Undergrads Spend Summer at SHP Tackling Health Policy Projects

Stanford Health Policy Undergraduate Research Fellows are spending their summer alongside faculty, investigating compelling and complex health policy issues.
Stanford Undergrad Summer Health Policy Fellows 2023 ( From left to right: Tyler Juffernbruch, Cassy Moretto Regout, Audrey Xu) Photo by Misty Mazzara

Meet our Stanford undergraduate fellows who are spending this summer working with our faculty on research projects they hope will eventually change policy and improve health. They are taking on more than a dozen projects, including the impact of social media on health behaviors, the risk factors leading to preeclampsia, the debate over free preventative care under the Affordable Care Act—and how to alleviate health disparities.

Tyler Juffernbruch, a rising senior majoring in Public Policy and Psychology

Summer Research Projects: Juffernbruch is working with Sara Singer, PhD, a professor of medicine (primary care and population health) and, by courtesy, professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. They are investigating the impact of social media and entertainment on human health behaviors, through partnership with Building H, a crowdsourcing project tapping into technology and innovation to make life healthy by design.

Juffernbruch is also drafting community benefit agreement (CBAs) guidelines to develop a framework for regional project alignment to ensure that landowner-developer projects benefit the communities they occupy. They are also developing a model that evaluates the cost-effectiveness of MediCal expansions for undocumented immigrants. He is also assisting in AI-development projects to create an equitable dataset for type 2 diabetes, known as AI-READI, and investigating approaches for adopting new quality-assurance technology, known as OR Black Box.

“My seminal project is creating an algorithm for locating pediatric multiple chronic conditions using Medicaid claims data through ICD-10 codes, which will be used to target systemic disparities in care outcomes,” he said.

Why Health Policy?

Juffernbruch’s said his interest in health policy grew after taking Margaret Brandeau's course on health policy modeling. Brandeau is the Coleman F. Fung Professor in the School of Engineering and a professor, by courtesy, of health policy.

“I'd recommend this course to anyone intrigued by the subject—the material is accessible and Dr. Brandeau is eager and willing to share her expertise with students, and even allows students to complete optional projects on topics of interest. I took advantage of this opportunity and drafted my own cost-effectiveness analysis on a topic of my choice: daily PrEP regimen vs. on-demand PrEP, which solidified these interests for me. “ 

“I find health policy to be a fascinating and important field of study,” he said. “It is truly interdisciplinary and all-encompassing. “I find the scope of the ACA to be a good case in point; it might be the most influential piece of legislation in recent history.” 

Cassy Moretto Regout, a rising senior majoring in Human Biology, concentration in health policy and emphasis on social determinants of health

Summer Research Projects: Moretto Regout is working with Mark Hlatky, MD, a professor of health policy and cardiovascular medicine at Stanford Medicine. They are investigating the risk factors that lead to preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease in women. She intends to write a policy recommendation on how clinical guidelines should be updated to include the most recent research on preeclampsia prevention and treatment. Moretto Regout will also analyze data from Hlatky’s EPOCH study to better understand women’s perceptions about their risk for preeclampsia and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Why Health Policy? 

“My interest in health policy is to consider how we can use policies to target the social and environmental determinants of health in order to improve health disparities between groups,” she said. “By implementing systems-level changes via policy, we can reduce both disease burden and inequities in healthcare to marginalized groups.”

This year’s cohort has hit the ground running on projects ranging from managing complex pediatric patients to paying for pain syndromes. Our faculty is sharing their enthusiasm for research, and the students are getting a real flavor of the breadth of health policy research.
Eran Bendavid
Associate Professor of Medicine

Betty Wu, a rising junior majoring in Management Science and Engineering

Betty Wu, Stanford Health Policy summer fellow 2023 (color fix)
Betty Wu

Summer Research Projects: Working with Joshua Salomon, PhD, professor of health policy and director of the Prevention Policy Modeling Lab, Wu is using machine learning models to estimate the number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents in the U.S. population, stratified by age, sex, race and ethnicity. The second project explores the potential impacts of the Texas Braidwood Ruling earlier this year in which Texas Federal Judge Reed O’Connor issued an order preventing the government from enforcing an ACA requirement that all insurance cover certain preventative care services. 

Wu’s interest in health policy was also ignited by Brandeau’s health policy modeling class. 

“I’ve learned that health policy can be an interdisciplinary field where cost-effectiveness analysis and modeling can influence health care policymaking,” she said. “It plays a pivotal role in shaping health-care systems, access to medical services, public health initiatives, and overall population health.” 

She said efficient allocations of resources are key to improving health-care outcomes and promoting equitable access to health-care services. “I’d love to contribute to driving a positive change through exploring innovative solutions, identifying inefficiencies, and proposing evidence-based analysis.”

Audrey Yingwei Xu, a rising senior majoring in Human Biology

Summer Research Project: Xu is working with Eric Sun, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Stanford Medicine. Their project will focus on analyzing population health sciences data with information about patients' inpatient services and outpatient claims. Xu will examine the impact that chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPCs)'s has on health-care utilization through, using Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences databases. She’ll investigate how having COPC is associated with health-care spending and to what extent it increases utilization. They’ll compare existing ICD codes used in recent health cost studies for COPC patients and incorporate the information to find a cohort of hundreds of thousands of eligible patients who have insurance claims in the last four years.

Xu said the key objective of her project is to contribute to the improvement of health-care access, quality, and efficiency for vulnerable patients. 

“By leveraging this research, I hope to provide valuable insights that can support policymakers and healthcare providers in making evidence-based decisions to efficiently enhance care management and reduce costs for patients who suffer from pain,” she said.

Why Health Policy? 

“I see health policy as a tool to combat systemic biases and improve care experiences for underserved individuals,” Xu said. “In response to underutilized or inefficiently used data, I strive to contribute to a more equitable healthcare system for all.”

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