Leona is a wellness peer educator with Brown’s BWell Health Promotion program and a peer counselor with the Women, Gender and Sexuality Peer Counselor Program co-supervised by the LGBTQ Center and the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender. Leona co-founded Doulas@Brown, a student organization that provides birth and postpartum support in the local community.
I like the opportunity to try a lot of things. I came to Brown not knowing what I wanted to do. It was cool going through the process of getting closer and closer to what I really wanted to do because Brown has so many resources.
There are a lot of opportunities at Brown at the intersection of science and the arts. Last year I volunteered for a dance program for people with Parkinson’s disease and I wrote a paper exploring different therapeutic modalities for Parkinson’s and interviewed participants, which was a really rewarding experience.
I’m currently researching synapses and studying communication within the brain, looking at the functional relevance of specific synaptic genes. I think the biggest thing neuroscience has taught me is the importance of scientific communication and learning how to apply research toward creating sustainable, community-based interventions.
The doula work has been life changing. It relates to every single thing I do. When I started Doulas@Brown, I felt it was really important that we follow the lead of the Providence community, so we partner with community doulas on every initiative. We host a weekly postpartum support group and we’re launching a postpartum yoga course. I really love the work.
Through Brown’s Royce Fellowship, I traveled to India and researched maternal social support and the ways that men make decisions regarding women’s prenatal health care in India. I used my research to design a men’s guide to pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum support, which is being distributed in communities in India through the Public Health Research Institute of India.
I accepted a job offer as a programs and partnerships associate with Mama Glow, which is a maternal support organization that aligns with my focus on reproductive justice, public health and community partnerships. It’s really cool that I got to build that relationship through my work as a student at Brown, and now they want to keep working with me when I graduate.