Our Community

Students in the Health Policy Ph.D. Program at Vanderbilt have dedicated one-on-one access to their mentors. Mentors will be assigned based on research interests and all primary faculty members are currently accepting new students. They also work closely with their mentor's lab teams, comprised of other faculty, staff, and students. In addition, there is collaboration with institutes and centers associated with the department including the Institute for Medicine and Public Health, the Center for Child Health Policy, LGBT Policy Lab, Emerging Infections Program, among others.

Our PhD students also have the opportunity to take advantage of all Vanderbilt has to offer, including a robust alumni network, exciting events and seminars, career development and networking services, and numerous affinity groups and student associations.

Current Students 

Emma Achola

Emma Achola

Admitted Year: 2021

Research Interests: Payment reform, Access to care, Healthcare costs, Health equity, Healthcare Delivery  

Emma Achola is a PhD student in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University. Prior to attending Vanderbilt, she spent four years

working in federal health policy in Washington, D.C. First, she spent two years working as a research assistant at the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). While at MedPAC, she worked on issues related to low-value care and coverage policy in the Medicare program, long-term care hospitals, and accountable care organizations. She then worked for two years at the American Medical Group Association, where she focused on regulatory issues surrounding physician payment policies.

She is interested in studying payment reform efforts in the Medicare program, and how these efforts align incentives for providers to deliver higher quality more efficient healthcare. She is also interested in how these efforts impact vulnerable populations’ health outcomes, access to care, and overall affordability of healthcare services. Emma received her BA from Duke University.



Khrysta Baig

Khrysta Baig

Admitted Year: 2020

Research Interests: Obesity and Associated Chronic Diseases, High-value Care, Payment Reform, Affordability, Health Policy Communication and Dissemination 

Khrysta Baig is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Health Policy. Her

research interests center on ways to align health insurance and care to improve outcomes for individuals with obesity and associated chronic diseases. She is keenly interested in looking at these topics through the lens of how incentives, affordability, and communication influence the uptake of high-value care.

Khrysta received a Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Truman State University and obtained a Master of Science in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She trained through the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to become a registered dietitian (RD) and is also a certified health education specialist (CHES). Formerly, Khrysta was the director over an approximately $30 million self-funded employer health insurance plan, and she held several leadership positions in community organizations focused on a broad range of public health and health care topics


Robert Besaw

Robert Besaw

Admitted Year: 2021

Research Interests: Pharmaceutical policy, access to care, cancer outcomes research, financial toxicity of cancer care, vulnerable populations

Rob Besaw is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Health Policy. His research interests focus on how health policies influence the uptake and

costs of medicines. He is particularly interested in how the financial toxicity of cancer treatments and medicines affect vulnerable populations and their families.  

Rob received a BA in Health Studies & Anthropology from Michigan State University before obtaining an MPH from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. After Emory, Rob first spent time in Washington DC working on streamlining processes to develop and increase access to HIV and liver fibrosis therapies. He then moved to Boston where he conducted cancer epidemiology and outcomes research before finally transitioning to manage a complex portfolio of cancer clinical trials.


Hannah Crook

Hannah Crook

Admitted Year: 2021

Research Interests: Health care payment reform, value-based payment, social determinants of health, rural health, state and local health policy.

Hannah Crook is a first-year PhD student in Health Policy at Vanderbilt

University. She is interested in researching new ways of paying for health care that encourage high-value care, lower costs, and better patient outcomes. She is also interested in how value-based payment programs can address social determinants of health.

Hannah received a Bachelors of Science in Public Health with a major in Health Policy and Management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, she was a research assistant at Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy, using mixed methods research to study health care payment and delivery reform. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crafts, and being outdoors.



Dennis Lee

Dennis Lee

Admitted Year: 2020

Research Interests: Healthcare access, costs and delivery, health system quality, vulnerable populations 
Before coming to Vanderbilt, Dennis had collaborated on a variety of research

projects at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. First, he joined the HQSS Commission, which culminated in a comprehensive report on healthcare system quality in 134 low- and middle-income countries. Afterwards, he conducted research at the department of Health Policy and Management, primarily working on  comparing costs, outcomes and quality for Medicaid and heavily-subsidized private health insurance for low-income individuals and buprenorphine policy to tackle the opioid crisis. A unifying theme in Dennis’s work is the use of rigorous research to shed light on healthcare systems and policy on vulnerable populations.

Dennis graduated with a degree in Economics and Statistics from UC Berkeley in 2016 and has since conducted analyses using methods found in epidemiology, biostatistics, econometrics, and machine learning. He has also published in journals such as The Lancet Global Health, Health Affairs, BMJ Open and Health Services Research. For fun (and pre-COVID), Dennis is a martial artist, having competed on UC Berkeley’s Taekwondo sparring team, and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


Nana Addo Padi-Adjirackor

Nana Addo Padi-Adjirackor

Admitted Year: 2021

Research Interests: Health Economics, Health Informatics, Digital Health, Health Equity, Quality of Care, and Implementation Sciences

Nana Addo Padi-Adjirackor is a doctoral student in the Department of Health

Policy at Vanderbilt University. His interests lie at the intersection of health services research, biomedical informatics, and health information technology. Before pursuing his doctoral studies, Nana Addo worked as a Senior Project Manager with Viamo in Ghana on the Design and Implementation team. He collaborated with international organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, and the World Bank on designing mobile curriculums to train community health workers in rural Mozambique and developing mobile surveys to determine the Coronavirus impact on the education system in Malawi. He also previously worked at the Atlanta VA Medical Center as an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist.

Nana Addo received a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Temple University and a Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. He is a die-hard Sade fan and loves to cook. On the weekends, you will find him making abstract expressionist paintings or at the local bakeshops sampling sweet delicacies.



nathaniel tran

Nathaniel Tran

Admitted Year: 2020

Research Interests: LGBTQ health, health equity, public policy, and aging. 

Nathaniel Tran (they/them, he/him) is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Policy and research associate with the LGBTQ Policy Lab at Vanderbilt University.

As a population health scientist, they draw on multidisciplinary methods to identify public policy interventions to improve LGBTQ population health. Previously, they were a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Buenos Aires and research assistant at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School. They received their BA from Tufts University in 2017. In their free time, they enjoy shopping at the farmer's market, working through the Sunday crossword puzzle, and distance running.  


Diversity & Inclusion

There is strength in our diversity. Our program is committed to creating a community of inclusion and support both academically and socially. Below are some of the resources available at Vanderbilt. 

Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

University Counseling Center

Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center

Center for Student Wellbeing

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Life

Robert Penn Warren Center

Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center 

Graduate School Career Development

International Student & Scholar Services

BRET Office of Career Development

Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity

Graduate Student Council

Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students

Vanderbilt Chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science