Network Spotlight

The network aims to collaborate with the broader scientific community through conducting clinical studies, publications, conference presentations and sharing data in a central repository (DASH). We want to maximize the value of the data these women graciously provide to us to learn more and find the best treatments.

Brown/Women & infants Hospital

Meet some of the team at Brown/Women & infants Hospital!

At Brown/WIH (Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island) we have been proud members of the Pelvic Floor Disorder Network (PFDN) since 2011. Our site has grown and changed over the years, and we are happy to feature 3 very important members of our team.

Sarashwathy (Sara) Veera, BS is our Senior Research Assistant and has been involved in numerous PFDN trials including NOTABLe, SUPeR/eSUPeR, ASPIRe/eASPIRe, and MUSA/PROMISe. In addition to recruiting, tracking, and knowing our research participants, she also oversees our IRB submissions. Importantly, she is also active in our team’s community engagement work and is a member of our institution’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

Leah McKay, BS, MS is a Research Assistant on our team. For PFDN, she conducts follow-up visits and data entry for our eSUPeR, eASPIRe and MUSA participants. She is a quick study and has a knack for developing great relationships with our research participants and making them feel at ease. We look forward to her involvement in our upcoming PFDN trials.

Julia Shinnick, MD became a faculty member in our division this past summer. We had the privilege of working with Julia on many research projects when she was a Fellow on our team. Her knowledge and attention to detail is so appreciated and we look forward to many years of her involvement in the PFDN.

Leah McKay with Smudge
Leah McKay, (she/her)

Leah started with us one year ago and has done a wonderful job focusing on eSUPeR, eASPIRe, and MUSA follow-up within PFDN.

Leah obtained her BA from Penn State. Following graduation, she traveled and lived in Ohio, Texas, and Alaska. Pursuit of her MA in Biology brought her to New England, specifically Massachusetts. After graduation, she worked in a job that didn’t suit her research interests. Urogynecology appealed to her because a family member was having pelvic floor issues and had been treated at one of our fellow PFDN sites!

Leah feels fortunate to work directly with patients in her role within PFDN. Many patients say their experiences are life changing. Leah appreciates how women are constantly learning about their issues and most are satisfied and happy. They know they are in good hands.

When thinking about the PFDN in the next 10 years, Leah anticipates we will continue creating awareness/acceptance and de-stigmatize women’s experiences.

Leah really enjoys science/research. She feels the need to be in a setting where she continues to learn and grow so she can push the boundaries of her current knowledge.

In her spare time Leah participates in indoor rock climbing, which she highly recommends to anyone who might be thinking about it. She is very active and spends time working out at the gym, hiking, and enjoying nature. Leah’s best friend is a 100-pound Doberman named Drax who she describes as the “sweetest boy”. He keeps Leah on her toes!

Meet Smudge – our dinosaur mascot. He has been with the division for several months now and does wonderful work.

Julia Shinnick


Julia Shinnick is a Urogynecologist at Brown/Women & Infants Hospital. After graduating from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, she came to Brown for her Ob/Gyn residency training in 2016. She stayed at Brown for Urogynecology fellowship in 2020 and joined as faculty in 2023.

Dr. Shinnick has interests in clinical research, community outreach, and social determinants of health. She was initially inspired to pursue a career in Urogynecology through a summer clinical research internship as an undergraduate.

The most rewarding part of working with the PFDN is being able to contribute to studies that help shape the care for patients across the country.

In the coming years, Julia believes the PFDN will have a positive impact through centering patients in the ways that we ask and answer questions.


Julia Shinnick
Sara Veera
Sarashwathy “Sara” Veera, (she/they)

Sara started with us as a Student Intern in May,2018. She decided to join our team as a Research Assistant the following year and has since been promoted to Senior Research Assistant.

Sara came to us as a pre-med undergrad looking for clinical work opportunities. She was drawn to areas of medicine that are stigmatized and unique. Sara had a friend who connected her to us. She feels there is an opportunity here for community related health and outreach which is exciting to Sara as this movement in its developmental stages. Sara appreciates how close our research team is with the rest of our department and that we are not alone in our journey.

The most rewarding part of working with the PFDN for Sara is the protocol development process. It is never a “one size fits all” and Sara appreciates the collaboration where we address local issues specific to each site. “It is cool to get perspective all across America”.

When thinking about PFDN in the next 10 years, Sara envisions breaking away from the standard. An example would be the creation of new validated questionnaires and using better informed data collection methods using input from community members.

Sara started out as pre-med but as she has had more exposure, she may re-direct. She is curious about public health and may focus on more experiential learning. Her future position may not fit a template.

In her spare time, Sara is busy! She does a lot of volunteering, is involved with community networks within the area, teaches kizomba and tarraxo dancing, is learning how to forage for mushrooms, crochets, paints, and is a birder. Sara is also a great cook, focusing on South Indian dishes to get in touch with her culture.