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Featured Doctoral Student


Joanna PattersonJoanne Patterson, MSW, MPH

Phd in Education
Health Behavior and Health Education


Berwick-upon-Tweed, Great Britain

Previous Educaton

  • Master’s in Public Health, Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2009
  • Master’s in Social Work, Macro, 2006
  • Bachelor of Arts, English, 2004


  • Dean’s Professional Development Award, 2016
  • Wallace and Katie Dean Fellowship, 2015


  • Patterson JG, Jabson JM, Bowen D. (under review) Data Sources for Sexual and Gender Minority Health.
  • Greece JA, Patterson JG, Kensky SA, Festa K. Incorporating practical application in graduate introductory public health courses. On the Horizon. 2015; 23(4): e1-24. doi: 10.1108/OTH-05-2015-0021
Refereed Presentations
  • Patterson JG, Jabson JM. (under review) Number of chronic conditions in sexual minority women: A population-based study. American Public Health Association, Denver, Colorado, October 29 –November 2.
  •  Patterson JG, Jabson JM. (accepted) Stress, cortisol, and social resistance: Potential pathways to weight disparities in rural sexual minority women. Social of Behavioral Medicine, Washington DC, March 30—April 2, 2016.
  • Greece J, Patterson JG, Kensky S, Lindsay C, Festa K, Marcum C, and Day L. Demonstrating Mastery of Competencies through Practical Application in Introductory Master of Public Health Courses: A Case Study. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Chicago, IL, October 31—November 4, 2015.
  • Greece J, Day L, Patterson JG, McGrath D. Does Practice-Based Teaching Prepare Students for the Workforce? An Evaluation to Assess Long-Term Outcomes of Teaching through Practical Application. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Chicago, IL, October 31—November 4, 2015.

Personal Interests

In my personal time, I enjoy adapting recipes, baking, and blogging about my exploits. I also love to wander the Market Square Farmer’s Market, drink coffee, walk/hike, and listen to local bluegrass. I am married to a former Navy man and boxer, mum to a 9-year old German Shepherd mix and fuzzy Blue Himalayan cat, aunt to 3 beautiful nieces and 1 nephew, and a loving daughter.

Professional Goals

As Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I anticipate completing coursework in advanced epidemiology, statistical methods, and policy analysis. In regard to research endeavors, while at UTK, I aim to engage in at least 3 independent research projects, resulting in at least 3 peer-reviewed papers and refereed presentations. By contributing to Assistant Professor Jennifer Jabson’s research agenda, I further expect to co-author at least 2 peer-reviewed papers. Finally, I hope to secure dissertation funding to support my work in sexual and gender minority (SGM) population health.

My current research utilizes national health and nutrition examination survey data to examine relationships between sexual orientation measurement (sexual identity or sexual behavior) and number of chronic diseases in sexual minority (lesbian or bisexual) women accounting for comorbidities, behavioral risks, and family history of disease. My intent is to describe SGM groups who may be at greater risk for chronic disease and inform tailored risk-reducing interventions.

In 2016, I will also implement a study of healthcare providers (HCPs) in rural East Tennessee. Sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, and bisexual people) and gender minorities (transgender people) experience lower access to primary and preventive care, leave healthcare settings with greater dissatisfaction, and report more negative experiences in the healthcare settings than their heterosexual and cis-gender counter parts. Health care providers’ (HCPs) attitudes and knowledge about SGM patients may contribute to these problems. This upcoming project aims to: 1) describe health care providers’ attitudes toward SGM patients and knowledge of SGM healthcare needs in healthcare settings that serve rural SGM patients in East Tennessee and 2) investigate and test the associations between HCP attitudes toward SGM patients, knowledge of SGM healthcare needs, and use of culturally competent care.

As a promising leader in public health, I see my future work as expanding SGM-population health research and advancing interventions to address structural inequities and reduce SGM health disparities. Upon graduation, I will seek a post-doc appointment in SGM population-health and chronic disease or cancer research in preparation for a full-time academic appointment. Long-term, I aspire to a senior-level position leading institutional public health education efforts as a professor and dean of graduate public health education.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

Truthfully, I did not expect to fall in love with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After living in Boston, MA for over a decade, I assumed that my personality would not fit outside a northern big city.

I was wrong.

