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Kristal Lyn Brown, PhD, MSPH

Contact Information

Kristal Lyn Brown


Assistant Professor

Creative Arts Therapies Department

Kristal Lyn Brown, PhD, MSPH, is a Black woman and activist born and raised in the USA—therefore her lived experiences shape the lens in which she sees the world and thus is reflected in her scholarship. Brown is an assistant professor in the Creative Arts Therapies Department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Community Health and Prevention in the Dornsife School of Public Health. Brown has received several scholarly awards and honors to include being selected as a scholar for the Michigan Integrative Well-being and Inequality Institute, the NIMHD Health Disparities Research Institute and the Nutrition Obesity Research Center Diversity Scholars Program at Harvard. In addition, she received the Society of Behavioral Medicine Health Equity SIG’s Early Career Award, which recognizes individuals at the early career stage who have made significant contributions to evidence-based research, policy or practice focused on health equity promotion in behavioral medicine.

By training Brown is an interdisciplinary health equity scholar—her work sits at the intersection of stress, obesity and disordered eating. She uses mixed methods and behavioral clinical trials to make lifestyle interventions more equitable. Brown has two focus areas under the umbrella of improving interventions in service of health equity: 1) Identifying novel targets and 2) intervention adaptions. She is particularly interested in the role of exposure to racism, racial identity and other contextual factors related to cardiovascular/cardiometabolic health. In her second focus area, she explores ways in which to adapt interventions in service of health equity.

Brown believes in using art to connect, share, heal and build with the local community. As such, she is the visionary and storyteller of Brown Girl Narratives—a qualitative project focused on the lived experiences of Black women residing in Richmond, Virginia, which culminated with a 60ft. mural and a community, learn, paint and sip. In addition to being an interdisciplinary health equity scholar, Brown is a national board eligible health and wellness coach—prior to completing her fellowship she delivered group-based coaching over technology-based platforms both in research and clinical care settings.

Academic Distinctions

  • 2001 Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society Inductee, NC A&T SU
  • 2008 Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Scholar Recipient
  • 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society inductee, VCU
  • 2019 Initiatives of Change, USA, Narrative Change Collaborative Fellowship
  • 2019 Charles C. Clayton Award, VCU School of Medicine
  • 2019 American Association of University Women Fellowship
  • 2021 NIMHD Health Disparities Research Institute (HDRI) Fellow
  • 2022 Delta Omega Honor Society in Public Health Honorary inductee, VCU
  • 2023 Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School Diversity Scholars Program Fellow
  • 2023 Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) Health Equity Sig Early Career Award
  • 2023 VCU Alumni’s 10 under 10

Professional Society

Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM)
The Obesity Society (TOS)
American Heart Association (AHA)
Academy for Eating Disorders (AED)
NIDDK Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NMRI)

Selected Publications

Herbozo S, Brown KL, Burke NL, LaRose JG. A Call to Reconceptualize Obesity Treatment in Service of Health Equity: Review of Evidence and Future Directions. Curr Obes Rep. 2023 Mar;12(1):24-35. doi: 10.1007/s13679-023-00493-5. Epub 2023 Feb 2. Review. PubMed PMID: 36729299; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC9894524.

Lanoye A, Brown KL, LaRose JG. The transition into young adulthood: A critical period for weight control. Current Diabetes Reports, 2017;(11):114

Brown KL, LaRose JG, Mezuk B. The relationship between body mass index, binge eating disorder and suicidality. BMC Psychiatry, 2018;196.

Brown KL, Hines A, Hagiwara N, Utsey S, Perera RA, LaRose JG. The Weight of Racial Discrimination: Examining the Association Between Racial Discrimination and Change in Adiposity Among Emerging Adult Women Enrolled in a Behavioral Weight Loss Program. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 2021.

LaRose JG, Reading JM, Lanoye A, Brown KL. Recruitment and retention of emerging adults in lifestyle interventions: Findings from the REACH randomized clinical trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2022;121:106904.

