“The topics that we pursue as doctoral students are policy relevant. Whether in industry or the public sector, it’s going to make a difference somewhere.”

Michelle Kim, C’04, GrW’11, M’13, first became intrigued with the power of economics as a Penn undergraduate working to evaluate trials of antimalarial drugs in Tanzania. “That’s when I knew I wanted to continue my research and pursue graduate work in health care,” she said.

Her course of study has become more relevant with policy changes and innovations that are changing the landscape of the health care sector. “I get to study changes as they happen, and also provide insight into measures that Congress or private companies may be thinking about implementing,” Michelle said. “The topics that we pursue as doctoral students are policy relevant. Whether in industry or the public sector, it’s going to make a difference somewhere.”

Wharton has a series of econometrics classes within the Statistics department and classes within the Business and Public Policy department that have given Michelle the analytical tools to do that. “Now I’m prepared to go out in the field and perform an economic evaluation of a health care program — helping it get funding or approval from governments to implement these programs,” she said.

For instance, Michelle has looked at critical care outcomes based on how different hospital team structures affect outcomes in intensive care unit patients. “We found that when patients are taken care of by an interdisciplinary group of health care providers composed of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other auxiliary staff members, patients did much better than if they were taken care of separately by a physician, or a nurse or different health care providers,” she said.

Strong Graduate Student Community at Penn and in Philadelphia 

While researching doctoral programs, Michelle was looking for a program that would help her to tackle big research questions. One reason she chose Wharton is because all 12 of Penn’s graduate schools are located on one campus, which has given her the opportunity to collaborate on research with faculty at Wharton and the Perelman School of Medicine.

“The Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics is a really unique center because it combines faculty members from across Penn, as well as from across the country, to work on issues related to health from an interdisciplinary point of view,” Michelle said. “We have faculty from the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, Penn Law, and Wharton. It’s a forum for us to address big issues from different perspectives.”

Another benefit for Michelle was the huge graduate student contingency at Penn, providing a community of people from all different schools in the same general age range. “One of the best things about Penn is being surrounded by motivated people from different backgrounds who provide a great outlet outside of your graduate studies,” she said. “They have events for graduate students and activities that strengthen the community.”

“Philly is a great place to be as a doctoral student. It’s really affordable, and there are lots of events and great restaurants to explore.”

Posted: November 13, 2014

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