Innovative student research focusing on the Asia-Pacific region

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PosterHEADLINER
An AIDS awareness poster in China
Photo credit: 
Tricia Wang

The results of my research [on HIV/AIDS intervention programs in China] have led to improvements in the…programs that were studied, and potentially will lead to broader change as I write up my research for publication. My research experience showed me the rewarding impact of public policy analysis on the quality and scope of health services. As a result, I decided to pursue a master’s in public policy at Stanford.

-Crystal Zheng, MA student, Public Policy Program


As an undergraduate student majoring in East Asian studies, Crystal Zheng spent two summers conducting extensive HIV/AIDS-related field research in China’s Yunnan province and Shenzhen special economic zone. Zheng worked closely with primary thesis advisor Karen Eggleston, director of the Asia Health Policy Program (AHPP) at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC). In the end, the project shaped the direction of her future academic and professional interests as well as contributed to potentially far-reaching program improvements for a key health policy challenge in China.

In the short time since its 2007 founding, AHPP has empowered the research of numerous Stanford University students like Zheng—emerging scholars, researchers, and thought leaders—through its teaching and mentoring activities. The program promotes the comparative study of health and health policy across the Asia-Pacific region, and its work with students closely accords with Shorenstein APARC’s commitment to training the next generation of scholars. In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of scholarship at Shorenstein APARC, students who tap into AHPP’s resources come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds.

The six undergraduate and graduate students profiled here have conducted or are in the process of carrying out timely, innovative research focusing on various aspects of healthcare and health policy in China. Depending on the context of their research, many students—such as Zheng, who received a Chappell Lougee Scholarship and a Major Grant through the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE)—have found Stanford-based funding in the form of research assistantships, grants, and scholarships. Several have also conducted substantial field research in China—even without prior Chinese-language training. In many cases, the research has proved life changing—one student was so inspired that she entirely switched the focus of her graduate studies.

It has been a true privilege to work with these students—their enthusiasm, quick learning, and productive research on their chosen topics make them a pleasure to mentor.”

-Karen Eggleston, Director, AHPP

Amy Chen, a human biology major and a 2011 Newman Civic Fellow Award recipient, will spend the summer surveying and conducting interviews with medical staff and students at Shandong Provincial Hospital to understand hospital worker attitudes about organ donation and transplantation in China. She received a Chappell Lougee Scholarship and a supplementary grant from the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) in support of her research activities. Eggleston, who is serving as Chen’s advisor for the project, helped connect Chen with colleagues at Shandong University who will work with her throughout the summer. “I came to her [Eggleston] with a passion and a genuine interest in learning more about organ transplantation,” says Chen, “but through her guidance I was really able to narrow down my interests...” Chen hopes to one day establish a workplace-based organ donation education program in China and has already started developing a future action plan for it. 

Overcoming a potentially challenging language barrier, human biology major Monica Jeong successfully conducted diabetes-related research at Shandong Provincial Hospital. A recipient of a Major Grant, Jeong worked closely with her advisor Eggleston. She credits her honors research project with enriching her current work as a clinical research coordinator with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “I feel a lot more at ease interviewing patients,” she notes. “Furthermore, understanding the barriers that patients might face in seeking healthcare has made me a better-informed and more sensitive person when encountering patients at the Stanford Cancer Center.”

While studying the link between improved education enrollment and decreased mortality in Mao-era China as an AHPP research assistant, Jing Li, a former School of Education graduate student, developed a strong interest in health economics and policy analysis. “I am intrigued by the intuitiveness in quantifying relationships in health studies, as well as the crucial role of government in shaping health development using policy tools,” she says. This fall, Li will begin a doctoral program in health services and policy analysis at the University of California, Berkeley, where she plans to focus on health insurance policy, finance mechanisms, and payment systems in China. Li is particularly concerned with issues of inefficiency and inequality in healthcare policy.

Kelvin Bryan Tan, a doctoral student in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, gained a significant understanding of China’s healthcare system through the course “Healthcare in East Asia” taught by Eggleston. It led him to conduct a study to discover the optimal mix of different types of financing in medical savings-based healthcare financing systems, with a focus on Singapore and China. Eggleston worked closely with Tan, providing him with additional theoretical and background information. “This research project is likely to form a substantial part of my dissertation,” states Tan.

Anthony Vasquez, an East Asian studies master’s student, was inspired in a class taught by Eggleston to write a research paper about blindness prevention care in China, especially the role international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play in providing this type of care in rural areas. In his research, Vasquez utilized a combination of academic literature and a study of NGOs currently operating in China. “By conducting this research,” he says, “I became more informed about the challenges that China faces in providing universal healthcare coverage, which is the government’s goal.” Although his MA thesis will focus on a different topic, Vasquez plans to stay closely connected to developments in China’s healthcare system.

Through her thesis research, Rachel Zimet Strick, a joint East Asian studies-business administration master’s student, examined the conditions for producing high-quality pharmaceuticals within China’s current market-based socialist economy. Eggleston served as her primary advisor, providing valuable guidance on her source materials and methodology, which combined economic modeling and theory, challenging field research, and primary and secondary source materials. Zimet, who now works for Abbott Laboratories as a member of its Management Development Program, credits her research with providing her with key skills that she utilizes in her work today. “[It] allowed me to demonstrate to Abbott…my ability to think deeply about the Chinese market…and to identify key market and non-market forces that would affect our business in any international environment,” she states.

AHPP welcomes inquiries from current and prospective students with an interest in issues surrounding healthcare and health policy in the Asia-Pacific region, and looks forward to continuing to help guide and inspire students for many years to come.

“Stanford attracts a diverse group of intellectually engaged students with a passion for research that can inform policy and improve lives,” says Eggleston. “AHPP strives to support those students interested in health and medical care across the Asia-Pacific, from freshmen to advanced grad students across a broad range of disciplines, to create a community of like-minded scholars and push boundaries. Our own research and policy outreach benefit tremendously from the synergies that result.”

More information about undergraduate and graduate research funding opportunities at Stanford is available at the AHPP, VPUE, CEAS, and Go Global websites.