Featured Faculty: Ruth Brown, Ph.D.

Ruth Brown, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Brown studies psychometric properties and measure development in patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Additionally, she has a background in measurement of treatment processes and outcomes of psychosocial treatments. She first became involved in this field while completing the clinical portion of her Ph.D. at a residential center serving people with IDD. During this time, she noticed that very little empirically supported phenotypic measurements (e.g., measurements of stress, depression, or anxiety) or treatments existed for these patients.

Later, Dr. Brown came to VIPBG as a postdoctoral researcher working with Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D. Here she furthered her knowledge of trauma, signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and genetic methodologies. Her current research goals include validating assessment tools and treatment outcome measurements for people with IDD, plus developing methods to include patients with IDD in research effectively. She plans to integrate many platforms to achieve this goal, incorporating individual reports, caregiver reports, and biomarkers. For example, she is currently investigating epigenetic markers of depression and trauma and plans to extend this to the study of treatment outcomes. Her continued research involving people with disabilities has also led to her growing interest in public policy and reform.

Outside of work, Dr. Brown enjoys spending time with her son. Although she admits that caring for a toddler takes up much of her free time, she still enjoys listening and dancing to Jazz music, hiking and other outdoor activities. When asked to provide advice for graduate students, Dr. Brown suggests that trainees remain persistent in the face of challenges or setbacks. One of her favorite quotes, which motivates her in her pursuit of improving mental health care for people with IDD, was originally introduced to her by a previous advisor (Dr. Michael Southam-Gerow):

“It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, ‘Let justice roll down like mighty waters,’ and quite another to work out the irrigation system.”

William Sloane Coffin, Jr.


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