Brown’s Impact on Health and Medicine in Rhode Island

Population Health

Improving patient access to health care and addressing social determinants of health.

By using data-informed approaches, working with governments and civic organizations, and training professionals in population health, Brown tackles issues like the pandemic, lead paint exposure, food insecurity, opioid use, addiction, sexual education for teens, reproductive health and other issues affecting Rhode Island.

Data-Informed Health Interventions

COVID-19 data provided by a team of researchers at Brown’s School of Public Health helped Rhode Island quickly become one of the most vaccinated states in the U.S.. Researchers built and maintained dashboards to support the governor and Rhode Island Department of Health, allowing the response team to identify and act on trends and patterns of key metrics such as infections, hospitalizations, deaths and test positivity across the state. 

Brown medical graduates are being trained to help fight the state’s opioid epidemic. In 2019, Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School became the first school in the country to graduate an entire class with the required certification to prescribe medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, a key strategy in combating addiction. 

PreventOverdoseRI is the first program in the U.S. to track overdoses, providing crucial data that will help inform change. Data from the program illuminates where overdoses happen and where resources need to be allocated to have an impact. The program was created by Brown researchers in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Health and in close coordination with community organizations such as Rhode Island Cares and recovery centers across the state.

The School of Public Health partners with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island to survey the state’s residents every year on their healthcare experiences. The survey also looks at factors outside of the healthcare system that shape people’s health and wellbeing, such as food security, economic opportunities and access to technology. 

A team of Brown researchers working with Rhode Island’s Nonviolence Institute are collecting solid data that can be used to track the results of various interventions. The effort is led by Megan Ranney, M.D., MPH, an emergency room physician and professor of emergency medicine who co-founded the AFFIRM research institute on firearms and established the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health.

Brown’s Primary Care-Population Medicine Program is a first-of-its-kind program created to train physicians to become leaders in primary care. Graduates of the program are learning how to approach health at the population level, to support not just one patient but an entire community.

Community Partnerships

Brown is actively involved in a number of partnerships with organizations throughout the state that are helping to mitigate disparities in patients’ access to quality health care in Rhode Island.

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The Cost Trends project is a model for state collaborations to improve the affordability of healthcare. A School of Public Health team led by Professor Ira Wilson has analyzed state data to understand what makes health care expensive in our state. This work has guided policy steps to reduce the growth of healthcare spending in Rhode Island, making healthcare more affordable through targeted efforts to increase efficiency — reducing insurance costs for employers and out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

New Harm Reduction Centers will provide a safe space for vulnerable Rhode Islanders. These centers can reduce overdose deaths by allowing people to consume more safely the drugs they have procured, and by offering clean needles and syringes, as well as monitoring to prevent fatal overdoses. Professor Brandon Marshall is currently working with the state and community organizations to establish these centers in Rhode Island and will play a critical role in evaluating the impact of the centers after they open in 2022. School of Public Health faculty are also advising the Prevent Overdose Task Force convened by the governor.

Open Door Health became the first Rhode Island clinic to provide primary and sexual health care services to LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders, who often face barriers to health care. An initiative of the RI Public Health Institute, Open Door is led by Brown professors Amy Nunn and Philip Chan and opened in March 2020.

Rhode Island has become a national model for correctional health programs that address substance abuse. Participating with the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Brown professors Jennifer Clarke, M.D., and Jody Rich, M.D., MPH, began offering medication-assisted treatment to people while they were incarcerated as the opioid epidemic was peaking in 2016-17 (based on their research showing people were more likely to stay in treatment, and off drugs, once released).

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The Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute is partnering with community organizations to tackle health and learning disparities in Central Falls. The institute — a collaboration between Brown’s medical school and School of Public Health, and the Care New England and Lifespan health systems — is working with the Central Falls School Department and Progresso Latino and Project GOAL community initiatives on these pilot projects, awarding each project $10,000 and providing funded student scholars and support from faculty and staff.

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The Food on the Move program brings fresh produce into Rhode Island neighborhoods at a 50% discount. The program was created by Brown researchers working with the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and community partners. In 2020, Food on the Move served more than 270 Rhode Islanders and held 45 food markets.

Brown’s Continuing Medical Education office works with RIDOH to provide education for Rhode Island providers on topics important to community health. During the early days of the pandemic, CME supported weekly updates on COVID-19 for providers.

Community Programs with Impact

Brown serves the community through these health programs and initiatives.

The Rhode Island Free Clinic provides patient-centered health care to the underserved communities of Rhode Island and its surrounding areas, which includes patients who are uninsured and low-income. Patients gain access to healthcare that they otherwise would not have. Every year, 20 to 25 medical students participate in the clinic.

Brown AMS Health Insurance Navigators, a group composed of students from the Warren Alpert Medical School and the School of Public Health, offers Rhode Island community members assistance in the health insurance enrollment process. Students train to be Certified Application Counselors through the Rhode Island Health Center Association. 

Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic offers primary medical care to Rhode Island residents without health insurance, with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking and culturally-accustomed care. One evening per week, medical students host a primary care clinic to serve these patients. The Women’s Clinic seeks to address unmet reproductive and gynecologic health care needs of patients at Clínica Esperanza. Every year, more than 50 medical volunteers (faculty and students) volunteer at the clinic.

Rhode Island Medical Navigator Partnership: Medical students and faculty work with other professionals in health care, social work and law to partner with individuals experiencing homelessness by supporting and advocating for their multidimensional health care and social service needs.

Opening in 2022, two new health clinics in Central Falls public schools are made possible with support from The Warren Alpert Foundation and the Warren Alpert Medical School. The unique operating model for the clinics embeds an interdisciplinary medical and behavioral health team into a school-based health center to provide daily, immediate care as well as preventive, urgent and chronic disease management to children and faculty. By establishing these school-based clinics that promote students’ academic success in underserved communities, Brown reflects a commitment to building a comprehensive pipeline for these students to pursue careers as health care professionals.

AMS Immigrant Rights Coalition is a medical student group that works with undocumented, refugee, asylee, and other immigrant communities to address issues affecting their health and well-being.

Brown Human Rights Asylum Clinic is a medical student-led organization affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights that collaborates with medical and mental health clinicians, lawyers and community organizations to provide pro bono medical affidavits to undocumented individuals seeking legal status in the United States.  

Sex Ed by Brown Med students provide interactive and engaging lessons on sexual health topics at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls, an area that has been flagged by the CDC as an area needing school-based HIV/STD Prevention and School Based Surveillance. Calcutt is the only public middle school in Central Falls, so the majority of teenagers in the area will at some point matriculate through this program. Despite having the seventh highest teen pregnancy rate in the US, Rhode Island has no formalized sexual education course for its middle or high school students.

Teddy Bear Clinic runs wellness events that educate underserved children in Providence and the surrounding areas about a variety of healthy habits, including normalizing visits to the doctor's office. 

Brown Agriculture Nutrition and Community Health (BrANCH) volunteers assist in the planting, maintenance and education around the expanded green spaces at Elizabeth Baldwin Elementary in Pawtucket, RI. BrANCH collaborates with Baldwin and Brown Family Medicine residents and staff to ensure students learn about the sources of their food, the nutritional value of fresh produce, and the role of green spaces in personal and community health. 

BrainStation is an interactive, scientific, student development workshop taught and led by Brown medical and graduate students designed to bring the study of the brain to children in elementary school. BrainStation’s mission is to increase awareness of the brain and mental illness by educating young schoolchildren.


The vision for bringing Brown together in collaboration with the Care New England and Lifespan health systems to create an integrated academic health system will create significant new opportunities for strengthening population health serving Rhode Island.