Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Grad Student Receives Grant to Study Health Policy

[Listen to the radio story from FSU news.]

A doctoral student in the college has been awarded a $120,000 grant through a new program to diversify the future generation of policy development leaders.Patrice Williams is one of 40 traditionally underrepresented students who will join the first cohort of Health Policy Research Scholars, a new program led by Johns Hopkins University and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). She was selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants.She will pursue her doctoral studies through the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

“It really just means the world,” Williams said. “When this opportunity came, it was just a stamp that I’m on the right track, that my hard work paid off.”

Williams, who grew up in Sunrise, Fla., always knew she wanted to be a doctor whether she had a medical degree or a Ph.D., but after years of taking out loans to pursue bachelor’s degrees in music and biomathematics and a master’s in public heath from FSU, she knew if she returned to school for a third time she would need some financial help. Her dream of a doctoral education at no charge is now coming true with the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which will give her $30,000 each year for the next four years.

Williams said the grant will open new doors and allow her to have experiences she otherwise never would have had. Through the program, she will join scholars from across the country to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a culture of health — one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

“These scholars are dedicated to advancing their field in a way that makes a positive and significant impact on their communities,” said Harolyn M.E. Belcher, program director for the Health Policy Research Scholars Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins. “In order to do so, they’re willing to forge a new path, learn how to do things differently and work collaboratively to achieve a healthier, more equitable society.”

Williams plans to study how gentrification affects the health of people in disadvantaged populations. In addition to taking a required online course relating to health policy each semester, Williams will spend her summers doing research at RWJF partner institutions, such as Johns Hopkins or the University of California. She will also spend a summer in Washington, D.C., learning about federal health policy, and how it’s created.

As a grant recipient, Williams had to step down from her position as FSU’s coordinator for the Council on Research and Creativity. She said that position greatly prepared her in applying for this grant. Williams said she is grateful for the other opportunities she’s had at FSU and was confident in her decision to pursue her doctoral degree with the university.

While in the public health program, Williams was president of the Public Health Student Association and won the program’s inaugural Congressman Jason and Kelly Altmire Student Achievement in Public Health Policy Award. Jason Altmire is an alumnus of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Government and Community Affairs at Florida Blue. The former U.S. representative and his wife endowed the award to recognize and support outstanding students in the Master of Public Health program.