Student Profiles

Blake JohnsonName: Blake Johnson
Degree Program: 80 credit Master of Science, Department of Epidemiology
Area of Interest: Infectious Disease Epidemiology

  1. What are your main research interests? 

My research focuses on HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men. I am interested in medication adherence – particularly of PrEP, a once daily pill taken to reduce the risk of HIV infection. I am part of the epidemiology research team at Fenway Health, an LGBTQ community health center in Boston.

  1. What experiences led you to studying at HSPH?

Prior to coming to HSPH, I was wrapping up my undergraduate degree at Georgetown University. I majored in the Biology of Global Health and minored in Science, Technology, & International Affairs. While at Georgetown, I worked with the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). In 2012, I worked with an international NGO in Tanzania and South Africa as a community health educator focused on the prevention of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, these experiences drove me to pursue a public health graduate degree at HSPH.

  1. What is the best class you’ve taken at HSPH and why?

The best class I have taken at HSPH is Richard Cash and Jason Weisfeld’s Economic, Political, and Social Dimensions of the Control of Infectious Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. This course was a series of guest lectures by various infectious disease experts and combined case studies with interactive lectures to survey the dynamics of a multitude of infectious diseases.

  1. Favorite part about living in Boston?

Boston is a vibrant city with great resources and a small town feel. I love poking around the many small restaurants and coffee houses in an effort to find a productive place to do work with a strong cup of coffee and tasty snacks. Quincy Market is the perfect spot for all of these things.

  1. After graduation, where do you envision yourself facilitating change in the public health sector?

To explore my interests in clinical research further, I plan to continue my studies as a medical student. In the not so distant future, I hope to bring public health into my daily practice as a physician and a researcher, working to serve communities that are have limited access to affordable healthcare.

 

Lakshmi KarraName: Lakshmi Karra
Degree Program: 42.5 credit Master of Science, Department of Epidemiology
Area of Interest (Concentration): Psychiatric Epidemiology

  1. What are your main research interests?

My main research interests include global mental health, mental health policy, and economic/development implications of mental health care issues.

  1. What experiences led you to studying at HSPH?

I studied biology in college and since then spent time pursuing my passion for education/public health/mental health (at a public health nonprofit, and an education venture) and my passion for data and analytics (at an economic consulting firm). I wanted a way to combine these passions, and epidemiology was a perfect fit.

  1. What is the best class you’ve taken at HSPH and why?

Well, I just started, but I’ve loved Bio 210: Analysis of Rates and Proportions (nerd alert!). I also took Epi 217: Epidemiology of Psychiatric Disorders, and found it fascinating, with a lot of great discussions and debates.

  1. Favorite part about living in Boston?

I’m a Californian, so I’ve enjoyed getting to experience seasons…so far. Also I love New England architecture – you would never see so many bricks in SF!

  1. After graduation, where do you envision yourself facilitating change in the public health sector?

I’m considering medical school for the chance to apply epidemiology research to patient care and health policy. I am also considering working in development – again, using epidemiology methods and research to create effective policies that improve health outcomes.

 

Name: Kalé Kponee
Degree Program: Doctor of Science
Area of Interest: Environmental Epidemiology

  1. What are your main research interests?

My main research interest involves combining environmental exposure assessment techniques with advanced epidemiological methods to study health effects associated with environmental exposures in developing countries.

  1. What experiences led you to studying at HSPH?

I graduated from Boston University’s School of Public Health with a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology. At Boston University, I had the unique opportunity to lead an investigation that assessed health effects associated with chronic exposure to petroleum contamination in Nigeria. I traveled to the Niger Delta area of Nigeria during the summer of 2013 to collect cross-sectional survey data comparing various outcomes in an Ogoni community exposed to benzene at 900 levels above the WHO recommended guidelines to a comparable unexposed Ogoni community. My involvement in that study led to my interest in spearheading meaningful and valid environmental health research in Nigeria. I realized that to achieve that goal, I needed additional training in complex epidemiological and environmental exposure assessment ideas that elucidated on advanced methods fundamental to studying environmental exposures. I was particularly drawn to HSPH because of their rigorous doctoral epidemiology program and the opportunity to enroll in a joint doctoral degree program in Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology. I knew that an education at HSPH would give me the skills I needed to conduct groundbreaking environmental epidemiology research.

  1. What is the best class you’ve taken at HSPH and why?

The best class I’ve taken at HSPH so far has been Introduction to Epidemiological Methods (EPI 201). I love this class because it showed me the importance of conducting valid and precise research studies that could be evidential in dismantling ineffective health policies across the world. The class uses introductory epidemiological theories to challenge future scientists to strive for excellence and precision in research. It has been particularly useful for someone like me who is interested in conducting valid research in countries that have minimal research infrastructures, many competing risks, and complex exposures. EPI 201 was the class that started training me to be fastidious with the methods I utilize in studying exposure disease relationships.

  1. Favorite part about living in Boston?

My favorite part of living in Boston is the nostalgic beauty that surrounds me everywhere. I am fascinated by the magnificent architectures around the city that still retain their grandeur centuries later. I am also proud of the great strides the city has made in attempting to provide its citizens with health insurance, world-class education, and technological innovation. For me, Boston is a great example of the excellence that can be achieved when a city maintains a flair of the old world while fearlessly leading the vanguard to a brave new world.

  1. After graduation, where do you envision yourself facilitating change in the public health sector? 

After graduation, I see myself working in collaboration to pioneer environmental health research in developing countries. I am particularly interested in combating environmental pollution in Nigeria with the skills I acquired through my education at HSPH.

melanie Kornides 2Name: Melanie Kornides
Degree Program: Doctor of Science
Area of Interest (Concentration): Reproductive, Perinatal and Pediatric Epidemiology

  1. What are your main research interests?

My research interests include childhood obesity, health behavior in childhood, and perinatal and pediatric health.

  1. What experiences led you to studying at HSPH?

I’m a family nurse practitioner and in my clinical practice I saw many people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. I became interested in how I could better contribute to the prevention of these conditions by focusing on the childhood antecedents. I went back to school for an MPH in epidemiology and quickly realized that getting a doctorate would give me the tools I needed to pursue a research career. So I looked into programs that had faculty working in pediatric epidemiology and ended up at HSPH.

  1. What is the best class you’ve taken at HSPH and why?

It’s a tie between Epi 504: Epidmiology of Disorders and Diseases of Childhood and Young Adulthood, taught by Alison Field SD, which provides a great overview and introduction to childhood epidemiological research, and SBS 503, Explaining Health Behavior: Insights from Behavioral Economics, taught by Dr. Kawachi. It’s a fascinating course for anyone interested in health behavior.

  1. Favorite part about living in Boston?

Sailing on the Charles River in the summer is amazing!

  1. After graduation, where do you envision yourself facilitating change in the public health sector? 

I’d like to go into academia so that I can pursue my research interests in understanding and preventing childhood obesity and other childhood diseases, and foster interest in pediatric epidemiology in future generations of health researchers.