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Student Funding

Interested in focusing your training on health in cities?

Join the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative as a Fellow! Prospective and incoming master's and doctoral students are welcome to consider a fellowship with Drexel's Urban Health Collaborative. The program will support selected students in conducting urban health research. Fellows also benefit from a wealth of data and support resources available through the Urban Health Collaborative.

Doctoral Fellowship Program

Fellows are supported to conduct urban health research under the mentorship of a faculty research sponsor. Fellows will receive a stipend, full tuition remission and additional support for research and travel. Awards are renewable for a second year depending on progress.

Eligibility: Incoming students enrolling in a full-time doctoral program at the Dornsife School of Public Health who are interested in conducting research related to urban health are eligible for this fellowship.

Application Process: UHC Doctoral Fellows will be nominated by departmental admission committees based on academic excellence and interest in urban health research as expressed in their doctoral application.

2017-2018 Doctoral Fellows Awardees

Rosie Mae Henson, MPH, Health Management and Policy
Advisor: Robert Field, PhD, JD, MPH

Rosie Mae Henson is an Urban Health Collaborative Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Health Management and Policy. Her research primarily focuses on the social, economic, and environmental policies and systems that impact health equity, and how to communicate and disseminate this research to inform decision-making and policy development. Henson is interested in and uses mixed methods, with a focus on econometric and policy analysis and outcomes approaches. She currently works on the Urban Equity Project, a mixed methods study of U.S. mayors, health departments, and health systems to identify and examine activities in U.S. cities to achieve health equity as well as the barriers and facilitators to these activities. She also works on the Salud Urbana en America Latina (SALURBAL) project with the Urban Redevelopment group at the UHC.

Katie Nelson, MPH, Health Management and Policy
Advisor: Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, MPH, MSc

Katie Nelson, MPH will study mental health policies and systems in urban areas using a cross-disciplinary approach.  Specifically, she will study the relationship between mental health, policy, and social determinants of health with the potential to compare rural and urban areas.  She will use innovative methods to understand dissemination and implementation of research findings in mental health policy.

Nelson is an MPH alumna of Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health and received bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her master’s project focused on understanding how older adults with clinically significant depressive symptoms perceive communication with their healthcare providers and how that might influence receipt of mental health treatment. While earning her MPH, she worked at Merck on global vaccine policy. Previously, she worked at Impaq International, a social science research firm, as an analyst conducting program evaluations for DOL, CMS, and ODEP.

Rennie Joshi, MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Advisor: Yvonne Michael, ScD, SM

Rennie Joshi will be studying the social and built environmental determinants of chronic diseases, particularly obesity and cardiovascular health. She is interested in utilizing novel research methods to better understand the combined effects of different neighborhood-level risk factors, such as food environments and safety on cardiovascular health.

Originally from Nepal, Joshi received her MPH from Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, and received her bachelor of arts in health science from Gettysburg College. Her master’s thesis was a repeated cross-sectional study to examine the risk factors related to underage drinking in Louisiana. As an MPH student, Joshi also worked at the Urban Health Collaborative as a Research Assistant on various projects, including UHC Community Briefs and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Equity study. Before coming to Drexel in 2015, Joshi worked as a researcher for a consulting company focused on behavioral health and social services.

Irene Headen, PhD, MS, Postdoctoral Fellow

Irene Headen, PhD, MS is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health. Her research interests center around the social and structural determinants of racial/ethnic disparities in pregnancy outcomes. Dr. Headen’s work investigates how differences in exposure to neighborhoods and other urban environments across the life course impact inequities in adverse pregnancy outcomes and their risk factors. Her doctoral work examined associations between long-term trajectories of neighborhood deprivation and women’s risk of gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy, both of which have adverse implications for maternal and infant health.

Previously a Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Centers of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Headen continued to study how neighborhood environments interact with individual-level interventions to modify their effectiveness on pregnancy-related weight status. Her current work studies associations between place-based, early education initiatives, including Promise Neighborhoods, and maternal, child, and family health outcomes in low-income communities. Dr. Headen earned her bachelor of science in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master of science and doctorate in epidemiology from the University of California, Berkeley.

2016-2017 Doctoral Fellows Awardees

Samantha Rivera Joseph, MPH '12, Community Health and Prevention
Mentor: Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH

Samantha Joseph will study community resilience and the protective factors that support Philadelphia communities with high levels of violence and resulting chronic trauma. Joseph will examine neighborhood level data and community organizing efforts to understand the risk factors for community and domestic violence, create an inventory of community assets that can be used for addressing these factors, and organize partnerships to build supports. She will use Community Based Participatory Research to identify interventions to address disparities and build community capacity.

