The RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico is a physical, educational and cultural home for promising health policy scholars and researchers. The varied knowledge, background, and experience of its fellows enable the center to address the full spectrum of issues that affect health and health care in our communities.
Meet the Scholars
Postdoc at the University of Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
Yajaira Johnson-Esparza, was a doctoral fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico.
Her research interests include mental health disparities among Latinos living in the United States. Despite their growing numbers, Latinos continue to be underserved in the mental health sector and to face an array of social and environmental stressors. These vast mental health inequities sparked Peña-Esparza’s interest in pursuing this line of research. She is particularly interested in understanding the dynamics underlying psychopathology in the Latino population, with the ultimate goal of effecting policy change that will contribute to health equity. Her dissertation investigates risk profiles for depression in a national Latino sample. In addition, she has taken the lead role in an RWJF-funded pilot project that investigates the effectiveness of a residential treatment program for homeless and ethnically diverse individuals with substance use problems in Albuquerque, N.M.
RWJF Center for Health Policy Doctoral Fellow
Kristina Piorkowski is a doctoral student in the Department of Economics at the University of New Mexico. She recently earned her Master’s degree in Economics in spring of 2015 and obtained her Bachelors in Economics in 2013, also at the University of New Mexico. Her undergraduate honors thesis focused on rural health in Nepal, specifically on the factors affecting birthing location decisions. Her interest in health equity issues began in high school when she decided she wanted to be a medical doctor to provide care to underserved populations. After discovering she had a squeamish stomach and, eventually, a passion for economics, she decided to use her research in health economics as a tool to analyze and inform policy to eliminate health disparities.