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Navy blue background has diamons and starbursts. A spotlight icon shines on a circular headshot of Juan Yanguela Eguizabal. A label read "In the spotlight." Below the label is the text "Juan Yanguela Eguizabal."

by Melissa Marcus

When Juan Yanguela Eguizabal worked with the UNC Center for Health Equity Research as a Graduate Research Assistant, it was one stop in a varied, ongoing journey.

Juan was born and raised in Spain. Now in Chapel Hill, he’s a long way – an ocean and more – from where he started. Along the way, he’s explored different programs and discovered that borders are opportunities. And he’s not done yet.

We interviewed Juan to hear how his time at CHER has prepared him for the next parts of his journey at UNC.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you study?

I’m a third-year Ph.D student in the Department of Health Policy Management at Gillings [UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health], and I worked with CHER from June 2021 to August 2022.

I’m originally from Spain – born and raised – and went to the United Kingdom for university and lived there for a few years.

Then I went into public health after finishing my degree working with public policy, and worked in Spain and the UK before coming to the US.

Tell us about your role at CHER.

I started with CRx-CVD because it aligned with my initial Ph.D. plans: using digital technology to integrate primary care and social care.

The three main things I did were:

  1. Work on a systematic review of interventions adopted in the U.S. that tried to use technology to integrate primary care with interventions to address social determinants of health.
  2. Work on a qualitative study in which we asked clinics and community organizations their perspectives and anticipated barriers.
  3. Start working with the cost-benefit analysis. I’m still involved in the writing process for the systematic review and the qualitative study.

I also worked with the practice acceleration diagnostics program. It coordinates projects to expand COVID testing and vaccinations across underrepresented populations. I was part of the evaluation and supported the team.

How has working at CHER impacted your time at UNC?

It’s been very good to see so many different perspectives.

There’s people from different departments across different UNC schools and departments, so it’s interesting to see the diversity across work styles.

Additionally, while at CHER I had my first time presenting a poster at a conference. I couldn’t do it in person because I got Covid, but leading the poster development and submitting it was a useful experience and helped me make great connections.

What’s the most important thing for people to understand about what you do?

It’s important with public health that people understand that research doesn’t give you answers to questions. Instead, it gives you tools to make better decisions.

This is often lost in translation with non-academic audiences, who don’t understand we’re just making suggestions for making better processes.

What are your plans going forward? How did working at CHER tie into them?

I left CHER to gain more experience working with simulation modeling techniques.

I’m still trying to decide what to do with my dissertation, but my time in CHER gave me experience that has been very useful when planning the analysis and working with a team to reach a consensus.

I hope to take that experience with me as I work on my dissertation.

What might other students want to know about CHER?

There’s so many different things to work on.

I think there are perceptions of what types of research certain groups do based on where they are based. Like the School of Medicine, you think of clinical related work.

But there is a lot of intersection between public health, urban planning, social work, anthropology, etc. Regardless of your particular background, there’s something to do.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I never swim in the ocean because I saw Jaws (1975) and now I’m too scared to get in. I get close to the shore and splash water but don’t get into the water!