WashU and you: 5 reasons to study here | 1. Collaborative mentorship with outstanding faculty | 2. Education and experience that prepare you for what’s next | 3. Research that moves medicine forward | 4. Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion | 5. Affordable city life | Start your graduate education at WashU Med and thrive anywhere

A master’s degree in Applied Health Behavior Research (AHBR) is an excellent way to gain real-world experience, enhance your skills and broaden your knowledge. Here’s why students choose to earn a master’s degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

WashU and you: 5 reasons to study here

Barnes-Jewish and WashU buildings.

WashU Medicine is consistently ranked as a top medical school for research. Students thrive in a community that values collaboration over competition while still maintaining a rigorous learning environment. At WashU Medicine, the brightest minds in medicine work together to advance health care.

The MS in Applied Health Behavior Research at WashU Med is the ideal graduate degree for students like you who want to gain a wider perspective of how health behaviors impact clinical outcomes. Here are 5 top reasons students choose WashU Medicine:

1. Collaborative mentorship with outstanding faculty

Faculty who lead

The more than 2,700 full-time faculty members at WashU Medicine are outstanding health-care providers and scientists — but that’s only the beginning.

From fellows of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences to National Institutes of Health (NIH) award winners and associations with 19 Nobel laureates, WashU Medicine faculty are defining the future of health and medicine through innovative and exceptional clinical care, community engagement, research and teaching.

Mentors who inspire

In the Applied Health Behaviors Research (AHBR) program at WashU Med, the faculty serve as not only teachers but experienced guides and collaborative mentors who will help you hone your skills and gain hands-on experience at every stage of a research study.

Tyler Frank

“Whatever the students’ goals are, the teachers are there to help and be mentors, but ultimately they’re letting us construct our path and figure out what’s best for us. I’m thrilled to apply the knowledge I’m acquiring in my courses and excited for the opportunity to grow and evolve in my work.”

Tyler Frank, AHBR Alumnus
PhD Student, Public Health Sciences Doctoral Research Assistant Social Policy Institute Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis

2. Education and experience that prepare you for what’s next

Students choose WashU Med for the culture of camaraderie, the flexibility of the curriculum and the outstanding opportunities open to them after graduation. Whether you’re seeking a bridge from your undergraduate degree to med school or a PhD program, or you’re looking for opportunities to advance your career, the MS in AHBR will help you hone your skills and gain hands-on experience.

Demetrius Perry

“I am so happy to have found this program! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, and the opportunities feel endless. Every expectation was met, and once I started research, every expectation was exceeded. This program has truly set me up for success, as I am now a research coordinator in the Healthy Mind Lab at Washington University.”

Demetrius Perry, AHBR Alumnus
Clinical Research Coordinator, Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine
Jennifer Harper

“What I liked most about the AHBR program was the practicality of the classes and how they seamlessly apply to real life research. The Project Management course taught me various ways to run a research study. It was particularly helpful learning from others; their experiences and ideas leading to improved processes and retention rates. One of my favorite classes was the Counseling Skills for Healthcare Professionals, as I took away many useful skills that have allowed me to be a stronger clinical interviewer in the Studies of Early Anxiety Lab for which I currently work in.”

Jennifer Harper, AHBR Alumna
Clinical Research Coordinator, Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine
Graduates from the AHBR program work in a wide variety of fields and specialties. Some of their occupations include:
  • Behavior case manager
  • Clinical research coordinator
  • Clinical research fellow
  • Consultant
  • Contract management specialist
  • Data analyst
  • Management consultant
  • Medical or surgical resident
  • Research assistant
  • Research education specialist
  • Nursing administrator
  • Physician assistant
  • Product manager
  • Program analyst
  • Quality improvement administrator
  • UX designer
  • UX research

3. Research that moves medicine forward

As one of the largest recipients of NIH funding for research and training, WashU Medicine is among the nation’s most dynamic and robust research enterprises. As a part of Washington University in St. Louis’s overarching commitment to training researchers, the AHBR students may discover additional research opportunities or future programs within the Clinical Research Training Center. The innovative and diverse research training you gain here will prepare you to solve some of the biggest challenges in human health and medicine.

