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Himmelfarb Headlines - November / December 2020

Faculty Profile - Interview with Y. Tony Yang, Exe. Director, Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement

Y. Tony Yang, Exe. Director, Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your current position, and why you decided to pursue a career in your field.
I’m originally from Taiwan and currently live in a DC suburb. I was trained both as a health policy researcher and a lawyer. While working as a lawyer, I dealt on a daily basis with such issues as patient rights, medical malpractice suits, contract and corporate law as applied to the healthcare industry. So, I decided to further my education in health policy. I received a scholarship from Harvard, which is highly regarded for its outstanding interdisciplinary scholars and research available. The rest is history.

How did you become interested in your field?
I love to tackle complex and fascinating problems and make a direct and positive impact on people and organizations. Health policy and law fill the bill.

What brought you to GW?
Professor Sara Rosenbaum was instrumental in my coming to GW. Rosenbaum is a leading scholar of health law and public health. As a mentor, she is drawn to young people interested in improving health care for the poor. The GW faculty are terrific, and many specialize in the areas of study that I’m interested in. Basically, all-around multidisciplinary research available.

What has been your most memorable moment recently?
It was certainly memorable that the Office of Minority Health of the US Department of Health and Human Services awarded $1.5 million to a team of GW researchers led by me. This three-year project is ongoing and aims to reduce and evaluate liver diseases attributable to hepatitis B Virus (HBV) through screening, vaccination, and follow-up in the DC-Baltimore Metro Area.

What library resources or services have you found to be the most useful?
I search Himmelfarb’s journal database a lot to find articles.

Whom do you admire?
I admire many people. As the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine seems under way, I would like to mention Dr. Jonas Salk who is credited with creating the first effective vaccine against polio. And how many millions did Dr. Jonas Salk reap from his striking medical success? Not one. Salk, the son of a New York City garment worker, didn’t feel he had any right to make a fortune off his research. He never filed for a patent that would have “monetized” the vaccine for him. Isn't that special?

Tony YangHow do you spend your free time? (or What do you do to relax?)
I have three young kids aged three-six. I try to spend quality time with them when I have free time as I am aware that this is extremely important for their development and happiness. I also practice yoga once a week to balance my roles of family member and professor, to suspend analyzing and problem-solving, and to be in the present moment.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member just starting at GW?

Find a mentor if you have not already been assigned one. This should be a faculty member at a higher rank who has risen in your system. And reach out to other faculty to set up coffee/tea meetings, and not just in your department! I found that folks were very willing to meet with a brand-new faculty member, and building those relationships opened doors for new collaborations (and even a funded grant) that I never would have thought of otherwise.


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