Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



Over the summer, seven research assistants graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program, four of whom also completed their graduate degrees in June. Ronit Dalmat, Andrew Kwist, and Diana Tordoff each completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology, and Oluyinka Awobiyi graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Danae Black, PhD student in Epidemiology, Brienna Naughton, PhD student in Global Health Implementation Science, and Leah Isquith-Dicker, PhD candidate in Biocultural Anthropology, completed their research assistantships, and are currently working to complete their dissertations. These seven START graduates will continue to engage with START’s extensive alumni network, established in 2011. START often invites alumni to share about their experiences after graduating from the training program at all-team meetings and, additionally, taps into the alumni network for content expertise on projects. The alumni network is comprised of highly skilled START graduate professionals employed in global health, business, and consulting across disciplines. This week you will learn more about these seven outstanding graduates, hear about the highlights of their START experience, and learn about their plans post-START.

Below, learn about two recent graduates of the START Center training program, Diana Tordoff and Brienna Naughton. You’ll meet the remaining two graduates on Wednesday and may learn about the first three recent graduates featured in this series here.


Diana Tordoff

Diana was accepted to the Department of Epidemiology’s MPH program in the fall of 2016. Before joining the University of Washington (UW), she completed her BA in Mathematics and Economics at Vassar College and worked as a data analyst focusing on healthcare economics at National Economic Research Associates Consulting. She also has experience supporting injection drug users, homeless youth, and at-risk LGBTQ communities in San Francisco, California.

During her tenure with START, Diana worked on four projects which focused on nutrition, maternal and child health, and HIV. In Diana’s first project, she mapped data to display various implications of pre-term birth and pre-maturity for the Healthy Birth, Growth, and Development Knowledge Integration (HBGDki) project. The goal of this project is to create a website with an interactive event timeline. Diana also contributed to the Policy Tracker project, creating a Tableau-based Policy Tracker tool. During the HBGDki Rallies project, Diana and her team constructed nine methodology summaries aimed to serve as informational resources aligned with the statistical approaches utilized by HBGDki. Diana’s final project with START was the Risk-Group Heterogeneity across the 90-90-90 project. During this project, Diana and her team conducted a systematic review on the demographic profile, risk behaviors, and mobility patterns of individuals across the HIV treatment and care cascade. The completed work will support the Institute for Disease Modeling in their efforts around modeling demographic disparities in the 90-90-90 targets.

Diana presents a poster about the HBGDki project


During the two years she worked with START, Diana honed her management style and developed her client relationship management skills, which she finds invaluable. She reported gaining research-specific skills that she will use in her future work. Diana graduated in the spring of 2018 with her MPH in Epidemiology and was accepted to the UW Department of Epidemiology PhD Program, which she began this fall.


Brienna Naughton

Brienna is a PhD student in the University of Washington Department of Global Health Implementation Science program. After receiving her MPH in Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and Global Health from the Yale School of Public Health, she worked in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and in research and healthcare delivery for Partners In Health in Rwanda.

During the course of Brienna’s two-year involvement with START, she worked on eight projects focused on health infrastructure, digital health, family planning, malaria, and maternal, newborn and child health. During the DREAMS 2.0 project, Brienna and her team conducted a landscape analysis of family planning surveys to explore the possibility using surveys that collect data on contraceptive use, including Demographic and Health Surveys and Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020, to monitor changes in availability and use of contraceptives and condoms by adolescent girls and young women in Deter­mined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) districts. For the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Survey project, Brienna and her team used a multi-pronged approach to provide a broad overview of the trends and indicators in the DRC for the health, financial, and infrastructure sectors. The final deliverable from this project served as a reference for decision-making around BMGF investments in the DRC and as a framework to explore the dynamic challenges faced by the country. Brienna’s work on the Malaria Molecular Epidemiology project led to the opportunity to present and facilitate sessions at the GenRe-Mekong Malaria Use Case Stakeholder Meeting in Thailand. For this project, the team developed use cases to describe how National Malaria Control Programs could apply molecular epidemiology techniques for genetic sequencing technology in malaria elimination settings. Bringing together her experience with Partners In Health in Rwanda and her work with START, Brienna traveled to the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Rwanda with members of the START leadership team to share lessons learned with UGHE leadership & stakeholders about START’s academic consulting model.

Brienna’s ability to manage demanding projects while being a collaborative team member was critical to her success as a research assistant and project manager. Brienna stated that she chose to attend University of Washington because of the START training program, and appreciated learning about the consulting model and receiving curated mentorship from faculty experts during her time with START. She is working on her dissertation in the coming years and recently accepted an Associate Program Officer position on the Integrated Delivery team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Brienna (far left) with University of Global Health Equity & START Center leadership