Student Summer Research

Several Schroeder Center Research Fellows and Research Assistants have worked in extensive summer-long partnerships with individual faculty members: 

 Joel White '13

JoelWhile a student at William & Mary majoring in Public Policy and Theatre, Joel White worked with the Schroeder Center on a project that sought to enhance the abilities of local policymakers and other essential community stakeholders to use data and proven results to make decisions about policies, programs, and practices that affect the community's health. Staff member, Elizabeth Vestal, sat down with Joel to ask him about his experience working with the Schroeder Center.


Elizabeth Vestal (EV):  Why are you interested in health policy?

Joel White (JW): I have always been a public policy fanatic. Ever since I was old enough to start really thinking about policy, I've found it to be really intellectually stimulating to search for ways to improve things like education, the economy, and public health. My mother was a pharmacist, and when I was in high school I often volunteered with her at free clinics. I really gained an appreciation for the work that clinics do and the vital services they provide. I applied for this job as a research assistant primarily because I was excited to have an opportunity to look at the effect those kinds of organizations were having on the Williamsburg community and, if possible, find ways to further their goals.

EV: Tell me in your own words a little about what you worked on for the Schroeder Center?

JW: I really got to work on a variety of tasks over the summer, which was very nice. I spent some time doing data entry, both from survey results and from data I collected from various local and state agencies. I also did comprehensive research for literature reviews. The topics ranged from school health interventions to cardiac care. Probably my favorite project was taking all of the data I had collected from various sources and finding creative ways to represent them visually. I'm a very visual learner, so I really enjoyed designing charts and graphs that most effectively conveyed the narrative I needed to show.

EV: Did you gain any skills over the summer that might be beneficial to you in the future?

JW: Absolutely! As a Public Policy and Theatre double major, I don't usually spend very much time culling databases for scientific journal articles. The time I spent doing that over the summer familiarized me with yet another useful academic skill that I'm sure will come in handy later on. Through my research, I also learned valuable information about what initiatives are being taken to improve public health and how effective they have been. If I ever decide to work in the field of health policy full time, I now definitely have a feel for what I would want to focus on.

EV: What are your plans during your last year at W&M and what do you hope to do after graduation?

JW: I certainly have all the plans in place for a busy senior year. I will likely be involved with anywhere from four to seven productions in the Theatre department this year as an actor, scenic carpenter, publicity director, or dramaturge. I will also be serving as the president of Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honors Fraternity and as the Arts and Culture Editor with The Virginia Informer. My post-graduation plans are a little more undefined, but I would like to move to the Washington, DC area and see what kind of opportunity I can find, whether it be in the world of theatre or policy.


Robin Downing ‘12

Undergraduate Helps Schroeder Center Improve Research on Hospital VolumeRobin

On August 1, 2000, Medicare changed the way in which it reimbursed hospitals for outpatient services by implementing a new system called the Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS).  Years later, little is known about the effects of the new OPPS.  But researchers at the Schroeder Center are now actively involved in examining its impact on hospital volume.

Robin Downing (Economics and Government) aided the Schroeder Center in examining how the OPPS affects hospital inpatient volume during her tenure as a Schroeder Center summer research assistant to Professors Daifeng He and Jennifer Mellor.

Robin contributed to Schroeder Center research by studying Florida inpatient discharge data from 1997 to 2008 to identify, construct, and measure appropriate variables for analysis.

She noted that managing and working with large and unwieldy datasets was a great challenge and allowed her “to see the true legwork that goes into research.” Dr. Mellor commented, “It was really interesting to watch Robin's development as a researcher - she learned the importance of documenting her work very carefully, and that sometimes, you have to be flexible and creative working with data.  At the outset, Professor He and I had an idea about what we wanted to measure and how we wanted to measure it, but in some cases, the data were not structured in a way that made these measures easy to derive.  Robin helped us get what we needed by being a fast learner and a creative programmer.”

Robin believes that she has gained a greater perspective as well as a “huge appreciation” for the authors of research articles. Also, through the intense use of STATA, Robin feels that she has improved her programming skills, something that will be useful to her in her future career.  

Robin is now working for Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C.


Amy Filipek ‘12

Summer Research Fellow Asks How Unemployment Affects Emergency Rooms

As a summer Schroeder Center Research Fellow, Amy Filipek (Economics and Applied Mathematics) spent many hours contributing to on-going Center research on healthcare utilization patterns during economic recessions. Researchers at the Schroeder Center are examining how different types of healthcare utilization react to increases in the unemployment rate. Amy, already an accomplished undergraduate economist and mathematician, aided Professor Daifeng He, Melissa McInerney, and Jennifer Mellor in testing their theory that recessionary shocks might lead to increases in the supply of healthcare.

RobinAmy also developed her own related research question that could be examined using the same data acquired by the Schroeder Center for on-going research on healthcare utilization and recessions. Amy was interested in the effect of unemployment on the volume of emergency room inpatients and devoted many hours in the lab exploring this relationship.

Working with large hospital discharge data sets from Florida proved to be a challenge. Amy wrote extensive code using the statistical analysis software package STATA to decipher trends in the data. She said “the files are so huge it takes days to run the program, even when the code is broken up across computers. It taught me the importance of checking my work!”

The recent recession and high unemployment rates make Amy’s research at the Schroeder Center a valuable contribution.  She believes that her experience at the Schroeder Center sharpened her data manipulation and statistical analysis skills – abilities that will be helpful to her in graduate school. Amy says, “I can write code in STATA so much faster now, so I know it will save me a lot of time in the future.”

Amy received a prestigious Regents Fellowship from the University of California, Berkeley and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Economics.  


Dan Robinson ‘12

Undergraduate Research Fellow Explores the Impact of Health Provider Integration on Quality of Care

In recent years there has been significant growth in physician-hospital integration (PHI). Increasingly, fewer physicians own their own medical practice while the percent of medical practices owned by hospitals has more than doubled. This type of vertical integration has the potential to greatly impact healthcare costs, utilization, and quality.

Dan Robinson (Economics and Neuroscience) spent his summer researching the impact that vertical integration can have on the healthcare sector. Specifically, Dan questioned whether physicians who own their own practice perceive that they deliver a higher quality of care to their patients.

Dan used the statistical analysis program Stata to evaluate data from the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, the Community Tracking Physicians Survey, and the American Hospital Association Annual Hospital Survey to find answers to his research questions. Learning the ins and outs of the program was a valuable experience for Dan after being just briefly introduced to Stata in an econometrics course.

Dan also compiled an extensive literature review on physician-hospital integration exploring its causes, effects, and how it is empirically measured. The literature review will be used to aid current and future Schroeder Center research. Dan says, “being able to find and digest relevant research is an invaluable, marketable skill.” Dr. Mellor, who mentored Dan, commented, “Dan's writing evolved so much over the summer... he really learned to write like a researcher. It takes practice to learn how to read a research study. Knowing what to look for and what details matter really helps to communicate study findings in your own words.  Dan also picked up a lot of useful data handling skills that could serve him well in futAmy and Danure data-intensive projects.”

Whatever his future, Dan knows his enhanced skills in research and statistical analysis will prove helpful in his future endeavors.

Dan is curerntly working at Cornerstone Research in Washington, D.C.

Read more about past summer fellows.