Doctoral Student Profiles

Below you will find information on our current doctoral students.

Jennifer BowdoinJennifer Bowdoin is a seventh-year Ph.D. student in the HPM Program at the SPHHS. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and a Master of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island.

Jennifer’s research focuses on the impact of the patient-centered medical home model of care on adults with serious mental illness. She also serves as a Senior Associate at the Rhode Island Quality Institute, leading the development of new initiatives and services related to practice transformation, quality improvement, patient-centered and connected care. Previously, Jennifer managed the practice transformation, care transitions, and telehealth integration projects of the Rhode Island Beacon Community Program, a 3-year, $15.9 million federally funded initiative to support the transformation of Rhode Island primary care practices into patient-centered medical homes. Jennifer also was the Project Manager for the Rhode Island Chronic Care Sustainability Initiative, one of the nation’s first all-payer demonstrations of the patient-centered medical home. Jennifer has presented at numerous local and national conferences, has published in and served as a reviewer for peer-reviewed journals, and actively participates in several statewide health reform initiatives in Rhode Island.

Travis Gagen is a second-year Ph.D. student in the HPM program at the SPHHS. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and a MPH degree from UMass Amherst. Travis represents the SPHHS as a graduate senator and has worked to strengthen and expand the graduate senate at UMass Amherst.

Travis’ area of research is aging policy with a focus on preserving independence for community-dwelling older adults. Travis explores ways to strengthen the local public health service delivery of fall-prevention services to community-dwelling older adults and technologies that can assist older adults in maintaining independence and avoid institutional long-term care. In addition, Travis is studying Massachusetts municipal zoning laws to assess accessory-dwelling units as an alternative housing option for older adults wanting to age-in-place. Travis’ research is being presented at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy Aging Summit in Washington, DC.

Jing Hao is a fourth-year Ph.D. in the HPM program at the SPHHS. She earned her MPH degree from UMass Amherst, MS degree in Immunology from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China and MD degree from Shanxi Medical University, China.

Jing's area of research is pharmaceutical economics and policy. Her research explores the approvals, patent and exclusivity life, withdrawals and costs of combination drugs compared to single drug products. Jing has presented her work in a number of prestigious academic conferences in the U.S. and overseas. Jing received the American Public Health Association (APHA) 2012 Medical Care Section Student Presentation Award and was the 2012 Westlake Youth Forum fellow. Jing also won the 2013 Public Health Systems Research Student Scholarship sponsored by the AcademyHealth.

Nene Okunna is a fourth-year Ph.D student in the HPM program at the SPHHS. She received Bachelor of Science in Applied Microbiology from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria and her MPH degree from UMass Amherst.

Nene's research explores the public health implications and economic burden of mental health disorders, health disparities and coverage of mental health services and treatments.


Larry Pellegrini is a second-year Ph.D. student in the HPM program at the SPHHS. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College with a major in Economics, and MSW and MPA degrees from the University of Connecticut. 

Larry worked as an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and as a medical social worker for Baystate Medical Center. Larry’s research explores the labor market’s impact on health outcomes and insurance provisions with implications for the configuration of the US health care industry. Larry received the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) 2013 Medical Care Student Session Award, and he has been nominated for the Society for Medical Decision Making's (SMDM) Lee Lusted Award. He has published in peer-reviewed journals and presented his research at APHA, SMDM, and the International Health Economics Association (iHEA).

Tai Spargo is a first-year Ph.D. student in the HPM program at the SPHHS. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government in 2008, and a Masters in Public Administration from American University in 2009.

Tai’s research interests focus on evaluating public health systems approaches to improve patient outcomes for individuals living with rare diseases. Specifically, Tai is interested in the challenges individuals face finding an accurate and timely diagnosis and a cost-effective treatment, and the economic implications of the disease for patients and the US healthcare system at large. Previously, Tai worked in the communications and organizational membership departments at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) in Danbury, CT advocating for patients, and the organizations that serve them.

Yara Youssef is a third-year Ph.D. student in the HPM program at the SPHHS. Yara received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Providence College with a major in Health Policy and Management.

Yara’s research interests include the reporting of health care quality information to influence patient behavior as well as improving health care management to improve the quality of healthcare. Her research explores patient trust of different sources of health quality information and how that impacts health consumer choices. In pursuit of her interests, Yara is currently a clinical research assistant in the Center for Quality of Care Research at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. She is working on a study titled the “IDEAS for a Healthy Baby: Reducing Disparities in Consumer Use of Quality Data,” a 3 year (2012-2015), $1 million federally funded (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) study to determine if health care quality information can influence patient choice of provider.