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New Faculty Friday: Ashley Hagaman, methodologist, motorcyclist, Nepali speaker

October 25, 2019
by Colin Poitras

The Yale School of Public Health proudly welcomes 13 new tenure track faculty this academic year. These individuals bring a broad range of research, scholarship, and teaching expertise to the school and will be instrumental in helping us address many of the public health challenges of the 21st century. 

Today we spotlight Ashley Hagaman, assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Hagaman has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology and global health from Arizona State University (2017) and an M.P.H. in global health from Emory University (2012). She earned a B.S. in neuroscience from the University of Michigan in 2008. Hagaman holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology and will be working with the Center for Methods in Implementation and Prevention Science (CMIPS).

Q: Describe your primary academic focus or research specialty?

AH: I’m a methodologist focused on innovating and testing qualitative methodologies to better inform and evaluate health interventions in complex global health contexts. My substantive research focuses on global mental health, specifically depression and suicide prevention. I have collaborated with several interdisciplinary teams around the world to develop and test innovative strategies to alleviate maternal depression and enhance maternal health systems, with field sites in Nepal, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

In Pakistan, I’m currently exploring the transgenerational transmission of depression, its effects on child development, and the broader family and social context that shapes mental health trajectories. In Nepal, where I’ve worked for almost seven years, I am currently incorporating and testing new passive biosensing data collection strategies and rapid analytic techniques to improve maternal depression treatment and the measurement of social engagement and isolation.  

Q: What are your long-term goals in public health?

AH: My longer term goals are to help build mental health systems and capacity in contexts where there are fragile, limited, or non-existent services. I’m also working to build useful and applied qualitative methods that can enhance health interventions and increase our understanding of various health conditions in a range of cultural and social contexts. More broadly, I love working in interdisciplinary teams, pushing the boundaries of several disciplines at the same time.

Right now, I get to work alongside computer scientists, psychiatrists, community counselors, economists, artists, and coders to build innovations in depression interventions. If we can continue to pull experts together in compelling and innovative ways, there’s so much potential in the impact we can have well beyond our home disciplines – I think that’s really exciting.

Q: How will the resources available at the Yale School of Public Health help you achieve your goals?

AH: I’m so excited to learn about the amazing work Yale faculty and students are pursuing. I’ve only been here about a month, and I’ve already connected with some folks that are running similar studies in New Haven as we are in rural Nepal. The opportunities I have to learn alongside my new colleagues and the student community are tremendous. Yale also has its new Global Health Institute, and I am eager to be a part of the institute’s exciting vision for addressing global health issues. There’s so much energy and excitement both on campus, and in New Haven, that I can’t wait to become a part of all that is growing here.

Q: Tell us something about yourself away from public health (E.g., hobbies, interests, pursuits, etc.)?

AH: I drive a motorcycle and speak Nepali – I actually never owned a car until about a year ago. I absolutely love hiking (working in Nepal has given me an incredible opportunity to experience some of most stunning treks in the Himalayas – if you need recommendations, holler at me!), and I just returned from a quick trip with my husband (Will) to hike some of the swiss alps. If I close my eyes, I think I can still smell all the wildflowers.

Before graduate school, I co-founded GlobeMed, a global health non-profit that partners students with grassroots organizations to address health disparities around the world. I lived in a board member’s attic and shared a tiny office with a group of amazing and inspiring peers. Those are my oldest colleagues, and some of my closest friends. Most of my work is international, but I’ve been lucky to be involved in some local political advocacy work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention—it has been a really nice way to get to know my local legislature to improve suicide prevention policies in my local community. 

Submitted by Sayuri Gavaskar on October 25, 2019