Two students selected as Health Policy Research Scholars

Ashley Gripper and Brigette Davis
Ashley Gripper and Brigette Davis

November 20, 2018—Brigette Davis, PhD ’23, and Ashley Gripper, PhD ’23, were selected as Health Policy Research Scholars, a prestigious national leadership development program for doctoral students underrepresented in doctoral programs who want to apply their research to help build healthier and more equitable communities.

Both are in the PhD in Population Health Sciences program, a joint collaboration between the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with Davis concentrating in social and behavioral sciences and Gripper concentrating in environmental health.

As two of 40 selected applicants, Davis and Gripper join a diverse group of scholars from across the country who will collaboratively tackle persistent health challenges by creating innovative solutions through their research. The program is led by George Washington University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Davis’s research focuses on understanding how racism embedded in everyday institutions compounds over the life course to produce health disparities. She hopes to quantify the overall impact of racism on health outcomes in adulthood, while identifying critical periods of opportunity and resilience at all stages of development.

“I have the opportunity to connect with people from all over with a common goal of health equity,” Davis said about the program. “I couldn’t be more excited about the experience.”

Her adviser David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, said, “Brigette is an absolutely outstanding student with prior experiences in public health, and she is on a wonderful trajectory to make important contributions in the future.”

Gripper’s research examines the connection between agriculture, land access, and the health of farmers of color. She believes that “in order to more effectively advocate for anti-racist federal and local land access policies, new strategies are needed to establish a causal relationship between growing food and the health of farmers and their communities.”

She said that support from the program gives scholars the tools and resources to do meaningful research. “Because I hope to conduct participatory action research, it is essential that I attend conferences, network, and meet with growers from across the country,” she said.

Her adviser Gary Adamkiewicz, assistant professor of environmental health and exposure disparities, said, “I’m very excited to work with Ashley as she continues to ask big questions. Her cross-cutting interests touch on so many critical areas, including food access, equity for farmers and families, environmental issues, and related policy gaps. I’m so glad that Ashley is committed to these issues and I’m convinced that her work will make a difference.”

Through the program, Davis and Gripper will develop high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership curriculum. While participating in the program they will continue studying full-time and applying new knowledge and leadership at Harvard Chan School to advance a “Culture of Health”—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

Hannah Cory, a doctoral student in the Population Health Sciences program concentrating in nutrition, was named a Health Policy Research Scholar last year.

Amy Roeder

Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Gripper; Brigette Davis by Nilagia McCoy