Undergraduate Fellows Conduct Health Policy Research with SHP Faculty
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, our Stanford undergraduate fellows are back on campus, spending their summer working with Stanford Health Policy faculty on research and projects. All four are rising seniors yet have varied academic backgrounds and aspirations. Learn more about them, their goals and why they are interested in health policy.
Eran Bendavid, MD, associate professor of medicine and one of the advisors to the summer program, said health policy is a large and complex field — so the undergrads have their work cut out for them this summer.
"There are no simple answers, and our goal is to share some of the excitement and nuance of the research we do at Stanfor Health Policy," Bendavid said. "We aim to inspire the next generation to become more informed consumers and producers of health policy research, and be inspired by their enthusiasm, novel perspectives, and curiosity."
Meet the Fellows
Keely Elizabeth Fuller
Major: Biology and will co-term in Community Health and Prevention Research her senior year.
Project: Fuller is working with Alyce Adams, professor of epidemiology and population health, on a project related to the high cost of cancer care. “We will be looking at cost-effective solutions to help patients manage the financial burden of cancer care,” Fuller said.
Why Health Policy? Fuller worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home during her gap year over the last academic year. “The job opened my eyes to both the challenges that health-care workers face as well as the struggles of patients with chronic diseases. I hope to work in geriatrics and palliative care someday. I see so much space to improve care and conditions for patients and workers in long-term care centers.”
Fuller shared this compelling opening of her application essay for the summer program.
Washing dead bodies is a form of purposeful meditation — a physical prayer. It is a rare moment when my mind is quiet and I focus all my attention on the task at hand. I feel stirrings of my own vulnerability and smallness as I start down at a naked, lifeless body. I marvel at each body part as I scrub. Wrinkles and bruises and hammer toes are so human and beautiful. As I turned Margaret on her side, I listened to the haunting sigh of a dead person as air exits the lungs one final time.
Brooke Robin Seay
Major: Human Biology with a minor in Creative Writing.
Project: Seay is working with Michelle Mello, a professor of health policy and law, on research that examines how emergency powers in the U.S. legal system played a role in the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re looking at what the pandemic can teach us in modernizing public health law and how to deliver more effective responses for future public health emergencies.”
Why Health Policy? Seay said she hopes to learn more about research methods and problem-solving for human health on a scale beyond individual interventions.
“I've always been fascinated by biology, but especially by how our health depends on complex interactions between our biology and our social, cultural, and political contexts. I'm interested in studying and improving health environments that extend beyond the doctor's office, and I'm excited to learn more about how policy can enact structural changes to the broader health system. I hope to learn how policy can improve the social conditions of health and make health more equitable, as I aspire to work in public health one day.”
Major: Computer Science on the artificial intelligence (AI) track.
Project: Singla is working with Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, professor of health policy, to develop a counterfactual model to determine how many lives could have been saved in low- and middle-income countries if COVID-19 vaccines were as readily available as they were in high-income countries like Canada, Europe and the United States.
Why Health Policy? Singla has previously worked on applied AI for climate change mitigation and medicine, but this is his first foray into the health policy arena.
“I strongly believe that informing public policy is one of the strongest avenues we have to change our world for the better, and I’m excited to learn how to leverage my past experiences with computer science to answer, in my opinion, an extremely pressing question about public health policy during the pandemic."
Major: Chemical Engineering with a minor in Biology.
Project: Wang is working with Jason Wang, professor of health policy and pediatrics, examining how the use of technology intersects with medical services and social services, with a particular focus on the risk factors and social determinants of health for maternal and infant health outcomes. “For example, how can digital technology help to facilitate connections to needed medical and social interventions; what services are needed to help mothers with homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health issues; when is the best time to intervene to improve maternal and infant outcomes?”
Why Health Policy? “I thought a change in perspective from science and engineering would be a great learning experience for me. I have previous experience working in wet lab chemistry and biology research, but not at all in health policy. I am interested in potentially going into medicine and think both perspectives — science and policy — will better inform my career path and future work.”