Office Hours with… Caitlin Ryus

In a Q&A, new faculty member Caitlin Ryus discusses their research on health equity, their favorite vegetable to grow, and the importance of community.
Caitlin Ryus

Caitlin Ryus (Photo by Dan Renzetti)

After moving between many addresses (in 17 cities, 10 states, and four countries so far) and a career in global health, Caitlin Ryus is putting down roots in New Haven.

Now an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine, Ryus first came to the university as a Yale Emergency Scholars Fellow, completing a residency and a research fellowship before deciding to stay on as a member of the faculty.

Part of that decision had to do with community, which Ryus began building as a fellow and is eager to strengthen.

We caught up with Ryus for our latest edition of Office Hours, a series that introduces newcomers to the broader Yale community.

Title Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
Research interest How health and social policies affect the health of vulnerable populations
Prior institution Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Started at Yale October 2023

What are your research interests?

Caitlin Ryus: I’m interested broadly in health equity. Specifically, I focus on patients who are unhoused and health care service use among that population as it relates to interventions at the community level. Using a political epidemiology approach and community engaged research, I look at how policies or programs affect the health care use or health of vulnerable populations.

For example, right now there are a lot of new local developments to move away from the traditional congregate homeless shelter model, like the hotel in New Haven that was just converted into a shelter. This gives people more privacy and autonomy. I’m looking at how that change impacts mental health and substance use among unhoused people.

I use these kinds of policy changes to create natural experiments. During COVID we didn’t allow patients to have visitors accompany them in the emergency department. So, I looked at how screening for interpersonal violence or intimate partner violence changed in the emergency department during that time. Were patients more likely to disclose intimate partner violence because they were alone with their providers and what can we learn from that?

What got you interested in this area of research?

Ryus: In terms of housing, that’s been a long-standing interest of mine. I was involved in affordable housing activism as an undergraduate in North Philly. I think that for all of my projects it’s really about community engagement, and centering the experience of vulnerable populations has always been the foundation.

You’re also co-director of the Yale Emergency Scholars Fellowship. What attracted you to that role?

Ryus: I’m a graduate of the program and really passionate about it. The program is unique in that it’s a combination of residency and fellowship. Fellows — two each year — have a tailored experience where the first two years are a typical emergency medicine residency but during the final three years their clinical schedule is reworked so that they have protected time for research. We pair them with mentors and help them with research costs. It’s very cool and just really fun to engage with folks who are like me who came into medical school with a research interest.

You’ve been at Yale for some time now. What keeps you here?

Ryus: I love New Haven and being at Yale. This department is like a second family.

Also, my research is grounded in community, and I work closely with community partners in the city and across the state. I’ve had this stakeholder group that I’ve been working with for over five years now and I really value the commitment those folks have made to my projects and my commitment to theirs.

I know you’re also interested in urban farming — what’s your favorite plant to grow and the one that gives you the most trouble?

Ryus: Swiss chard is my favorite; it’s so colorful and tasty and it gets my kids excited. And my kale always bolts. I know it’s because I’m growing it too close together.

Out of all of the places you’ve lived, do you have a favorite?

Ryus: Philly has a soft spot in my heart. It’s where I developed myself as a young adult. It’s where I went to college and it’s where I began to really understand the way you can have a relationship with a community. I wouldn’t realize it then, but it’s where all of my passion came from.

Is your family excited about the Peabody reopening?

Ryus: Very! I can’t tell you how hard it has been having it closed. It was always a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday.

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this