Joseph is an MPH alumna of Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health, and received her BA in natural sciences from Fordham University. She previously worked at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a Philadelphia-based organization, first as a Development and Quality Assurance Manager for health programs and then as the Director of Primary Care for their Federally Qualified Health Center. Before coming to Philadelphia, she worked in HIV prevention and community empowerment in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally, Joseph is on the steering committee and serves as a coach for the Latino Partnership Institute, which focuses on community organization/mobilization and leadership training in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Matthew Kearney, MPH, Community Health and Prevention
Mentor: Philip Massey, PhD, MPH

Matthew Kearney will develop evidence around sexual health education programs in Philadelphia in hopes of increasing their implementation. This has the potential to improve the sexual health outcomes of youth, which can impact disparities in overall physical and mental health and educational attainment. Kearney's research will incorporate mHealth and social media to evaluate school-based health programs. His research will include developing better tools to assess adolescents' health seeking behavior and health literacy and the programs that aim to influence them.

Kearney earned his MPH from the University of Pennsylvania and a BS in biology from Union College. His master's thesis was a qualitative study examining medical residents' engagement with the development and implementation of a health education program that he helped create at Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia. He also led a health education program at Samuel B. Huey Elementary School in West Philadelphia, and was a research assistant at the Center for Public Health Initiatives, the Mixed-Methods Research Lab, and in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Before graduate school, Kearney taught high school biology, algebra, and environmental science in Connecticut and Missouri.

Erica Smith, MPH, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mentors: Esther Chernak, MD, MPH and Alison Evans, ScD

Erica Smith's research will focus on the social and environmental determinants of infectious disease rates in cities, with the potential to compare rural versus urban areas. She plans to study the relationship between food insecurity, food safety, and the determinants of health, examining disparities in foodborne illness and food safety. Smith will use multiple sources of data and both descriptive and analytic epidemiological methods to investigate these population health issues.

Smith earned her MPH from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BS in biology and anthropology from the College of William and Mary. While earning her MPH, she worked at the Virginia Department of Health and the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Since completing graduate school, Smith worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Health for six years, first as a Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Applied Epidemiology Fellow in Infectious Disease, and then as a general infectious disease epidemiologist, before becoming a statewide foodborne/enterics epidemiologist.

In addition to the three UHC Doctoral Fellows, the Collaborative is hosting two additional doctoral students and a new Postdoctoral Fellow this year.

Kim Daniels, MS, Epidemiology and Biostatitics
Mentor: Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

Kim Daniels will be studying the social and environmental factors related to obesity and cardiovascular disease. She is particularly interested in child obesity and is collaborating with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in order to study this population. She is also hoping to compare the environmental factors related to cardiovascular disease and obesity between the city of Philadelphia and the greater state of Pennsylvania.

Daniels completed her MS in epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a BS in mathematics and biology from the University of Maryland (Baltimore). Daniels previously worked as a statistician at Boston Children's Hospital under Dr. John Meara MD, DMD, MBA and assisted the surgeons in the Plastic and Oral Surgery department in analyzing their data and running quality improvement projects. She also worked as an epidemiologist in Boston Children's Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, where she helped the fellows in the program design research projects and analyze data, in addition to running her own modeling projects.

Ana Ortigoza, MD, MS '16, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mentor: Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

Ana Ortigoza will study the impact that violence among young people in Latin American cities has on mortality and morbidity, at citywide levels. As part of the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ortigoza is part of a large interdisciplinary team that is combining multilevel and longitudinal data analysis approaches with systems thinking and simulation modeling to 1) understand relationships and processes involved and 2) gain insights into plausible effects of city level factors.

Ortigoza is a 2016 graduate of the MS in Epidemiology program at the Dornsife School of Public Health. Originally from Argentina, she completed her MD at the National University of Rosario, Argentina, and became licensed in pediatrics in 2008. She also earned a Master in Epidemiology, Health Policies and Management from University of Lanus in Bueno Aires. She joined the Urban Health Collaborative in 2014 and has been working on the Urban Health Network for Latin America and the Caribbean since its inception. Her research interests focus on childhood, youth violence and health disparities. Before coming to Drexel, Ortigoza worked as chief resident in pediatrics, clinical instructor and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Hospital Provincial de Rosario, and previously as project manager of a clinical trial related to RSV infection in preterm babies in Chaco, Argentina.

