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First-ever PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science Cohort Starts Classwork

Mizzou SHP is proud to introduce our first three candidates for our PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science class: Nameri Conteh, Ifeolu David and Katie Threlkeld. The new PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science program is an interdisciplinary, research-focused doctoral program designed to prepare students for careers in research, higher education and organizational leadership within health disciplines. 

Program Director Dr. Stephanie Reid-Arndt said, “It has been so gratifying to see our school’s vision for an interdisciplinary program begin to be realized this year.” 

The program was approved in early 2019 and the first cohort started in August 2019. 

“Each of these students are remarkable in their own way, and our school is better for having them here,said Dr. Reid-Arndt. “As they grow in their expertise, I’ll be excited to see them realize their potential as they also contribute to the research successes of our School.”

Nameri Conteh

 Meet Nameri Conteh. She is originally from Sierra Leona, Africa and moved to the United States at the age of 11. After moving to the U.S., she started to notice the difference in health care resources in the U.S. compared to the various African countries she grew up in. She joined the United States Air Force during her undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She serves in the reserves, and has been deployed twice to the Middle East and once to South America to assist with public health efforts. These deployments and her immigration to the U.S. is what led to her get her Master’s in Public here at Mizzou. 

After beginning classes, she met Dr. Wilson Majee, an assistant professor for the MPH program. Conteh learned that Dr. Majee is from Zimbabwe and focuses his research on health care disparities and knew she this research interested her. She saw a flyer about MU’s PhD in Health and Rehab and met with Dr. Reid-Ardnt to discuss the program. After that meeting, Conteh knew it was the right match. 

“This program allows you to a receive mentorship from a faculty member and still achieve a quality education,” said Nameri. She is focusing her research on limiting the health disparities in underserved communities through policy. She is interested in learning more about how immigration affects people’s health because of her work at the Department of Homeland Security as an Immigration Analyst. 

 Conteh said, “I want to know my research is going to impact communities I been a part of and served.”

Katie Threlkeld

Meet Katie Threlkeld. She is a practicing speech pathologist at the MU Health Care Children’s Therapy Center and has been for four years. Katie was working on her PhD in Communication Science and Disorders when she transferred to the PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science program. 

 “I transferred programs due to my interest in interdisciplinary research and collaboration across rehab science programs,” Threlkeld said.

As a practicing speech pathologist, she works closely with occupational therapists, physical therapists and other medical professionals in the outpatient setting and appreciates the importance of interdisciplinary evaluation and treatment. Threlkeld is focusing her research on the interaction between speech, language, and cognition in neuro- based communication disorders, such as TBIs, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. 

“I want to be able to improve the way communication disorders in these populations are managed and treated from an evidence-based, interdisciplinary standpoint,” said Threlkeld. 

She had the opportunity to work with her advisor, Dr. Kuruvilla-Dugdale and their paper, titled “A Comparative Study of Auditory-Perceptual Speech Measures for Early Detection of Mild Speech Impairments” was accepted for publication this summer in Seminars in Speech and Language. 

Ifeolu David

Meet Ifeolu David. He was born in Sierra Leone, Africa. David earned his medical degree in 2013 from the University of Sierra Leone. 

“Research has been my goal for a while,” David said. “During medical school I wanted to do more research; it was only a matter of time.”

David was one year into his practice when Sierra Leone experienced an Ebola epidemic. Throughout this crisis, David worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) by aiding in surveillance activities, and training people from the national government who came to help with the outbreak. During this time, David found his passion for public health.

 After the outbreak, he worked in a research position as a sub-investigator and study physician in the Ebola vaccine trial. In 2017, David received a Fulbright Scholarship and began work on his Master’s of Public Health here at Mizzou. During his coursework, he conducted a study on physical attributes of people who work in office buildings and have sedentary lifestyles. This November, at the American Public Health Association conference, David will present the abstract of his research. 

While working on his MPH, David heard about the PhD program and decided to pursue his PhD after he met Dr. Enid Schatz and learned about her research focus, which explores whether or not people over the age of 60 with HIV and AIDS are using their available resources. David is enjoying his experience being a part of the cohort class of this program and hopes to one day create ties between Mizzou and Sierra Leonean universities for research purposes. 

He said, “There is so much room for research activities in Sierra Leona but not much is happening.” 


For more information about the Phd in Health and Rehabiliation Science program visit:

Story by: Emma Bergstrom