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October 25, 2023

Q&A with the Global Health Institute’s New Senior Research Officer Weijun Yu

The Global Health Institute (GHI) is delighted to welcome Dr. Weijun Yu as its new senior research officer. Dr. Yu earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Maryland, College Park, in spring 2023. Her current research interests encompass infectious disease outcomes in vulnerable populations, alongside the use of epidemiological and innovative methodologies like network science to enhance disease surveillance and inform health policy. In this interview, she shares what sparked her research interests and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role.

Weijun Yu
Weijun Yu

Your research focuses primarily on infectious disease outcomes in vulnerable populations. What drew you to this field?

I became interested in this field after witnessing firsthand the disproportionate impact of infectious diseases on marginalized groups during my medical training and international trips. Their limited access to health care and heightened exposure risks resonated deeply with my sense of justice and equity. Additionally, the interplay between social determinants of health and disease susceptibility offers a fascinating and vital avenue for exploration. By addressing the unique challenges faced by these populations, we can make strides in improving global health outcomes.

What would you say is the most challenging part of your research field?

The most challenging aspect is the intricate interplay between biological, environmental, and socioeconomic factors. These dynamics often make it difficult to isolate a single determinant or propose a one-size-fits-all solution. Moreover, implementing effective interventions in marginalized communities requires scientific rigor, cultural sensitivity, community engagement, and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Navigating these complexities while striving for impactful results is my field's challenge and reward.

What attracted you to work at Georgetown University?

The university’s stellar interdisciplinary research reputation and commitment to addressing global health challenges interested me. In particular, the Global Health Institute’s focus on combining academic rigor with practical, real-world solutions resonated deeply with my aspirations. The opportunity to collaborate with renowned experts and tap into a network of passionate professionals in the field was also incredibly appealing. GHI's ethos also aligned with my personal and professional goals, making it an ideal environment for my career growth and contributions.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

My work will focus on accelerating evidence-based policy and practice through data science, epidemiological and implementation science, and health services outcomes research. I will work to develop new models and methods for disease epidemiology and health care utilization data analytics to inform priority setting, resource allocations, and allocative efficiency to inform health service delivery and population health management.

On a more personal note, what is the best advice you have received?

The best advice I've ever received is that admitting I don't know something isn't a sign of weakness or ignorance. It's a testament to honesty and a desire to learn. It reminded me that no one knows everything, and recognizing our gaps in knowledge is the first step to filling them. It's a lesson in humility and the continuous journey of learning.

Outside of work, is there an activity that helps you decompress?

I love hiking because it connects with nature and rejuvenates my mind. Painting and playing the piano, mainly when I compose original music, is a true source of joy and relaxation. I also have a penchant for delicious food and am always eager to try new dishes and cuisines. And, of course, a good movie is the perfect way to unwind and get lost in a different world for a while.

What is something that is still on your bucket list?

One adventure that remains on my bucket list is traveling to Antarctica. Its pristine landscapes have always fascinated me, and I'm particularly eager to see penguins' natural habitat. Witnessing these magnificent birds in their icy home, untouched by urbanization, is a dream I hope to realize someday.