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Population, Family and Reproductive Health

Current Students

Meet some of our current students. Learn why students chose Hopkins, the research they’re pursuing and their experiences while in the program.  

Khudejha Asghar Khudejha Asghar, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

My primary research interests include prevention and response to violence against historically marginalized and vulnerable populations, with a particular focus on relationships between social norms, gender, and the life course in the public and private spheres. I am looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding of research methods and advocacy strategies from the interdisciplinary faculty and staff in the PRFH department. Prior to starting at JHSPH, I worked at the intersection of violence against women and children in humanitarian contexts, and projects include a mixed-methods randomized controlled trial evaluation of an adolescent girls’ empowerment and violence prevention program in DRC, Ethiopia, and Pakistan; qualitative research on social norms affecting family violence in DRC and Myanmar; qualitative participatory research on drivers of household violence in Colombia; and cognitive interviewing to assess applicability of the Violence Against Children Survey in Colombia.

Sam Beckwith - PhD StudentSam Beckwith, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Adolescent Health

I am a social and behavioral science researcher who conducts qualitative and quantitative research related to adolescent health and behaviors. My primary research interests are adolescent opportunity, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and positive youth development; additionally, I am interested in the ways these topics overlap and build on one another. The end goal of my research is to build a better understanding of the ways programs and policies can serve and empower young people, improve outcomes starting at a critical juncture in their lives, and reduce inequities. I currently work as a research assistant within the Global Early Adolescent Study, and conducted research at the non-profit research organization Child Trends prior to joining PFRH.

Kristin Bevilacqua, PhD StudentKristin Bevilacqua, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

Kristin is a second-year doctoral student in the department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. Her research interests lie at the intersection of women’s health and intimate partner violence with a primary focus on the risk factors for violence and the differential impacts of violence on health. Prior to coming to Hopkins, she earned her MPH from the University of Michigan in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education Kristin currently works on several projects focusing on the impacts of housing and other state-level factors on the risk for and health impacts of violence as well as a study on shared contraceptive decision-making among Latinx women and their providers in Baltimore. Kristin chose PFRH because of the department’s focus on interdisciplinary scholarship and faculty dedicated to gender-based violence research.

Haley Brahmbhatt - MSPH StudentHaley Brahmbhatt, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Maternal, Fetal and Perinatal Health

Haley Brahmbhatt is pursuing her MSPH in Maternal, Fetal and Perinatal Health with a certification in Global Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her interest in underserved populations, advocacy and policy led her work with Advance Family Planning at the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. She is currently completing her field placement at the International Vaccine Access Center on two projects focused on improving maternal and child health services in West Bengal as well as increase pneumococcal vaccine uptake across India. Her master’s essay will incorporate her passion for both policy and fetal origins of disease, focusing on epigenetic implications of various maternal exposures. Following graduation she plans to pursue a career in public health policy creation and eventually attend medical school.

Carolina Cardona - PhD StudentCarolina Cardona, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Population and Health

My research centers around health economics with a focus on family planning and population health in low-resource settings. Prior to the doctoral program, I worked as a research assistant at JHSPH measuring the progress in mortality reduction and analyzing trends in health spending. In Bolivia, I conducted economic evaluations to measure the implications of health interventions in infectious diseases, and for the Ministry of Planning and Development estimating mortality indicators. I choose the department of population, family and reproductive health because it fosters interdisciplinary work offering a unique opportunity that allows me to apply the tools I have from my economics training.

Nika Elmi, MSPH StudentNika Elmi, MSPH Student

Areas of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

Nika Elmi is currently completing her Master of Science in Public Health with a certificate in Humanitarian Health and Maternal and Child Health. In the department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, her research involves the use of app technology to address concerns and disparities in long-acting reversible contraception use, as well as investigating the effects of intimate-partner violence on pregnant adolescents in Mali. In the department of epidemiology, Nika focuses on conducting population size estimation modelling for key populations that are disproportionately affected by HIV in West Africa. As a researcher in the Key Populations Program (KPP), Nika explores health disparities and inequities through direct engagement with partners in Francophone West Africa to work towards population health data support and capacity-building. These inequities are explored and addressed locally in Baltimore, where Nika works as a licensed HIV counsellor and tester. As a Francophone student, Nika is also involved in the programmatic efforts of Breakthrough Action Guinea, USAID’s flagship global social and behaviour change project active in over 25 countries and growing.

