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Economics Dean’s Medalist inspired by personal experience to educate others on complex world of health care

Portrait of Alicia Lewis in an outdoor setting.

Alicia Lewis is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in economics this fall. Photo by Meghan Finnerty

May 03, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

When her two children were born prematurely, Alicia Lewis spent four months with them in the NICU. Their health battle motivated her to return to school to better understand the health care industry.

Her experience with her children caused her to look at health care quantitatively, exploring why hospitals recommend specific treatments, their motivation behind doing so and the risks of those choices.

Now, Lewis, an online student, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in economics and will begin her PhD this fall.

“Initially as a coping mechanism, I stopped looking at health care as a point of service to more of a systemic organizational way,” she said. “I started exploring why hospitals and physicians recommend different treatments, procedures, etc., and it led me down this path.”

During school, Lewis worked with College of Health Solutions Associate Professor and Department of Economics Associate Professor Ellen Green on a National Institutes of Health project working with health care policy to improve the allocation of deceased-donor kidneys.

"(Green) was phenomenal in my growth during school,” Lewis said. “The hours she dedicated to help me in research and be a mentor to me were incredible.”

The Department of Economics Dean’s Medalist reflected on her time at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: What stood out to me was the true complexity of the research process. I came in a bit naive thinking I was going to get in there and be able to figure it out. But there’s a lot that goes into the process. How do you find data sets? How do you get funding? How do you work with physicians? The research process and its complexities were much more complicated than I anticipated.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: A friend of mine is a professor and she spoke highly of ASU’s online system, so that is where the initial interest began. Once I researched how the online system was set up, I realized it was the most efficient way to get my degree and work with world-class professors. To have flexibility with my life outside of school, getting meaningful research done. It made sense.

Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Besides Green, I received a lot of guidance and instruction from Marrisa Domino, Jonathan Ketcham, Marjorie Baldwin, Rex Ballinger and Sheree Rincon. A lot of people invested in me, and I don’t want to skip out on mentioning them.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Building relationships with professors have been incredibly helpful in applying to grad school and getting the most out of my instruction. I also think it’s cliche, but working ahead, you know, reading ahead of class, doing the homework early, more times than not I have felt a little more confident going into the course when I took time to familiarize myself with the material beforehand.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I start a PhD at another university in August. After that, I see myself getting into health economics and would love to be a professor one day.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet what would you tackle?

A: I’m passionate about mental health, especially youth mental health. I think there’s a lot of potential to help in that area.