Students Shaping Health Equity: Systems, Voice, & Policy

As the year comes to a close, the DASH team would like to take a moment to recognize and express gratitude to our amazing interns. These interns have invested their skills, time, and experience to help inform and shape our work, all in an effort to advance health equity. 

We hope you enjoy reading their responses to the following questions as much as we did!

What school do you attend or did you attend during your internship? What are you studying? What attracted you to DASH? Describe the project you were assigned to for DASH. What social determinants of health are you most drawn to addressing in your work? What are you excited about for 2021? What is your favorite holiday tradition? 

Denise Ponce-Gavarrete

  1. University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration 
  2. Social Service Administration with a focus on Health Administration and Policy 
  3. As a macro-level social worker, I am committed to obtaining a deeper understanding of the ways that systems interact. My clinical skills have prepared me to work directly with clients, and have given me an understanding of the provider-patient relationship. I believe that DASH’s commitment to multi-sector work has given me the opportunity to understand the systemic levers that are critical for supporting social change and improving population health. Overall, the work done at DASH has given me insight on how to be a change agent from a systemic angle.
  4. At DASH, I worked on the Master Person Index project which focused on obtaining consensus over a shared data tool to be used among health and housing providers in Chicago to address the needs of individuals at the intersection of chronic health conditions and housing instability. 
  5. Seeing as the world’s weather patterns are rapidly changing, and becoming more and more devastating each year, the social determinant of health that is most salient to me at the moment is the physical determinants, namely the environment’s impact on the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities. These communities face most of the devastating impact of climate change, and I worry about their future.
  6. In 2021, I am excited to jumpstart my career as a clinician working under the Los Angeles county department of mental health. The MPI project influenced my desire to work within the homelessness space. Given the prevalence of homelessness in my home state of California, it made sense for me to flex my clinical muscles and work alongside this population from a hands-on approach. I am excited to start working towards my licensure and to make an impact on the lives of Angelenos.  
  7. Growing up in a Latino household that had an affinity to music and dance, my favorite holiday tradition has to be waking up at 8:00 am on Christmas eve to salsa and Caribbean music blaring through the living room speakers and filtering into every room as a signal for us to wake up. My family always gathers into the living room in pajamas and starts the day off by dancing. It’s so much fun and such a pure moment. 

Find Denise on LinkedIn. 

Esther Babawande

  1. I attend the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). 
  2. I am currently studying Communications with a minor in Professional Writing. 
  3. As a social change communicator and storyteller, I recognized that DASH as a national program office looks at multi-sector data sharing to influence positive health outcomes for disadvantaged communities around the nation. That automatically drew me in. DASH works with nearly 2,000 data scientists across the country in a variety of spaces. Stories are an art form, one where we utilize words to change minds, build bridges, and inform others on best practices for their own journey. I had the privilege to work with an amazing team at DASH to make that happen for organizations and communities nationwide. 
  4. As a communications intern for DASH, I promoted multi-sector data-sharing through stories in publications, blog posts, podcast episodes, and newsletter articles. I was given the freedom to reengineer the present processes we had in place for our many communication mediums. Receiving guidance and mentorship from the amazing Josh Gryniewicz through this journey was the highlight of my year. Alongside Josh, I oversaw the development, editing, and promotion of the All In Newsletter, All In Podcast, and DASH website blog posts. My small team of Josh, Solomon Collins, and myself coordinated, produced, and promoted the All In COVID publication: What We’ve Learned From the First Wave, as well as the Digital Edition of said publication. 
  5. As an aspiring health care provider (nurse): health coverage, health literacy, and provider linguistic and cultural competency are social determinants that I am dedicated to addressing in my work in the field. I believe that the conversations we have with our health providers are the most vulnerable ones we can have, and changing how providers and patients facilitate these conversations, whilst eliminating the factors that hinder the success of these conversations is a purpose that I am dedicated to working towards for the rest of my life. 
  6. In 2021, I am soooo excited to GRADUATE! This year was the ultimate culmination of my work as an undergrad. I am so excited to continue my work here at DASH and *hopefully* start my new journey as a nurse. 
  7. With the flurry of activity in the kitchen, you hear the pots and footsteps, smell the air, and smile. Mariah Carey’s vocals are twinkling in the air followed by Celine Dion’s. The red and green decorations cast lights on our faces as we cry laughing at memories. The smell of homemade mac and cheese coming out of the oven. These images, smells, and sounds transport me to my cherished holiday tradition- cooking with my family on Christmas day. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and just being with my family on that day means the world to me.

Find Esther on LinkedIn.

Julia Eddelbuettel

  1. I am a third-year undergraduate student at Cornell University.
  2. I am majoring in Policy Analysis & Management and minoring in Demography.
  3. I was attracted to DASH because of how they help and empower locally-focused CHOs to integrate data-sharing capabilities into their work. Through my coursework, I have learned how crucial alignment and open channels of communication and information flow are to healthcare systems, and I wanted to learn more about how that work is actually being accomplished among CHOs. Additionally, the multi-sector community-level approach DASH takes to their work really intrigued me and through my time as an intern, I was able to deepen my understanding of how integral multiple different sectors are to community health, and how community health can be improved when problems are tackled through an intersectional framework with regard to the social determinants of health.
  4. This summer, I worked with Amanda on the development of a policy tool to help both the DASH team and DASH grantees more readily and easily integrate policy considerations into their work. Through auditing a multitude of reports from past DASH grantees, we were able to conceptualize how and where engaging with policy could benefit the DASH team. The final product was the policy framework tool (PFT) which was constructed as a grid to help its users categorize and standardize project inputs and policy considerations. The ultimate goal of the PFT helps use policy to understand and identify potential barriers and enablers to a project’s success, identify necessary stakeholder engagement, create a strong legal and data-sharing foundation for the project through policy leveraging, and ensure sustainability, longevity, and replicability in the grantee’s work. 
  5. The social determinant of health that I am most drawn to addressing is economic stability. I am very interested in the intersection of public economics and public health, especially concerning the social safety net. I ultimately want to work in research at the intersection of economics, public health, and social policy and explore the ways the social safety net can be strengthened at multiple levels of government to better support vulnerable populations. 
  6. I am excited about being able to go back to Cornell in the spring to complete the rest of my third year of undergrad in person. Cornell has set up a rigorous testing system to create a “bubble” to allow us to safely be on campus and I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of that. 
  7. My favorite holiday tradition is decorating my family’s Christmas tree and setting up decorations on our fireplace mantle.

Find Julia on LinkedIn.

Linh Dinh

  1. I am a 2nd-year graduate student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
  2. I am doing an M.S. in Computational Analysis and Public Policy, which is a dual degree in Public Policy and Computer Science.
  3. My policy interests lie at the intersection of technology, data, and public health. Therefore, I find DASH missions especially resonating with those interests – that is, supporting data sharing beyond the traditional health sectors and enabling communities to leverage data and information to improve their health outcomes – and want to bring my expertise and experience to support DASH various programs.
  4. I am helping out with the planning and implementation of DASH’s newest grant program – Learning and Action in Policy and Partnerships – which aims to facilitate aligned efforts among multi-sector communities and state partners to support sustainable policy and systems change.
  5. I am particularly interested in the issues around environmental equity. With climate change and air pollution on the rise, it is becoming even more important to ensure that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has access to a healthy and clean living and working environment. 
  6. I look forward to being able to travel freely again (maybe, hopefully, by the end of 2021).
  7. I love uplifting holiday music, Starbucks holiday drinks, and Christmas street lights.

Find Linh on LinkedIn.