When I visited UTK, the faculty welcomed my partner and I with enthusiasm; each faculty member knew my name and research goals, and we engaged in robust conversations about their work and my interests. As I met with my future advisor, the PhD director, and department chair, each one was honest about the program’s strengths: a small faculty-student ratio, high capacity for student-led independent research, frequent opportunities for collaboration on faculty projects, funded graduate assistantship opportunities, and strong intra-university and community partnerships. They were also honest about the program’s challenges: a small doctoral cohort, interdisciplinary doctoral-level coursework across multiple academic departments (which I view as a plus), and a growing program (again, a strength as much as a challenge).

Through these conversations, I felt respected and valued. I enjoyed how faculty members spoke about each other; they were positive and collegial about each member’s contributions. Later, as I spoke with my potential mentor, Assistant Professor Jennifer Jabson, about the collaborative research we could engage in to advance sexual and gender minority health – especially of SGM people in underserved rural and lower-socioeconomic groups – I was thrilled. Jabson was truly invested in my development as a scholar. Her strong commitment to mentorship was evident, and I knew that I could thrive as an emerging researcher in UTK’s environment with her support.

The department offered me a funded GRA position, with tuition and health insurance coverage, which made my family’s transition to TN much easier. And, once I accepted my offer, the department chair supported my application for an additional one-year fellowship that has helped me financially during my first year. The UTK Department of Public Health’s investment in me was apparent from day one, and it motivates me to bring the best I can to my doctoral training each day.

What has been the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

The most challenging and rewarding component of this program has been the research I have engaged in as part of my graduate assistantship. I began my program in August 2015, and since that time I’ve been involved in two research projects resulting in an accepted presentation at a national conference and a professional development award. I have also co-authored an article (under review), have supported a proposal to fund a third research project, and am submitting a second abstract to a national conference. It’s been a busy 6 months – and I love it!

Part of the challenge in this work is the process of learning research methods and analysis outside the classroom and, at times, ahead of my academic training. It requires extra reading, conceptual practice, and mentorship. I am learning to be humble and acknowledge that I am a fledgling researcher and a doctoral student. I am learning. This paradigm is challenging (with a touch of “imposter syndrome” at times) and freeing (as I am able to ask MANY questions and experiment with ideas).

I am delighted to be a doctoral student within the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It is my belief that doctoral work is the best gift I have given my professional self, and I am thankful as I embrace the challenges and rewards that accompany it.

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Chenoa AllenFeatured PhD Student Chenoa Allen

Phd in Education
Health Behavior and Health Education

Chenoa Allen is a doctoral student in health behavior and health education. Prior to coming to UT, she completed her MS in health and medical sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on maternal and child health and social epidemiology. Her current research interests include adolescent development, refugee and immigrant adaptation, and the role of social and cultural capital in perpetuating inequalities.

Chenoa is a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in the Department of Public Health. She helps teach the undergraduate Public Health 201 Introduction to Public Health course and works as a research assistant to Associate Professor Clea McNeely. She is currently preparing a manuscript using qualitative interview data to evaluate the dominant models of immigrant and refugee adaptation. She presented this project at the 2013 Society for Research in Child Development biennial meeting in Seattle, Washington. Next, she plans to work with McNeely on data from the PAL Project at the Center for the Study of Youth and Political Conflict.

In her free time, Chenoa likes to bake, can, and contra dance.

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img_LacreishaLacreisha Ejike-King

PhD in Education
Health Behavior and Health Education

Lacreisha Ejike-King is a current student in the PhD program concentrating in health education and health behavior. Her interests include health disparities, social determinants of health, and community-based participatory research (CBPR). Lacreisha aims to work as a public health advisor for a federal-level agency.

Her array of experiences with the department has garnered her international experiences. In April of 2010, she traveled to the Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC) conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Additionally, she traveled to Kenya during summer 2011 and again in winter 2011.

Lacreisha served as a graduate teaching associate in the department for two years. She is currently a graduate research assistant serving as project coordinator for a collaborative National Science Foundation (NSF) grant with the Department of Child and Family Studies, the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) project (Kenya), and Kenyatta University (Kenya). This grant will fund interdepartmental and international collaborations that will provide students with international, practical experience. Additionally, Lacreisha has served as the project manager on the Healthy Transitions project for nearly three years and has been one of the public health representatives on Dean Bob Rider’s Graduate Student Advisory Board for two semesters.

In her fleeting moments of free time, Lacreisha enjoys sleeping, eating, and watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

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