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Arnold School of Public Health


HPEB Ph.D. Student Aditi Srivastav named one of 15 2017-2019 Doris Duke Fellows

April 24, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Aditi Srivastav, a second year student in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior’s (HPEB) Ph.D. program, has been selected as one of only 15 2017-2019 recipients of the University of Chicago-Chapin Hall’s prestigious Doris Duke Fellowships for the Promotion of Child Well-Being. The aim of this fellowship program is to develop a new generation of leaders interested in and capable of creating practice and policy initiatives that will enhance child development, health and well-being, while improving the nation's ability to prevent all forms of child maltreatment. The fellowship includes substantial funding that supports two years of dissertation work.

This honor will advance Srivastav’s extensive knowledge and skills in bridging policy and research in the area of child health and welfare. It is also a clear indicator of her status as an emerging leader in the field.

Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Srivastav has spent the past two years building her expertise in this specialized area. She began with a bachelor’s degree in American Government (University of Virginia) and a Master of Public Health with a focus on health policy (George Washington University). Before beginning her doctoral program at the Arnold School, she spent several years working in the federal health policy arena, focusing on issues such as the Affordable Care Act, hospital policy, and pediatric health issues.

We are working to change the way many of our social institutions, such as education, justice, and health, work by addressing economic inequalities, safety, and relationships between people.

-Aditi Srivastav, HPEB Ph.D. Student

Most recently, she managed the adverse childhood experiences portfolio at AcademyHealth. This latest experience helped Srivastav realize her passion for children’s health and well-being and led her to the Arnold School to pursue a Ph.D.

As a Doris Duke Fellow, Srivastav has proposed to work on understanding how to effectively communicate with policymakers about adverse childhood experiences through her dissertation research. Given the extremely competitive nature of this fellowship, the few individuals who are selected must be innovative and yet grounded in their discipline's approach to these issues.

“We are working to change the way many of our social institutions, such as education, justice, and health, work by addressing economic inequalities, safety, and relationships between people,” explains Srivastav. “But in order to do that, we have to change the conversation from individual behaviors to their environmental and social circumstance to create lasting change.”

It was this mindset that first drew Srivastav to work on addressing adverse childhood experiences and helped her secure such a coveted fellowship. Her success also stems from her ability to make a strong link between research and policy, a key component of the fellowship criteria.

“I think my passion and enthusiasm for public health was evident,” she says of the application and interview process. “I want to see people excited about public health and realize the various things that go into a person's health and well-being. One of the unique things about this area of public health is that it’s a concept that everyone can understand and get behind: what happens to you in childhood can impact your adulthood, including health and social outcomes. It sheds light on the importance of prevention, which really is the key to seeing changes in our nation's health.”

I expect that Aditi will become a very effective bridge between research and policy advocacy, yielding many policy changes and positive outcomes to improve children’s lives.

-Rachel Davis, HPEB Assistant Professor

Srivastav will be using South Carolina’s adverse childhood experiences data to develop policy briefs and different types of messaging frames about the prevention of childhood adversity to determine what increases the importance of child health and support for child health policy. While this research will allow Srivastav to make a positive impact on children in our state, the significance of her research has the potential to impact other communities as well.

As a part of the fellowship, Srivastav will be supported by two mentors. HPEB Assistant Professor Rachel Davis will serve as her academic mentor. Director of Policy and Research at the Palmetto Association for Children and Families Meghan Branham will provide policy guidance.

“I am so excited about this fellowship opportunity for Aditi, which will provide essential funding for her to complete her innovative dissertation project, offer additional training and mentorship, and connect her with a national professional community of scholars and policymakers focused on childhood well-being,” says Davis. “These fellowship experiences will launch her postdoctoral career and provide a professional network that will help her for years to come. I expect that Aditi will become a very effective bridge between research and policy advocacy, yielding many policy changes and positive outcomes to improve children’s lives.”

Mentorship is an important element of the fellowship and one that Srivastav already values. “I have been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors both early in my career and throughout my time at USC so far,” she says. “I attribute my accomplishments to their time and commitment to my mentoring.”

I have been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors both early in my career and throughout my time at USC so far.

-Aditi Srivastav, HPEB Ph.D. Student

She credits Lisa Simpson and Christina Bethell, from the AcademyHealth and Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, with inspiring her to return to graduate school for her doctoral program. Srivastav also recognizes the roles that her Ph.D. advisors, Davis and HPEB Associate Professor Mindi Spencer, and her work supervisor, Director of Research and Evaluation at Children’s Trust of South Carolina Melissa Strompolis, have played in her professional development. 

“One of the reasons why I enjoy my program so much is because I have two amazing and brilliant advisors. Drs. Davis and Spencer push me to think critically and have helped me strengthen my research skillset and are always available for guidance throughout this journey,“ says Srivastav. “And I am lucky to have a work supervisor who has been a key individual throughout the process of applying for this fellowship and my Ph.D. experience. Dr. Strompolis’ belief in me, advice, and encouragement has helped me grow as a professional and researcher.”

To current and prospective students, Srivastav recommends finding those key mentors and also building relationships with others who allow additional exploration during the graduate school experience. “While you may have a certain interest or focus, don’t limit yourself to opportunities that may only fall in that area,” she says. “Most of the skills you learn in research projects can be applied across settings and can also expand your expertise.” 

She also recommends working before graduate school, which she found to be a valuable lesson in seeing real-world applications of public health research and policy while helping her identify her interests. Finally, Srivastav advises that students make connections within the community. “One of the best things about the Arnold School of Public Health’s faculty and staff is that they are always willing to connect you to organizations or people in the community,” she says. “In addition, the community is generally receptive to public health students and their research interests.”