Growing up a first-generation Vietnamese-American child of Vietnamese refugees, Kevin Nguyen interacted with the complexities of the U.S. health care system from a young age. From as early as middle school, he assisted his family with scheduling doctor’s appointments, corresponding with insurance companies and more. 

“I realized that a lot of the issues I dealt with while assisting my grandparents could be helped through better delivery systems or different health policies,” Kevin says.

Now a second-year doctoral student in Brown’s School of Public Health, Kevin is advancing a career in which he aspires to influence health care access and quality through his research.

This year, those aspirations got a significant boost as he was named one of 41 Health Policy Research Scholars selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The national program provides funding and leadership opportunities for graduate students from underrepresented groups who bring unique and diverse perspectives to research aimed at building healthier and more equitable communities. 

When I came here for interview day, the graduate students really emphasized how much the department focuses on mentorship and development of students as independent researchers.

– Kevin Nguyen

“I think that research in particular has a really important role in informing policymaking,” Kevin says. “In my career, I would like to advance questions of health equity through research in a way that can influence policymaking and care delivery.”

Before arriving at Brown, Kevin earned a bachelor’s in health policy and management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied health care systems and strategies for improving patient care. For three years, he developed and implemented quality measures for post-acute care as part of the Affordable Care Act, working at Research Triangle Institute International. 

Then he earned a master’s in health policy and management from Harvard’s school of public health and worked as a project manager for a professor of health economics and policy at Harvard.

So what drew him to Brown? The opportunity to conduct research in partnership with accomplished faculty, he says. He works closely with Dr. Amal Trivedi, his adviser and an associate professor of health services, policy and practice, who Kevin says was instrumental in encouraging him to apply for the fellowship.

“When I came here for interview day, the graduate students really emphasized how much the department focuses on mentorship and development of students as independent researchers,” Kevin says. “That support, coupled with Dr. Trivedi’s expertise in quality of care and health disparities research, made Brown feel like a really good fit.”

That perspective has proven true to his experience, he says. Dr. Trivedi has been a supportive adviser who encourages graduate students to pursue the research they are passionate about. As he considers how to focus the remaining years of his doctoral study, Kevin is zeroing in on a research topic informed both by his childhood and his subsequent years of scholarship and engagement. 

“For my dissertation, I would love to study the policies and care delivery models that can improve the quality of care in our health care safety net,” he says.