News Center for Advancing Health Services, Policy & Economics Research

Center supports student trainee research and nurtures future careers

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

The Center for Health Economics & Policy continues to support student trainees and their work in order to help nurture the next generation of public health experts. Two such trainees have helped draft important policy publications based on their research.

Between graduation and attending the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Kristine (MaeMae) Huang, MD candidate (2024), served as a research coordinator for Center co-Director, Karen Joynt Maddox, MD MPH. With support from Joynt Maddox and center staff, Huang helped create a policy brief distilling a more technical journal article into a publication framed for a policy-focused audience.

MaeMae Huang

After graduating with her BA, and starting medical school at WashU, Huang said she wanted to keep working with Joynt Maddox and the center to advance her research skills. Huang’s latest research project: Risk of delivery complications among pregnant people experiencing housing insecurity, is published in American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and delves into how pregnant women experiencing housing insecurity are at higher risk of problem deliveries. “We found that pregnant people who were housing insecure were more likely to be from groups that have been marginalized historically. Additionally, they had worse delivery outcomes,” said Huang. “This research contributes to the growing body of work related to social determinants of health [e.g.: housing, employment, financial stability] and how they contribute to pregnancy outcomes.”

In terms of working with the center, Huang is happy to continue, and she encourages others who want to focus on themes such as health equity in their research to do the same. “The Center for Health Economics and Policy houses a network of engaged and talented researchers who care deeply about their work and health equity. I am so grateful for Dr. Joynt Maddox and her mentorship because she has helped me develop critical thinking skills, and she is a wonderful role model.”

Another student, Isha Yardi, currently studying public health on a pre-med track at the University of Maryland, was a participant in the 2022 Summer Research Program at WashU’s Institute for Public Health. She echoed Huang’s sentiments about working with the center. During her summer program in the Global and Public Health Track, Yardi collaborated with Center co-Director, Timothy McBride, PhD, and Research Assistant Professor, Abigail Barker, PhD, and team, on a policy brief exploring the impact of work requirements on Medicaid eligibility in Missouri.

Isha Yardi

“Beginning in 2018, a number of states attempted to implement work requirements as an eligibility criterion for Medicaid enrollment,” Yardi explained. “Under these work requirements, Medicaid enrollees would have to regularly report a certain number of work or community engagement hours to maintain coverage. The objective of these work requirements is to promote economic self-sufficiency and productivity among Medicaid recipients, but many argue that they pose significant barriers to Medicaid enrollment and access.”

By identifying groups who were the most negatively affected by these work requirements, Yardi said, the team hopes that the brief will be used by policymakers and community stakeholders when exploring policies that look to improve economic self-sufficiency and productivity. The new policy brief titled, “Understanding the Impact of Work Requirements on Medicaid-Eligible Adults in Post-Expansion Missouri” and other center publications are available for download on the center’s website.

As a student who is new to this line of research, I was able to learn so much about policy analysis and evaluation by working closely with experienced faculty members and research assistants. My experience with the center has seeded my interest in health policy and economics, and nurtured my skills as a budding researcher and public health professional.

Isha Yardi, student trainee

The Center for Health Economics and Policy advances evidence-based research to improve health and works with policy makers and public health leaders to drive more equitable health policy.

Isha Yardi, student trainee