Ivana Stankov, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

Ivana Stankov's research focuses on understanding the social and environmental determinants of health and disease using soft and hard systems methods. Her current research employs participatory methods to identify and understand built environments implicated in the development of cardiometabolic risk. She is actively involved in research that employs simulation-based methods, including spatial agent-based modelling, to understand place-health relations and explore the effectiveness of policy-relevant interventions on health-related behavior and chronic disease outcomes. She is also involved in research examining the role of peer and romantic partner influences on adolescent marijuana use.

Stankov completed her PhD in Social Epidemiology at the Centre for Population Health Research at the University of South Australia. Her thesis is titled, "The built environment and cardiometabolic disease: Framing place health relations from a complex systems perspective." During her doctoral studies, Stankov completed an International Residency at the Brookings Institution Center on Social Dynamics & Policy with Director Ross Hammond, PhD and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with Pamela Matson, PhD, MPH, which was funded by a Maurice de Rohan Scholarship. Stankov also completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy with Honors from the University of South Australia and a BS in Biology, Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry from the University of Adelaide in Australia. Stankov has previous work experience as a physiotherapist.

Master's Fellowship Program

The Drexel Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) supports up to four master's students interested in urban health research each academic year. UHC Master's Fellows are also eligible to receive Dornsife School of Public Health's Dean's Scholarships.

Eligibility: Prospective UHC Master's Fellows will be considered for these positions based on exceptional academic promise and their interest in urban health as evidenced in their application.

Application Process: Applicants should indicate their interest in urban health and fit with the UHC Master's Fellowship in their personal statement. Applicants interested in being considered are encouraged to apply for admission no later than January 15th.

2017-2018 Master’s Fellows Awardee

Kristin Giordano, MPH ’19, Community Health and Prevention
Mentor: Ana Martinez-Donate, PhD

Kristin Giordano is an Urban Health Collaborative Research Fellow and a first-year MPH student, concentrating in Community Health and Prevention. Before moving to Philadelphia, Giordano worked as a research analyst with the Colorado Springs Fire Department’s Community & Public Health Division’s mental health crisis response and 9-1-1/ED super-utilizer programs. She brings to Drexel an interest in finding cross-sector solutions to community-identified health issues. During her fellowship, Giordano will work with Ana Martinez-Donate, PhD on a pilot project working to address community resilience in Latino communities in Philadelphia: Creating Strong and Resilient Opinion Leaders (CRiSOL) Program.

Student Funding for Master's Depth Experience

The UHC provides student funding to support select Depth Experience placements for students wishing to focus on urban health as part of the practical experience required of all first-year MPH students. Students complete the Dornsife School of Public Health Depth Experience placement process to select a supervised, hands-on 120-hour public health experience within public health practice settings. There are two open periods for applications.

Calendar icon March 5 through March 19, 2018 Calendar icon
May 7 through May 21, 2018

In order to apply, please answer the following questions in a Word document: 

  1. Please give a short description of your Depth experience (500 words or less). Please include whether you have already engaged a preceptor.
  2. How does your Depth experience align with the goals of the Urban Health Collaborative (see our website for more details)?
  3. What do you hope to gain/learn from your Depth experience (skills, personal development, insight into career direction, etc.)?
  4. Please disclose any other funding opportunities you will be applying to for your Depth experience, including if you are receiving an hourly wage.

Once complete, submit the document as an attachment via email to, using "UHC Depth Experience" as the subject line.

Learn more about the DSPH first-year practicum experience.

2018 Depth Experience Awardees

Anne Golden, MPH ‘19, will work with the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to coordinate the Food Equity Pilot Study. The Food Equity Pilot Study will assess food access and availability within the city of Philadelphia. This study test a linear measurement tool, measuring the linear feet of "healthy" and "unhealthy" food items stocked in Philadelphia corner stores. This is the Department’s largest pilot study yet, measuring over 100 stores. Locations will be randomly sampled and represent both high-income and low-income communities. Golden’s role will include: creating training materials and coordinating with volunteers; completing store measurements; compiling and analyzing data under the supervision of members of the data and evaluation team; summarizing data; and presenting findings to the data and evaluation team.

Paola Maysonet, MPH ‘19, will work with Philadelphia Prevention Partnership, a coalition of organizations that advocates building relationships to understand local systemic issues. Maysonet is creating a culturally-tailored interview guide that inquiries upon organizations’ protocol for serving Puerto Rican evacuees displaced by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, perceptions of the challenges, successes and further needs. Interviews will be conducted amongst grassroots, non-profit and city government sectors of Philadelphia. Project findings will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders to understand the city’s approach in reaching and serving this population.