Rebecca Goins, MSPH StudentRebecca Goins, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Maternal, Fetal and Perinatal Health

A student in the Population, Family, Reproductive Health Department at Johns Hopkins, Ms. Rebeca Goins brings a solid background in community involvement, maternal child health programming, and health education leadership. For her 2nd year field placement, Ms. Goins is excited to make an impact in her AmeriCorps VISTA role as Health Operations and Equity Coordinator at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Health Department. She is currently leading project management quality improvement initiatives with all divisions of the health department as well as implementing a youth fatality review board in the county. Ms. Goins’ thesis research will discuss youth violence and fatality prevention in Kansas City, KS from an evidence-based, anti-racist lens.

On campus at Johns Hopkins, Ms. Goins is a student researcher in the International Health Department where she utilizes her French fluency to complete PhD student manuscripts from Bamako, Mali. In her first year, she was involved with a youth development project through SOURCE where she instructed Baltimore high school students twice a week about professional development and job readiness. Ms. Goins is passionate about addressing health injustices caused by racism by incorporating health equity in policies, programs, and health systems capacity-building. She hopes to continue developing her skills in public health program management after graduation.

Sneha Lamba, PhD StudentSneha Lamba, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Population and Health

I chose the PFRH department within Hopkins for my doctoral studies because of the interdisciplinary approach and global lens it provides for the pursuit of my research interests. I am interested in using econometrics to answer questions that lie at the intersection of gender and health. This includes exploring how women’s empowerment and leadership can improve health outcomes. I hope to design and evaluate policies mainstreaming gender and equity within health systems in developing countries through my training at Hopkins.

Elizabeth Larson - PhD StudentElizabeth Larson, PhD Student

Area of Interest:  Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

My research interests include the use of normative approaches to understand family planning use and how social norms affect women’s and couple’s decision making around family planning internationally and with a focus on Francophone West Africa. Prior to starting my PhD in the PFRH department, I earned my MSPH from the International Health Department, Health Systems Program at JSHPH. I currently work on several projects, including Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA), a large scale international mobile phone-based survey on key sexual and reproductive health indicators. I also participate on a project based out of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health that aims to understand how to increase women’s voices in demand generation for family planning to ensure the ethical provision of family planning care to women in Francophone West Africa. I chose PFRH because of its role as a leader in the international family planning field.

Stacy Lu - MSPH StudentStacy Lu, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Child Health

I am primarily interested in the health and well-being of children with disabilities, with a focus on the impacts of nutrition and food insecurity on children’s mental health. I am also interested in the parenting and breastfeeding experience of individuals with disabilities. I choose to pursue graduate studies at JHSPH in the department of PFRH for the opportunity to assist with interdisciplinary research. I am currently working with Dr. Susan Gross on two projects: 1) evaluating the impact of summer meals waivers on Maryland Summer Food Service Program sponsors and 2) examining the impact of emergency food assistance programs on food insecurity among young people in Baltimore. I am also assisting Dr. Allison West with a review of screening tools to identify parents with learning difficulties and a study to understand the perspectives of parents with learning difficulties regarding home visiting services. I am extremely grateful for these opportunities in PFRH not only because I can pursue my interests, but also because I can expand my knowledge and skillsets with the support and expertise of Drs. Gross and West.

For my master’s essay, I plan to conduct a literature review on the breastfeeding experiences of individuals with disabilities. I hope to continue engaging in research in maternal and child health nutrition among individuals with disabilities and advocate for improvements in service coordination and delivery across the life course for this vulnerable population.

Morgan Majed - MSPH StudentMorgan Majed, MSPH Student

Area of Interest:  Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

I am currently a second year MSPH student studying Women’s, Sexual, and Reproductive Health in the Population, Family, and Reproductive Health department while pursuing certificates in Population and Health, Maternal and Child Health, Adolescent Health, and Health Disparities and Health Inequity. My passion for the pursuit for health equity and accessibility lead me to my education and career goals. My research interests include access to contraception, health equity, and maternal and child health. For my field placement, I currently am involved in the development of a community-engaged program to improve reproductive health equity for women who seek care from the emergency department in Detroit. I am also doing a field placement based in Ethiopia, which focuses on reproductive, maternal, and newborn health indicators that can inform national and regional governments.

