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Featured Doctoral Student



Protrait of Jennifer Russomanno in a black shirtJennifer Russomanno, MPH, CHES, CMP

DrPH Community Health


Toms River, NJ

Previous Education

  • Master of Public Health, University of Tennessee, 2016
  • Bachelor of Arts in Electronic Filmmaking and Digital Video Design, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 2001

 Awards since joining the program

  • Recipient, Excellence in Outstanding Commitment and Dedication in Community Service, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, 2015
  • Student Award Winner (Research Abstract), APHA PHEHP, 2015
  • Student to Watch, University of Tennessee Accolades Magazine, Fall 2015 edition

Accomplishments since joining the program


Certified Health Education Specialist (2016)

 Peer Reviewed Publications
  •  Russomanno, J, Jabson J. (2016). Farmers market uptake of food assistance programs in East Tennessee. Public Health Nutrition, 19(15), 2829-2837.
  • Leonard, K., Russomanno, J., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Heidel, R.E. (2018). Computerized vs. Hand- Scored Health Literacy Tools: A comparison of SMOG and flesch-kincaid in printed patient education materials. Journal of the Medical Library Association. 106(1), 38-45.
  • Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. (2018). Assessing Print Communication and Technology Attributes of an Academic Medical Center. Health Literacy Research and Practice. [e-pub ahead of print]
Manuscripts Under Review
  •  Russomanno, J.A., Patterson J.G., Jabson, J.M. (under review). Sexual minority women’s perceptions about overweight/obesity: A qualitative study with sexual minority women in East Tennessee.
  • Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. (under review). Conducting Oral Communication Assessments in an Academic Medical Center: A Patient-Centered Approach.
  • Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. (under review). Librarians Promoting Changes in the Health Care Delivery System through Systematic Assessment.
 Refereed Presentations
  •  Oelschlegel, S., Leonard, K., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. The Role of the Library in Promoting Changes in the Health Care Delivery System through Systematic AssessmentPoster presentation at the 118th Annual Medical Library Association Conference, Atlanta, GA, May 18-23, 2018.
  • Russomanno, J., Patterson, J., Jabson, J.M. Food Security and Gender Minority Individuals in the Southeast United States: A Qualitative Study. Poster presented at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Conference, New Orleans, LA, April 13, 2018.
  • Russomanno, J., Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Heidel, R.E. Computerized vs. Hand-Scored Health Literacy Tools: A Comparison of SMOG and Flesch-Kincaid in Printed Patient Education Materials in Appalachia. Oral presentation at the American Public Health Association, Atlanta, GA, November 7, 2017.
  • Russomanno, J., Patterson, J., Jabson, J.M. “Come Out for Health”: Coupled, rural sexual minority women’s interdependence and resultant perceptions and attitudes about health and body weight. Poster presented at the American Public Health Association, Atlanta, GA, November 7, 2017.
  • Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. Beyond the Basics: An Assessment of Printed Patient Education Materials in Appalachia. Poster presented at the Institute for Health Advancement 16th Annual Health Literacy Conference, Irvine, CA, May 3-5, 2017.
  • Leonard, K., Oelschlegel, S., Pollard, E., Russomanno, J., Heidel, R.E. Promoting Changes in the Health Care Delivery System through Systematic Assessment. Poster presented at the Institute for Health Advancement 16th Annual Health Literacy Conference, Irvine, CA, May 3-5, 2017.
  • Russomanno, J, Jabson J. Farmers Market Uptake of Food Assistance Programs in East Tennessee. Poster presented at American Public Health Association, 143rd Annual Meeting & Expo, Chicago, IL, November 1-4, 2015.
  • Stewart, E., Russomanno, J., Sharma, S., Eithaler, A., Meschke, L. East Tennessee Adolescent Tobacco Use Survey. Poster presented at 2015 Tennessee Public Health Association Annual Conference, Franklin, TN, September 9-11, 2015.
  • Russomanno, J, Jabson J. Farmers Market Uptake of Food Assistance Programs in East Tennessee. Poster. Graduate Student Advisory Board’s Research Colloquium, Knoxville, TN, March 6, 2015.
  • Law, L., Maples, L., Russomanno, J. Thinking Outside the Box: Unique Approaches to Outcomes Measurement. Oral Presentation at the Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions Annual Conference, Orlando, FL, January 16, 2014.

Current Occupation

Continuing Medical Education Coordinator, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine

Personal interests

In addition to being a DrPH student and working full time, my wife and I own a farm (2 Chicks and a Farm) located in Jefferson County, TN.  Farming, school and work take up a large amount of my time, however, when I am not “on duty,” my wife and I enjoy camping (or really, glamping), hiking, traveling, kayaking, attending concerts, going to the movies and exploring new places. In addition, we have four rescue dogs (Marley, Indy, Nikko and Tanner) and two rescue cats (Chester and Peanut) that run our household.

Future or Vocational Goals

Owning a farm in a rural county has really shed light on how much work still needs to be done in the local food movement.  My “dream career” would be to open the farm to the community.  We want to expand our farm to the degree where we could really provide a service to the community.  Some goals for expansion would be to host farm-to-table community dinners, begin a work share program where community members can work on a real, organic farm in exchange for fresh produce, lead educational tours for young children, and, overall, just make our farm a central place where community members could gather and learn.  While I love the academic components that this degree has allowed me, my heart is in community work and taking a more “boots on the ground” approach to community health.

