Health Sciences Administration

April 2, 2019

2019-2020 Magnuson Scholars Announced

On behalf of the University of Washington six Health Sciences Schools and the Magnuson Scholar Program, I am pleased to announce the 2019 – 2020 Magnuson Scholars. Each scholar was nominated by their respective Health Sciences School on the basis of outstanding academic performance and potential contributions to research in the health sciences. We appreciate your support of these scholars and our efforts to fully recognize their achievements while acknowledging Warren G. Magnuson’s extraordinary public service career.

David M. Anderson, DVM
Executive Director
Health Sciences Administration

The 2018-2019 Magnuson Scholars are:

Laquita Grissett
School of Dentistry

Ai Phuong Tong
School of Medicine

Alexi Vasbinder
School of Nursing

Lauren Strand
School of Pharmacy

Joseph Dempsey
School of Public Health

Youngjun Choi
School of Social Work


Scholar Profiles

Laquita Grissett
School of Dentistry

Laquita M. Grissett is a first-generation college student, born in a small rural town in South Carolina. While majoring in Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina Laquita was accepted into the lab of Dr. Johannes Stratmann where she conducted research throughout all four years of her undergraduate education for which she was awarded five fellowships. Laquita’s goal as a graduate student and in her future academic career is to amalgamate biomedical research and student outreach to encourage the next generation of scientists and promote scientific literacy with a particular emphasis on underrepresented students. Laquita is committed to improving the nation’s health through biomedical research. As a future academic researcher, she aims to contribute to the field of head and neck cancer and investigate the link between oral and systemic diseases.

David Hockenberry, M.D., has high praise for Laquita, “I feel completely confident that Laquita has the intellect, people skills and drive to succeed in graduate school, and go on to a research career in academic dentistry. I believe she would be an outstanding choice to receive a Magnuson Scholarship.”

Ai Phuong Tong
School of Medicine

Ai Phuong Tong is a third-year medical student who will be expanding for one year to conduct research on how the human brain processes sensory and motor information. Ai Phuong intends to study complex neuronal interactions in large populations of neurons to better understand cortical information processing and human behavior. Currently, Ai Phuong’s long-term career goal is to become a physician-scientist who specializes in the interrogation, diagnosis, and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. To this end, she intends to complete specialized training in a neurosurgery or neuroradiology residency program after medical school. After residency, she aims to subspecialize through a fellowship to specifically help restore function in patients with treatment-resistant neurologic disorders, such as epilepsy, chronic pain, movement disorders, and neuropsychiatric disorders. She has a special interest in developing new technologies to interrogate local circuit neural activity on the timescale of spontaneous fluctuations.

According to Jeffrey G. Ojemann M.D., a Professor of Neurological Surgery, “[Ai Phuong] has an aptitude for integrating concepts and ideas from diverse fields including biomedical engineering and computational neuroscience, as well as from various clinical specialties including neurosurgery, neurology, anesthesiology, and radiology. She demonstrates a dedication to, and capacity for, the advancement of technologies to improve brain health that is exceptional for her level of training and degree focus.” Ai Phuong credits her achievements to her parents and her current and past mentors who have all helped shape her curiosity for science and dedication to collaborative academic research.

Alexi Vasbinder
School of Nursing

Alexi Vasbinder is a third-year student in the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science program. Alexi’s dissertation research aims to identify molecular biomarkers to predict fatigue and cardiotoxicity as side effects of cancer treatment. Alexi intends to become a principal investigator and faculty member in a research-intensive academic setting, after a period of post-doctoral study. She has already secured multiple grants and fellowships to support her current research efforts. Alexi is poised to become a leading researcher in her field of nursing sciences through cutting-edge translational medicine.

In her nomination letter Kerryn Reding, PhD., MPH, RN, states “Ms. Vasbinder is exceptionally talented, highly motivated, and hard working. Her intellectual curiosity paired with her strong educational training is indicative of her strong potential for success as a researcher in the health sciences. In the short term, I am confident she will accomplish her goals of investigating the biologic pathways relevant to fatigue and cardiotoxicity in cancer survivors, as well as her long-term goals of contributing to research in health sciences in order to improve human health.”

Lauren Strand
School of Pharmacy

Lauren Strand is a third-year PhD student in the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics (CHOICE) Institute at the University of Washington (UW) School of Pharmacy. Lauren is currently preparing her proposal for a dissertation around policy and the opioid epidemic in Washington State. This work draws insight and methods from biostatistics, epidemiology, econometrics, and cost-effectiveness modeling. After completing her dissertation and other projects, she plans to apply for post-doctoral research fellowships for work within regulatory or not-for-profit spaces. With national debates around drug pricing and policy, Lauren see a role for people with strong communication skills and multidisciplinary training. Key objectives in her post-doc include additional policy analytic experience and working on a project that explores regional variation in opioid- and other drug-related outcomes

Lauren’s academic advisor at CHOICE, Ryan N. Hansen, PharmD, PhD, states, “Lauren is a very hard-working, dedicated, and creative graduate student who has developed into a very strong analyst through her training, first earning her Master’s in Epidemiology from the UW School of Public Health, and now at the CHOICE Institute, with an obvious enthusiasm for studying the impact of both legislative and health care policies on the health care system and patient outcomes.”

Joseph Dempsey
School of Public Health

Joseph’s long-term research goal is to understand the effects of early life exposure to environmental chemicals on the delayed onset of human diseases such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and design novel therapeutic interventions to treat diabetes in vulnerable populations. Diabetes and other metabolic diseases are debilitating and costly chronic conditions with increasing prevalence in children and underserved populations. It is recognized that diabetes is associated with poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, gut microbiome, and other factors, and early life exposure to environmental chemicals is increasingly acknowledged as a critical contributor to the pathogenesis of disease. His current research in the Environmental Toxicology doctoral program focuses on understanding how early life exposures to toxic environmental chemicals modify the developmental trajectory of the gut microbiome, ultimately impacting adult health. After graduating from the Environmental Toxicology doctoral program, Joe wants to pursue a career as a toxicologist. Additionally he hopes to be a professor at a university, where he could have the opportunity to teach and/or mentor students, and operate a research laboratory to investigate the interaction of environmental chemicals, nutrition, and development on metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Julia Yue Cui, PhD, DABT, offer high praise, “Joe is a highly motivated, ambitious, and hard-working student and has already demonstrated a great potential on the path to become a successful researcher and educator… As an assistant professor starting my own independent career, I feel that it is truly a blessing to work with Joe. I am very grateful for his contribution in science, and I would like to do the best I can to help him develop his potential to the fullest on the path to become a successful academician.”

Youngjun Choi
School of Social Work

As a policy practitioner who has committed to implementing long-term care policies for older adults with dementia in South Korea and as a social worker who has spent over 5 years in practice with older adults, Youngjun Choi has dreamed of improving the health and quality of life of older adults. Youngjun’s ultimate career goal is to obtain a position as a research faculty member at a prestigious university and to pursue federal funding for population health studies to examine protective factors for older adults’ health and well-being as well as teaching classes on aging, research methods, social policy, and social justice. His dissertation project aims to broaden understandings in barriers to accessing information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the relationship between psychosocial wellbeing and use of ICTs among older adults.

Karen I. Fredrikson Goldsen notes that in addition to his excellent academic achievements, “As a scholar, Mr. Choi has the ability to articulate the important ways in which his research can address contemporary health issues. I have been impressed by his personal commitment and skill in conducting research that directly addresses emerging areas of study including the use of technology to improve health outcomes among older adults. Independently, Mr. Choi identified an important area of research focusing on how digital innovation affects health outcomes and health service use in our aging society.”