Daniel Sheinbein

“A lot of medicine now incorporates aspects of public health. The AHBR program offers classes in health disparities and health behavior theories, so I learned how to address those concerns — not just in Missouri but across the globe. Medical schools really value diversity and working with diverse populations, and I was able to select elective classes focused on that.”

Daniel Sheinbein, MD, AHBR Alumnus
Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina
Drive innovative and effective healthcare

Health behavior research at WashU Med aims to reduce health disparities by addressing the gaps in our knowledge of diseases and conditions and how human behavior affects treatments across diverse populations. As an AHBR student, you’ll gain knowledge and experience that can be immediately applied to solve real-world problems at the local and global levels. Students aren’t limited to a specific list of mentors and may pair with anyone at Washington University in St. Louis whose research and interests align with their course of study.

Faculty interest in health behavior research includes
  • Psychological aspects of illness and quality of life
  • Factors associated with individuals’ engagement in health behaviors and decision-making
  • Evaluating behavioral interventions in clinical and community settings
  • Health communications
  • Education of health professionals and evaluation of educational interventions
  • Geographic variation of factors associated with health behaviors and disease outcomes
  • Reducing health disparities
Meet Six AHBR Mentors
Susan Stark, Phd, OTR/L, FAOTA
Susan Stark, Phd, OTR/L, FAOTA
Research Interests

Community-dwelling older adults with chronic health conditions face functional decline that impacts their ability to live independently. They are more likely to require assistance performing their daily activities and are at a substantially greater risk of falling. Compensating for impairments with environmental support and self-management strategies can lessen the impact of functional decline, reduce the risk of falling and reduce the demand on health systems and caregivers. Dr. Stark’s clinical translational research seeks to develop and test the efficacy and effectiveness of compensatory interventions aimed at improving an older adult’s ability to age at home safely, elucidate their mechanism of action and implement programs to improve health outcomes.

Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, PhD
Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, PhD
Research Interests

A clinically trained licensed psychologist who has been involved in biomedical research for over 10 years. Her research involves studying the most efficacious policies to reduce substance use involvement while accounting for today’s new media-saturated environment. Her work has been the subject of major national and international online and print media coverage, including the following popular outlets: WebMD, Washington Post, Reuters, and Time. In 2014 and 2018, she was voted the “Course Master of the Year” by students enrolled in the Master of Science in Applied Health Behavior Research program at Washington University School of Medicine.

Kirsten Gilbert, PhD
Research Interests

Dr. Gilbert’s research examines how ‘too much self-control,’ in the form of heightened performance monitoring and ‘overcontrol’ develop in young children. She is interested in elucidating when overcontrol may be adaptive versus when it may contribute to psychopathology (e.g., social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive presentations, anorexia, social functioning deficits) in young children and adolescents. Dr. Gilbert also studies the development of reward processing/positive emotional functioning and the role of parenting and the parent-child relationship in overcontrolled phenotypes in youth. Dr. Gilbert utilizes behavioral, EEG/ERP techniques and parent-child observational data in her research.

Ginger Nicol, MD
Ginger Nicol, MD
Research Interests

Dr. Ginger Nicol is a board-certified general and child psychiatrist, and her passion is helping both kids and adults with psychiatric disorders to have healthy bodies as well as healthy minds. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Journalism & Mass Communication, then obtained her medical degree from the University of Iowa as well. Not having had enough of the Midwest, she came to St. Louis to complete her general psychiatry and child psychiatry training. Following residency and fellowship, she completed a post-doctoral research program where she gained expertise in the study of obesity and related metabolic conditions like diabetes. Dr. Nicol focuses her research on developing and testing new therapies that can help kids and adults with mental health conditions reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Denise Wilfley, PhD
Denise Wilfley, PhD
Research Interests

