UIC graduate student named national health policy scholar

University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student Jenny Guadamuz is one of 40 doctoral students from across the nation selected to explore how a more equitable U.S. health care system can be developed.

Jenny Guadamuz

Jenny Guadamuz

Guadamuz is part of the new Health Policy Research Scholars program, led by Johns Hopkins University with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Scholars are selected from communities that — by race, socio-economic status and other factors — are traditionally underrepresented in doctoral programs and policy development. The goal is to diversify the next generation of leaders and ensure equity in policies.

During the four-year program, Guadamuz will study the use of medicines among vulnerable populations in the U.S. and abroad, with the aim to devise guidelines that promote fair access to medicines. She will develop her own high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, mentoring, networking and an advanced health policy curriculum.

Scholars will meet several times throughout the program with Robert Wood Johnson staff. Guadamuz, who was the only student selected from Illinois, will continue studying full time at UIC and begin applying new health policy knowledge and leadership in the community and field while participating in the program.

As a graduate student in the School of Public Health, Guadamuz has assisted Dima Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy, on several research projects involving the use of high risk medicines in the U.S. Their work on the use of Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) medications was recently presented at the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology conference held in Ireland.

Guadamuz has also worked on a study of blood pressure medication use among Palestinian refugees served by the United Nations Relief Works Agency.

Qato, whose primary research interests relate to access and use of medications in vulnerable populations, such as minority, immigrant and refugee groups, said Guadamuz has a “prowess as a researcher that is uncommon so early in one’s studies.

“Jenny is an ambitious, intelligent and motivated young woman with a work ethic and dedication to research and public service that will undoubtedly lead to a distinguished career.”

Following her graduation in 2019 or 2020, Guadamuz is interested in continuing her research in an academic setting.

“I was excited to learn I was selected for this honor,” Guadamuz said. “I hope my research can inform policymakers about the barriers the most vulnerable communities face to access and use necessary medicines.”

The Health Policy Research Scholars is one of four new leadership development programs launched this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Supporting and mentoring pre-doctoral scholars from historically disadvantaged populations will create the next generation of informed scientists who will lead in the translation of research into the innovative thinking necessary to achieve health equity, said the program director, Dr. Harolyn M.E. Belcher, professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University.

“These scholars are dedicated to advancing their field in a way that makes a positive and significant impact on their communities,” Belcher said. “In order to do so, they’re willing to forge a new path, learn how to do things differently, and work collaboratively to achieve a healthier, more equitable society.”

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