Brown School’s Purnell selected as ‘Young Leader’ by St. Louis American

One of 20 under age 40 making an impact on St. Louis region

Jason Q. Purnell, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, has been selected as one of 20 Young Leaders for 2013 by the St. Louis American Foundation.


“We define ‘Young Leaders’ as committed, compassionate, generous professionals, who are making a positive impact in our community,” says publisher Donald M. Suggs, DDS, in announcing the award. “We feel this diverse group of young African Americans from throughout the region represents the newsmakers of the future and will serve as catalysts for the generations immediately following.”

“Jason brings equal passion to his teaching, research and service to the St. Louis community,” says Edward F. Lawlor, PhD, dean of the Brown School and the William E. Gordon Professor. “His energy is limitless, and is completely devoted to eliminating health disparities in our region. Jason’s talent and commitment makes me optimistic that we will make progress in addressing social justice and public health in St. Louis.”

Purnell, a St. Louis native, has been on the faculty at the Brown School since 2009. “I am incredibly honored and humbled to be recognized by the St. Louis American and by the African-American community,” he says. “It gives me encouragement to continue in the serious work we have ahead of us as a region to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to lead healthy and productive lives.”

Purnell’s research focuses on how household financial status and cultural factors influence health behaviors in underserved populations. Among his most recent work is a study on how 2-1-1 phone information and referral systems could be a key partner in efforts to reduce cancer disparities affecting low-income and racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.

Purnell is committed to the university’s impact on the community. In December, Purnell participated as a panelist when The Atlantic visited St. Louis to conduct a town-hall style “Conversation on Community Health,” which aimed to gather insight from people on the frontlines of community health: doctors, educators, legislators, community leaders and advocates.

Purnell, a faculty scholar for WUSTL’s Institute of Public Health, has been a leader in charting the course for the institute’s Center for Community Health and Partnerships. He also serves on the Brown School’s new community engagement advisory committee and served on the Dean’s Diversity Task Force.

Purnell earned an undergraduate degree in government and philosophy from Harvard University; a doctoral degree in psychology from Ohio State University; and, most recently, a master of public health degree from the University of Rochester.

He also is former director of community engagement with the United Way of Greater St. Louis, where he developed a community action program called Project Clergy C.A.R.E.S. as part of a strategic partnership between the United Way and the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition.

Community organizations on which Purnell serves include the Board of Trustees for Loyola Academy of St. Louis and CHIPS (Community Health-in-Partnership Services) Health and Wellness Center and the Community Impact Committee of the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

Purnell receives his award Feb. 21 at a reception at the Chase Park Plaza. To read the story in the St. Louis American, click here. To learn more about Purnell, visit