) to further support her research. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Basmajian was the health educator at NYU Fertility Center and also volunteered for ATHENA Network, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance human rights and gender equity in the global response to HIV.

Cohort Year: 2018

History

Valentina Parisi

Track: History 

Area of interest: History of Public Health • Environmental History •  Environmental Health and Policy •  Global Pandemic Preparedness and Response •  Public Health Ethics

Education: MPH, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University (2017), MS, Integrative Studies, Brown University (2015), BA, Anthropology, Brown University (2014) 

Prior to Columbia, Valentina studied anthropology and immunobiology at Brown University where she received her MS and BA degrees. While at Brown, she worked in the RI Hospital Surgical Research Department studying the immune response to fungal pathogens. This research experience and her continued interest in medical anthropology led her to the field of public health. She graduated from Mailman with her MPH degree in Sociomedicdal Sciences and a certificate in health and human rights in 2017. She became interested in historical methods and the intersection of health and the environment during her time at Mailman and following her MPH, she worked as a Program Officer in the Population and Family Health Department where she engaged in collaborative research projects concerning environmental and gender justice and forced migration and health. 

Valentina rejoined Sociomedical Sciences in 2018. Her doctoral research interests include the history of domestic environmental law and policy; shifting domestic environmental risk perceptions and responses during the twentieth century; and health social movements related to the environmental threats, such as toxic exposures. She is currently engaged in primary research on the conceptualization and management of epidemic- and pandemic-prone diseases and pressing social and enironmental problems during the twentieth century. 

Cohort Year: 2018

Sara Jane Samuel

Track: History

Areas of interest: History of Public Health • Vaccination Policy • American Foreign Policy • South Asia •  Public Health Ethics • Health Law & Policy

Education: MPH, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University (2018); Bachelor of Arts, History of Science/History of Medicine, Yale University (2015)

Sara Jane Samuel developed an interest in the history, politics, and ethics of public health as an undergraduate at Yale University, where she wrote her senior thesis on the moral and methodological underpinnings of family planning programs in South Asia during the Cold War. As a student at the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia, she is interested in the intersection of public health with American foreign policy in South Asia. Specifically, Samuel is interested in examining the historical roots and consequences of coercive vaccination campaigns on the Subcontinent after World War II. Prior to her doctoral studies, Samuel worked in central California to increase access to prenatal healthcare to migrant workers and also has professional experience working to reduce sexual misconduct and promote sexual health on college campuses. 

Cohort Year: 2018

Sadie Bergen

Track: History

Areas of interest: History of Public Health • Women's and Gender History • Environmental History • Public Health Ethics • Environmental Health • Reproductive Health

Education: BA, History, University of Chicago (2015)

Bergen developed an interest in the historical roots of the birth control movement in the United States as a history major at the University of Chicago, where she wrote her thesis on Progressive Era women reformers who framed family planning as public health project.  As a student at the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, she plans to study the historical intersections between environmental and reproductive health and the gendered impact of American environmental policies, with the goal of contributing to research and policies that address reproductive health disparities. Before beginning her PhD studies, she worked in the publications department of the American Historical Association, where she learned to think about the work of history as a force for the public good. 

Cohort Year: 2017

Kristen Meister 

Track: History

Areas of interest: History of public health and medicine • History of disability • Health policy and politics • Disability and chronic disease • Social determinants of health • Food Policy and Nutrition • Data collection and surveillance • Public health ethics 

Education: MPH, Columbia University (2016), BA, University of California-Berkeley (2011)

Kristen Meister’s interest in the social history of medicine and public health began while she was as an undergraduate history student at the University of California-Berkeley, where her research explored health reform during the Progressive Era. Meister pursued this interest further as an M.P.H. student in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, conducting research on the relationship between policy, social thought, and the lived experience of disease and disability. Building on her previous professional experience in health promotion and health technology, Meister conducted research on the use of big data in public health surveillance for the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health and the World Health Organization, and she became interested in the role of new technologies in public health practice. As a doctoral student, Kristen’s work integrates history, disability studies, and sociology to study public health, biomedical, technological, and political approaches to the prevention, management, and elimination of disease and disability. Through her work, Meister seeks to bring disability theory into public health research and practice. She plans to one day launch a center for disability research. 

Cohort Year: 2016

Yoka Tomita  

Track: History

Areas of interest: History of public health • Public Health ethics  • Health and social policy  • Death with dignity laws  • End of life options  • Healthcare policy  • Privacy

Education: MA, Area Studies (America), University of Tokyo (2015), BA, Area Studies (America), University of Tokyo (2013)

Tomita is interested in the history and ethics of public health, in particular the history of end of life options and death with dignity laws. Prior to Columbia, she received her BA and MA in American Studies at the University of Tokyo in Japan, where she examined the history and significance of death with dignity laws in America. As a doctoral student, she is examining how various actors in the United States have tried to shape when and how people die. Tomita is a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship. 

Cohort Year: 2015

Ian Bradley-Perrin

Track: History
Areas of interest: HIV/AIDS • Social Policy • Social Movements • Law and Ethics • Gender and Sexuality • Consumer Politics • Citizenship and Rights

Education: MPhil, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2019); MA, History, Concordia University (2015); BA, History, Concordia University (2012) 

Ian Bradley-Perrin’s research interest lies at the nexus of social movements, public health, law and policy. His focussing on the historical transformations seen in these areas through the first two decades of the AIDS crisis. With a background in historical research and oral history practice, as well as advocacy and activism in Canada and the United States, Bradley-Perrin has spent his time at the Mailman School of Public Health developing his understanding of the history of Public Health Ethics under Dr. Ronald Bayer and social movements and social policy change with Dr. Constance Nathanson. Bradley-Perrin’s dissertation investigates the social forces and historical context in which the Ryan White CARE Act was developed, passed and funded in the early 1990s and the impact that the new funding regime had on HIV/AIDS advocacy, health care delivery and treatment development, as well the transformations it made in broader field of Public Health. 
 
