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UHCL student to study how politics impacts patients

Jonathan Pham and Se-Hyoung Yi
Post-baccalaureate student Jonathan Pham, left, learned more about the important relationship between political engagement and medicine from Assistant Professor of Political Science Se-Hyoung Yi at University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Medical professionals draw on many fields of knowledge to heal patients: anatomy, biochemistry, health – and even political science.

Although post-baccalaureate student Jonathan Pham’s ultimate career goal lies in the field of medicine, he has always had an interest in political science. Through a teaching assistantship for University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Assistant Professor of Political Science Se-Hyoung Yi, he learned that political engagement was another way he could care for his future patients.

While completing his post-baccalaureate Bachelor of Science in Biological Science with Pre-Health Focus, Pham has been chosen for a yearlong research assistantship by the prestigious Charles F. Kettering Foundation, a research institution renowned for its work in deliberative democracy and civic engagement.

“I learned in Dr. Yi’s Texas Government class the importance of staying informed, and it developed my interest in how society works,” Pham said. “There are important decisions to be made, and it’s on us as citizens to make those decisions. In the deliberative dialogue that he holds every semester, we became more educated about current issues and were presented with three possible solutions to a problem. The purpose was to have a civil conversation about it.”

Research from the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in Dayton, Ohio, is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address the problems affecting their lives.

“I’m sure the Foundation selected Jonathan because they acknowledged his leadership in deliberative dialogue forums at UHCL, as well as his keen interest in public health and democratic citizenship. This research position at Kettering is prestigious,” Yi said.

Pham said he believed this experience will be helpful to him as a future medical doctor. “Part of the medical curriculum now incorporates psychology and sociology,” he said. “Physicians and medicine were thought of as politically inert, and I’m seeing more and more this is not true. Part of training for a career in medicine is understanding the sociological position your patients are in, because their socio-economic status will affect their health outcomes.”

He will begin his assistantship in Dayton in September while continuing his UHCL coursework virtually, with plans to finish in December 2020. Pham already holds a Bachelor of Science in cell molecular biology and came to UHCL to fulfill additional requirements for medical school and acquire more skills. “I got what I came for at UHCL,” he said. “I believe this internship will add more to my medical school application.”

Learn more about UHCL’s Dept. of Social and Cultural Sciences online.