Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics Students Produce White Papers on COVID-19

December 31, 2020

"Coronavirus" / danielfoster437 / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For the past three years, Critical Writing has worked with the Summer Undergraduates Minority Research Program (SUMR) students on a health-related, research-based, real-world writing project. The six-week SUMR program is sponsored by the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics at Penn, and overseen by its founding director, Joanne Levy. SUMR provides mentorship and intensive instruction for students from populations underrepresented in the health professions.

This year, Valerie Ross and Matthew Osborn, Director and Associate Director of the Marks Center for Excellence in Writing, guided SUMR students as they collaboratively researched and drafted white papers on topics related to COVID-19.

Here’s what some of the white paper authors had to say about this project:

Ashley Anunba (C’21): This was quite a learning experience, one I’ll never forget! Our team researched, scoured library databases, created numerous drafts, and edited for hours, a daunting experience but far more rewarding than anyone initially thought.

Hannah Yusuf (C’20): I learned a lot about writing for a public audience, and specifically one that required an original thesis. I studied the thought processes of philosophers and bioethicists, and how these manifest (or fail to) in real life. This was challenging and fun, and I definitely grew a lot as a writer.

Rakeem Yakubu (C’23): Doing this white paper process really helped me hone my writing and research skills. I used to be afraid of long, in-depth research papers but after this process I now have a simple systematic process to use in future endeavors.

Tanvi Kongara (C’23): I thoroughly enjoyed writing this White Paper with my amazing co-authors. This paper exposed me to the complex field of bioethics and its historical disregard for the health needs of the Black community, with tragic consequences from the past into the present with COVID-19.

Below are links to two of the white papers, with information about the projects and authors.

Unequal Access: The Bioethics of Racism in the Time of COVID-19

The co-authors of “Unequal Access,” Ashley Anumba, Tanvi Kongara, Rakeem Yakubu, and Hannah Yusuf, examine the ethical thinking—or lack thereof—that led to the present unequal access of Black people to health care in the U.S. They trace this to the self-serving “ethics” of racists in their attempt to justify the enslavement and ill treatment of Black people in this nation. The authors further note that these racist values continue to inform current bioethical principles governing who has access to health care.

The authors are delighted to report that their paper was accepted for publication in Penn Bioethics Journal for Fall 2021.


About the Authors

Co-authors of “Unequal Access” (from left): Anumba, Kongara, Yakubu, and Yusuf.

Ashley Anumba (C’21) is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Health and Societies with a concentration in Health Policy and Law, with minors in Bioethics as well as Law and Society. After graduation, Anumba plans to attend law school and pursue a career that creates more comprehensive and equitable pathways to address health concerns of low-income and minority communities.

Tanvi Kongara (C’23) is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is interested in concentrating in Healthcare Management and Business Analytics. She is originally from Dallas, Texas and is deeply interested in the intersection of business and healthcare. Tanvi is passionate about incorporating economics and business strategy to improve quality of health care services and financing.

Abdul-Rakeem Yakubu (C’23) is a double major in Mathematical-Biology and Mathematics with a minor in Urban Education at The University of Pennsylvania. Originally from rural North Carolina, Yakubu attended a public boarding school, The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, where he identified his passion for health care, biology, and mathematics. At his school, he was able to join a project at the UNC-CH Dental School that identified disparities in oral health care and researched oral cancers caused by HPV-16. He hopes to attend dental school and pursue a DMD-Ph.D. program with a biology focus. When he’s not researching or in school, Yakubu enjoys dancing on his Bollywood fusion team, Penn Masti, swimming laps in the pool, or watching his favorite movies.

Hannah Yusuf (C’20) is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania. Her major is Political Science, with a minor in Bioethics, and she is also pursuing a Masters in Bioethics. After witnessing how socioeconomic status can impact access to healthcare in the lives of people important to her, she developed an interest in the healthcare field and health policy.


Face Masks: A Global Controversy

International Policies for Mask-Wearing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The co-authors of “Face Masks,” Rachel Wu, Alexander Auchus, and Michael Konu, examine the mask-wearing policies of ten countries to determine the efficacy of these public health policies in addressing the spread of COVID-19. They note that the conflicting messaging of the World Health Organization has been a significant factor in impeding the formulation of a global health policy. Yet, as they note, mask-wearing effectively minimizes viral spread and a global policy is urgently needed.


About the Authors

Co-authors of “Unequal Access” (from left): Wu, Auchus, and Konu.

Rachel Wu (C’21) is a senior studying computational biology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is planning to attend medical school and to obtain a graduate degree related to public health. She is an Marks Undergraduate Writing Fellow at Penn’s Writing Center and co-president of the Penn Undergraduate One for the World chapter.

Alexander Auchus (C’21) is a senior studying psychology and chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. He hopes to attend medical school and may also pursue a Ph.D. in population health. Alexander is currently working on research regarding disparities in clinical trial participation. In his free-time, Alexander enjoys singing with his a cappella group Dischord and practicing gymnastics.

Michael Konu (C’23) is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a B.A. in Cognitive Science with a minor in Chemistry and Health Care Management and Policy. Michael's interest in the SUMR program stemmed from his desire to understand health care outcome disparities, health care innovation trends, and developing interdisciplinary approaches to 21st century health care challenges. He plans to pursue an MD-MBA or MD-Ph.D. with the hope of using innovative approaches to eliminate longstanding health care outcome disparities at the institutional and community levels.

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