During my first year as a MSPH student, I served on the executive boards of Student Assembly as the Vice President of Communication and External Affairs, and the Arab Public Health Organization as the Secretary. I am currently on the Arab Public Health Organization executive board. During my second year as a MSPH student, I hope to continue to build my skills in policy and public health program management to prepare me for my career post graduation.

Gabriela Marmolejos - MSPH StudentGabriela Marmolejos, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Maternal, Fetal and Perinatal Health

My primary research interest is to understand the systemic factors which hinder access to quality maternal and infant healthcare services among marginalized populations around the globe. I chose to join the department of population, family and reproductive health at JHSPH because of the international and interdisciplinary lens provided by the department faculty, staff and students. This upcoming fall, I will conduct a systematic review for the Maternal Opioid Misuse (MOM) Model team within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. This review will consist of analyzing existing gaps in high-quality maternity care for birthing persons with opioid use disorder (OUD) across the US. Upon graduation, I look forward to applying my health systems knowledge to help improve the quality of maternal and infant healthcare services in the US and abroad.

Michelle Martinez - MSPH'20 - PhD StudentMichelle Martinez, MSPH '20, PHD Student

Area of Interest: Adolescent Health

My research interests center around adolescent health, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health, particularly through the lens of health inequities – both domestically and globally. Overarching these primary research areas is my interest in wider population health and wellbeing. My current projects with the Global Early Adolescence Study and Gates Institute of Population & Reproductive Health reflect this range of interests. The support for my diverse interests and the expertise of the faculty within the department are why I chose PFRH. Further, studying within this department fosters a wide range of skills and competencies that will help me in exploring significant issues of the future. 

Rachel Milkovich, MSPH StudentRachel Milkovich, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

I am a passionate advocate for women’s reproductive justice. I choose to pursue graduate studies at JHSPH to work on research aimed at addressing our world’s pervasive health disparities with an intersectional lens. My research interests include access to contraception, abortion, and safe labor and delivery. I am currently supporting the International Health Department on developing a model of care for pregnant women with physical and sensory disabilities in Uganda, in addition to supporting universal health coverage research at PAI and research on abortion access in South Africa at Ibis Reproductive Health. On campus, I am a co-DSA representative for the PFRH master’s program and a Student Leader with the Birth Companions Program at the School of Nursing. In my second year with PFRH, I look forward to strengthening my skills in social epidemiology, so that I can work on monitoring and evaluation for reproductive health programs upon graduation.

Asari Offiong, PhD StudentAsari Offiong, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Adolescent Health

With a focus on vulnerable adolescents, my research interests lie in examining the perceived risk of substance use and abuse among minority, urban youth; and partnering with communities to develop culturally relevant prevention strategies. Currently, I am working with several faculty within the department on issues across the spectrum that impact adolescent health, ranging from substance use, sexual/reproductive health and food insecurity. My current work under the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is examining food insecurity among disconnected youth from six different neighborhoods in Baltimore. I was drawn to PFRH for two reasons 1) the Center for Adolescent Health’s commitment to research and community-based initiatives; 2) my advisor Dr. Terri Powell. Her work, along with all the other great projects happening through CAH nicely aligns with my intention to combine science and service. As a researcher, I hope to be a bridge between the two entities and ensure that the voices and needs of adolescents are being heard and met.

Tamia Ross, MSPH StudentTamia Ross, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

I chose JHSPH, and specifically the PFRH department, because of the opportunity to be able to focus my interests of addressing racial health inequities within the context of maternal and child health. For my field placement, I am currently working with the Early Childhood Services Research Team within the PFRH department. My project is focused on advancing equitable coordination of home visiting and early childhood services from the perspective of counties. My other involvements on campus include supporting the Center for Global Health on international research projects that explore the implications of obstetric violence, and the impact of COVID-19 on maternity care. Outside of Hopkins, I am involved in the National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC), which is an organization that is dedicated to advancing health equity for Black mothers and infants through research, community-centered collaboration, and advocacy. My current long-term goals are to become a physician and lead researcher in health equity. Specifically, I would like to design and help implement interventions that have the explicit intention of closing disparaging gaps between racial and ethnic groups within the field of maternal and child health. I hope my second year will not only strengthen my current methodological skills, but it will also help me develop the foundation needed to enrich the health of all women and children by addressing our nation's current inequalities.