Grant participation:

American Heart Association (AHA) Supplement to Promote Diversity in Science (2022-2023)
PI: Brown, KL
This project examined the association between racial discrimination and maladaptive eating behaviors that may contribute to disparities obesity among Black women.

Exploring the Familial Reach of Adolescent Obesity Treatment (2022-2024)
PI: Bean, MK Role: Consultant
This application will examine family-level changes to the home feeding and weight environment of adolescents in family-based obesity treatment R01HD095910, including weight changes of non-targeted children and caregivers.

Understanding Drivers of Variability in Treatment Response Among Emerging (2021-2022)
Adults in Behavioral Obesity Treatment
VETAR Grant -VCU School of Medicine
PI: LaRose, JG Role: Health Coach/Interventionist
The goal of this trial was to examine the relation between variability in weight change, life stressors, psychological and behavioral risk factors among women ages 18-25. We will also explore moderators of these associations.

Behavioral Research in Heart and Vascular Diseases (2020-2022)
T32HL007180-45 NIH/NHLBI
PI: Hill-Briggs Role: Postdoctoral Fellow, 100%
The goal of the NHLBI (T32HL007180-45) Fellowship was to show trainees with both clinical and behavioral backgrounds various complexities related to heart and vascular diseases.

The Brown Girl Narratives (2019-2020)
Initiatives of Change, USA, Narrative Change Collaborative (NCC)
Role: PI/Fellow The goal of the NCC Fellowship was to unearth hidden histories in Richmond which have been shaped by racism--and then transform those stories into complete narratives which build capacity and community. This project culminated with a community mural and a discussion, paint, and sip.

Examining the Role of Racial Discrimination in Obesity Treatment Disparities among African American Emerging Adult Women (2019-2020)
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Role: Principal Investigator
The purpose of this AAUW Dissertation Fellowship was to provide full-time support and additional training opportunities while I completed my dissertation research. The dissertation project consisted of three linked studies testing the overarching hypothesis that racial discrimination contributes to disparities in obesity and cardiometabolic risk and might contribute to the observed disparities in behavioral obesity treatment outcomes between non-Hispanic Black women and non-Hispanic White women.

Low Intensity Weight Loss for Young Adults: Autonomous vs. Extrinsic Motivation (2014-2020) R01DK103668 NIH/NIDDK PI: LaRose JG Role: Graduate Research Assistant and Interventionist This was a randomized controlled trial testing the relative efficacy of two novel technology-driven weight loss programs and an adapted standard treatment among young adults with overweight or obesity.

Improving Adolescent Obesity Treatment: Exploring the Role of Parents (2015-2018)
PI: Bean MK Role: Interventionist
This was a randomized controlled pilot trial comparing two novel strategies for engaging parents within a family-based adolescent obesity treatment program targeting primarily low-income, African American families.

Research Interests

My program of research focuses on prevention and treatment of obesity, disordered eating and cardiometabolic diseases with an emphasis on cultural adaptions and tailoring specifically for young Black women. I’m particularly interested in incorporating digital technology and user-centered design approaches with traditional lifestyle programs.

2022, Health and Wellness Coaching Certification
Emory University, Atlanta, GA

2022, American Heart Association Fellow, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Baltimore, MD

2020, Behavioral Research in Heart and Vascular Diseases Fellow (NIH/NHLBI T32), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Baltimore, MD

2020, Doctor of Philosophy, Social and Behavioral Sciences
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), School of Medicine, Richmond, VA
Dissertation: Examining the role of racial discrimination in obesity treatment disparities among African American emerging adult women
Mentor: Jessica Gokee LaRose, Ph.D.

2009, Master of Science and Public Health (MSPH), Meharry Medical College (MMC), Nashville, TN

2004, Bachelor of Science, Biology Pre-med, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T SU), Greensboro, NC