Student Research

Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BCHS) students at the master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral levels are actively involved in research that’s impacting public health locally, nationally, and internationally. The following are some of our outstanding student researchers.

MPH student Keyonie James’ thesis sought to examine how pregnant African American women enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children program in Allegheny County (Pa.) define and experience maternal stress in an effort to understand how pregnant, low-income African American women identify, experience, and characterize psychosocial, environmental, social, and physical stress factors in their lives. She hopes the results will help to better define the conditions in which African American women contextualize stress and perhaps identify protective factors against poor birth outcomes. James’ efforts earned her the Carol L. McAllister Award for Excellence in Community Research, a scholarship established in honor of McAllister, a cultural anthropologist, community activist, and Pitt faculty member. Awards made from this fund support students who are carrying on McAllister’s legacy for work that is qualitative, ethnographic, community-based, and participatory in nature.

James has also worked with Professor Edmund Ricci and visiting instructor Todd Bear on a needs assessment for the South Central Pennsylvania Sickle Cell Council (SCPASCC). The goal of this needs assessment is to improve programs and services for clients living with sickle cell disease in southcentral Pennsylvania and to foster collaborations with other health and services organizations serving these individuals. The project objectives are to 1) identify patients living with sickle cell disease, 2) assess met and unmet needs of clients currently utilizing services by SCPASCC, and 3) assess client satisfaction with the services provided by SCPASCC.

Doctoral student James Egan is taking the lead in developing a research protocol to study short-term pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use as a tool for HIV prevention for high-risk MSM. PrEP is a new HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV take a daily pill to reduce their risk of becoming infected.

Doctoral student Suzanne Kinsky is working on a fellowship grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the health consequences of obesity among lesbian women.

Doctoral student Robert Coulter is working on a fellowship grant application to the NIH to study the rise of substance use disorders among sexual minority youth and their associations with high-risk sexual practices. Coulter also won a Dean’s Day award for his poster that documented syndemics among sexual minority girls.

PhD graduate, Kamden Hoffmann, as part of her dissertation project A Participatory Approach to Physical Activity Among People With Severe and Persistent Mental Illness, piloted an exercise program for individuals with mental illness at Community Human Services (CHS) in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Hoffmann developed On the Move—a 10-week, low-impact exercise program that caters to a variety of fitness levels—with Adrienne Walnoha, chief executive officer of CHS, and with support from the Staunton Farm Foundation. Also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Hoffmann received the 2013 Center for Health Equity Master’s and Doctoral Student Scholarship award for her work.