2020 Health Policy Brief Writing Contest Winners Announced!

By James Kelley

Last year, we held our first annual health policy brief writing contest. We garnered multiple submissions and came away with two winning briefs: “Ensuring Equitable Access to Health Care for Low-Income Medicare Enrollees in Washington State” by Kim Serry (Masters in Public Heath in Health Services) in 1st place and “Improving Mental Health Care” by Khanh N. Le (Bachelor of Science in Health Informatics & Health Information Management) in 2nd place.

This year, we nearly doubled the amount of submissions, and are excited to announce two new winners of our newly named award, the Aaron Katz Award for Excellence in Health Policy Writing: 1st place to Carolyn A. Fan and 2nd place to Madeline Frost. Let’s get to know them and what this contest means to them and the rest of us!

Carolyn A. Fan

Carolyn A. Fan is a 1st year PhD student in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health. After graduating from New York University with a degree in Global Public Health and Sociology, Carolyn worked on coordinating several research projects in the New York area. Upon realizing that she wanted to become an independent researcher, Carolyn came to the UW’s PhD program in Health Services because she felt “it would be a place where [her] identities and experiences would be valued”.

Carolyn’s winning brief is titled, “Blood in the Time of Coronavirus: Lifting the Ban on Blood Donations From Men who Have Sex With Men”, which stemmed from her interests in pushing forward LGBTQ+ justice and inclusion to the forefront of health policy and health systems science. She believes her brief is “just one glaring example” of the way this population is discriminated in health care, and although there is current work to address this issue, she maintains committed to social justice by “fighting inequity [and being] politically minded”. We’re excited to see where this passion takes Carolyn next!

Madeline Frost

Our 2nd place writer, Madeline Frost, is also a 1st year PhD student in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health. After graduating from our Department’s MPH program in 2017, Madeline worked as a Research Project Manager at the VA Puget Sound Health Services Research & Development for Dr. Emily Williams, Associate Professor in our Department. With the goal of becoming a health services researcher that leads her own analyses, Madeline returned to the UW to complete the PhD program in Health Services.

Madeline first heard of our contest and submitted her brief, “Responding to the Impact of a Rapid Increase in Methamphetamine Use on the Opioid Overdose Crisis”, through a course offered by our Department, Health Policy Research (HSERV 513), where students’ understanding of the nature of health policy and health policy development in the context of a market-based economy is extended. In this course, Madeline was able to continue the work she started in her MPH program, which looked at the factors associated with expressing interest in getting help to reduce or stop substance use among people who use opioids, and extend its reach to policymakers. Madeline is “very excited” to have placed in our writing contest, and is now “feeling inspired to work” on her policy writing because of how “incredibly important [it is] for researchers to be able to expand the impact of their work.”

Both of these students and their work exemplify the goals of our contest: understanding that words matter. Last year, Aaron Katz, Principal Lecturer in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health, said that “whether tweeted or published in peer-reviewed journals, what we say and how we say it can mean the difference between real communication or just yelling into an echo chamber.”

With this contest, we hope to foster a new generation of leaders in policy by incentivizing high quality writing and visual communication appropriate for policymakers. Carolyn and Madeline are on the path to make a difference in our world, and so are many of our students in our programs. We look forward to the impact they make and what next year’s contest brings!

James Kelley is the Research Coordinator for the Center for Health Innovation & Policy Science



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