Dana Sarnak, PhD StudentDana Sarnak, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Population and Health

My education and experience reflect my commitment and passion to sexual and reproductive health and demography, particularly their intersection around fertility. Broadly, I’m interested in what conditions and policies support women achieving their child- bearing and spacing goals. I want to study how fertility changes affect societies and populations.  I’m particularly interested in the links to contraception and how these are related to women and their roles in society.

Grace Sheehy, PhD StudentGrace Sheehy, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

I chose to study at JHSPH – and the PFRH department specifically – so I could focus on the work that excites me most: improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes at scale through evidence-based advocacy. Studying at JHSPH has helped me become a well-rounded researcher, with skills in a range of disciplines and methodologies, while also allowing me to specialize in the work I am most passionate about. My research focuses primarily on access to safe abortion and quality family care in a range of settings; currently, I support projects in countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and in India, including PMA2020.

Bianca Smith, PhD StudentBianca Smith, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Adolescent Health

My decision to attend Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was based on the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health (PFRH)'s commitment to social justice and health equity. University-affiliated institutes, such as the Urban Health Institute, highlighted the impact PFRH was making not only in the research world, but also in the Baltimore community. My research interests surround the impact of structural racism on health outcomes in African American adolescents and young adults.

Anaise Williams - PhD StudentAnaise Williams, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

Anaise is a second-year doctoral student in PFRH. Her research interests lie in women’s economic empowerment, social norms, and gender-based violence in low-resourced settings. Prior to coming to Hopkins, she earned her MPH from Columbia University and worked in Bangladesh for several years conducting program evaluations of women’s employment and empowerment programming through the University of Oxford. Anaise currently works on several projects focused on violence and gender at both the PFRH department and the World Bank. Anaise chose the doctoral program at PFRH due to the department’s dedication to work on violence and social norms.

Kalie Willis - MSPH StudentKalie Willis, MSPH Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

The reasons why I chose Johns Hopkins resonate with the level of academia that not only precede the university, but that also permeate disciplinary and research opportunities. More importantly, though, is the reason why I stayed at Bloomberg. Bloomberg became to mean more than an academic institution, but rather a community. In Baltimore, I feel as if I am home… surrounded by loving friends that I adoringly consider family, a wealth of support with each passing day, and neighborhoods filled with vibrancy. As I enter the 2020-2021 academic year as a second year MSPH student, I am grateful for the fruitful opportunities offered alongside passionate colleagues.

My current practicum is focused on a new NIH-funded study entitled, “Optimizing PrEP Implementation and Effectiveness Among Women at High Risk for HIV Acquisition in South Africa.” I am leading the project, aimed at developing actionable and sustainable PrEP messaging campaigns following landscape review and qualitative data collection via focus group discussions. It is a joy to work with Dr. Sheree Schwartz, Principal Investigator, and a team of esteemed researchers and field experts—all of whom are offering insightful support!

Furthermore, I am privileged to both be engaged with the Better Together Research team led by Dr. Terri Powell, and to a compelling research assistantship with the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Scientific Working Group (SWG) within the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Furthermore, it is with genuine anticipation and excitement that I join Dr. Vanya Jones as a teaching assistant for her course offering (410.620—Program Planning for Health Behavior Change).

While my research interests encompass both Adolescent and Women’s Health with a focus on sexual and reproductive health, I am most passionate about the significance of health communication and project implementation for behavior change. What do I hope for the future? I envision one with outstanding promise brimming with sustainable initiatives for individuals and communities, alike. The opportunity to study at Johns Hopkins is preparing me with applicable and tangible experiences. For this, I am grateful.

Carrie Wolfson PhD StudentCarrie Wolfson, PhD Student

Area of Interest: Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health

My primary research interests are the health vulnerabilities associated with poverty uniquely experienced by women. Within this broad area, I am interested in exploring reproductive health at the population level, particularly disparities in outcomes among vulnerable communities and across racial/ethnic subgroups within the US. I further plan to examine the role of government programs and policies in reducing or exacerbating such inequities. I chose the PFRH department at JHSPH because of the faculty -- they have the expertise to help me further develop the topical and methodological skills I need to explore these pressing issues.