What can a Health Studies degree do for you?

Graduates from the URI College of Health Sciences program continue to make significant impacts on health in multiple settings

Making an impact on health and health care doesn’t mean necessarily becoming a nurse or doctor. The health care sector is not only about direct patient care. There are myriad other careers that offer the opportunity to make important impacts on the community.

The programs in Health Studies at the University of Rhode Island are designed to prepare students for work in global and environmental health, health education and promotion, and health services management. The interdisciplinary degree program in the College of Health Sciences prepares students for a wide range of careers in various health care-related fields, as exemplified by some of the more recent graduates of the program:

Shade Olowookere ‘17
Policy Analyst, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Shade Olowookere is an analyst for the Center for Global Health at the CDC. Previously, she worked in the public health law office at the CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support, providing technical assistance in strategic planning, data visualization, emergency management and legal preparedness. After graduating from URI, Olowookere earned a master of public health and master of health administration from the University of Georgia. Her recent work includes working to prevent sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment in global response settings, as well as support for the 2022 Ukraine regional response, and emergency recovery efforts among countries in the Horn of Africa.

James Carrier ‘13
Deputy Chief, Maryland Department of Health
After graduating URI and earning his MPH from Boston University, Carrier started as an epidemiologist in the Center for HIV Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Evaluation in the Maryland Department of Health. He conducted routine surveillance for HIV and AIDS diagnoses, and monitored HIV surveillance data statewide. In 2020, he was promoted to deputy center chief in charge of HIV case surveillance, and now oversees a staff of 10, including field investigators, epidemiologists and health record reviewers who are responsible for conducting HIV case investigations throughout Maryland.

Lili Klayman ‘22
Teen educator, Woonsocket Health Equity Zone
Klayman’s work is based on promoting healthy teen development through outreach and by providing teens with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to make healthy and responsible decisions concerning their sexual and reproductive health. The core of her job is teaching health education in an underserved high school. She has conducted needs assessments, created a high school health education curriculum and presented lectures on diverse topics like healthy relationships and how to be an “askable adult” to community members.

Summer Gonsalves ‘16
Compliance officer, US Department of Labor, OSHA
After earning her bachelor’s in health studies from URI, Gonsalves earned an MPH at Brown University before staring with the Department of Labor. Previously, she worked as a research associate and research scientist in environmental health at Brown. Gonsalves, an enrolled member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, aspires to address community and occupational health challenges through community gardening, STEM programming, food security and food sovereignty initiatives. In the summer of 2020, she re-enrolled at URI for a second bachelor’s degree in biology. She is a master gardener who serves on several committees and boards aimed at improving and empowering public health outcomes.

Andrew Laperche ‘16
Manager, Medical Staff Services, University of Florida Health Jacksonville
Laperche, who earned an MBA from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, supports all hospital privileging and delegated credentialing for the 1,100 UF Health and community providers caring for the patients across 17 services at UF Health Jacksonville. Previously, he was at University of North Carolina health care as the Pediatric AGME Fellowships Coordinator, where he managed Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-related requirements for all nine accredited pediatric fellowship programs. He also worked at South County Health as a credentialing specialist and telecommunications team leader while a student at URI.

Ariana Spanos ‘14
Customer Success Manager, FitBit
After receiving her health studies degree, Spanos earned an MPH from the University of Massachusetts in 2020. She has worked in the employer health and wellness field for UnitedHealthcare, PepsiCo, and Fitbit/Google. Spanos has been part of the URI Health Studies Advisory Board Member since 2018 and has attended a number of career events for health studies.

John Pangborn ‘16
Project Manager, Publications, Vaniam Group
Pangborn has extensive clinical and research laboratory exposure, has authored multiple scientific articles, presented findings at scientific symposiums, and performed research in multiple therapeutic areas, including breast oncology, epidemiology, ophthalmology, hematology, immunology and genetics. He has served as a clinical research coordinator at Dana-Farber, a research support specialist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and a senior research program coordinator at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. 

Heidi Weidele ‘17
Senior Fatal Overdose Epidemiologist, Rhode Island Department of Health
Weidele graduated from URI in with a concentration in global health and a minor in Spanish. After earning an MPH in epidemiology from the Brown School of Public Health, she began working at the Department of Health as a public health epidemiologist in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, where she studied the connection between accidental drug overdoses and controlled substance prescriptions. In March 2020, she was activated as a part of Rhode Island’s COVID-19 response team with a primary focus on COVID-19 hospitalization data, working on the team which provided key dashboard metrics used for guiding the pandemic response. In 2022, Heidi became the state’s lead fatal overdose epidemiologist, studying the growing trend in overdose deaths, with the goal of informing prevention efforts and reducing the number of lives lost to the overdose epidemic. She continues to use the principles she learned from her global health studies at URI in this critical public health role. 

Jennifer Nunes ‘15
Physician Assistant, Boston Healthcare for the Homeless
Nunes double majored in health studies and biology at URI before moving on to Tufts University in Boston, where she earned a master of public health and a Physician Assistant degree. She remained in Massachusetts where she has served as a physician assistant at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless for about four years.