Cohort Year: 2015

Sociology

 

Ruth Shefner

Ruth Shefner, SMS PhD studentTrack: Sociology

Areas of interest: Criminal Legal Systems • Substance Use & Overdose Prevention • Policing, Law & Social Policy • Collateral Consequences of Mass Incarceration • Social Determinants of Health 

Education: MPH, University of Pennsylvania (2018); MSW, University of Pennsylvania (2017); BA, Community Health, Brown University (2013)

Ruth Shefner became interested in public health and mass incarceration as an undergraduate community health student at Brown University, where she worked with the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights on a series of projects related to harm reduction and criminal justice policy in Rhode Island. As a doctoral student in the HIV, Substance Use, and Criminal Justice Systems fellowship, Ruth hopes to investigate opportunities to apply harm reduction principles to criminal legal systems, as well as evaluate the impacts of current criminal justice reform policies. Prior to coming to Columbia, Ruth spent two years as a Health Research Analyst at IMPAQ International in Washington, DC, working with Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on a variety of quantitative and qualitative support projects. She completed her MSW and MPH at the University of Pennsylvania, where she spearheaded research related to opioid overdose and criminal justice contact, supported the evaluation of Philadelphia’s prearrest diversion program pilot initiative, and worked as a case manager for Penn’s Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI), supporting individuals pre- and post-release from Philadelphia’s county jail system. Ruth also spent two years as the Director of the GRI, where she oversaw all program operations, including client selection, collaboration of community and legal partners, clinical supervision of social work students, and program evaluation.

Cohort Year: 2020

Alexander Borsa

Track: Sociology

Areas of interest: Sexual Health • HIV • PrEP • Financialization • Stigma • Feminist Science Studies • Medical Sociology 

Education: BA, Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry and Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Yale University (2016)

Alexander Borsa studies sexual and reproductive health, with a focus on how processes such as financialization and geneticization shape identity and outcomes. His most recent publications trace the rapid influx of private equity investment in fertility and women's health services throughout the United States. Borsa is currently a member of the Harvard GenderSci Lab and the HIV Planning Group at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. His research has been supported by the NIH T-32 training grant in Gender, Sexuality, and Health, as well as a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. 

Cohort Year: 2019

Sharon Green

Track: Sociology

Areas of interest: Social Determinants of Health • Migration • Inequality • Gender • Race/Ethnicity • Health and Social Policy • Globalization

Education: MPhil, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2019); MPH, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2015); BA, Public Health Studies, Johns Hopkins University (2011)

Sharon Green is a PhD student studying sociology and public health. She is also an NIH-funded Gender, Sexuality, and Health Fellow. Her research utilizes population-level survey data and qualitative data to explore how migration and globalization produce health disparities and social inequalities.  Green’s earlier work examined harm reduction approaches to tobacco control through the use of qualitative interview data, and gun control strategies through the use of computational social science techniques. Her work has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, and Social Science and Medicine – Population Health.  Prior to her doctoral studies, Green worked as an HIV screening and counseling program coordinator at the Johns Hopkins Emergency Department; a middle school science teacher in rural Ghana; and an emergency medical technician in Israel, where she treated Israelis, Palestinians, and refugees.

Cohort Year: 2016

Sonia Mendoza-Grey

Track: Sociology

Areas of interest: Latino Health • Clinical Cultures • Science Technology Studies • Qualitative Methods • Social Determinants of Health • Epistemology   

Education: MPhil, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2019); MA, Sociology, Columbia University (2012); BA, Human Biology, Stanford University (2010)

Sonia Mendoza-Grey became interested in ethnographic research and Latino health as an undergraduate at Stanford where she conducted qualitative interviews with Latinos who were part of community-based health intervention studies. As an MA sociology student at Columbia, she continued to pursue her interest in the social determinants of health for minorities. Her MA thesis analyzed the role of social networks and social cohesion in relation to obesity rates and health measures within sub-ethnic enclaves of Latino communities in the United States.  Her publications to date, which explore racialized medicine and addiction treatment, are informed by her work on a NIDA-funded study at NYU Medical Center and her interests in mental health and stigma. Current major areas of focus include structural influences on health and qualitative research methods.  As a doctoral student, Mendoza-Grey uses ethnographic research methods and science technology study (STS) frameworks to analyze clinical cultures, the production of medical knowledge, and biomedical initiatives in ethnic minority communities. 

Cohort Year: 2016

Hawi Teizazu

Track: Sociology

Areas of interest: Health Equity • Health Policy • Public Opinion • Communication & Media • Resilience • Social Determinants of Health • Structual Racism • Reproductive Health

Education: BS, Biology, University of Minnesota (2015); MA, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2019), MPhil, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University (2021)

Hawi Teizazu is interested in bridging the gap between health research and health policy by examining the translation of health information in media, and experimentally testing the effects of media messages on public opinion and public policy attitudes. Her recent research examines message framing related to HIV, maternal mortality, and racial health disparities, and studies the implementation of culturally-informed health promotion initiatives in underserved communities. Her work also examined health policy as a force for health equity, and uses qualitative interviews and survey data to better understand the experiences of underserved groups within the healthcare delivery system and guide system interventions. 

Teizazu is a recipent of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Policy Research Scholars fellowship and is a predoctoral fellow in the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Development. Prior to joining Mailman, Teizazu worked in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Program for Health Disparities Research at the University of Minnesota where she strategized and evaluated programs related to chronic disease, maternal health, substance misuse disorders, and vaccine hesitancy. 

Cohort Year:  2017