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The Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program welcomes three new faculty members to Drexel University in the 2023-24 academic year: Kristal Brown, Lilianna Phan, and Gabriel Schwartz. They each will sit in various departments and centers within the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) and the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP). They will join the nine FIRST faculty who joined FSPH and CNHP in Fall 2022.

Learn more about Brown, Phan, and Schwartz below:

Kristal Lyn Brown (she/her), PhD, MSPH, Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapy (CNHP), Secondary appointment in Department of Community Health & Prevention (DSPH)

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. Dr. 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. Dr. 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 Dr. 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. Dr. 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.

Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

Lilianna “Lil” Phan (she/her), PhD, MPH, MS Assistant Professor of Community Health & Prevention (DSPH, 75%), Joint Appointment in Nursing (CNHP, 25%)

Phan is a social and behavioral scientist investigating multilevel determinants of tobacco related health disparities as leverages to promote health equity. Her research aims to center the development of health education interventions, within communities and on a population level, around priority populations to maximize their public health impact. These research foci are grounded in the voices of Philadelphians who graciously allowed Lil into their quitting process when she served as a smoking cessation counselor as a part of an NIH-funded trial and the city’s vibrant communities that welcomed her early in her research career. Her doctoral training in behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland College Park, School of Public Health focused on understanding social factors that influence tobacco use within the urban neighborhood context. Her dissertation research conducted through community-engaged efforts used mixed-methods to develop a theory-based scale measuring beliefs related to loosie use among Black individuals who smoke cigarettes. Phan completed early postdoctoral training at the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, which concentrated on learning how to develop and evaluate tobacco health communication interventions. During this time, she was also the named recipient of the 2020 Richard C. Devereaux Outstanding Young Investigator postdoctoral fellowship from the Prevention Cancer Foundation.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Division of Intramural Research, her recent research focuses on examining the intersectionality of social influences on cigar smoking and related racial disparities in cigar smoking that burden Black individuals, given largely in part to targeted tobacco industry marketing. Her ongoing research aims to help inform equitable, action-oriented solutions. As a recipient of the 2022 NIMHD Coleman Research Innovation Award, she is developing a novel measure on outcome expectancies related to cigar smoking among Black young adults. This research also informs her ongoing NIH/FDA-funded K99 research that focuses on developing cigarillo public education messaging for Black young adults contextualized to these outcome expectancies. She is also dedicated to mentoring the next generation of health disparities researchers and has received the NIH Summer Mentor Award from the Office of Intramural Training & Education in two consecutive years. As a FIRST faculty member, her work will extend to include: 1) developing and evaluating optimal tobacco health education interventions for racially and ethnically minoritized populations through randomized trials; 2) building sustainable, bidirectional community partnerships to achieve mutual goals; and 3) broadening her expertise in health disparities foci, given the linkage and overlap across health disparities.

In joining Drexel as a part of the FIRST program, Phan is excited about participating in the unmet synergy of a cohort of health disparities researchers who bring with them diverse lived experiences to inform the field. She is also grateful to be joining an academic institution whose mission and research praxis aligns with her own. She looks forward to the support of the mentoring faculty and the rich resources of the FIRST program as she grows in research, teaching, and mentoring. Being Philly-grown and as alumna of Saint Joseph’s University (BS in psychology), Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (MS in biomedical sciences), and Temple University (MPH in social and behavioral sciences), she is excited to come “home” and serve the city once again.

Gabriel “Gabe” Schwartz (he/him), PhD Assistant Professor of Health Management & Policy (HMP, DSPH) Urban Health Collaborative, Secondary appointment in Department of Nursing (CNHP)

Schwartz is a social epidemiologist and postdoctoral scholar at UC San Francisco. Gabriel’s work examines how social stratification and the places we live shape health inequities across the life course. Broadly, his research conceptualizes structural, racialized exploitation—facilitated by social policy—as a population health problem. This includes research on the health impacts of housing insecurity, segregation, and the criminal legal system. His dissertation examined connections between eviction and children’s health, showing that childhood eviction is associated with impaired cognitive development and that being born premature or with low birthweight puts youth at higher risk of eviction in early childhood. His ongoing eviction work has shown eviction impedes preventative healthcare access while driving higher healthcare spending, and that eviction moratoria during the COVID-19 pandemic were protective against COVID-19 infection and death.

At UCSF, Schwartz’s work has focused on estimating the health effects of segregation and on leveraging econometric methods. His postdoctoral research has fallen in four main areas: (1) using the lapsing of Brown v. Board-era racial integration orders to estimate the effects of anti-Black school segregation on long-term health, using instrumental variables; (2) evaluating the health effects of state policies meant to protect tenants from unsafe housing conditions, using a difference-in-differences approach; (3) examining how childhood residential segregation exposure trajectories influence well-being in the long term; and (4) shedding light on the population distribution of police contact and police violence across race, ethnicity, sexuality, and geography.

Schwartz’s goal is to help fight for a more just and healthful world by putting robust evidence into the hands of community health advocates and organizers, helping them win effective changes to social policy. He is excited to be joining a university, and cohort, where such an orientation—towards community partnership, towards health justice—is valued and supported. Drexel’s investment in studying urban planning and local policy as causes of urban health makes it the ideal place for him to collaborate and grow. As a FIRST faculty member, he plans on forging connections with community organizations in Philadelphia and building his research at the junction of social, spatial, and policy epidemiology. As a teacher, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to provide students with tools and knowledge they can use to make their communities healthier, and to learn from them in kind.

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