Vanessa A. Vassall, MSPH, MCHES

Area of Research

Children with Special Health Needs, Maternal and Child Health, Child Welfare, Health Inequity, Access to Quality Care


  • Currently: Doctoral student in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; McKnight Doctoral Fellow, NACCHO Health and Disabilities Fellow; ASPPH #ThisIsPublicHealth Ambassador
  • Master Certified Health Education Specialist
  • Meharry Medical College, MS in Public Health Practice
  • University of Washington, BA in Urban Healthcare and Diversity

FIU Student Involvement: Black Graduate Women’s Association, Leaders in Maternal and Child Health, Stempel Public Health Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

My name is Vanessa and I am originally from Seattle, Washington. I came to study at Stempel College as a McKnight Doctoral Fellow because of the diverse array of academic programs and the commitment to eliminating health disparities on a global scale. I enjoy the rigor and range of required coursework that provides me with the analytical and theoretical foundations I need to become a cutting-edge researcher in the field of Maternal and Child Health.

My research focuses on eliminating health disparities among children with special health needs. I became interested in this area while conducting research at the Vermont Department of Health as a summer fellow in HRSA’s Graduate Student Epidemiology Program (GSEP). I appreciate my Stempel College mentors for encouraging me to step outside of my comfort zone and explore opportunities. This and other fellowship experiences have only complemented my classroom learning. As a #ThisIsPublicHealth Ambassador for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), I am able to share my doctoral student experience with prospective students interested in applying for public health graduate degree programs.

Since moving to Miami-Dade County, I have experienced two major hurricanes and the Zika Virus outbreak. My professors encouraged me to take advantage of this unique opportunity by conducting research on prevention practices among FIU students. I also volunteer with the Florida Department of Health’s tobacco prevention programs that are geared toward protecting the health of Florida’s youth from the dangers of smoking. I truly feel that the HPDP program has prepared me to be a competitive applicant for interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowships upon graduation.