Current programs of research include: (1) the classification, characterization, assessment, and risk factors of eating and weight-related disorders; (2) the development of effective treatments for individuals suffering from eating disorders and obesity; and (3) the development of innovative and cost-effective methods for early intervention and prevention of eating disorders and obesity.  Dr. Wilfley’s pioneering work at the intersection of eating disorders and obesity has been integral to the formal recognition of binge eating disorder and to establishing the efficacy of interventions for recurrent binge eating syndromes. She also has developed evidence-based treatments for children and families that reduce obesity, improve nutrition and physical activity, and enhance psychosocial outcomes. She collaborates with multi-sector stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based treatments into community settings, and she is a leader in the use of technology for addressing gaps in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Finally, Dr. Wilfley has an extensive track record in not only directing clinical research programs but also in training the future generation of clinical researchers.

Jay Piccirillo, MD, FACS
Jay Piccirillo, MD, FACS
Research Interests

Dr. Jay F. Piccirillo’s research interests are methodological in nature and apply to a wide range of different diseases, illnesses, and conditions. He has conducted a variety of NIH- and specialty society-funded clinical research projects, including two NIDCD-funded tinnitus clinical trials. He currently sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the American Tinnitus Association and serves as Chair of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board of the NIDCD-sponsored Tinnitus Retraining Therapy Trial. Dr. Piccirillo has also conducted a number of NCI-funded studies looking at the collection of comorbidity data for adults with cancer, using this data to improve cancer statistics. He developed the web-based portal to help newly diagnosed cancer patients make more informed decisions. He also has an interest in rhinosinusitis, and developed the Sino-Nasal Outcome Test (SNOT) to measure the physical, functional, and emotional problems related to rhinosinusitis.

4. Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

United in our commitment to justice and racial equity

By prioritizing an anti-racist curriculum devoted to culturally competent healthcare and taking meaningful action to develop diversity initiatives and programs, the School of Medicine seeks to address systemic challenges and increase diversity on campus and in healthcare professions.

Equitable care and research for healthier communities

Medical research and clinical trials have historically excluded minority and underrepresented populations. As such, our ability to prevent and treat diseases and conditions effectively and equitably is limited. As an AHBR student, you’ll learn to identify and remove barriers to research participation and work to increase the uptake of health services across diverse populations.

Fewer financial barriers to education

We’re committed to making high-quality education accessible to every individual. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on students’ personal and academic accomplishments and their perceived potential to lead and contribute to the profession.

5. Affordable city life

Nature lovers and city-dwellers alike love St. Louis for its vibrant cultural and culinary scenes and its proximity to enough natural beauty and adventure to keep even the most outdoorsy students satisfied. All that action, combined with the low cost of living the midwest is known for, makes St. Louis an ideal place to call home.

There is so much to do in St. Louis! Some of the main attractions of the city are:

You can also check out our resource below to see what other attractions and amenities are available to WashU students!

Some leaves turn red and orange in the fall near the Nathan Frank Bandstand in Pagoda Lake in Forest Park on November 4, 2021. MATT MILLER/WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Bear Bucks

Writing center

Student Facebook Groups

  • Looking for roommates
  • Subleases
  • Selling books + furniture

Free metro passes

Student groups

  • Cultural affinity
  • Arts
  • Club Sports

Access to other medical studies

Parking Permits

Free Gym Access

Performing Arts Department (PAD

An abundance of arts, outdoors, and sports

The arts





Thrill Seekers

St. Louis is the ideal place to train and excel in health, medicine and research.

Consistently ranks among America’s best cities for innovation, tech and startups


Home to more than 1,000 plant and life science companies


The midwest’s premier hub of bioscience and technology research, development and commercialization.

Start your graduate education at WashU Med and thrive anywhere

The MS in AHBR from WashU Med is the ideal master’s degree for students who want to gain real-world research experience and hands-on clinical skills. Whether you’re ready to take your career to the next level or you’re looking for ways to round out your med school application, you’ll find what you need here.

Ready to get started? Submit your application today or request more information to connect with our admissions team.