Laura Wang ’21

Portland State University, Department of Economics, Portland, OR

This summer, I worked as a research assistant at Portland State University in the economics department, supervised by Professor Rajiv Sharma. I assisted with the Longitudinal Access to Physicians Study (LAPS), an audit study where researchers contact physicians’ offices and simulate a patient interested in seeing a primary care provider, taking data about waiting times, insurance accepted, and other parameters of interest. The study uses an overlapping cohort design, where each year’s dataset of physicians is evaluated for two consecutive years. The study began in 2013 and was originally intended to track healthcare access before and after the Affordable Care Act, and this year added new codes and parameters for monitoring changes in healthcare access during the pandemic. I began my internship by aiding with data validation for the previous year’s cohort, and then made calls to clinics to collect data for the current year.

This coming year, I will be writing a senior honors thesis about health economics and health insurance expansions. This internship has been the best possible experience to become immersed in the field of healthcare Headshot of Laura Wang '21research and to prepare myself for my own independent research as a thesis candidate. My internship has also been helpful in guiding me concerning my post-graduate aspirations. Last year, I was also awarded an ASIP grant to conduct clinical and public health research, and I confidently believed I wanted to pursue an MD/MPH dual degree. This year, after much reflection during the spring 2020 semester taking economics seminars for my major and after conducting this internship with Professor Sharma, I have changed my perspective about my career aspirations. An MD/MBA dual degree program will more closely align with my interests and goals. I have become fascinated by the way financial policies of clinics affect patients at an individual level, and I want to continue to explore healthcare from both a clinical and business-oriented perspective. As an aspiring physician, I aim to not only become a skilled clinician, but also to be able to take a leading role in healthcare with excellence in management and medicine. I seek to approach my medical training and practice with a broader understanding of healthcare as a service rendered in a metamorphic environment, and translate this understanding into more thoughtful and effective care as a physician.

Professor Sharma has been an incredible mentor throughout my internship. His sincere concern for my academic and professional interests as well as my general well-being meant a lot to me, and I am very fortunate to have had this experience working with him. I am also grateful to the Marver Internship in Public Policy which gave me this amazing opportunity.