WRAP 2020: Tanvi Kongara, W’23

This summer, I had the opportunity to remotely pursue my interest in health-care economics as a research assistant under Professor Luke Connelly and Professor Stephen Birch at the University of Queensland. I am so grateful that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity through a summer funding award from Wharton’s World Research Assistantship Program (WRAP). During the summer and into the fall semester, I conducted data analysis on whether the traditional demographic approach to health-care-resource planning—the assumption that age and sex alone adequately summarize the level of need for service—sufficiently accounts for future health-care-resource requirements.

A similar analysis was done by Professor Birch and his colleagues on both Canadian and UK health data, but it was interesting to see how similar trends appeared in the US data as well. One unique topic I got to explore further in the US data was the racial demographic of the dataset. Given the US’s diverse population, it was interesting to see how trends differed or remained the same among different racial groups.

Although this program was conducted remotely, it offered an opportunity that I might have missed out on otherwise. My initial planned research project was identifying the cost-effectiveness thresholds (or cut-off levels) above and below which drugs in Australia are placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule. However, because the research had to be conducted remotely, I was not able to access the Australian data I needed for that project. Therefore, I had switch my project to one that utilized US data instead.  It was an exciting experience being able to work with U.S. public health data since I was able to analyze some of my own experiences with our health-care system and bring in historical/social issues that I thought were relevant to the dataset.

Although my research was completely remote, Professor Connelly and Professor Birch went the extra mile to provide an enriching experience for me. The time difference was a bit of a struggle initially (AEST is 14 hours ahead of EST), but once we finalized a meeting time the discussions went pretty smoothly. Usually during our meetings, we went over the data I collected and some of my initial thoughts before Professor Connelly and Professor Birch offered their insights. The best part about working with these professors was being able to utilize their experiences and insight to delve deeper into the data I was analyzing.

Through WRAP I was able to explore the field of health-care-resource planning, which ignited my professional aspirations of intersecting health-care economics with public policy.