Vaibhavi Mone, MPH ‘19, will working with Management and Environmental Technologies Inc. (MET) on their METWorks Summer Program, a part of the Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady program. Mone has a dual role in this program. First, she will refine and teach public health-related contextual learning experience curriculum to about 100 West Philadelphia youth, ages 14 to 18. Second, she will evaluate the overall impact of the program on youth participants. Mone will work closely with METWorks staff to incorporate evidence-based improvements and develop an evaluation toolkit for MET to be able to independently collect and summarize data in future summers. This curriculum and training is a way to empower youth to understand and improve health in their own neighborhoods.

Ornella Pitah, MPH ‘19, will work at the Department of Advocacy and Policy of the People Emergency Center, a nonprofit community development agency providing comprehensive homeless services. Pitah is developing research as part of the advocacy strategy for the Yay Babies Campaign to raise awareness of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness among city, state and federal policymakers. Part of the advocacy strategy is to develop a literature review and policy briefs called “Brain Gain.” The briefs will inform policymakers on decisions concerning services to homeless children ages 0-3 and the adverse health outcomes of experiencing homelessness. Additionally, Pitah will engaging diverse stakeholder to build consensus in Children’s Work Group and FSPN on needed services for children ages 0-3 who are residing in emergency/transitional housing.

2017 Depth Experience (formerly Practicum) Awardees

The Urban Health Collaborative has awarded funding to four first-year Master of Public Health students completing their practicum experience with a focus on urban health. These projects cover a range of topics and incorporate a variety of activities poised to have significant impact on the health of Philadelphians. In addition to the standard practicum requirements, these students will be integrated into the Urban Health Collaborative, participating in UHC opportunities and receiving support from UHC staff and faculty.

Louisa Boison is working on two projects with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention, also known, as Get Healthy Philly. The first project involves surveying school principals and physical education staff in the Philadelphia School District about the physical activity practices in elementary schools, analyzing the data, and assessing the effectiveness of a specific campaign. The second project is focused on determining the effectiveness of a Stairwell Toolkit to promote physical activity among health department employees and will include research design, data collection, and data analysis.

Victoria Kontor is working at the Women's Law Project, a public interest law center devoted to the rights of women and girls. She is creating an aggregate data set that summarizes the demographics of girls aged 10-17 in Philadelphia with an emphasis on those in the juvenile justice system. The data set will be used in projects to work toward improved quality of life for girls in Philadelphia, especially those in the juvenile justice system, which include writing a policy agenda and briefing for the Health Commissioner and updating a previous publication called "Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania's Women" to include girls, and attempting to reorganize a Girls Coalition in Philadelphia.

Maitri Shah is working in the Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in North Philadelphia to integrate oral health services into this primary care setting. Interested and eligible patients, will receive dental care either the same day (during or after their primary care visit), or will be assisted in making a future appointment. Researchers will evaluate if the co-location of services improves the patient's compliance with dental health recommendations in children, and if there is perceived utility among participating caregivers and medical providers.

Kevin Smith is working at Mercy Hospital in West Philadelphia on a project to decrease the incidence of infectious disease within the hospital, specifically Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff). This project includes data collection to determine trends - tracking patients with a C. Diff diagnosis, tracking the amount of antibiotics prescribed to patients, analyzing how well patient rooms are cleaned between discharge and a new admittance, and tracking healthcare provider compliance with proper hand hygiene and personal protective equipment guidelines. This hospital is an important resource in the community, including nearby residents who feel a lack of access to primary care facilities and depend on the hospital for a wide variety of needs.

2016 Depth Experience (formerly Practicum) Awardees

Giselle Babiarz is working with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)'s Office of Communications and Engagement, assisting with multiple projects around the effects of built environment on health, advocating for healthy food environments, and partnership building between public health and urban planning.

Alexandra Skula is working with the Air Quality Division of the Environmental Protection Agency and Air Management Services to make data about air toxins more accessible and understandable to community members affected by them, particularly in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Vaishnavi Vaidya is working with the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity focusing on early childhood learning. She will research best practices and grant opportunities, and conduct outreach and program evaluations to support the A Running Start Philadelphia program.

Samantha Weckesser is working with the Health Federation of Philadelphia's Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities program to enhance the application of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) science, language, and data in 14 participating communities. She will assess the communities' policy related activities to inform technical assistance for their efforts.