Working for Social Justice Through Health Policy

Senior public policy major Will Woodhouse has contributed to published research, traveled to Amsterdam and Geneva and gained valuable perspectives on his future profession – all through a two-year partnership with Sanford Professor of the Practice Anthony So.

So, a doctor and director of the Program on Global Health and Technology Access (PGHTA), was an ideal mentor for Woodhouse, who intends to go to medical school.

“My work with Dr. So centered on the importance of equity in health policy. We focused on how we can work from a policy perspective to create social justice globally and locally,” Woodhouse said. “It has been really great to see Dr. So take a physician’s view on policy, bringing medical nuances to the policy world.”

Woodhouse of Raleigh, N.C., is a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar, a scholarship awarded for outstanding leadership and service.

Dr. Anthony So and Will Woodhouse
He began working as a research assistant to So in the fall of 2012, as the PGHTA partnered with the American Medical Student Association to organize the Knowledge4Global Health Leadership Institute. Woodhouse prepared policy briefings as well as delivered his own presentation for the project. He also helped prepare for an international workshop, “Treatment for Tomorrow: Finding Breakthrough Innovations for Tackling Antibiotic Resistance,” held at Duke in December 2012.

“He was an exceptionally fast learner, eager to contribute and ever ready to lend a helping hand,” said So, whose research assistants are more often graduate students.

Woodhouse stepped in at a critical juncture as the program was helping with planning for ReAct—Action on Antibiotic Resistance, a global network created to increase policymaker awareness of the rising public health threats of antibiotic resistance. He accompanied So to Amsterdam for a strategic retreat in the spring of 2013to help chart ReAct’s future direction. Woodhouse even contributed to the creation of a new slogan for ReAct: “A Future Free from the Fear of Untreatable Infections.”

Woodhouse continued his work with So as a policy intern last summer. He traveled to Geneva to help coordinate the Global Health Fellows Program—a track within Sanford’s Program on Global Policy and Governance—and assisted So in conducting interviews and compiling case studies on innovations tackling antibiotic resistance for the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. Woodhouse explained that he and So undertook these case studies from a comprehensive perspective—from research and manufacturing to the distribution of antibiotics.

“We examined the value chain of antibiotics from bench to bedside using a systems-thinking approach. Beginning with the importance of innovation while also preventing the irrational use of antibiotics, we looked at diagnostics and important clinical protocols to manage both access and excess together,” said Woodhouse.

His contribution to the case studies for the Alliance prepared him for his work on a chapter for the Lancet Infectious Diseases Commission on Antibiotic Resistance findings that were published in November.

Woodhouse contributed to a key part of “The Access and Excess Dilemma.” The chapter discussed the paradox and potential solutions to the problems of overuse of antibiotics, while at the same time, so many in the world lack access to appropriate, life-saving treatments.

“Will played a key role in researching, writing and editing as we drafted the contribution and engaged our group in the editing of the chapter—so much so that I asked the editor and chair of the commission’s work that he be added as a co-author,” said So.

“He also ensured that our fellow co-authors, in time zones from Tanzania to Ecuador, integrated their perspectives into the drafting of this contribution. His work grew naturally from his steppingstone experiences with the program. I am extraordinarily grateful and proud of his work,” said So. 

“Dr. So has been a great mentor to me,” Woodhouse said. “He has given me a lot of responsibilities and guidance, and with that a lot of opportunities that have helped me grow.”