What would you tell an incoming student who joins the program/department?

I would tell incoming students (both MPH and DrPH) that it is normal to feel overwhelmed at times and that it is okay to challenge any pre-conceived notions you have when coming into this program.  Public Health is an area that requires people to constantly think about the world in ways they may never have before.  This can be a scary thing to do, but can also come with great personal benefits and rewards.  Never stop learning and never be afraid to question what you THINK you know.  Also, be open to other ideas and thought processes even if you do not agree.  The world needs more open and honest conversations, especially from people of differing backgrounds, experiences and opinions. And lastly, always remember that you are capable of anything you set your mind to, even when times get tough.

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

The most rewarding AND most challenging part of this program has been the constant cycle of learning.  I literally learn something new every day.  While this can feel overwhelming at times, it has helped me evolve in ways I never expected.  I constantly challenge my own beliefs and ideas based on my experiences in this program.  These last four years (from MPH training to present day) have been an ever-changing time of growth and personal development for me, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Curriculum Vitae

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Brandy E. Fuesting, MPHBrandy Fuesting

DrPH Community Health


Louisville, IL

Previous Educaton

  • Masters in Public Health, Capella University
  • Bachelors in Science, Psychology/Business Administration, Troy State University
  • Associates in Art, Business, Pensacola State College


  • University of Tennessee Student/Faculty Research Award – December 15, 2016
  • The Student/Faculty Research Award was awarded on December 15, 2016 in support of the Sub-County Assessment of Life Expectancy in East Tennessee: Products to Meet Local Needs. This award was given to Dr. Kristina Kintziger and myself in order to advance the work we were doing on sub-county life expectancy in East Tennessee. This award is allowing us to obtain much needed data from the state of Tennessee in order to further our research and project. This award also allows for the continued mentorship and the increase in strong professional development.

Personal Interests

In my personal time I am fortunate to have a beautiful ten-year-old daughter, and a very supportive husband of eighteen years to spend my time with. We are an active duty military family so my interests can vary depending on where we live at the time. Currently in Tennessee our family enjoys our four dogs (two Old English Bulldogs, a Maltese, and a Shih-Tzu), hiking, horseback riding, volunteering, and playing arcade games. I also have found a love for sewing and making various craft projects.

Future or Vocational Goals

As a DrPH student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK) Department of Public Health, I am focused on expanding my skill set in order to increase my practice abilities. With many years of experience in social services specifically with United States military members and their families, it is imperative that I develop a strong skill set for practice that increases my ability to integrate a public health model for various social problems. In order to do this I am anticipating focusing on classes in policy analysis, various research methodologies, and public health leadership. In conjunction with these classes, I will continue to pursue different practice projects that allow me to utilize my new skill sets in order to produce deliverables that help to better the many goals in public health.

Beyond increasing my practice skill set, I am also focused on increasing my research abilities in order to help facilitate change in policy and prevention related to sexual violence with a strong emphasis on military programs. My current research is looking at the Department of Defense’s policies related to their Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program for all military branches, and identifying gaps in the Annual Report to Congress that prevents effective program development and prevention.

In the future, I fully expect my education at UTK to propel me back into a leadership position working with the military and their families at a strategic level. Upon graduation, I will seek a position that utilizes my practice based skill set and leadership abilities to develop or enhance programs designed to help military families and their communities.

What sold you on this program/department/university?

As a military spouse we do not get to pick where we live. Shortly after my husband was stationed just outside of Knoxville, TN I was offered an amazing position with HQ Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. I accepted the position and my daughter and I resided there while my husband was going to finish his last couple of years on active duty. While at HQ Marine Corps I realized that I wanted to know more so I could do more for our military families. When an email came from an old professor encouraging me to pursue a doctorate, I thought he was crazy. As a first generation college graduate I never thought I would have gotten my masters, much less a doctorate. However, after much consideration I began to seek out information. Living just outside of Washington D.C. I had the pick of some amazing Universities. However, I looked at UTK and realized that they offered a DrPH that fit my needs and would bring my daughter and I closer to my husband. However, this program went beyond fitting my needs. After meeting the faculty I knew UTK was right for my family and I. They were clear that the program was challenging and important, but they were also clear that family was important and necessary. They put value in my experience in practice and in life. They did not focus on just my professional and academic achievements or test scores; they focused on me as a person. It was this personal interest that sold me on the DrPH program at UTK. There are many great universities academically, but as a working professional stepping away from a great career, and wife and mother I needed a university that cared about me as a person and about my success now and in the future. This is why I chose UTK.

What would you tell an incoming student who joins the program/department?

Prior to coming to UTK I had always done well academically and professionally. I had managed multiple deployments as a spouse, worked full time while going to school full time, and always volunteered in my community. However, just prior to coming to the program I was sitting at my desk one day and all of a sudden thought wait, what am I doing, I am not that smart, and what if they find out. A co-worker of mine who had his PhD laughed and explained to me what I was feeling was normal. Every doctoral student feels that way. So what I want incoming students to know is that these feelings are normal, and expected. Even more so, once you are in the program you are going to be with your cohort who are just as amazingly talented as you are, and you will probably have those feelings again and again. However, the reality is everyone has those feelings and it is normal. The support you get from your mentors, faculty, and your cohort at UTK will help focus you and guide you through anything. A doctoral program is like nothing you have ever done. A program that has support and personal investment in you as a person is imperative, and is exactly what you will get at UTK.

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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 PhD 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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