Dr. Marishka Brown: Black History Month Sleep Leaders Part 4

Written by Anna Marr. Graphics by Eleanor Wales.

To celebrate Black History Month, Project Sleep is honored to highlight incredible accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans from across the sleep field—from scientists to advocates. Please join us in celebrating Black excellence by spreading the word about these sleep community leaders!

Meet Dr. Marishka Brown!

Dr. Marishka Brown is the recently appointed Director of the National Center on Sleep Disorder Research (NCSDR) at the National Institute of Health (NIH). It’s a fitting role for someone who has committed her career to advancing biomedical research that positively impacts health and safety for everyone.

After studying Microbiology at the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Brown obtained her doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Maryland. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, she led research on age-related sleep changes.

Her NIH career began as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy fellow. She joined NCSDR as the Program Director for Sleep Disorders Medicine in 2016. Since then, Dr. Brown has directed a growing portfolio of sleep medicine and sleep disorders research, ranging from individual fellowship awards to multisite clinical trials. She’s spearheaded workshops highlighting how sleep impacts the immune system, lung diseases, child development, cardiovascular disease, mechanisms of early neurocognitive decline, the microbiome, and health disparities.

Her focus on health disparities led her to coordinating NCSDR’s research on how sleep issues impact social determinants of health and contribute to health disparities. In 2018, she led a committee to coordinate Sleep and the Health of Women, a national public conference attended by hundreds of physicians, researchers and members of the public, including a virtual audience of 1,200. In November 2020, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) selected Dr. Brown as the new director of NCSDR.

NCSDR (housed within NHLBI) coordinates sleep research throughout NIH and other federal agencies. The Center will continue to benefit from Dr. Brown’s proven history as a researcher, program manager, communicator, and coalition builder who advances biomedical research with innovative science that is clearly communicated to stakeholders nationally and around the world. She “captures the key attributes of scientific expertise and program leadership needed to guide the science of sleep and chronobiology into innovative discoveries that improve health.” (Dr. James Kiley, NHLBI, said here)

Dr. Brown will also continue to chair the working group for sleep health objectives in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2030, which sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being over the next decade.

Project Sleep is proud to highlight Dr. Brown today and we know she will do great things as the new Director of NCSDR!

Project Sleep is honored to celebrate Black excellence in the sleep community this month. However, we know this is not only a time for recognition but also an opportunity to reflect on progress yet to be made and to reaffirm our commitment to social justice and equity. Please stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to contact your Members of Congress to help advance our sleep health disparities policy recommendations.

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