By Jevay Grooms
Diversity in thought, lived experiences, and perspectives enrich the dialogue around countless issues. Given the critical role of health and health policies in everyday life, the American Society of Health Economists (ASHEcon) continues to make strides to increase diversity in the health economics space. One way they aim to promote diversity in the profession is by offering the ASHEcon Diversity Scholarship to “enable the recipients to attend the annual ASHEcon conference, where they will have the opportunity to network with each other and with members of the ASHEcon Board and Diversity Committee, recognizing them, their accomplishments and bright futures.”
We interviewed a few of the 2022 ASHEcon Diversity Scholarships to gauge their opinions and reactions to the Conference and report some of their responses below. June 2022 was the first in-person ASHEcon Conference for all the recipients interviewed below.
Thank you to all the 2022 ASHEcon Diversity Scholarship Recipients who took the time and thoughtfully responded to the interview request, and thank you to all the ASHEcon members who have actively volunteered their time to help.
- Sih-Ting Cai, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pittsburgh, School of Public Health (SC)
- E.K. Green, Ph.D. Student, University of Arizona (EG)
- Samuel Mann, Post-doctoral Research Fellow at Vanderbilt University, Department of Economics (SM)
- Yashaswini Singh, Ph.D. Candidate, John Hopkins University (YS)
- Why health economics? What stimulated your interest in health economics? Was a particular incident, story, or policy that sparked your interest?
SC: Yes, and I will never forget my health economics “aha” moment. Everything began with Sherry Glied’s class at NYU. I was a clinician who observed health care challenges frontline. I traveled from Taiwan to Australia and finally landed in the United States to look for a solution. I still remember the day I sat in the front of the classroom, and when she guided us to view health care through the lens of health economics, it was mind-blowing! “That’s brilliant! Everything makes sense now, literally, everything!” That’s what I had in my mind then, and I have been hooked on health economics since then.
- One of the aims of the Diversity Scholarship is to enable the recipients to attend the annual ASHEcon conference, where they will have the opportunity to network with each other and with members of the ASHEcon Board and Diversity Committee. What were your overall thoughts on the conference and the opportunity?
SC: I was grateful for this opportunity and am so glad that I was able to attend ASHEcon as a Diversity Scholar. This experience went beyond my imagination and changed how I saw promoting diversity in health economics.
EG: The Conference was fantastic, and I was so glad for the opportunity – I would not have come without the scholarship, and I’m so glad I did.
SM: The Conference was extremely inspiring and thought-provoking. Being there allowed me to meet numerous people working on similar questions to me.
- What was your most significant takeaway from attending the 2022 ASHEcon Conference?
SC: I may sound cliché, but I realized it’s okay to be different in this field. It’s okay if I think differently. People here, members of the ASHEcon Board and Diversity Committee, when they said they are committed to promoting diversity in health economics, they meant it.
EG: Great connections! Particularly an excellent opportunity to learn about non-academic jobs and make connections there – I really appreciated that panel. Plus, the CSQIEP events were great.
SM: I came away from the Conference with an expanded research network, new ideas, new collaborators, and the motivation to pursue new and exciting research projects.
YS: My biggest takeaway is that health economists study diverse topics ranging from physician behavior to climate change, racial disparities in health care, the criminal justice system, immigration, and many other important public policy issues. A lack of diverse perspectives in the profession can limit the types of research questions examined, the range of potential solutions evaluated, and the inclusivity of potential policy responses. Diversity in perspective is key to ensuring research priorities represent societal priorities.
- During the ASHEcon Diversity Luncheon, President-Elect Kosali Simon mentioned the importance of increasing diversity within health economics. Do you have any thoughts on what the profession may be doing well or suggestions on how they could improve?
EG: Keep doing this scholarship! I really appreciate how open folks – especially Dr. Slusky – have been to feedback and suggestions; it’s really important to make improvements and show folks that their voices will be heard here. Thinking about LGBTQ+ folks – whatever you can do to support CSQIEP and events and panels at ASHEcon, and any additional support for LGBTQ+ folks presenting research & research on LGBTQ+ relevant topics. Thinking about bringing health economics, particularly work relevant to marginalized folks and health inequities, into high school and early undergraduate health economics classrooms. Health economists do a lot of work that people may not immediately associate with economics, but that has a lot of important impacts. The more students get to see that, the more people with a personal stake in these issues – and who will bring their valuable perspectives and strengthen the field – will have the chance to get interested in economics early on.
SM: A serious issue is the lack of data collection. In terms of LGBTQ+ academics, we know very little about their experiences. If we want to take LGBTQ+ diversity seriously, we must consider including LGBTQ+ identity questions as part of data collection efforts.
SC: I don’t have any specific answer to this question, but I always think increasing diversity is not just having more people with different backgrounds work together. You have to make them feel they belong.
- Would you recommend this scholarship program to other graduate students or young professionals working in health economics? Why or why not?
SC: I had recommended this scholarship program to many graduate students working in this field. When you have something good, you don’t just keep that to yourself. I wanted them to have the same opportunity to empower themselves. I was also motivated by the committee, especially Kosali. I wanted to help make the field I love even better so we can have more people to help reduce inefficiencies and health inequities.
EG: YES! It was such a great and valuable experience.
SM: Absolutely! The program is a fantastic opportunity to meet people, hear about incredible research, and engage with the people that can make change within the profession. (SM)
YS: Yes, absolutely! I will add that it is fine to advocate for yourself, nominate yourself for scholarships, and seek recognition for your work. Research has documented a gender gap in self-promotion. This may be especially true as women are typically more risk-averse and shy away from perceived failure. (YS)
- Did attending the conference and/or winning the scholarship advance or help your career trajectory? (i.e., coauthors, made aware of job opportunities, networking)
SC: Of course! Kosali Simon’s speech during the Luncheon helped me find the answer that had puzzled me since COVID began. She also became my mentor, who helped me find a place where I could commit to and feel I belonged. I finally found the connection I have been looking for, for a very long time.
EG: Absolutely! The ability to network, learn about other job experiences, meet other grad students and learn from their experiences, the ability to learn so much across the field – all very valuable.
SM: Absolutely! I came away from the Conference with a wider research network, new ideas, and new coauthors. (SM)
YS: Winning the scholarship and attending the 2022 ASHEcon conference facilitated my professional and intellectual development in several ways. I gained valuable feedback from presenting my work on physician vertical integration at the Emerging Scholars session. The Conference also provided ample opportunities to meet and interact with journal editors, ASHEcon Board Members, and senior economists. Interactions with peers and senior colleagues have helped me expand my professional network, meet potential research collaborators, and seek continued guidance on topics such as the job market for health economists, disseminating research for broader policy impact, and efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession.
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
EG: Just to pass along my thanks to everyone involved in making this possible, and thanks for continuing to follow up and incorporate feedback.